Thursday, November 1, 2012

Preview/Contest: New Music Passport

New Music Passport

Sophisticated music at indie rock prices!

Listening to New Music can be a lot like going to art films. Sometimes the experience can be oblique, non-linear and not laid out to give you an easy resolution. Sometimes you walk out not completely sure if you liked what you saw. But then, you wake up the next morning and start seeing new connections, and you realize you have a new and wider context — and you start to realize that there was something there that will stick with you far longer than you expected.

Musically, it's easy to stay in our little niches, especially given that we live in a city where there's no shortage of gigs to check out. But there's all sorts of different music just waiting to be explored. Sometimes it seems daunting — especially when it's "highbrow" music, whose context can come off as stuffy and, frankly, a little expensive to dabble in.

The Toronto New Music Alliance, an umbrella organization for many of the city's boundary-pushing music presenters, is out to break the ice and expose their work to new audiences. Several of their members have grouped together to launch the New Music Passport. It's a pretty straightforward concept: with a $25 investment, you'll be sent your own wallet-sized passport, which you can present at shows by up to six organizations to get a deeply-discounted $5 admission.

I've done the math for you, and it's pretty appealing. To go to six shows, your all-in cost is $9.58 per gig — that's really a bargain, given the quality of these ensembles and venues involved. And what can you go to see?

  • Array Music, pushing the boundaries of improvisation and composition, has recently been celebrating John Cage and just performed with Pauline Oliveros.
  • Continuum Contemporary Music presents contemporary classical music but wide-ranging collaborations keep things open-ended: one of this season's performances will have an electronic boost from New Adventures in Sound Art.
  • Esprit Orchestra, "Canada's only full-sized orchestra devoted exclusively to performing and promoting new orchestral music", performs larger-scaled works in the beautiful space of Koerner Hall — you won't get too many chances to see the likes of Claude Vivier's "Orion" for five bucks.
  • New Music Concerts has been bringing Canadian composers to the world since 1971 — and bringing diverse sounds back in return. This season includes new Canadian compositions as well as a focus on Korean music.
  • Spectrum is rooted in more of a chamber jazz aesthetic, but presents a wide variety of music, including the Kurt Weill-esque song-cycle Easterween and Caitlin Smith's recent opera When This War Ends.
  • Toy Piano Composers might not be seen employing the instrument they're named for, but that playful moniker reflects a DIY attitude — their first concert this year was entitled "We Started a Band".

Plus, there's more! Buy a passport and you'll receive a free issue of Musicworks Magazine, which does an excellent job of demystifying all sorts of avant-garde sounds. (The current issue has a cover story on Tim Hecker by MFS fave Nick Storring.)


Personally, I think you should just go ahead and grab your own Passport, but to make things even more enticing, I've been provided with one to give away. That means you'll be able to go to up to six shows for $5 apiece — cheaper than beer!

To enter, shoot me an email to, with "new music passport" in the title. I'll draw a winner on Friday, November 9th.

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