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What would you give back in a minute?

The Banff Centre recently started curating Kickstarter crowd funding campaigns of alumni and artists of the Centre. Aaron Rosenberg, a composer from Massachusetts, managed to fundraise $3,579 to fund a 70-day stint here for the Banff Musicians in Residence program, during which time he aims to compose ‘Ascent’, a trio for piano, cello and violin. To meet his Kickstarter fundraising goal, Rosenberg offered a special incentive to prospective donors. I spoke to him about the fundraising process.

Aaron Rosenberg in the midst of composing a trio for piano, cello and violin

Aaron Rosenberg in the midst of composing a trio for piano, cello and violin. Photo: Meghan Krauss

“What’s unique about my project is the rewards that I’m offering people. I’m writing short piano character pieces, about 1-2 minutes long, in homage to those who donated $50 or more to my campaign,” he said.

Drawing inspiration from the 19th century classical composers, primarily Chopin and his prelude pieces, Rosenberg will embark on creating 11 romantic short piano pieces once his residency here is finished. “I think it will be really fun, especially writing pieces for the people I know.”

For some people the compositions will be a minute-long piece, for others it will be two minutes. “I feel like it’s really something I can give back to them but it’s also something of an incentive for my next project when I’m finished here, which is to write a collection of piano character pieces. It would be an opus of mine, to write a collection of piano pieces based on certain people or their ideas.”

“The compositions are really portraits of the people who are giving me money. If I don’t know the people then they get to decide what I write about, the subject matter.”

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Andrew Nogal and the oboe solo

On his third Banff Centre residency this fall, musician Andrew Nogal brought two pieces to work on. Nogal is a Chicago-based oboist and English horn player, who plays with the contemporary Ensemble Dal Niente among other gigs, and teaches at Loyola University and the University of Chicago. But he came to Banff to give himself some time and space to get closer to perfection with Bach’s Sonata in G minor, and an obscure piece, Incisi for oboe, by contemporary Italian composer Franco Donatoni. “These are both highly contrasting, and also both highly demanding for different reasons,” he told me.

Oboist Andrew Nogal, in his Banff Centre music studio.

“The Bach is very long-winded and requires really great breath control. The Donatoni needs really exceptional finger technique and I thought The Banff Centre would be the perfect place to focus on those two pieces because they both require so much time and so much energy. I wanted to devote my whole self to them, rather than fitting them in between freelance work and teaching and the regular demands at home, and working as a professional musician.”

Nogal performed both during his residency, at a recital in the Bentley Chamber Music Studio.

My interest in modern music is not purely for the virtuosity. It’s for the dynamism of expression, and for the personality the composers pour into the music. I think that Donatoni’s solo oboe piece is filled with character and groove, and he uses a solo wind instrument in a really interesting way, in a way that draws a direct line to the listener. I appreciate contemporary music for the sheer diversity of it. The fact that there are pieces that are bombastic and wild and there are pieces that are fragile, vulnerable and delicate, living side by side in today’s music. I think that’s a really beautiful opportunity for artists to explore different forms of human expression. It isn’t the pure technicality of it, the compositional or academic aspect of it that fascinates me. It’s really the expressive side of music-making that I still think is beautiful.

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DJ Champion: “I like to start from chaos”

DJ Champion (left) with musicians in residence at The Club. Photo: Meghan Krauss.

DJ Champion (left) with musicians in residence at The Club. Photo: Meghan Krauss.

Multi-instrumentalist and electronic musician DJ Champion spent a week at The Banff Centre as a visiting artist with the Fall Music Residency, a mix of emerging and established artists from different musical backgrounds. We spent some time talking about chaos, and the process of creating new music.

I like to start from chaos, total chaos. When you strip down your ego to not take so much space, you’re able to interact with that sort of white noise. I like that chaotic aspect of beginning. When I’m trying to establish a concept (for a song), I just try to have a better articulation of my thoughts, and if I don’t do that, it doesn’t go anywhere. But if the concept is too strong, you put yourself in the position where you have to head toward something. Let’s say you ‘have to compose a song that is going to be a hit on the radio,’ that’s hard! You lose the music, you lose the momentum because that goal is in the future and to be creative you have to be in the moment.

DJ Champion: “J’aime bien commencer dans le chaos”

DJ Champion, le musicien multi-instrumentaliste de musique électronique vient tout juste de  terminer une semaine entant qu’artiste de faculté en visite dans la résidence de musique d’automne au Banff Centre. La résidence accueille des artistes émergents ou établis de tous genres musicaux. Nous avons passé une portion de notre entretien à parler du concept de chaos associé au processus créatif.

 J’aime bien commencer les choses dans le chaos. Le chaos total. Quand on est capable de se retirer de l’égo, nous pouvons accéder à ce genre de bruit de fond. J’aime cet aspect chaotique des débuts. Quand j’essaie d’établir un concept (pour une chanson), j’essaie d’avoir une meilleure articulation de mes pensées, et si je ne le fais pas au départ, ça ne va nulle part. Mais si le concept est trop puissant, ça nous mets dans une position ou nous devons avancer vers quelque chose. Disons par exemple : tu dois composer une chanson qui va être un « hit » à la radio. C’est difficile! Tu perds la musique, tu perds le « momentum » parce que le but est dans le futur et pour être créatif il faut rester dans le moment présent.

Translation by Amelie Goulet-Boucher

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Measha Brueggergosman: Bend, break, breathe

Measha Brueggergosman

Measha Brueggergosman at the 2013 Banff Midsummer Ball, with trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. Photo: Rita Taylor.

You would never forget meeting soprano Measha Brueggergosman. I first met her when I walked by her outdoor table at Maclab Bistro on The Banff Centre campus, when she was here earlier in the summer to perform and record. “Hey,” she said. “Come sit down.” I obeyed.

“Are you the one who’s going to interview me?”

She then took my number, made a call to arrange the time and  introduced me to her friend, while simultaneously sending more texts, presumably to contacts far and wide. Once the plan was made, I was kindly dismissed.

This friendly/bossy mix made me even more curious about a woman who’s an international opera star, emerging gospel favourite, new parent, yoga instructor, and all around, in-your-face, super extrovert. Her energy is contagious, her life has been a mix of extreme highs and crushing lows, and she seems to know everyone and to remember everybody’s name.

When my appointment time came, Measha and I sat down to talk about tattoos, breath, yoga, and what it means to be the keeper of the classical music grail.

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Produced by Jennifer Kingsley.

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BISQC: The importance of new music

Since its inception in 1983, the Banff International String Quartet Competition has commissioned a new piece by a Canadian composer to be part of the competition. Each of the quartets plays the piece on the same day, so the audience hears ten interpretations back to back. This year, String Quartet No. 3, by Vivian Fung, was commissioned by The Banff Centre and CBC.

Already I see the variance between the quartets, the personalities coming out of the quartet members, and some of them have really personalized it, which I like. It’s not just notes on a page, but something that is living and breathing within the quartet.

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Q in C: “It reminds me of Titanic!”

Following the daily rounds of our 2013 Quartet in the Community:

Ni hao BISQC fans! Let’s recap Days five and six of this tidal wave of a residency. Thursday, we played for two of our most energetic crowds: first, about 50 young day campers at the Central Park Gazebo, and second, a packed bar of music fans at Melissa’s. Who do you think had more trouble maintaining focus? Don’t answer that – they were all great. For the kids, we repeated our activity from the Alberta Children’s Hospital comparing sandwich ingredients to quartet texture, and this time the kids concocted a ham and jam sandwich on rye. After the concert a young girl ran up to Michelle, gave her a big hug, and said, “Thanks!” It was a heartwarming gesture that reminded us why we love performing out in the community.

Violinists Michelle Abraham and Solomon Liang, in Banff's Central Park gazebo.

Violinists Michelle Abraham and Solomon Liang, in Banff’s Central Park gazebo.

Later at Melissa’s Missteak, Gary, the owner, had built a makeshift stage for us that thankfully remained stable for our whole hour-long set. The audience definitely didn’t know what to expect at the beginning, but we were greeted with rousing enthusiasm when we started off with the classic theme from Hockey Night in Canada. Canadians are certainly proud of their hockey! We played our usual Mozart, Mendelssohn, and Schubert, plus some tangos and Beatles tunes. Back by popular demand was “Purple Haze,” and then another run through “Hockey Night,” prompted by the audience shouting “One more song!  One more song!” The bar and its patrons were so welcoming, and we would love to return to Melissa’s for another set with free shots mid-performance.

On Friday we got to do some sightseeing at some of the most scenic spots in the area. We started out the morning at Moraine Lake where we met Ben, a Parks Canada guide, who joined us throughout the day as we made our way through Banff National Park. The lake setting was the most tranquil place we’ve played yet, and we were inspired to play a selection of peaceful movements by Haydn, Schubert and Mendelssohn. Several hikers told us that they could hear strains of music while they canoed on the lake. One man even told us it reminded him of Titanic, and we were grateful his water excursion had a much happier ending.

The Thalias at one of Banff's most popular beauty spots: the shore of Moraine Lake.

The Thalias at one of Banff’s most popular beauty spots: the shore of Moraine Lake.

After lunch we were scheduled to play at Lake Louise, where unfortunately the cold rainy weather caught up with us. Although we were sad not to play outside in such a beautiful setting, we enjoyed playing in the opulent lobby of the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise instead. We wrapped up the day at the visitor information center at Samson Mall, where Michelle refused to dress as a goat because it didn’t match her outfit. Joke’s on her, the goat outfit was by Vera Wang. Ben appeared in costume and decided to trade his pickaxe for James’s bow. The day ended with James forgetting which was the correct tool to use on his cello…

Banff cello player c. 2013 (left) meets Banff hiker c. 1913 (right).

Banff cello player c. 2013 (left) meets Banff hiker c. 1913 (right).

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