I admire creative use of everyday public space. On May 31st, Kitchener Civic Square was transformed into a percussion playground by Between the Ears Festival. The festival began with strains of operatic voices cascading from unseen singers high above the square. This was followed by a surround sound crescendo of gongs that began softly and grew loud enough to drown out the sound of the city.
In Spill, sound was produced by a giant funnel swinging pendulum style spilling rice over a variety of ever changing textures. I was torn between closing my eyes and listening to the rhythm and watching the hypnotic movement of the funnel and Ryan Scott’s manipulation of the objects below.
Another intriguing combination of visuals and sounds: six percussionists performed a piece where the rhythms bounced back and forth and wove in and out of each other. Meanwhile, the drumsticks were attached to a centre pole by long white strands that leapt and curled with the rhythm. It was amazing to watch from any angle.
Disonar featured a performance on a drum kit made of drywall and a guitar made of cement – spoiler alert: it does not end well for the drum kit.
The last performance – “Hit Parade” – consisted of participants who lay on the floor with microphones and beat the microphones on the floor at whatever tempo they chose, “resting” after 100 beats and then resuming. This was the hardest performance for me to connect to – couldn’t find anything aesthetically or intellectually compelling about it.
Open Ears: Festival of Music & Sound – the host of Between the Ears – will be presenting a full size festival in June 2014.
Here is a post from songwriter and music publisher Jack Cooper from a songwriting social media group:
“Hey, here’s a songwriterly question I though I might throw out here. What do you go looking for when you visit song circles/open stages? When I first started going out to open stages regularly ’bout twenty years ago, it was mostly for the performing experience- how to perform under a ton of different conditions and before both supportive and non-supportive audiences.
This evolved over the years to where the main benefit I derive from doing originals at circles and open stages is for editing. You know those twinges you get when you sing something that doesn’t feel quite right? I would note those and revise parts of the lyrics/music that makes me flinch.”
So – where are you on the spectrum of reasons to come out and play? What’s your motivation? What do you take away with you?
Yet another way to take music into public spaces: Busking! I have no first hand experience to share but here is a great blog post about busking in Lyon, France: http://www.weareallonfire.com/?p=290
Do you have a busking story to tell? Or maybe you have a prime busking spot you’d like to share the location of? If you have a street musician gig coming up post it here.
What a great way to foster a sense of community and bring music into the streets! The Grand Porch Party recruited more than 20 acts to play on porches over several blocks of uptown Waterloo.
The rain stayed away so listeners could comfortably stroll from one porch performance to another, the strains of one musician often just fading as sounds of another came into range. There were places for children to experiment with making music and homemade instruments. Volunteers staffed information tables for people to learn more about the Grand River watershed and the host organization of the whole event, Alternatives Journal. The Swim Drink Fish music club was also promoting a music approach to environmental awareness and networking.
In addition to the musical guests who were booked to perform there seemed to be some spontaneous participation, as well. I couldn’t get to nearly all the acts that afternoon but I know I walked by some porches with musical offerings that were not on the official Grand Porch Party map. I heard some volunteer harmonies that listeners added to a porch musician’s rendition of a Crosby, Stills & Nash song. This event is a perfect example of how music draws people to it: create a public space for song and spoken word and folks flock to it like they are hungry for it.
A huge thanks to Tenille for having the imagination and initiative to stage such an event, and to the oh-so-hospitable hosts who welcomed the players and turned their private property over to neighbours and strangers alike for a short while. I hope this is only the inaugural event of an annual tradition. Maybe next year the music could be spread over several hours so that it would be possible to enjoy more of it.
Or at least to the front porch! I usually post about an event after I’ve already experienced it. But this idea seemed worth a change in protocol, and since it may only happen once I thought you might want to know about it if you are in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.
On June 12th from 3-5 pm, residents of an uptown Waterloo neighbourhood will share their porches with musicians who will in turn share their music with anyone strolling by. What an ingenious way to bring music to the community, bridging private (porch) and public (street) spaces! This event is called the Grand Porch Party and is the creation of Tenille Bonoguore, managing editor of Alternatives Journal. The Grand Porch Party will celebrate the release of the journal’s first music + environment issue and is also being held on Canadian Rivers Day.
For the musical line-up plus a map of where to find the Party Porches go to: http://grandporchparty.wordpress.com/