Archive for January, 2008

Uncharted Waters

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Ancient Song

Here is the sound Canada’s Waters together with the voice of my North American Flute.

When the Canoe Museum opened in Peterborough a number of years ago, a unique ceremony took place to celebrate not just the special significance of the canoe as historic and cultural artifact, but also Canada’s waterways themselves.

Aboriginal representatives from across the country gathered and brought with them water obtained from the Watershed of their local area, from the Lakes and Rivers of their respective communities. The music of these waters have been sounding since time immemorial, and flow together here at the heart of the museum.

My flute seemed inspired by these sounds of Canada’s lakes and rivers!

Stained Glass 2

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Sanctuary Winter Apples

Here’s the same piece that I played in the fantastic arched tunnels of the nearby Peterborough Lift Lock. This is a second take, played at a faster tempo – still not totally pleased with my performance, but it’s interesting how these traditional dances can be easier to play at a quicker speed! Recorded after an intense day of conducting music exams, I think my brain was in more writing mode than playing, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ‘sound the acoustics’ of St. Lukes‘ superb sanctuary.

Flute & Glass Orchestra

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‘Glass Orchestra’

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Flute & Glass Orchestra

Where’s the Claude Laurent Crystal Flute when you need it?

As glass artist Gundi prepares her materials, the flute offers complimentary sounds!

Duo for Flute and Breaking Glass

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Flute & Glass Orchestra

East of Peterborough, I re-connected with friends Pete and Gundi, who have a glass sculpture studio in the lower level of their wonderful country abode. I was thinking it would be fun to just record the crystalline sound of the flute reverberating against all the hard surfaces in the space, but this quickly developed into a collaborative event! Ideally, I guess I should have had some kind of historic Crystal Flute to play on, but my circa 19th C wooden 8-keyed did the trick admirably in this duo for flute and breaking glass!

Listen for the sounds of the glass being scored, and then tapped and broken into the the small rectangles that are the building blocks of Gundi‘s amazing and much sought after creations!

Flute Hydraulics, Peterborough

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Hydraulic Acoustics!

I recently discovered that the largest hydraulic lift lock in the world is situated quietly in Peterborough, and was intrigued by the acoustics of this high, arched roadway through Lift Lock 21 of the Trent-Severn Canal. This is a most Canadian of driving situations, as drivers simply take turns proceeding through the long, single-laned tunnel, without the aid of traffic signals or even any signage to speak of. Admittedly I did hear an occasional car horn blaring in the distance as I wandered the site snapping a few photos, but these were the exception, not the rule!

One can only wonder what the river-etiquette was like on the Trent-Severn Waterway thousands of years ago, or more recently, back in the 17th Century, when fur-traders and Champlain trafficked this historic route.

Lift Lock Acoustics

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Peterborough Side Tunnel

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Winter Apples Tester

In the off-season, the Peterborough Lift Lock was wonderfully deserted. This is one of the side-tunnels off of the single-lane roadway which I discovered to record in.

Pressed for time, combined with sub-freezing temperatures and the occasional passing truck all made for an an exciting read-thru of Winter Apples that I had selected from O’Neill’s Irish Tunes earlier that morning. I recorded a few quick takes with varying degrees of success. What I discovered just now before deleting the ‘bad apples’ is that the slower, rehearsal tempo revealed an aspect of the ringing acoustic that is lost when the same piece is played at a faster speed.

Winter Apples, Peterborough

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Winter Apples, Irish Trad

It’s already been a busy 2008, with an exam route that took me deep into the Kiwarthas, east of Toronto, to Peterborough, and then back through Whitby.

I have been to Peterborough at least 20 times over the years, but no one ever tipped me off about this incredible structure to the east out of the downtown, purportedly Canada’s largest lift-lock! Discovering the narrow single-track roadway that runs through the interior of the building early one morning as a cold, snowy night slowly ebbed its way to daybreak, it appeared absolutely monolithic and evocative in the extreme.

I returned on my lunchbreak during a busy day of conducting music exams – it wasn’t quite so cold with the sun that had broken through the clouds!

Voice Box & Flute

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Art’s Birthday, Sampler

I am inspired by Sarah Green and her story…

As I headed back to Toronto after an exciting and collaborative evening of surreal music-making at Mississauga’s Civic Centre celebrating Art’s Birthday, CBC Radio kept me good company. In this case it was OUTFRONT. A la John Cage, I found myself enthralled by totally random, chance programming…just the way I like it! Driving past Dundas & Dixie, after dark…the snow gently falling…I listened to the sound of her voice on the airwaves.

What I tuned in to – a broadcast already in progress – was a compelling and largely first-hand documentary about a woman who had had to resort to using a ‘light-reader’ [light-writer? life-writer?! – ed.] and voice box to communicate with her friends and family as she slowly found herself incapacitated by the onset of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). It turns out she had at one time played flute, and enjoyed sharing and listening to recordings made earlier in her life. From what I heard, she had an exceptional and beautiful sound, something constantly sought after by all the flute players I know!

Upon hearing that she had a connection with the University of Western Ontario, it ocurred to me that perhaps I might contact such a stoic, articulate individual, perhaps ‘talk shop’ about the flute world; however, unfortunately, such a meeting will not be possible, as I have just learned that this was a re-broadcast of an award-winning documentary.

Sarah Green passed away in December, 2003.

Included in the documentary, as you will discover if you have time to follow the link at the top of this page, is the music of Bach (aspiring flutists are encouraged to check this one out!) and Debussy (I much prefer Sarah’s rendition!).

Hey, Art, Happy Birthday!

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Mike Hansen & Friends 1

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Mike Hansen & Friends 2

Just imagine, Art was born 1,000,000 years ago!

As part of an eclectic lineup on January 17th, I will be collaborating with Turntable Artist, Mike Hansen.

Check out the Mississauga Civic Centre‘s Birthday Bash for our good friend, Art, next Thursday: it looks like it’s going to be quite the party…see you at the Grand Staircase between 6 and 8 pm!

Holy Haunting Acoustics!

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Moyse

Here is the same petite etude melodique as in the previous post, although this time recorded at The Church of St Mary Magdelene. The change of acoustic between the laneway compared with this evocative, historic space is striking. I take liberties with the rhythms, it might be observed, however my liberal use of rubato might be justified as what’s known as ‘playing the room’.

The acclaimed violinist, Oliver Schroer has described his solo improvisations as ‘duets with buildings’, and indeed this is apt: any musician who has played in a resonant space has likely experienced that sense of a ‘conversation’ with the space. The sense of dialogue is heightened in this historic location, and the musical sounds even more poignant, given that this is where the ‘Grey Lady‘ takes her residence!

No, this is not an image taken of the apparition! For more recordings previously posted on UrbanFlute, here is the link: The Church of St Mary Magdalene.

Laneway Moyse

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Simple Melody, M. Moyse

Happy New Year from Urban Flute! It was an incredibly snowy January 1st here in Toronto, and walking in the laneway behind where I live, I was taken by this ‘snow-shadow’ where a dense pine tree overhangs a neighbour’s fence. I immediately thought: Shakuhachi! However, instead of a traditional Japanese approach, and as the snow kept falling that morning, another musical idea came to mind to compliment this arresting scene.

I have always loved this distinctive and expressive composition by Marcel Moyse, which I first discovered as a student in his classic 24 Little Melodies. (Moyse, incidentally, together with his son Louis, traveled to Japan numerous times.)

As I played there was movement in the snow-laden pine bough, and a friendly Chickadee was suddenly before me, flitting about, almost within reach.* A plane droned lazily overhead as the phrases flowed along: who was travelling on this first day of 2008? As if this thought were simply a breeze, the pine tree stirred slightly with a gentle gust of wind. Perhaps the bird was attracted by the sound of the flute, for it not only lingered, but moved from branch to branch, and then alighted on the fence just beside me and started moving vertically…down, and then back up: this was no Chickadee, but was in fact another one of my favorite birds, the amiable and solitary Nuthatch.

For a ‘non-acoustic’ setting, as this laneway would appear to provide, there certainly ended up being a lot going on. Later the same day, I had a chance to play this wonderful melody in a completely different space…I’ll cobble that story together for you so that you might compare the resulting acoustics.

* Akin to the butterfly suddenly appearing and ‘dancing’ to the movement of the notes when I played my North American Flute in the Superstition Mountains last Spring.