White Space in Art District 798, Beijing

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Gariboldi, Etudes Mignonnes Opus 131

On my final day in Beijing, I had one last chance to do some amazing exploring.

After a morning of essential discount shopping, a gaggle of us crammed into a taxi and sat through heavy traffic to go check out Art District 798, on the outskirts of the sprawling city; it wasn’t until this last day that I got a new perspective on just how massive Beijing really is, and with so many possible things to do before heading back to Canada, I’m happy to report that it was worth the journey!

We had an incredible afternoon, poking around the quiet side streets and stopping in to behold one reclaimed gallery space after another. Hey, Beijing was really cool – don’t get me wrong – but finally, some honest-to-goodness, gritty culture!

Crammed into one huge labyrinthian city block that was once home to munitions factories, the low-slung deco buildings now house a bumper crop of galleries instead of guns. Video surveillance on every corner, mind you, keeping an eye on the graffiti artistes, souvenir shops, cafes and..uh, us!?

While our taxi driver hung around waiting patiently, I inadvertently found myself totally on my own, my friends having gone ahead somewhere to wander the galleries while I held back, camera in hand.

Close by, the open doors of White Space Gallery drew me in and offered a welcome refuge from the midday heat. My thanks to the gallery staff, who were so friendly and welcoming as they let me record one of my favourite pieces by Guiseppe Gariboldi. The vaulted ceiling made for some truly astonishing, memorable acoustics, as I’m sure you would agree as you listen.. remember, headphones recommended.

Yeah, I finally caught up with my friends, who had stopped in at a cafe down the street – I joined them for a beer to toast this last adventure together, at the end of what was truly an epic two week odyssey in China!

Hmm, I couldn’t find Opus 131 that this study comes from.. but here’s some equally charming etudes by the same composer: http://erato.uvt.nl/files/imglnks/usimg/1/1a/IMSLP173606-PMLP306573-Gariboldi_-_15_Etudes.pdf ..happy playing, et bon chance!

 

Posted: 11th November 2012
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Lost in Copenhagen

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Karg-Elert, Caprice #18, Opus 107

Just getting blogging again after wrestling with some nasty technical issues for the past 18 months.. the good news being that most of my urban flute site content was backed up, although it appears some recent posts were lost, including tales of my urban exploring exploits while in Denmark.

On the outskirts of Copenhagen, I had spotted an amazing, abandoned warehouse just off the busy circle road, and finally found a chance to sneak in. The massive interior was fascinating, if rather scary! As I wandered alone once inside, I became captivated by the incredible graffiti adorning the interior walls.. constantly looking over my shoulder, I kept trying to remember what kind of travel insurance I had, in case some of the tag artists dropped by!!

Included in the music I had on hand, I had a copy of Karg-Elert’s 30 Caprices on me. Sigfrid Karg-Elert is one of my all-time fav composers, and once I was warmed up and settled into the space, I decided to brave the rather daunting-looking Caprice #18, the notes of which look pretty black on the page! Despite all the 64th notes, this Adagio really isn’t so bad if you bring out the sustained melodic notes – like a lot of Karg-Elert’s works for flute, this fantastical piece is very well written for the instrument and actually lies so nicely under the fingers.

I fell in love with the spacious acoustic of this desolate warehouse, and the sustained reverberation allowed the ‘vertical’ harmony of the music to bloom and create a decidedly evocative mood, especially accompanied by the waves of highway traffic sounds washing through the space.

Hey, here’s a free download.. scroll down to #18 and you can follow along!

Posted: 8th November 2012
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Tom Thomson’s Secret Hideaway

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Well, after Hurricane Sandy rips through, we may very well be looking at some of this white stuff in Ontario, somewhat prematurely mind you!

On a languid weekday afternoon and as in a dream, three of us trucked north of the city to check out an old haunt of one Canada’s most iconic visual artists. Our slushy highway meditation led us here, to this lovely cabin, sequestered on private property and tucked away in a magical, secluded forest,  just beyond the Grip of Toronto.

Purported to be Tom Thomson’s place to party en route to parts north – either Algonquin Park or Owen Sound – to imagine the young Thomson and his compatriots hanging out in these very woods, this wintery interlude was so welcome and truly inspiring.. think Canada’s Group of Seven meets Narnia – although the place was locked up tight, it was like discovering some incredible time portal, akin to C.S. Lewis’ magic wardrobe!

Yeah, my improv here is somewhat, uh, improverished, but bear in mind that I was standing knee-deep in snow and admittedly absorbed in the way that the sounds of my vintage 8-keyed flute was ricocheting off the surrounding tree trunks…

Looking back on it now, I like to think the nuance and gesture of my flute-playing was like ‘sketching with sound’, perhaps even suggesting the movement of Thomson’s paintbrush over canvas or wood panel; apparently, often short on cash, he even resorted to painting on the wooden slats from flour or orange crates that he had salvaged.

Listen for the chickadee part-way through.. this, together with the husky low register of my wooden flute, are the seminal moments of this short recording, at least imhe!

Posted: 29th October 2012
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Cold War Acoustics!

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Mussorgsky

Welcome toThe Diefenbunker, a throwback to ’50’s-era Cold War mentality, and where worlds collide!

Certainly not the first giant flute I have played in, and hopefully not the last, the sound of my flute echoed all the way back to the 1950’s! Admittedly a card-carrying member of the Get Smart generation, I was intrigued by this eerie and ominous entrance way to this once top-secret Canadian bunker, discreetly buried beneath farmers’ fields just 30 minutes west of Ottawa on the bucolic outskirts of Carp, Ontario.

The acoustics were captivating, though not nearly as disturbing as the 100,000 square foot underground lair that lay beyond…and for those of you who have been waiting patiently for new material on UFP, here’s a thematic bonus track.

Read more about The Diefenbunker here…definitely not for the faint of heart!

 

Posted: 15th July 2012
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Milano Polizia… On the Beat!

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Bach, Allegro

When recording in public spaces, it’s important to keep a wary eye open for friendly cops…out on the beat!

Before finding a morning coffee, I gave this lively Bach Allegro a read-through in the wonderful Galleria shortly before these two helpful Polizia offered me directions to El Duomo. Hey, I was watching out for security and caffeine-deprived, so if my tempo is a little unsteady in places, maybe go easy on me.

First time I’ve been busted for not keeping a steady beat!

Posted: 12th April 2012
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