Archive for August, 2007

Modern Foyer, Chicago

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Piazza 1

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Piazza 2

This striking, glassed-in foyer caught my eye from the street as I made my way back through Chicago to catch my connecting bus to St. Louis, and the acoustic did not disappoint. As I was about to discover at Union Station, I enjoy how the sound of the flute melds with the ambience of the space. Having a passerby spontaneously offer a friendly ‘Bravo’ at the end of the first recording was also easy on the ears! Chicagoans(?) are a friendly bunch!

Flute Exotica in New Mexico!

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PVC Pink Panther?!

I’ll get back to my recording adventures while on the road to Albuquerque, but here’s one more example of flute exotica that awaited me at the Flute Convention. The player in this recording is actually Steve, as featured in the previous post, playing on a more upscale version of the same instrument.

Pictured here is also a Dutch product, offering a more cost-effective entry point for the extreme low end of the Flute Family – approximately $3,000 is what I heard mentioned.

Did you know that PVC – Polyvinyl Chlorine – is the source of the ‘vinyl’ in Vinyl Records? I think I’ll have to forward this image and post to Wikepedia so that they can update their files: there is no mention of using PVC to make musical instruments: Pretty Very Cool!!

Steve’s Pet Panther!

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Bizet, Pink Panther!

Representing Eva Kingma Flutes of The Netherlands, Steve good-humouredly lays out a wicked version of some Bizet and Mancini here! Recorded in the busy areas of the Flute Convention‘s Exhibitor’s Hall, this sub-contra bass flute is set off beautifully by the background texture of scores of flute players trying out the many and varied flutes on display from flute-makers around the world.

It was wonderful to see peoples reaction to these superb instruments, and to hear how playable they are. Wandering and exploring the veritable ‘jungle’ of flute merchandise and paraphernalia, I came by the Kingma booth a couple of times, and this particular instrument simply purrs, especially for Steve!

Lyric Opera of Chicago

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Verdi, La Traviata

After consulting with the bus driver, and checking a handy fold-out map of Chicago and environs, I formulated a strategy for my three-hour wander from the bus station. First came the 30 minutes confusion sorting out the electronic storage lockers, along with filling out a complaint form for the lack of AC from Detroit to Chicago: complaining’s not usually my thing, however I was concerned about the infants and elderly on the packed bus!

Finally, and with some trepidation, I set off into the big city. and with an assured sense of bearings caught a local bus and headed into the downtown core, a few city blocks east of the Sears Tower. The first building that caught my eye turned out to be the Lyric Opera of Chicago building, and I was like a moth to a flame. (more…)

Summertime, Chicago Style!

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Summertime

Wandering on from this incredible edifice that is an enduring civic testament to opera and culture, the strains of a distant saxophone drew me across a nearby bridge.

What this player might lack in polish is more than made up for with sheer enthusiasm and love of playing, perfectly fitted to his urban surroundings. Perhaps as well there is an element of gritty survival, like the flower vendor who can be heard selling his wares nearby. (more…)

New Mexico Fantasia

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AlmaNova

Flute & Guitar Virtuosi, AlmaNova! In the midst of trying to decompress a bit after two days straight of concerts and workshops at the Flute Convention I joined a colleague for drinks and dinner at the Hyatt, and noticed a couple of musicians out on the patio. Excusing myself, I returned a few minutes later delighted to have had a chance to meet Almer and Jessica, as well as to have enjoyed an impressive impromptu performance. The ambient sounds before and during their playing here convey the sense of celebration and conviviality that was in the air throughout the 4-day convention!

No, in this case, the image is not from the Hyatt, but at Casas de Suenos in the older part of Albuquerque, where I would have liked to have stayed much longer! The colours and tranquility immediately convey a New Mexico pace and sensibility.

AlmaNova now available through itunes at
http://www.apple.com/itunes/store/

Chicago’s Union Station

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Piazza Etude

Before hasting my way back to the bus station, I couldn’t resist one last recording while in Chicago. This is my first glimpse of the massive train station, Chicago’s historic Union Station; the recording was actually made down these stairs and across the main floor to the left. The resonance of the flute conveys the volume of the space, blurring delicately into the ambient sounds of conversation and footfall. It felt like paying in a grand outdoor plaza, with ample, diffused daylight and this spacious, open acoustic!

First Layover

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First pit stop: Chicago!

In psychologically preparing myself for a 2-day bus marathon across the continental United States, I was looking forward to my first longish stopover (‘layover’ in the U.S. vernacular, and a term I would get all too familiar with in the coming days!) scheduled for the next afternoon in Chicago.

It seemed to me that a few hours to discover the Urban Vistas and Acoustic Spaces that the Windy City might offer, to maybe record in yet-un-named Deco Lobbies, catch wafts of busking I had been told about, or source out a Jazz Club or two: that these possibilities alone would be worth the price of a round trip ticket to New Mexico! As I piece things together now, a couple of weeks later, I realize that my expectations were not unrealistic! (more…)

The Swaying Bridge, Chicago

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Possibly my favorite recording of the trip…this musician’s exuberant playing on his improvised drum kit is infectious!

During the bustle of a workday at its close, and once the wind and rain had subsided, the same bridge setting where I had heard the sax player offered more musical sounds. Easy to forget the rudimentary drumkit that included plastic pails and a milk crate, this guy displays playflul energy and enthusiasm!

At the beginning and end of this soundfile, what sounds like a horse passing over cobblestone (more…)

Right City, Wrong Conference!

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Flute Choir Therapy

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Evening, Old Town

Right city, wrong conference, or so one might think! Despite the big adventure of my bus trip across the continental U.S. to attend this years annual Flute Convention in New Mexico – not to mention the inundation of concerts and workshops that I am still recovering from – at the heart of this experience there is ones individual voice with the flute, and the healing power of sound. (more…)

Sumer Is I’Cumin In

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Sumer Is I’cumin In

Sumer Is I-Cumin In is the oldest surviving English-language song. Medieval Brits happily sang this upon spotting cuckoos, harbingers of warmer weather.

It was the Big Green Bus with the California plates parked on Bloor Street that caught my attention, and led to one of the strangest – and most satisfying – musical experiences of the summer thus far. Just when I had an evening clear to catch up on some UrbanFlute postings, this bizzare concert jumped in the way, in the name of SleepyTime Gorilla Museum! (more…)

Motor City Shakedown

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Reflections, Rae

Almost missed my bus (en route to Chicago and ‘all points west’) during this short layover in Detroit, but loved my first glimpse!

Arrived at daybreak after being on the bus all night from TO, and it was very cool to have an hour to wander around in the fresh morning light, find some breakfast to go from Gateway Vending and Catering, and get a firsthand look at Motor City. Another time I will definitely hop on the People Mover: the innovative, elevated and efficient transit loop can be heard humming in the background, offering an interesting harmonic setting for this languid, bluesy etude by James Rae.

I settled on the middle bay of this deserted loading area to record.

Detroit’s downtown core is in the midst of renewal, with condos tastefully reclaiming otherwise decommissioned deco and neo-gothic, soaring architectural spaces; this trip, I simply didn’t have enough time to be satisfied, and a return visit is definitely in order!

Kokopelli on the Move

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Petroglyph Sonata

Catching a bus to New Mexico for the annual Flute Convention, so it might be a little quiet on the UrbanFlute front!

This ‘Petroglyph Sonata’ was recorded earlier in the year in Arizona’s Superstition Mountains.

Windsong

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Hendrix

Recorded with friends during an overnite up at a cottage, exposed to the elements off Georgian Bay, I have since been searching for an image to pick up on this evocative acoustic rendition of some Hendrix. With the reference to wind in the lyrics, what could be better than the University of Toronto’s Old Meteorological Building? No, this is not a ‘negative’ image, just the haunting effect of the new lights from a refurbished Varsity Centre. (more…)

Velo-Flute!

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Improv for Left Hand
Just as I was packing away my flute recently in some deserted CNE Buildings, I realized that I had this massive space all to myself and couldn’t resist the temptation to ride my Brodie Romax one-handed, improvising as I rode out through the exhibitor’s area! Listen for the squeak of the rubber tires on the polished floor as I swoop back in at the end. The improv came off fine, my little melody serving the needs of this playful acoustic experiment!

It was Christian Doppler, in his top hat, who first conducted experiments about the acoustical effects of a sound source in motion relative to the listener…more on this and acoustics in general before too long!

Liberty Chimney

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Early One Morning

It was an exciting morning of recording under the Gardiner, on the CNE grounds as well as in a hidden courtyard in Liberty Village. If you look carefully at the courtyard photo, you will see a low entranceway in the middle of the image. No stranger to the unique, flute-likeproportioning and dry acoustic of a smokestack, (more…)

Haunted House in Grey County

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Home Free

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UrbanFlute is not just about the flute, and this summer there has been a veritable explosion of theatre in Toronto. Case in point, my friend Martin Julien has written a new play ‘Home Free‘ as part of SummerWork, presented this week at the Factory Theatre MainSpace.

Previous recent plays – often with powerful musical elements – that Martin has written or performed in include ‘The Unanswered Question‘, exploring the enigmatic yet iconic Leonard Bernstein, ‘The Wrong Son‘ in collaboration with Arraymusic, (more…)