Going North – Program notes in English

  1. AhojAhoj (2011) by Terri Hron terrihron.com

AhojAhoj is the first piece in the Sharp Splinter cycle, a collection of works exploring family, memory and separation. During the Cold War, my parents exchanged an incredible number of letters, audio cassettes and films with their family behind the Iron Curtain in Czechoslovakia. In 2009, I gathered all of this material together and started to sort through all of these treasures. I was so astounded by their voices on the audio cassettes, which were like timewarping through memory. It is some of these that are featured in AhojAhoj. Almost all of the excerpts I’ve chosen are hellos and goodbyes (both Ahoj! in Czech), as well as a longer passage by my grandmother – surprisingly in English – where she puts it just right: “When we hear your voices, so near, we imagine you are here in the next room.” Most of these people are no longer with us.

This piece is written for Luciane Cardassi. I was inspired to use a fixed medium for the electronics by Luciane’s incredible talent for synchronicity. Other than the voices and piano resonances, the other sounds come from a tape deck, whose sound was inseparable from the experience of making and listening to these cassettes from the 1960s to 1980s.

  1. Dois Aforismos com Interlúdio (2010) by Jorge Villavicencio Grossmann shadowofthevoices.com

The poetry of Vicente Huidobro has had an impact on my work, not only in terms of providing text for two of my vocal pieces but also because of its aphoristic quality. Huidobro believed that poetry should be new and independent from the world around it and it should, in a way, create its own reality, detached from any other identity. A reliance on a unique kind of syntax was also one of the characteristics of his poetry, which I myself try to emulate in Dois Aforismos com Interlúdio. The aforismos display fleeting musical gestures in contrast with the sustained sounds of the interlúdio. A restatement of material from the first aforismo in the second aforismo underpins the three-part structure of this brief composition. This sectional structure is, however, blurred by its overall stasis.

  1. Wonder (2012) by Emilie LeBel emilielebel.ca

In 2008, I met pianist Luciane Cardassi during a residency at the Banff Centre, and the following year we embarked on our first collaboration together.  Based around a selection of poems by Canadian Poet Sue Sinclair, on faith, work, leisure & sleep was the second project that we collaborated on to create a cycle of pieces for solo piano in various configurations to include text, electronics and video.  Wonder is the third piece in this cycle, employing solo piano to explore resonance and space, alongside text with the pianist’s voice and electronics.  More than ten years after we first met, Luciane’s friendship and collaborative spirit continue to be a cherished and immensely important influence in my artistic life.

  1. Berimbau (2019) by Alexandre Espinheira alespinheira.wordpress.com

This piece brings to the concert hall an Afro-Brazilian instrument – the Berimbau – which constitutes the soul of Capoeira, a Brazilian cultural icon that is at once game, dance, and martial art. The composer Alexandre Espinheira was born and lives in Salvador, Bahia, and is a Professor of Composition at the Federal University of Bahia. Incorporating aspects of Bahian culture in his compositions has been an essential part of his research and artistic interests for years. While the pianist is not from that area of the country, she was Visiting Professor at the same university.  This collaboration arose from her curiosity about Bahian culture, and his continuous investment in this cultural context, so this piece bridges two traditions: contemporary classical music and Afro-Bahian culture. The berimbau instrument consists of a single string, under tension from a curved stick, and a resonance gourd.  Although apparently simple, it is deeply impregnated with cultural meaning. The piano, no less heavy in cultural history, and with a much more sophisticated mechanism, consists of many strings, and a large resonance box.  For the purpose of this work, the piano is then seen as a super berimbau. This piece aims to expand the creative possibilities of the piano, bringing sounds from the berimbau and its context. For this, the composer made use of extended techniques in combination with electronic sounds.

  1. Estudo de um piano (2008) by Chantale Laplante chantalelaplante.ca

Estudo de um piano is like a slow-motion conversation between tamed and untamed sound. Rooted in an exploratory process, the piano gradually transformed itself into a space made of flexible walls where I constantly moved between remembrance (my acquired knowledge of the piano) and the necessity of some sort of memory loss in order to let new meanings appear. The working method has been totally focused on the listening sensation produced by the sounds resonating through my body, the prepared keys as well as the scrubbing, scratching and plucking of the strings becoming a physical extension of my being. The final performance aggregates live and pre-recorded sounds, resulting in an intricate braiding of sonorities, dancing a series of emerging and disappearing gestures, floating into the atmosphere.

Grateful thanks to Luciane for commissioning this new work as well as for her deep understanding of my music and her meticulous interpretation.

With support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.

  1. for will robbins (2010) by Darren Miller darrenmiller.ca

The composition for will robbins is scored for piano and pre-recorded electronics.  The titular Mr. Robbins is a close friend from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (Treaty 6 Territory).  Will helped me through a time of personal turmoil in 2005-2006 while we were sharing a small home in Saskatoon with several other roommates.  During that time, I would often hear Will’s band Pearson practicing in the basement.  Over the course of those particularly difficult months, Pearson was working on a song that would eventually end up on their debut recording.  The isolated guitar introduction and interludes of This is not a Letter nor is it a Postcard still remind me of those times, and of Will’s great support.  It seemed fitting for me to incorporate an audio sample of these sections into a piece composed during the similarly tumultuous summer and fall months of 2010.  At that time, I was lucky enough to enjoy the support of close friend Luciane Cardassi, for whom the work is composed.  Even more fitting is the fact that Luciane and I met during a residency at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in 2009, where we collaborated on a performance of Luigi Nono’s …sofferte onde serene… which is also scored for piano and tape.  Now, a decade after the writing of for will robbins, Luciane is still supporting my work with the release of this recording, and Will remains a close friend as well.  In fact, since returning to Saskatoon at the completion of my studies, Will and I have both begun raising sons who have also become close friends.

  1. Converse (2019) by Lia Sfoggia, Guilherme Bertissolo and Luciane Cardassi liasfoggia.wordpress.com   guilhermebertissolo.com

Converse is an inter-artistic work. Its creative process involved three artists of different backgrounds: a performer – Lia Sfoggia – who also works with photographic arts and video (dance); a composer – Guilherme Bertissolo – who works in developing new strategies for real-time processing of audio and video; and a pianist – Luciane Cardassi – with wide experience in collaborative projects and multimedia works. The context for this collaboration came from Sfoggia’s doctoral research (2019), which focused on creative processes in dance. That, in turn, originated from field experience with the complex knowledge web of “Capoeira Regional”, especially regarding the movement dimension. In Converse, the creative process had as its impetus the concept of “state of readiness”. This concept relates to the need for the capoeira to stay alert and available, and how this behaviour influences the way he moves. Our work embraced this concept not only in its conception, but also at our performances and development of the work, such as this recording, which portrays a cut from the actual work. Continuing in a state of readiness, the collaborators, who share authorship of Converse, no matter which version, open themselves to new adventures inside this creative circle. Its next development will be a videodance created from this recording.

  1. The Boat Sings (2012) by Fernando Mattos wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_Mattos

My dear friend Fernando Mattos was the first composer I ever collaborated with, back in 1996/97, when we were both graduate students in Porto Alegre, Southern Brazil. The resulting piece foretold his passion for poetry, for experimentation, for working together. After several collaborations, and many years of friendship, I remember Fernando’s reaction when I told him of a poetic expression I had heard from a very accomplished rower: when the rowers are in total sync, they say that “the boat sings”. Fernando immediately opened his beautiful smile. The Boat Sings arrived in my inbox a few years later, as a gift. A very moving piece, of tremendous depth, flowing energy and kindness, like a portrait of its creator. Fernando was an incredibly intelligent, knowledgeable, generous person, a teacher who left generations of orphaned students by his premature death. A performer with guitars of different times and styles, Fernando left hours of recorded improvisations. It was with one of those improvisations that I created this rendition of The Boat Sings, weaving his improvisation into mine, as a personal tribute to this amazing friend-composer-performer-human being. I would like to acknowledge the expertise and sensitivity of Amandine Pras who embarked on this creative journey with me. Her technique and wisdom made possible this encountering of souls through music. As for me, I can only smile while listening to this track – a smile of gratitude for having had such a beautiful friend leading me through the path of music collaboration.