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September 25, 2008

Intercultural Orchestra

Last night Colleen invited me to something called New Sound Worlds at The Vancouver Public Library.

Interestingly enough, I had actually met the composer about 8 years ago when I wrote a story on the Sacred Music Festival for Shared Vision magazine about the premiere performance of his Vancouver Intercultural Orchestra.. At that time, his vision for combining traditional musical instruments and musicians from different countries was in its infancy.

As I sat in the audience last night I kept thinking how pleased the former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau would have been to see such a sight and experience the sounds. The musicians hailed from all over the world - West Africa, Uruguay, China, Indian, Israel, Ireland - all now residents of Canada and making interesting new sounds to present the ultimate representation of Trudeau's vision for a multicultural Canada.

So intercultural refers to the instruments and typically not instruments that many of us are all that familiar with as well as the multicultural mosaic of the musicians' heritages.

The Chinese Long Zither combines with the flute/Saxaphone. The Santur, combines with the Tabla. The Shakuhachi flute is backdropped by a Bass. There's the accordian, tin whistle combining with voice and african and latin american drums. A Bansuri. An Oud. A Sitar.

The best part was the end of the concert where all the instruments came together with the musicians following not so much a score but potential variations that they are welcome to improvise with, led by conductor Moshe Denburg who calls what he was doing not so much conducting as "conduction" and playing a piece written by Pepe Danza.

The thing is, the score is not determined in the same way that let's say one by Mozart or Bach is. It's not as if each musician has a piece of music that demands that they play the notes, exactly as dictated by the composer.

Instead, what happens, if I've understood correctly, is that the conductor determines which instruments play when and which combinations of instruments take place until at times every instrument is involved and he is translating Danza's composition based on his knowledge of how the instruments sound individually as well as the basic components of the variations of the score.

I'm not sure that makes sense when I write it but to hear it and watch the conductor in action as he chooses the combinations is quite amazing because it has the potential to sound like complete chaos; fusion nightmare as I like to describe it but for the most part, because the musicians in this group are so experienced and talented, they are able to pull it off with the audience being treated to a very rare musical experience.

Someone, not sure who, said you need to know the rules before you can break them. These musicians, professionals with backgrounds from all over the world are relying on their expertise with their instruments, their unique personal experiences, and based on how they interacted with each other, friendships that are steeped in reverance, to make it all sound just as it's called: A new world of sound. One that you'll definitely want to visit.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Book title: "North of secrets"


My name is Sebastien and I work for Library and Archives Canada, Legal Deposit Division.

We are trying to send you a request letter for the above-mentionned book but we do not have a valid mailing address. Could you give us your address please?

For any information concerning Legal Deposit, please read the following link: http://www.lac-bac.gc.ca/6/25/index-e.html

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Legal Deposit
Library and Archives Canada