Archive for October, 2009

Happy Hallowe’en from Urban Flute Project!

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Shibaten, Spirit Dreams

Happy Hallowe’en from Urban Flute Project – it was three years ago to this very day that I began recording with my trusty Edirol out in Mississauga near the lake, after dark and alone at a haunted, historic property replete with pet cemetery!

Of all the collaborative adventures that have resulted in the past three years, the Creative Places + Spaces conference definitely ranks up there. The final party for the event was held late yesterday at Frank’s in the AGO, where this picture was taken…the jack-o-lantern is a real scream, don’t you think?

And of all the musicians I have had a chance to meet and collaborate with since launching UFP, Shibaten, is one of the most extraordinary. So it came as a pleasant surprise to see him setting up as the final performer for the conference yesterday, and the recording here is of a spontaneous improvisation that he created for the final delegates and organizers as they prepared to depart from MaRS to visit this Munsch-inspired pumpkin at the AGO.

Shibaten, originally from Japan and who has travelled the globe with his unique one-man performances, made headlines earlier in the summer when he was busted for making music in Dundas Square. This tied in directly with a lot of what was discussed at the CP+S conference: risk-taking, thinking outside the box, facilitating collaboration and open dialogue – if anything, making waves and taking chances with one’s art was encouraged, and in this regard I feel that Shibaten and I are kindred spirits in a certain regard. After reconnecting yesterday, we’re going to keep in touch to maybe get some didgeridoo lessons set up – I want to learn more about his shamanistic circular breathing!

All in all a great conference, and many stories to tell here, so I’ll keep you posted.

And I’d like to thank you for all of your interest and support for Urban Flute Project over the past three years – Happy Hallowe’en!

First Flute Player on MaRS

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Debussy, Syrinx

As a hired musician and media-blogger for Artscape’s Creative Places + Spaces conference here at the MaRS Discovery District at the corner of College Street and University Avenue, I’m really enjoying the whole collaborative spirit of the three day event. The range of internationally-acclaimed creative thinkers and the topics being discussed are impressive and incredibly stimulating. The conference also offers a unique opportunity to re-connect with friends and colleagues as well as make new connections in both the arts and business sectors.

Here are photos of CP+S on Flickr, and you can follow the conference in real time on their Scribble platform – you might even see a tweet or two from yours truly, with links to this post, for example. The sustained sense of collaboration and sharing of ideas is truly inspiring as the CP+S moves into its final day.

So I’ve been wanting to use this ‘First Flutist on Mars’ tag for quite some time now, and I can’t think of a better opportunity than this conference that celebrates collaboration in business and the arts and is so aligned with my Urban Flute Project philosophy – I hope you enjoy some early-morning Debussy that I played in the spacious lobby as delegates arrived this morning.

More stories from MaRS and the Creative Places + Spaces conference coming soon!

Duo for Flute & Chainsaw

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Duo for Flute & Chainsaw #1

Here’s one of a handful of duos for Flute & Chainsaw, and just in time for Hallowe’en! Yeah, the tree out back got a serious pruning yesterday, and I felt she needed some TLC as she was ripped limb from limb. Here’s a pic of Robby, the arborist, during a moment of repose as he efficiently and rather dramatically re-shaped the canopy of the tree. Totally unrehearsed, I felt that our duos worked out nicely, his chainsaw accompaniment to my Piazza Etude revealing musical sophistication and a surprising depth of expression!

I guess you could call this another one of my whacky duos!

And this just in from the Western Canada Widerness Committee:

Stop logging around Cathedral Grove

Cathedral Grove is the location of one of Canada’s most internationally famous and beloved old-growth parks, and we were shocked to learn that logging had started on a steep slope above the park this week without any public consultation.

The company doing the logging is called ╦ťIsland Timberlands” but is owned by an international asset management corporation with offices around the globe.

Cathedral Grove’s Labour Day Lake Headwaters and its canyon, where Island Timberlands have flagged the biggest ancient giants, are the drinking water sources for the Town of Qualicum Beach and surrounding communities.

Numerous invitations over the past six years to Environment Minister Barry Penner to see the Cathedral Grove Canyon and its headwaters, have gone unanswered. This arrogant act by a multinational corporation is spurring an energetic public outcry here on Vancouver Island.

To get involved in saving Cathedral Grove contact the Wilderness Committee’s Mid-Island Chapter.


Annette Tanner | Wilderness Committee Mid-Island Chapter

The Carlu: Art Moderne Treasure

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Piazza, Metodo Popolare, Etude #3

Since The Carlu re-opened a number of years ago after being moth-balled for decades I’d been curious to check out this Art Moderne architectural treasure, tucked away on the south-west corner of Yonge & Carlton. The Carlu will be one of the sites for this week’s Creative Places + Spaces conference, and as an official media-blogger for the event, I finally had my chance yesterday to tour this historic site as part of a CP+S conference orientation for media and volunteers. The CP+S conference is presented by Artscape, in collaboration with MaRS, Martin Prosperity Institute, and the City of Toronto – Economic Development, Culture & Tourism.

I only had a quick peek inside the deserted lobby spaces, yet am happy to report that The Carlu is a treat for both the eyes and the ears! In a couple of days, it will also be a treat for the ol’ grey matter as some of the most visionary thinkers assemble to discuss the role of Creativity in the making of a successful society as part of the conference. Learn more about Richard Florida and the other guest speakers here.

Also hired in as a performer for the conference, I’m looking forward to teaming up with cellist Lucas Tensen at The Carlu and MaRS as over 600 delegates arrive on Thursday morning for the first of two days of presentations – more soundfiles and stories to follow later in the week!

Based on the overwhelming response, organizers have made available discounted tickets that allow guests into the balcony of the Carlu theater space this Thursday. Learn more about attending the conference here or contact Creative Places + Spaces at 416-392-1038 ext 31 or

Divine Acoustics

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Puccini, O Mio Babbino Caro

It was wonderful to team up with acclaimed harpist Sharlene Wallace to provide music for a wedding this weekend. With over 250 expectant guests assembled in St. Mary’s Ukrainian Church on Cawthra Road in Mississauga, you could just about hear a pin drop as we provided Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro as the processional music.

The Element of Surprise

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Bach Sarabande & Minuet

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in almost three years of oft-times stealth performances, its a gut instinct for when I should ask for permission and when I should just set up and play. Recent posts describe what a revelation it was to visit the American side of Niagara Falls, and am inspired to tell more about my adventure after reading Too Close to the Falls, by Toronto-based author and psychologist, Catherine Gildiner.

Before I took the elevator descent through the equivalent of 18 storeys of escarpment, and as I was about to don my yellow poncho and souvenir flip-flops, I decided that this was one of those situations where I just dive into some Bach. My heart was in my throat as I opened to a favourite movement from the Cello Suites, and as I played, I furtively kept one eye open for the ominous approach of some security guard. Yet everyone including the staff seemed to be in a festive mood, and I thankfully wasn’t interrupted!

As wonderfully vibrant and rich as the acoustics of this old wood-frame structure on Goat Island proved to be, what was even more wonderful was the spontaneous round of applause that greeted my flute-playing! Several people remarked afterward how much they had enjoyed the spontaneous performance. Even the woman who had handed out the flip-flops the way one receives bowling shoes at the bowling alley commented on how beautiful the music was.

If I had of asked permission, I can just about guarantee that I would have denied myself the opportunity of creating this random musical memory for everyone that day! I love the ambient, background sounds in this recording, the multi-lingual banter and the rustling sounds of tourists pulling rain slickers over their heads – the air was electric with anticipation as we all prepared for our descent into the unknown!

Even in these modern times, there is something magical and compelling about the Falls – one of the Seven Wonders of the World for a reason, I guess – and the feeling in this ante-room was of child-like excitement. For a while we were united as strangers as we forgot about our regular, everyday lives, thoughts of which would be obliterated by the thundering cascade of the American Falls!

I highly recommend Catherine Gildiner’s popular and critically-acclaimed Too Close to the Falls, a charming and engaging memoir that reveals some of the colourful history of the Niagara Falls area, and just a couple of weeks back I was lucky enough to be invited to the splashy launch for her much-anticipated After the Falls.

But that’s a whole other story!

Gadgetoff 2009, Staten Island, NY

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Summertime/House of Rising Sun

It’s a long story how I ended up heading to NYC with Steve Mann and his hydraulophone team a couple of weeks ago for Gadgetoff 2009.

I first met Steve about 15 years back at one of U of T’s Sunday afternoon public swims at the Athletic Center, where I couldn’t help but notice this guy in the corner of the wading pool tinkering with an early prototype of one of his ‘water pianos’. In reconnecting with Steve earlier back in the Spring, I was fascinated to learn that his unique musical invention had really taken off in the intervening years, and that he had a FUNtain factory-showroom on Dundas Street, directly across from the newly renovated AGO.

So it was back in June that I dropped by and jammed with Steve as described here.

Based on that enjoyable collaboration, and with the realization that the Hydraulophone could serve perfectly as a water-based keyboard, I suggested that a ‘Salon Concert’ be organized in the FUNtain showroom. What I had in mind was an informal Schubertian-style chamber music recital, but what transpired was even better somehow: every Wednesday throughout the summer, several of the Hydraulophones – including the whimsical Nessies as seen on the Gadgetoff stage above – were set up out on the sidewalk, and through the afternoon into the evening musicians would drop by and perform together, improvising and running through some of the ‘standards’ as can be heard in this rehearsal before our performance at the conference. We had cellists and violinists, including Dr. Draw and his band, drop by and some weeks the sound of Native Drum and Didgeridoo could be heard wafting along Dundas Street along with my flute and the mysterious, watery organ-sounds of the Hydraulophone.

We truly had instruments that represented the three states of matter – Solid, Liquid and Gas – not to mention representing diverse eras and cultures, and came up with the name H2Orchestra!

Inevitably passersby would crowd around to watch and listen in amazement. When they were invited to try the instruments themselves, expressions of curiosity and puzzlement turned to laughter and joy as they discovered for themselves just how wonderfully easy it was to cover the jets of water and make music….and get a little wet in the process!

A superb, sculptural, stainless-steel version of the hydraulaphone is on permanent display in front of the Ontario Science Centre. Steve Mann’s Hydraulaphone is also up for nomination in the Smithsonian Institute’s prestigious People’s Choice Design Award. Read more here, and please take a minute to place your vote!

Gadgetoff 2009 was a huge success, and our performance was unique in a showcase featuring some of the most leading-edge applications of technology in the world today.