Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Preview/Contest: New Creations Festival

New Creations Festival

Arcadiac, Saturday March 2, 2013; Sparkler, Thursday, March 7, 2013; A Toronto Symphony, Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra's New Creations Festival is the city's largest New Music spectacle — a chance to see some innovative musical ideas tackled by a full-sized ensemble in the grand canvas that is Roy Thomson Hall. More than celebrating a particular compositional school, this year's edition is a full-on embrace of technology.

That's largely because this year's special guest and featured composer is Tod Machover, Professor of Music and Media at MIT, whose work encompasses both traditional composition and technological innovation. He's spent decades thinking about performance and interactivity — his "hyperinstruments" paved the way for the Guitar Hero video games.

The first two concerts in the festival will feature some of his shorter works, but the most-anticipated is undoubtedly the première (on March 9th) of his newly-commissioned A Toronto Symphony, subtitled as a "Concerto for Composer and City". Part of the anticipation comes from the fact that no one's sure how this is going to hash out, given Machover's rather unique crowdsourcing methods, where "collaboration took place by blog and e-mail, via Skype and smartphone, using audio and video recording and streaming."

(In fact, I'll note tangentially, we can only hope that the contribution by Maylee Todd, recorded at last summer's ALL CAPS festival, made the cut in some manner. I can attest that it was sent to the right people!)

Listen! Maylee Todd - Hit Me 53 Times

Meanwhile, the first concert also heralds the return of Mason Bates, whose electronica-tinged compositions graced new Creations a couple years ago, but the most exciting selection comes from Nicole Lizée, whose "Arcadiac" provides the night's title. Lizée has arranged for and played with The Besnard Lakes, and her own work includes some material that you might file on the same shelf as your Sea and Cake records — she can also sometimes be found playing the turntable parts in performances of her own compositions. Here, however, the TSO will be playing her piece written for "orchestra and 1970s/1980s arcade games" — the outcome truly warms my 8-bit heart. (Check it out here).

Sparkler, the festival's second concert on Thursday, March 7, contains less technological wonderment — and is probably going the most-anticipated for most of this blog's readers, as it features the première of Owen Pallett's Violin Concerto. Well-known for his solo work — as Final Fantasy as well as under his own name — with his classical training Pallett has long been a go-to guy for indie rockers looking for string arrangements, and it will surely be a thrill to see him painting with an orchestra-sized canvas. Although the violin will be handled here by Pekka Kuusisto, I have no doubt that the author's voice will shine through — the fact that Pallett has indicated that the piece is inspired by H.P. Lovecraft's "The Colour Out of Space" implies it should fit right into the rest of his oeuvre.

Also on the bill that night is Kryštof Mařatka's Vábení. Mařatka doesn't seem to have much of a social media presence, and most of the material about him seems to be in Czech, but given this piece attempts to synthesize "sonorities of the musical instruments of the Paleolithic age [and] the birth of human language and of the earliest vocal expressions", I guess that's a bit beside the point. That this requires two separate choirs implies that this is going to be something of a spectacle.


The New Creations website has all you need to know about the festival, including program notes on all the pieces. The TSO remains committed to making these events more affordable than the typical night at the symphony, so you can grab $20 tickets for all of the shows here. (promo code = "NEW") — or those 35 or under can get an even sweeter 2-for-1 deal (2 tickets for $14) until tomorrow afternoon (March 27th at 5 p.m.) through the tsoundcheck program.


Or... you could go for free! Thanks to the good people at the TSO, I am giving away a pair of tickets to Sparkler, featuring Owen Pallett's Violin Concerto. [Roy Thomson Hall, Thursday, March 7 at 8:00PM ]

To enter, shoot me an email to mechanicalforestsound@gmail.com, with "new creations" in the title and your name in the body. I'll randomly draw a winner on Tuesday, March 5th.

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