Archive for the ‘HISTORIC TREASURES’ Category

Octagonal Flute en Milano!

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Bach, Sarabande

A spontaneous drive to Milan at the end of my recent Swiss adventure came as a wonderful epiphany, and was the icing on the cake for a great trip! Early on the Sunday morning of the day that I was scheduled to depart, I was up and out of my hotel room, restless to check out some of the gorgeous Italianate acoustics before heading to the airport.

Re-tracing my steps from the night before, I intuitively headed toward the Duomo di Milano, and just happened upon this amazing, open-air concourse. Until that morning, I simply had no idea of its existence. On my way there, the streets were empty expect for a few lost souls, fellow vagrants who were well-monitored by cars marked ‘Polizia’ that circled the old city center, cruising by at ominously slow speeds.

Once safely within the Galleria, I was a little concerned about security patrolling the vast, deserted space. So I took a breath and discreetly set up next to a closed vendor’s kiosk, quickly settling on my collection of Bach’s Partitas and Suites arranged for flute – after all, you can’t beat Bach first thing in the morning!

The soaring, lofted acoustics co-mingled beautifully with the suffused light filtering down from above, and this flute player was in heaven! The central hub of Milan’s massive Galleria forms a stunning, octagonal meeting place, which, as it turns out, matches the structure and ‘architecture’ of this music by Bach…Octagonal Flute!

My instincts were right: the area was crawling with cops, but I managed to get through a couple of selections without interruption! Listen towards the end as early-morning tourist keeners wander by, apparently equally taken with the stunning architecture of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. All of a sudden I totally get Toronto’s Eaton Centre!

 

Postcard from Switzerland

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Romainmotier, Improv #1

My friends had gone ahead and were sitting in the distant shadows, somewhere down this gently sloping main aisle, a path barely discernible to me as my eyes valiantly tried to adjust to the gloom. It was this central, downward slope that left a lingering impression perhaps even more than the incredible acoustics, as I found its incline pulled me inexorably from the world, drawing me down and away into the depths of time.

Having arrived late in the day as the afternoon light was fading, it turned out we had the place to ourselves, such a remarkable gift to find ourselves alone and undisturbed; after all, we weren’t sure if the 1,500 year old abbey would even be open when we set out by car a couple of hours earlier.

Tucked in a quiet vale of the Swiss countryside north of Lac Leman, Romainmotier is extraordinary in so many ways…and our Time Travel, as we later observed, was about to begin!

Entering the atmospheric abbey space, I was immediately enveloped by darkness, save the oddly comforting glow of the large stained glass window hovering before me and the steadfast presence of a single, unwavering candle in the middle-distance. The high, vaulted ceiling soared far above, to the point of invisibility.

I remained toward the back, deftly assembled my silver flute, and sounded some notes, tentatively at first, exploring the living echoes and history of the cavernous space. Reaching out with the sound of my flute, I awakened the centuries-old mystery of the place. At times I tried closing my eyes as I played; however even with eyes wide open I could see only dim shapes.. such a strange sensation!

Improvising as I peered into the inky depths, I allowed myself to be guided by sound alone like dancing with ones eyes closed as described in the movie Pina. A dialogue gently emerged with the overlapping notes, a conversation with the invisible generations who remained in the dark, pressing in and reverberating all about me, ineffably beyond the grasp of my physical senses.

Mystery and gloom prevailed.

As we drove away into the twilight, we were left in a profoundly contemplative state, long after getting busted by the nun who came to check on the place as we were hanging out, lost in our time travel reveries!

Here’s a quaint, pre-wikipedia link that describes Romainmotier and provides a little more background info.

Toronto’s Forgotten Tunnels

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Agra, Paul Horn

It’s all about fascinating acoustics…great music and mystery…communing with a forgotten past….

And the forgotten tunnels under Toronto’s Casa Loma has it in spades!

Late one night, I made a few short recordings with friends in the secret tunnels under Casa Loma that were part of the original inspiration for my Urban Flute Project.

Oh, and did I mention it’s about having fun….infiltrating respectfully…uh, avoiding security…

Well, you get the idea!!

The Frozen Barn Blues

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The Frozen Barn Blues

While exploring the haunted and sadly abandoned farmhouse just outside Toronto’s city limits, Rob and I wandered into this adjacent barn space that had clearly been used as a crazy clubhouse, replete with a massive Austin Powers billboard on one wall.

This was the first time we had found a chance to jam together, and man was it freezing in there, one of those penetrating, damp colds that marks the beginning of a good ol’ Canadian winter. I was carting along my old wooden 1920’s flute, an instrument appropriate for the vintage of the farmhouse, which is a piece of work to play in tune at the best of times, so, given the sub-zero temperatures I appreciate you cutting me a little slack in the tuning department…in fact I was kinda pleased with myself that I managed to rock out spontaneously with this Blues riff!

After a couple of hasty takes I could barely feel my fingers anymore, so we hustled out of there and headed for the nearest Tim Horton’s. For more pictures of this desolate country site, check out my slideshow on Phanfare.

A Jurassic Moment

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The Blue-Eyed Lass, Scottish Trad

Well, last week was March Break here in Ontario, and it seemed like half the city cleared out, sensibly heading someplace warm or maybe hitting the slopes north of the city. Me? Between meeting with students and a few gigs around town, I had just enough going on that I stick around and revel in how much less traffic there was in getting around town. I ended up having some fine adventures in-town, including this Jurassic moment out in The Junction!

I had been tipped off the day before that a couple of the buildings out in The Junction were coming down, including the old, abandoned GE factory and NRI (National Rubber Institute?) where I had tagged along with members of TLR camera club. I had joined them and played flute in the cold while they wandered around taking photos and documenting massive interior spaces.

Dinosaurs of the manufacturing era, I’m glad that these buildings have been documented in sight and sound as they meet their demise: these warehouses each have their own characteristics, personality…and lifespan, it would seem. NRI is like an contemporary version of the slow-moving herbivore like the Brontosaurus, especially when compared to the stealth and deadly accuracy of the T-Rex pictured above. This Trawna-saurus Rex is kinda cute, though, don’t you think?

This image reminds me of that scene in Jurassic Park, you know, where the dinosaur peers eerily into the car of our hapless heroes. The sounds that this dino made were absolutely awe-inspiring, and if you listen carefully, there is one particular moment towards the end where a wall comes down, the cascade of bricks completely engulfing this old Scottish Air.

Where one might imagine the sound of a building being being torn down as ugly or just plain noisy, this recording reveals that the sounds of demolition can be endlessly nuanced and even beautiful in their own way. The flute offers contrast, and adds to the poignancy of the moment where our urban landscape changes dramatically. For the better? For the worse? Depends on who you talk to, of course.

Recorded on a second floor area of NRI as the adjacent section was being torn down, I returned a few days later at dusk, just to check in on my old friend. As I tried to get my bearings in the fading light and clambered over large mounds of bricks and metal, I suddenly realized that the space where this recording was made – that whole section of the building – had vanished.

Where I had stood and played my flute no longer existed.

So, how was your March Break?

Gem within a Gem

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Here is a wonderful example of spontaneous collaboration!

Sharon Temple was quiet when I visited, with these two staff members prepping the site for a wedding and reception later in the day. While I was delighting in the amazing acoustics and stunning architectural detail, I noticed this organ off in one corner. I’m not sure if I had ever seen – let alone heard – a pump organ before, and how wonderful it would be to record the sounds of it together with some of my flute-playing…

I learned that John, seated, plays organ for events and concerts at Sharon, and, with some gentle arm-twisting, he agreed to take a break from his duties and give a read-through of a piece I happened to have on hand: an excerpt from Handel’s ‘Messiah’. So, after a brief tune-up, we dived in, and I hope you enjoy this as much as I did at the time…listen for the arrhythmic yet steadfast sound of the pumping action which turns this duo into a trio!

If you want to hear superb live music in this unique setting, and marvel at the wonderful, warm acoustic of the space, keep an eye on Sharon’s on-line concert-listings.

Urban Bansuri

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Raga Shivranjani, Banusri

About 5 weeks ago I dropped by the busy worksite of the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandira just north of Pearson International Airport to see if I might don work boots and lend a hand, and was welcomed onto the site with a wonderful, friendly and informative tour. This temple, a cultural & architectural jewel – and very much in the news with its grand opening just last weekend – is simply indescribable. Although only able to catch the festivities after sundown, I was impressed by the incredible enthusiasm and excitement still in the air. (more…)

Trinity Treat

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There was a treat awaiting at Trinity College Chapel last week, with a concert presented by Fresca.

More details and links soon!

Palestrina on the Beach

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Trinity College Chapel

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Berbiguier, Etude

How sweet is this? Listening to Palestrina by the lake!

Music History Instruction at the RCM’s Mississauga location could not possibly be any more delightful than this totally chilled class ‘en plein air’ and completely away from the hustle and bustle of the city; extension cords courtesy of Canadian Tire and on-line resources provided by NAXOS.

What would Palestrina have thought? I’m sure that absolutely dumbfounded and with a silly grin on his face, he would have silently nodded his wholehearted approval! (more…)

Assiniboine Pavilion

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Cernauskas, Pan Pipes

This wintry scene evokes some of my earliest memories as a child, although I remember it at night, with the muffled sounds of fellow skaters lazily looping figure-eights, laughing and chatting to keep warm on the twin ponds nestled down the hill on the far side of this pavilion, the icy luge-run from earlier in the afternoon now lost in the shadows and silhouettes of the vast, limitless Assiniboine Forest.

Flash forward to a taxi pick-up in mid-June, the penetrating warmth of late-afternoon sunshine (more…)

Regina’s Art Deco Temple

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Quantz, Largo e Double

Despite the stark, almost Hitchcockian impact of this photo, this Government of Canada building across the street from SaskPower and kiddie-corner to Regina’s landmark Hotel Saskatchewan (Radisson) is easy to miss somehow! Perhaps this has somehing to do with the intersections six lanes of traffic to keep an eye on, or getting distracted by the play of the prairie light on the mature trees in Victoria Park (more…)

Caboose Perspectives

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Pennsylvania 6-5000!

Here’s a fun, little piece, alluding to the carefree days when these de-commissioned cabooses rode the rails from coast to coast!

For something a little more substantial, here is a fun, bigger piece entitled The Great Train Race, by Ian Clarke, posted by Nina Perlove on her YouTube site amidst a wealth of videos and on-line, flute-related pedagogical materials.

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Caboose Interior

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Puccini

I find that even the idea of a caboose is romantic in the extreme, and immediately evocative of the golden age of rail transport. So, after a day of exams in Regina, I went exploring and discovered not just one, but two caboose (cabii?), de-commissioned and left rather forlornly in the middle of a broad expanse of rail lines. (more…)

Caboose No.04990

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And this just in…help restore this 112-year old piece of history!

In simply looking for a Railroad Song, I first tried Arlo Guthrie which led to learning about Casey Jones, and in a matter of minutes, I had opened a window on a whole musical railroad culture with links directly back to Stephen Foster, one of America’s most renowned and prolific songwriters.

I invite you to learn more about The New Christy Minstrels, one of whose members is Dolan Ellis, “Arizona’s Official State Balladeer” since 1966! Well, just some technical difficulty embedding his song…and in the meantime, this should keep you railway buffs amused!

Photo Cliff Grassmick

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Cut from the Same Cloth?!

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Gariboldi

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Koehler

Hey, how did Jack and Meg embed themselves on UrbanFlute?!? The music of The White Stripes can be found all the way from The Royal Opera House to your local bowling lanes…

I think it’s the first time I have ever left a taxi with it’s meter running, but it was worth it! Just finished with exams in Winnipeg, and on an impulse I stopped in and recorded in the historic setting of the Uptown Bowling Lanes. Originally opened as a movie theatre in 1931, this wonderfully preserved buiding was alive with the sounds of kids’ birthday parties on a Saturday afternoon (more…)

Independence Day, 2007

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Oh, Say, Can You See

The percussive thudding and boom of sanctioned July 4th fireworks have stilled themselves now for another year here in Toronto. Night after night recently it has been one wonderfully protracted festivity, with the intermittent crackling and rapid-fire pop of firecrackers (more…)

Regina’s Old Train Tunnels

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Puccini

It was a brutally long day of conducting RCM music exams in Regina, so after recording discreetly in some de-commissioned twinned cabooses just north of the mall, I made my way along the rail lines and came upon the old passenger platform for the historic Regina Train Station. In the fenced off shadow of today’s booming Casino Regina, I discovered that one of these decrepit entranceways was no longer boarded over. I entered the dank, dark space, and descended (more…)

Pied Piper Update

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Spadina ‘Pied Piper’

UPDATE: The Lakeview Power Plant Demolition (see GTA, 1908, below) has been postponed, and will NOT be taking place on Monday due to wind: an off-shore breeze and/or light rain are required. I had anticipated an early start tomorrow to witness this implosion, the largest evercovered ‘live’ in North America, (more…)