RE:FLUX Festival of Music and Sound Art
Who says you have to live in New York or Montreal to taste the most cutting edge sounds in new music? We are about to experience an influx of visiting musicians and artists from New York, Montreal, Berkley, Los Angeles, Winnipeg, Guelph, and Halifax, performing in addition to brave new concerts from our own local musical heroes. The next two weeks promise to be filled with concerts unlike any others you might find in Moncton, as they abandon the tired formulas of pop rock and classical music in favour of the more daring sounds of new music, free jazz, electroacoustics, soundscapes, laptop music, extended vocal techniques, and cross-continental radio collaborations.
This year marks the fourth edition of the annual RE:FLUX Festival of Music and Sound Art -- a 15-day festival showcasing local and international talent side by side in a series of concerts, workshops, screenings, and art installations in a bold act of creative cultural combustion. The festival runs from May 14 to May 31, and is organized by the staff and volunteer board members of the Galerie Sans Nom Co-opératif.
Presenting music is no new trick for the Galerie Sans Nom, which has been hosting experimental music concerts in its visual art gallery since the 1970s. Many local music fans, may recall that throughout the 1990s the GSN often presented large indie rock bands upstairs in the Grande Salle of the Aberdeen Cultural Centre. Programming Coordinator, Angèle Cormier states, “Bands would approach the Galerie to set up shows, because Moncton didn’t have any other venues for avant-garde music. So the shows would happen randomly throughout the year as we would get bands that were traveling back to Montreal or Toronto after playing gigs in Halifax.”
In 2002/2003, the Galerie was drawn toward programming sound art in its visual art exhibition space and also organized a series of new music concerts throughout the year. Audiences were so enthusiastic about these concerts, that the New Music Series became a huge success. The following year, the Galerie decided to focus the concerts and events into a more condensed period of time and so the RE:FLUX Festival of Music and Sound Art was born.
Nisk Imbeault, the director of the Galerie Sans Nom, explains, “We schedule the festival in the spring, so we can coordinate our concerts with other festivals. By keeping track of the programming at other festivals, we are able to host international musicians who are passing through Moncton in between other festivals.” This works out to the benefit of both the musicians and to RE:FLUX as the musicians get an extra concert (and pay cheque) on the same tour, while RE:FLUX gets hard-to-book musicians who are already in the area for another major festival. Festivals that they are coordinating with include the Halifax Jazz Festival, the Festival de Musiques Spontanées in Rimouski, and the Victoriaville Festival in Quebec (which is the largest new music festival in North America).
In the beginning, the Galerie Sans Nom selected and contacted musicians to invite them to take part in the festival. After two or three years, however, the festival had gained enough of a reputation that musicians were contacting them requesting to participate. According to Imbeault, “Such a large number of musicians contacted the Galerie this year, that we could not even accommodate them all.” As a result of this accelerated interest and activity, the festival has now expanded to include sound art, installations, and video screenings to its programs.
Tim Isaac, a well-known local blues musician of the Isaac and Blewett duo, opened the festival on Wednesday night, May 14, at St. James’ Gate. Every year, the festival invites a local artist who plays rock or blues to present their more experimental research to a local audience. This year, Isaac opened the festival with his more experimental work, in which he transports his cello into new sonic territory fueled by wah-wah pedals and atmospheric effects to create boldly daring soundscapes. He hunts and gathers sounds from old wheelbarrows, washtubs, and other household items which he then knits and weaves into ethereal loops meshed with original compositions.
Thursday night May 15, features an improvisational concert by Plus Jamais, hailing from Montreal and Halifax. In the impetuous spirit of improvisation, this group of drummers, stringers, singers, trumpeters, noisies and DJ's disguised as visual artists, never goes by the same name twice. The group defines their relationship to rock and roll by saying: “We believe that bad poetry is rock n' roll but we're two thirds new wave so we hide it well.”
New York’s “Star of the downtown scene” (according to New Yorker Magazine) Annie Gosfield and Roger Kleier, will be presenting an artist talk, a workshop, and a concert on May 24, at the Aberdeen Cultural Centre. Gosfield is a well-known American new music composer who searches for the inherent beauty of non-musical sounds. She derives her inspiration from machines, destroyed pianos, warped 78 records, and detuned radios. Meanwhile, Kleier works with developing a unique musical vocabulary for the electric guitar through sourcing a multiplicity of extended techniques and digital technologies. These two longtime collaborators are practically telepathic in their improvisation sessions as they trade wicked samples and wild guitar sounds through a field of electronics and altered techniques. During their artist talk and workshop, they will unpack their methods of composition to the public.
Barnyard Drama comes to Moncton from Montreal on Friday May 30. This daring quartet takes a fresh look at improvisation, as they combine elements of song and soundscape. They blend extended vocal techniques with drums, vinyl records, digital loops, jazz, fairy tales, concrete music, and nursery rhymes to create what they describe as “electro-avant-garde-new-acoustic-tuvan-primpram-ambiant-music”. If you’re wondering what to expect, the group advises you to “Think Mahler and Wagner, slow it right down, add radio Istanbul and the tooth fairy. ‘Cause you know it’s got to be sweet and creepy.”
This year’s artist in residence is a group known as 5 Guys (pronounced: sank ghee) that was formed in 2003 in Moncton as an attempt to reach beyond traditional musical materials (pitches, chords, scales, melodies, metres). Since then, they have re-embraced some of these materials in different ways. In addition to playing at the festival’s closing concert with Tim Isaac, 5 Guys will be teaching workshops to school children at École L’Odysséé and École Le Mascaret. In these workshops they will be doing an introduction to improvised music and new media music (aka laptop music).
Another exciting musical event, not to be missed, is a cross-continental collaborative radio improvisation called Mannlicher Cacarno. This will be a collective improvisation with musicians in Berkley, Los Angeles, Guelph, Winnipeg, and Moncton who will participate in the broadcast from their own respective cities. The work will broadcast live through Radio J (aka CKUM) the university station 93.5 FM and on the internet through www.acadieurbaine.net on Saturday May 24 at 3:30pm. There will be an organized listening room at the Laundromat Bar for people who want to listen collectively.
In addition to the concerts and workshops, you mustn’t miss out on the film and video screenings. First up, on Wednesday May 21, is a documentary film on Free Jazz called ‘Imagine the Sound’ by Ronn Mann, which has been described by critic and film historian Jonathan Rosenbaum as “[possibly] the best documentary on free jazz that we have.” The following Wednesday, May 28, there will be a screening of sound based animation and video art at which animator Anne-Marie Sirois will be present for questions and answers with the audience. Finally, don’t forget that all month long, you can check out audio/video screenings just outside of the Galerie Sans Nom where Superlovestarpower2: The Album Project by Goody-B Wiseman of Los Angeles will be on display.
Meanwhile, the Galerie Sans Nom’s visual art gallery will host a sound installation by Catherine Béchard and Sabin Hudon of Montreal, called Cubes à sons /bruits / babils. This installation presents a series of wooden boxes that viewers can hold in their hands, feeling the weight of the wood and caressing its smooth surfaces. As the viewer turns the art on different angles, various sounds are emitted from the box. Each box contains six sounds (one for each side) while internal electronic sensors dictate which sound is played according to the orientation of the box. In this way, the viewers become performers and composers by turning the boxes over and under in their hands. The opening of this exhibit of sound art that you can hold in your hand will take place Friday night May 16 at 9pm with an artist talk preceding the opening at 7:30pm.
Throughout the RE:FLUX Festival, most of the events, concerts, and workshops will be taking place at or around the Aberdeen Cultural Centre. Other venues and events around the city will be announced on their website (www.festival-reflux.com) and in their printed programs which are distributed throughout the city. For specific questions about the festival, you can find everything you’re looking for at the Galerie Sans Nom in the Aberdeen Cultural Centre, by phoning 854-5381, or emailing email@example.com.