Monday, August 18, 2008

Galleries and the Music in 'em

It's amazing to think that it's already been three weeks since MUSIC(in)GALLERIES 2008, and since the launch of the musicWitness art exhibition in the new ST foyer art gallery with two massive solo sets by William Parker, Saturday 26 July. It was a joyful (if stressful) day for me and, as always, I didn't get to hear as many groups as I'd like to have during M(i)G. Particularly special of what I did hear were the banjo/bass duets of Tim Posgate and Victor Bateman in the wide-open Camera bar, the solo harpsichord recital of -- I'm guessing -- Wm. Byrd music by John Farah, and, especially, the drums and trumpet duet of Jean Martin and Jim Lewis. The photo and drawing included here are by the musicWitness, Jeff Schlanger, himself a spirited trumpeter to boot. He agreed with me that something very special was afoot when Jean and Jim filled XPACE with lovely, measured, and deeply sympathetic playing.

The (obligatory?) midafternoon showers made way for a brilliant late-afternoon and early evening, and it was under those conditions that folks headed from the Gladstone -- which Christine Duncan's Element Choir had animated joyfully to round out M(i)G -- or wherever, over to ST for the William Parker solo sets. The material of the two formidable, seventy-plus-minute sets remains a bit of a blur after my crazy expenditure of energy during the afternoon and, like many in attendance, I was further saddled by the increasingly overwhelming warmth of the space -- we turned off the air conditioners to keep noise levels down while Jean Martin did double-duty and recorded the proceedings for possible release.

What I do remember is dominated, however, by an overwhelming feeling of William's presence in the room as he played. Whether or not you 'enjoy' the sounds he was making, the massiveness of the generosity and spirit that he was pouring into the room was undeniable and, for me, undeniably powerful. This experience was amplified and focused by the small room and the quiet acoustic; I could feel the walls throbbing with growing intensity as he dug deeper and deeper into his bass. During each set, William played a version of "Cathedral of Light," an application of his synaesthetic theory of arco bass-playing and, at discrete points during each one, I could hear voices (laughter, especially) from some unlocatable, mystical source. When I reported this to Jeff Schlanger, a veteran colleague of William's, he nodded sagely, assuring me wordlessly that this is neither uncommon nor something to fear. Bright moments.

Jeff was in town with his wife, the wonderful artist, Anne Humanfeld, for nearly a week, framing and installing the work that is now on display indefinitely in the new ST foyer art gallery space. What a treat it was to spend some real time with these two! Both quickly picked up on what I'm trying to do at ST, and were supportive and quite impressed by MUSIC(in)GALLERIES. Naturally, Jeff installed himself to paint William as he played, and the result is a profound diptych (see above) that he took back with him to New York to document and preserve. He left ten original paintings (most of which are of Toronto musicians as they played with William at his 2007 Interface Series) plus four giclée prints, and eleven of these pieces now grace and energize not only the foyer but also, by extension, the entire ST space. Please come to see them! The space looks and feels amazing!

Thank you Jeff and thank you William for such brilliant gifts of soul and spirit.

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