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Robert Aitken and Norma Beecroft, founding artistic directors

The Composers of Generation 2016

Normand Babin: The composers of Generation2016

This year, the Generation project created by ECM+ will be celebrating its 14th edition with little fanfare. Thus far, the project has had a good ear and often been right on the mark; a large majority of the composers who were selected to take part in this competition since 1994 have gone on to illustrious careers. In 2000, the Generation project began its cross-Canada tours, offering its composers both wide visibility and rare opportunities for them to hear their works performed several times.

What inspires the 2016 cohort? What motivates them to compose today? How do these composers hope to make their mark? I decided to let them speak for themselves, to have them present us their work, in the hope that they would not only offer us a taste of what awaits but, especially, give us an irresistible desire to run out and hear them.

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Taylor Brook

On the guitar, his first instrument, Taylor Brook would amuse himself by manipulating, enriching notes, aiming for the ‘blue note’ effect, which had a double impact on his future exploration: first, his marked interest for microtonal sonorities, the intervals between two notes, to produce new temperaments, and a simultaneous questioning of instrumental techniques to create new ways of using a musical instrument and then imagining the technical evolution that might have occurred. Creating a scenario of possibilities and an alternate reality.

Brook is inspired by the work of Harry Partch, a 20th-century American composer and creator of musical instruments. He believes the creation of a musical work should be supported by its own invented language and its own means of delivery, using a holistic, and therefore comprehensive, approach, making the creation of each of his works a redefinition of music itself.

It therefore follows logically that the piece he will be presenting,
Tirant lo Blanc, takes its title from one of the first examples of uchronia. Tirant lo Blanc is both the title and subject of a 15th-century novel that describes a history that might have been; an alternate history. In this piece, the composer explores temperament, instrumental technique, musical structure and expression, and even the social goal of music. A new, and personal, tradition is born in front of our eyes and ears.

Symon Henry

Here is a composer who might appear to be wavering between poetry, drawing and painting, in-situ performance and composition. Nothing could be further from the truth. Symon Henry searches for, and seems to find, a way to build a comprehensive work using all his creative means in symbiosis. He has enjoyed huge success over the last few months: a published book of poetry, an exhibition that has toured Quebec and Europe, the première of a micro-opera, and, notably, a major concert with the Orchestre symphonique de Québec for the inauguration of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec’s Pierre Lassonde Pavilion. But his greatest personal success will perhaps come with debout, un respir grand comme (standing, a breath as tall as). The many hours of work with ECM+ and lengthy discussions with the musicians and Véronique Lacroix have given him enough confidence in his work to make a big leap: this performance will present only the auditory aspect of the work. Until now, audiences were able to follow (and admire) the graphic score, which was displayed on the walls or painted directly on exterior surfaces, creating works one could walk around and which could be interpreted by anyone. This time, he will be giving us the work in its purest state, without compromise, but also without distraction. Because—as you’ll see in the attached image—the score is clearly as beautiful to look at as to hear. debout, un respir grand comme is built like a poem and written like a large charcoal drawing, but will be performed in the traditional way!


Sabrina Schroeder

Fascinated since childhood by a book that depicted the world through the lens of a microscope, Sabrina Schroeder today explores sound in all its layers. For her, sound goes far beyond what our ears perceive. Partly veiled and altered by the transducers she places on certain instruments, the fibre of sound reveals sometimes unexpected connections between different sounds produced from different sources. These transducers, which convert signals, are placed inside the piano and attached to percussion instruments. On first impression, what the transducers achieve may sound electronic, a diffraction of the sound that’s not only heard, but felt. In more simple terms: can’t a sound be altered by our heartbeat, the jolts of our nerves? Her work could be compared to what one observes in life and in society: she dissects sound to discover “genes” that belong to those of sounds that may sometimes seem on the complete opposite end of the spectrum, thereby creating unanticipated relationships. As in society, the relationships connecting individuals are sometimes well hidden under deep layers of differences.

Sabrina Schroeder is involved in a number of projects for, among others, the International Contemporary Ensemble (New York/Chicago), and a new work of hers, a commission for Distractfold Ensemble (UK), will premiere at the 48th edition of the prestigious Internationale Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik in Darmstadt.
The circumstances surrounding
Bone Games-shy garden, the piece being presented as part of Generation2016, are special, because the composer will have the chance to hear the work performed several times in a variety of different physical and acoustic environments. One can imagine this will thrill the sound addict she is.

Adam Scime

An accomplished performer, this Toronto-based composer takes an organic approach to music composition. We’re not talking about a philosophical concept but rather an expressive instrumental dramaturgy. Adam Scime is interested in creating music through gesture, in creating a vivid gestural palette, as a painter might. He establishes a relationship with the listener from the first note, the goal being to invite the person who is hearing it to observe not only what happens in the music but also what happens within themselves. Such interaction underlies all music. The listener makes use of what suits them and transforms this into a part of themselves. The performer joins in the game. Is it possible to bring together all stakeholders in a concert (composer, performers, conductor and audience) and to create a single gesture that touches both the physical as well as the emotional? Is it possible to create a collective experience comparable to what happens at a pop concert with music that’s decidedly not pop?

The chances of this occurring with
Liminal Pathways are, again, increased, given the exceptional presentation conditions of the work being rehearsed and performed several times. The resulting cohesion among the musicians is sure to contribute to engaging the audience.

-- Normand Babin, Special collaboration