Archive for April, 2010

Taj Mahal, North American-style!

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Paul Horn, Prologue/Inside

No, I didn’t play while sitting in the hot tub here, but it was this view as I listened to the ambient sound of the water in the deserted pool area that inspired me to set up and record a bit while the coast was clear.

At the tail end of a recent conference I had been attending up near the airport, I was determined to get at least one swim in, and finding myself alone in the pool area, I couldn’t resist checking out the acoustics – sitting in back-to-back workshops was all fine and dandy, but I needed to play my flute a bit!

This terrific piece was first performed in the Taj Mahal back in the 60’s, and more about Paul Horn and how he provided the original inspiration for Urban Flute Project in upcoming posts.

Or you can read more here – not the first time I’ve played some of Paul’s music in a pool setting!

You Raise Me Up, GWMC Choir, Guelph

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You Raise Me Up, Rolf Lovland

In a break in my schedule last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Guelph-Wellington Men’s Club Choir up in Guelph – it was a gorgeous day, and it felt great to hit the open road and play hookey for the afternoon. I knew that I was in for a treat, having attended the GWMC Spring Luncheon performance a couple years back, when I actually joined in for a spontaneous rendition of Moe Koffman’s Swingin’ Shepherd Blues, the recording of which is buried somewhere on my hard-drive!

You Raise Me Up, set at least in part to the tune of Danny Boy, was the closing number for their eclectic and delightful program which included the music of Thomas Morley, Harry Belafonte, along with such classics as Elvis Presley’s Jail House Rock and Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade.

Great job guys, and thanks again, Dad!

Subterranean Bloor Street

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Not far from the Glen Road bridge described in the previous couple of posts there is another interesting space, this one relatively public and respectable!

If ever you’ve driven west along Bloor towards the Danforth, you’ve unwittingly passed over this very tunnel, which can be easily accessed steps from the TTC’s Sherbourne Station. This magical tunnel truly links opposite worlds, and has a satisfying and lingering acoustic besides!

Passing through this space from south you leave behind a teeming and vibrant neighbourhood, replete with boarded up Century-homes and rich with ethnic diversity. ¬†As you emerge on the north side there is a stunning footbridge that spans a deep ravine, and, scant seconds away, one is enfolded into the tree-lined streets of Rosedale, one of Toronto’s most affluent neighbourhoods.

Talk about a study in contrasts!

Mystical Satie in Toronto’s Ravines

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Erik Satie, Gnossienne #1

As you listen you may be wondering, but, no, my friend Steven and I did not drag a piano in under the bridge here, though that might have actually been kinda fun!

Sure, the defining element for my Urban Flute Project is offering a visual representation of the actual space you are listening to, but this is one of the rare exceptions, so I hope that you will indulge me – in this case I couldn’t resist putting together this image and music that seemed so perfect for one another!

I still had the music of Satie rattling around in my head as I came from rehearsal and wandered into the hidden Rosedale world as described in the previous post. While I reviewed photos from that afternoon, I realized that by chance this startling graffiti goes very nicely with the exotic mysticism of Satie’s Gnossiennes! I would credit the graffiti-artist, but I didn’t see a tag to identify who it might be…

It was great to be re-united with Satie’s music, the Gnossiennes in particular, penned back in the 1890’s. As much as I enjoy the Gymnopedies contained in the same folio, I find they tend to be over-played. These two sets of pieces are like day and night, with the Gnossiennes so mystical and illuminating, wonderfully wide open for interpretation. Written originally for solo piano, any of these pieces adapt nicely for flute and keyboard, with the flute taking the upper line in the music.

Here is the score so that you can print it off and follow along, or better yet even try it yourself – a kazoo or humming to yourself counts! The challenge for any instrument is to strike up a balance between sustaining the hec out of the melodic line versus conveying the ‘attack and decay’ of the piano original – listen for how some of my long notes have a bell-like tone, strong at the beginning and gradually diminishing to blend in with the syncopated harmonies of the piano, as I try to retain the texture of the music as it was originally intended. And of course, piano can’t employ vibrato, so that must also be handled with a certain discretion.

Satie’s quirky suggestions that he inserts into the score offer another layer of musical ambiguity with directives such as Shining, Questioning and, my favorite, On the Tip of the Tongue for the final phrase!

For more images from this evocative space hidden away under one of Toronto’s Rosedale bridges, check out the slideshow¬†here.

Rosedale Underworld

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Debussy, Syrinx

Inspired by the late afternoon sun and glorious spring weather as I cycled back from rehearsal in Rosedale last weekend, on a whim I revisited this mysterious recording location that I had discovered about a year ago that’s hidden beneath a massive bridge right in the heart of this historic Toronto neighbourhood.

One of several impressive bridges that span the network of ravines in the area, the natural amphitheater created by it is made that much more compelling with the imposing graffiti and a couple of makeshift beds set up discreetly by some of Hogtown’s homeless.

The forlorn, abject solitude of the place seemed well-suited for Debussy’s classic and evocative Syrinx, written in 1913.