Delights of the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium Aug 16 Concert
It’s hard to decide which piece I loved most on the evening of August 16. It was the second concert night of the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium hosted by New Adventures in Sound Art. The theatre at the Wychwood Barns on Christie Street, where the concert was held, holds a maximum of about a hundred audience members. So with some seventy-five of us seated, it was a respectable showing even when you include the artists and their friends and family. I looked around the concert venue and heavy black media space curtains surrounded the walls. Such curtains contain the sound within the room and keep noises out as well. The concert-goers faced the stage and some of us were along the curtained wall. Placed around the seating were no less than eight speakers. This placement of speakers guaranteed a surround-sound experience. Perhaps it would have been more immersive for me if I had sat somewhere in the middle facing the stage, but instead I sat on the periphery against one of the walls of curtain and directly to the right of one of these speakers. Keeping my eyes open during the performances sometimes put me at a distinct disadvantage. It was often better to listen to the nuances of the sounds without the benefit of any visual cues.
This concert had six pieces. The most breathtaking of these for me was the last piece : MiND Live: Live Coding Audiovisual Performance. The group performing consisted of five collaborators, a screen on which live-coding was projected in real time, laptops, and performers in various parts of the room including on the stage. Beautiful vocalizations by Meaghan Niewland were manipulated as were additional sounds and visuals by the other performance artists. There was a lovely hypnotic but controlled flavour to this performance. Another interesting piece was Michael Pound’s Opening. Through the use of sensors, pre-recorded sounds and music, (an accordion was prominently featured), Michael beautifully mutated the sounds of the accordion with the palms of his hands. With his hands above the sensors, waving and dipping up and down and across, it looked like he was making music out of thin air. It was a lovely irony since that’s what sound is – vibrations moving through the air. Dracnoids, Joshua Keeling’s interpretation of a meteor shower he experienced, features a soprano saxophone and a bassoon. I’ve never heard a sax that sounded like a guitar nor a bassoon that boomed like a foghorn, but those were some of the impressions I had of the sonic transformations that Keeling and the musicians left me with. It would be fair to say that I was also mesmerized by the other three pieces: A Trace of Finches, with it’s field recordings of Nova Scotian woods, First Life, a mixed media performance of string quartet, live audio processing, narration and animation of organic compounds, and finally Windows Left Open, with its sound experimentation using electric guitar, acoustic guitar, cello and contrabass.