Banff Centre Residency: Week 1

My own mountain music studio, a cozy room with a desk for writing, three drafts of new compositions, creative discussions with Canadian folk-roots musician Linda McRae, a cultural leadership panel, and a wonderful concert by talented colleagues: my first week at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity has been inspiring indeed.

 

We began on Monday with a residency meeting, where we introduced ourselves. I was struck by the incredible range of genres and projects brought forward by participants: everything from songwriting to classical to electroacoustic music and folk. There we met with Linda and a number of staff members. Our fellow participant Roxanne Nesbitt then invited us into her studio to have a look and listen to her symbiotic instruments, as performed by Ben Brown.

On Tuesday night, we were invited to take part in a cultural leadership panel led by Russell Willis Taylor. As I work in arts management by day, this was tremendously useful to me. I was heartened by the dynamic discussion, which touched on numerous issues that face us in arts practice and administration within the context of the current cultural climate. Diversity in the arts was an important theme, and one participant touched on Indigenous issues in the arts. I’m hopeful that like me, other participants came away with new ideas to implement in their respective practices.

 

This residency is self-directed but what I love about it is that we have the option of attending a number of group sessions that can help us further our practice. Many of us opted to go to the Telus Studio for some recording workshops with audio practicum engineer Damian Wiseman. I learned how to reverse-engineer headphones to act as a microphone, which will definitely add possibilities to my recording palette next week.

The Friday night concert with Linda allowed me to take in the incredible talent of my fellow participants as a spectator; have a look through the photo gallery to find out more about the show.

 

My composition work has flourished here this week. I focused mainly on experimenting with extended techniques, but I also delved into songwriting and combined this with instrumental experimentation. I tackled each soundscape from a different angle.

Piano is being developed as a minimal solo piece with acoustic effects only, as well as standard use of keyboard playing. It is intended to demonstrate virtuosity in a new context while telling the story behind the piece in a whimsical way. I prepared the piano with paper and a spiral hair tie, both of which altered the piano’s sound and added new depth to the soundscape. My one-on-one session with Linda was very open: she encouraged me to share my musical story. This session sparked an intense hour in the studio where I wrote the framework for a new song: Heart is a folk piece for voice and viola played with mallet.

 

 

 

 

Paper is composed using its namesake: I extended both viola and piano with different sheets of paper to create several effects. I’m also working on other soundscapes, including one where I prepare the piano with harpsichord wire.

I’m also very excited to be collaborating with fellow musicians. Today my colleague Simon, who performs and writes as Tambour, improvised a very beautiful alternate accompaniment to one of my songs that I hope to share with you next week, and I’m looking forward to performing a new arrangement of my postmodern virelai, Green, with Scottish fiddler Shona Mooney.

 

The mountains that surround us show different faces each day. Each new morning brings fresh ideas. I can’t wait for Week 2.

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