Monday, 14 July 2014

One Musical Discovery After Another

Boujou Badialy Cissoko from Senegal with his kora.

The Sound Symposium was a feast for me.  "Promiscuous" is the word that I use most commonly to describe my taste in music.  The "S" section in my CD collection includes Shankar, Sinatra and Skrillex.  I have wide tastes and an innate curiosity about the auditory world.  But like most of us I live with commitments and deadlines.

I started out using the free concerts as a carrot at the end of my stick.  "If you get "x" amount of work done today Gloria you are allowed to go a free concert," I told myself. On Wednesday, I was "allowed" to catch the 7 p.m. Redshift & Memorial University Wind Ensemble's peformance of Trade Winds.  Oh those shimmering walls of music!  They rose like waves up the great central spaces of The Rooms:  clouds of wind instrument tones and rolling percussion round sounds.  At one point, an impromptu busload of tourists streamed in like capelin adding to the performance.

On Thursday, I caught the tail end of the delightful workshop given by Boujou Badially Cissoko and Curtis Andrews at the LSPU Hall.  I am acquainted with the charms of Andrews' percussion but I was unprepared for the mesmerizing rippling of Boujou's kora.  I was transported to another timeless, musical world.  The 3 p.m. free session of Jesse Stewart and the IICSCI participants brought me back to a more cerebral North America and current times.

Wanting more, I succumbed and bought a ticket for the Friday night performance.  It would give me a chance to sample the rest of the musical menu I rationalized:  Andrew Staniland & Scott Stevenson (I had only heard about their ARC) and Bart Hopkin, who would turn out to be a delightfully eccentric inventor of musical instruments.  When he asked the audience how he looked with one of his instruments strapped to his thighs and a member sang out "it looks like a kilt" – and someone else added, "crossbred with a porcupine"–I recognized the quirky camaraderie that I experience only at the Sound Symposium. 

Of course, on Saturday the Symposium would have to conclude with fanfare.  What else are finales for?  And nothing says Sound Symposium more than improv, the theme of the closing night.  For two happy hours, Mack Furlong pulled names out of his wide brimmed hat and adventurous musicians and performers took the stage in five-minute increments.  Innovation and imagination ruled.  Call and response, hunt and chase, layer upon layer, push and pull all filled the unpredictable program of strings, percussion, keyboard and voice.  Spontaneously, the participants created music, movement and memories.

The kora is a stringed instrument the player hooks his thumbs around the flanking pegs and plucks.

Defying the theme of improvisation, Wayne Hynes had prepared a surprise of two tunes with lyrics that turned out to be something of an anthem for this 17th Sound Symposium.  Together they combined ecological concerns with the exuberance of creation.  Lines like "Respect the earth; there's no Plan B" were followed by "We're rearing to rant and roar"…"What's that ruckus?  It's not a fight, it's another SS night."  Well, if you ask me, I think the Sound Symposium has plenty of fight left–but only in a positive way.

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