Mark Takeshi McGregor and Liam Hockley explore unsettling sounds of displacement for Vancouver New Music
Remember this name: Kimia Koochakzadeh Yazdi. Although she’s only a second-year composition student at SFU, the Iranian-born musician is poised to make a significant impact on the Canadian and international new-music scene—if she can continue writing pieces as distinctive and engaging as Displacement II.
At least that’s the opinion of flutist Mark Takeshi McGregor, who’ll join clarinetist Liam Hockley in premiering Yazdi’s piece in a Vancouver New Music–sponsored concert at the Orpheum Annex next weekend.
“It’s one of the most exciting pieces that I’ve come across in a while,” he reports, in a telephone interview from his Kitsilano apartment. “When we read through the piece with her for the first time the hair on my arms was standing up at the end, it was so exciting.”
As its title suggests, Displacement II was inspired by different kinds of cultural isolation that Yazdi has experienced, both in her homeland and in her adopted country. “The piece incorporates the Iranian call for prayer,” McGregor explains, “and the reason for that is because when she was growing up in Tehran, the sound of the call for prayer was a fixture of the daily soundscape for her. She always felt a certain amount of displacement with that, because she’s always regarded herself as being a more or less nonreligious individual. Now that she’s in Canada, she’s feeling yet another level of displacement, because obviously it’s a very different culture, and she’s looking back at the sound world of her home with a certain degree of nostalgia. So the call for prayer is incorporated into the electronics part in a way that sometimes feels at odds with what the bass flute and the bass clarinet are playing, while at other times it’s quite unified and quite organic. It’s this combination of these two instruments that are historically very western with a sound world that is not.
“It’s unsettling,” he adds, “and at the same time incredibly beautiful.”
That McGregor, a former artistic director of the always innovative Powell Street Festival, has an ear for new talent is obvious—and it extends to his choice of performing partner. Hockley, who was featured as an artist to watch in the Straight’s 2017 Fall Arts Preview, is known for his willingness to push past the limits of his instrument. That will certainly be tested in a program that includes another world premiere, Yota Kobayashi’s Duo Augmented, in which the Japanese-Canadian composer will join McGregor and Hockley on live electronics. But the two also have ears for neglected beauty: they’ll close their concert with Luigi Nono’s late masterpiece A Pierre. Dell’azzurro silenzio, inquietum, from 1985.
Written for electronics, bass flute, and the rarely heard contrabass clarinet, the piece still sounds new today.
“There’s a looseness to that piece that is refreshing,” McGregor observes. “And there’s something almost cosmic about it. The combination of the electronics that he’s using with these really extreme instruments really sounds like you’re peering into a different galaxy, almost.”
Vancouver New Music presents Mark Takeshi McGregor and Liam Hockley at the Orpheum Annex on February 16.