Newfound Music Festival VIII a Resounding Success
It’s a winter tradition at the School of Music at Memorial University – three days in January devoted to innovation in music. The Newfound Music Festival, now in its 8th year, is the brainchild of Dr. Clark Ross, a faculty member at the School who was recently nominated for a Juno award for best classical composition of 2010. From January 27 to 29, the School reverberated with the sounds of contemporary music and sound installations, talks and workshops on everything from Musical Modernism to Distance Music Education and new technologies that allow musicians to perform together in real time across thousands of kilometres. Events were very well attended – not surprising since St. John’s audiences are known for their musically adventurous ears.
Newfound Music Festival VIII featured guest composer-in-residence Micheline Roi whose works were featured on a number of concerts. Roi gave a talk about her sound installation Wandering Sacred, which was installed in the School during the festival. Several of her pieces were featured on concerts, and wearing her other hat as editor of Musicworks Magazine, she gave a workshop on writing about music. Roi’s work is an intriguing combination of soundscapes and acoustic material. For example, her work Bearing featured students Michael Lee (piano) and Evan Bowen (percussion) along with MUN vocal instructor Shelley Neville and the recorded voices of women describing their experiences of motherhood. The festival also presented the sound installation Five Moons by artist Michael Waterman that uses parts from baby monitors to create an electronic feedback loop “performing” with a series of eery circular lights that cast “moons” on the gallery floor.
Over the three days, five concerts were presented at the festival, including one featuring student performers and another featuring student compositions. The compositions were all commissioned by MUN’s intrepid Paddywagon Trombone Quartet. Many MUN students performed throughout the festival – from the MUN Saxophone Quartet’s rousing rendition of the Soft Machine’s Mousetrap to Scruncheons alumni performing with percussionists Rob Power and Bill Brennan and pianists Kristina Szutor and Andrea Lodge on Steve Reich’s classic Sextet to the entire MUN flute studio performing with profs Michelle Cheramy and Rebecca Simpson-Litke on Ian Clark’s Within. MUN composers Clark Ross and Andrew Staniland were well represented, and the Duo Concertante (Nancy Dahn, violin and Timothy Steeves piano) wowed the audience with R. Murray Schafer’s Wild Bird. The duo commissioned this work, Schafer’s first for violin and piano, which has since garnered both Juno and East Coast Music Award nominations for 2010.
The festival explored the brave new world of telematic music with guest Chris Chafe, Director of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University. Dr. Chafe, whose ancestors hail from Petty Harbour, gave his talk “telematically” – through video conferencing that uses very low latency audio software he invented, called JackTrip. With this software, musicians in different locations can communicate as though they are no more than 25 feet apart. Playing electric cello, Dr. Chafe also performed improvised music with pianist Chrissie Nanou (both were in California) and Memorial faculty Andrew Staniland (electric guitar) and Ellen Waterman (flute) using his JackTrip software and sound technician Rich Blenkinsopp. Dr. Chafe’s work was presented as part of the School of Music’s new research initiative exploring best practices for teaching music lessons across vast distances.