Archive for March, 2008

Goldberg Graffiti 1

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Goldberg Graffiti 1

At the essence of Urban Flute Project is the excitement of sharing impressions – both visual and acoustic – of incredible spaces and locations. Some time ago, in visiting old haunts in Guelph, I discovered this pedestrian underpass: a wonderfully graffitied tunnel that allows foot traffic to gain access to the Greyhound and Via platforms in the heart of the city.

On that first encounter, I either didn’t have music on me, or I didn’t have my recorder, was very short on time, my batteries were just out of juice, didn’t have my camera, etc, etc…or perhaps a combination of the above!

Yesterday, however, I got it right and had the music of Migot on the brain from reviewing soundfiles as I drove along the 401, as well as fresh batteries and disc-space on my Edirol.

When I cracked open the music, I discovered the theme for the Goldberg Variations tucked inside (warning to musicians: never tuck music inside music, as this creates incredible filing complexities!). In this case, inadvertently re-discovering music was actually the perfect surprise: music that I hadn’t laid eyes on since recording in a local TTC Station!

Goldberg Grafitti 2

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Goldberg Variation 2

This Aria from the opening of the famed Theme and Variations of Bach – written for an insomniac – particularly lends itself to the lyrical nature of the flute, at least in my estimation. And for you purists, I hasten to point out that, as is well-documented, Bach loved to hear his compositions played on instruments other than what they were originally written for, as was the practise of the day in the Baroque Era.

I get the busking urge periodically, however not the situation this time, despite the sounds of passersby; I was oddly gratified (hey: that word looks a lot like graffiti!) and delighted to have a family with a young child pass by behind me as I knelt playing – and offering a wave mid-phrase – at one side of the passageway, reading my manuscript off the floor of the tunnel.

(In double-checking the spelling of graffiti, I was reminded by my Webster’s that the word is based on ‘Graffito’ , the singular of the word to ‘to scribble, or scratch’…the word ‘stylus’ is even given mention, so here is yet another variation on the Goldberg, with someone playing an LP of Trevor Pinnock‘s rendition!)

Urban Flute is like an electronic version of graffiti, temporal etchings of ethereal, elusive situations: indelible, but ultimately destined to be painted over by the passage of time.

And what of Bach’s etchings and scribblings? One wikipedia google link doesn’t want to open for me, so let’s try good ol’ YouTube for an authentic rendition of this landmark composition!

I’ve always loved the distinctively finicky, pointillistic sound of the harpsichord, and Pierre Hantai sounds magnificent.

Glenn Gould is so very closely associated with this piece, however last time I checked he does not hold exclusive domain rights over the piece! G.G.’s famous twinned versions of the piece (the link provided is his famous second pass at the monumental work, decades after his 1950’s benchmark recording) and incidentally offers a superlative example of Bach’s music being performed on instruments other than what was the norm for the day when it was written, especially when contrasted with the quilled/plucked sounds of the harpsichord or clavichord (played here carelessly above tempo, and, well, nicely out of tune: not necessarily the norm for period instruments!).

Speaking of Gould, here is a treat if it’s your bent; did you know that, just before his untimely death, he was contempating a conducting career? Left-handed and all!

Fathoming the Depths

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Whale Song 2

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Middle of the night. Car barely visible back on the shoulder of the interstate, flashers insignificant in the distance. Cold granite, smooth as the starry night. Kneeling in the stirring grasses, I pay homage to the Whales .

Whale Riding Weather

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Whale Song 3

Heading east from Burlington and lake Champlain on a pleasant afternoon not so long ago, I spotted an incongruous sight on the other side of the Interstate: a distinctive and imposing pair of dark granite whale flukes pointing skywards from a grassy knoll. Taking care not to swerve across lanes or hit the shoulder of the rather empty highway, I craned my neck and made a mental note of the basic location, hoping to have a closer look at some point.

Sure enough, they were still there upon my return from Boston a few days later – and just to be sure they weren’t a figment of my imagination, I pulled off onto the gravel in the darkness, put on my flashers and stumbled off over uneven ground. Climbing a small rise of land towards these towering silhouettes, I navigated a low broken fence, and then I sang a song to the whales, shakuhachi-style, with the wind gusting gently, and occasional trucks passing in the early morning hours.

Whale Riding Weather indeed!