PuSh International Performing Arts Festival and Turning Point Ensemble

Cinema Musica
Music and Film: A Live Conversation

Dates and Venue 20 January 2013, at 2pm & 8pm | Fei & Milton Wong Experimental Theatre, 149 West Hastings Street, Vancouver

Conductor Owen Underhill

Musicians Brenda Fedoruk (Flute); David Owen (Oboe); Francois Houle (Clarinet); Caroline Gauthier (Bass Clarinet); Ingrid Chiang (Basoon); Benjamin Kinsman (French Horn); Jeremy Berkman (Trombone); Jane Hayes (Piano); Chris Morano (Piano/Harmonium); Vern Griffiths (Percussion); Martin Fisk (Percussion); Mary Sokol Brown (Violin); Mark Ferris (Violin); Marcus Takizawa (Viola); Ariel Barnes (Cello); David Brown (Bass) Takizawa - viola, Ariel Barnes - cello, David Brown - bass

Reviewer Roger Wayne Eberle

Music and film have been conversant for decades now, so what’s new? Thanks to this stellar performance by an awe-inspiring ensemble, things have reached a turning point for many in the arts community.

On the third Sunday evening in January, several members of the Turning Point Ensemble assembled to do their part in proving that The PuSh International Performing Arts Festival is aptly named.

Persist until Something happens,” all right. They persisted in upping the ante on a scale of personal musical excellence and something most assuredly happened.

Conductor Owen Underhill started the evening off with acknowledgments and ushered in the first performance, a look back at some seminal influences in the dialogue between film and music, Stan Brakhage’s Reel 5 edited by him to a double piano accompaniment composed by James Tenney called Flocking.

What might have passed among initiates as a convergence of random and plosive keyboard artistry amid escalating and curtailing crescendos of abstract imagery, thrown upon the screen in intermittent staccato bursts to tease out an unconscious response, left this reviewer dismayed by what seemed only a kind of irritating Pollockesque filmic flashpoint-after-tedious-point, kindled with a kind of ebony-and-ivory-détente in a war against form and sense. This opening gambit was incongruous and somewhat ill-conceived, especially considering the high standards set by subsequent performances.

Highlights among the remaining excellent collaborations all involved live performances by Turning Point Ensemble. One involved a synchronization of the Hanns Eisler accompaniment to Joris Ivens 1929 film Regen. Musically robust, with ample flourishes of lightness and alacrity, there is much to recommend this musical journey through pre-war Amsterdam. As the rain in the film cascades and pools, and the sea of umbrellas form patterns that mingle to coalesce with the oboe the flute, the horns and strings, there is a splendid fluidity and sweep to this fine piece. Here is the form and the sense so lacking in the first piece.

Soon after comes Good Night Vision. This instalment rendered by artist Judy Radul involves her idea of printing captions to articulate and extend in prose poetry the musical evocation of sleep, death, darkness and transposition across states of being and non-being that arises out of Berlin based composer Ferruccio Busoni’s 1909 composition entitled Berceuse èlègiaque. The music is sedate. It is as if we were watching ghosts, with the use of thermal camera filming to capture the musicians in the midst of their performances. All of this adds a dimension of surrealism and an other-world feel to the performance. Kind of like a séance where the ghosts play a musical version of “il penseroso.” Not to everyone’s taste, but thought-provoking, nonetheless.

The final two performances were the most visually striking, and it seemed to this reviewer that each piece was out to surpass the previous one in a save-the-best-for-last kind of trumpery.

In a striking and potent live performance of Arnold Schönberg’s 1929 score entitled Begleitmusik zu einer Lichtspielscene, Turning Point Ensemble accompanied the brilliant Stan Douglas film: Pusuit, Fear; Catastrophe: Ruskin B.C.(1993). The synchronization of musical accompaniment with this intense and evocative black-and-white film was stunning and spectacular. Stan Douglas himself was in the audience, and he appeared to be deeply moved when he joined conductor Owen Underhill on stage afterwards.

Finally, the creative team of David and Hi-Jin Hodge staged an elaborate sequence of film shots entitled Suspense. There was a fine transparent film screen dropped down in front of the big screen positioned at the back of the theatre. Images of individual members of the Ensemble playing their respective instruments were projected onto the back screen behind the amazing Turning Point Ensemble live performance. Simultaneously, other filmed shots of individual gymnasts in mid-air during the course of their leaps were projected onto the transparent screen. It is impossible to say just where the strength, agility, grace, form, and precision of the gymnasts surpasses that of the musicians. They are of a piece.

As in Regen, so too in Suspense, form and function flow seamlessly in a harmony where the eye and ear catalyze movement causing the something that happened at Cinema Musica to unite in a persistence of meaning that is a vision worth noting. And that’s what’s new!

© Roger Wayne Eberle