74REIMAGINEThe wooden pews within this 1845 stone church aren't the firstplace you'd expect to be sitting if you wanted to take in aswirling ballet inspired by a dark, violent video game, set to anoriginal score. Or to be deafened by the dissonant percussionof a legendary noise band that's inspired countless progressivepunk bands, like Sonic Youth. Or to be lulled by the sleepysounds of the Iranian tar, kamanche and rubab. THE MUSIC GALLERY REDEFINESTHE MUSICAL EXPERIENCEREDISCOVER, REINTERPRET, David Daniell and Douglas McCombs. Photo by David Waldman. 2010.
75he Music Gallery, which is celebrating its 35thanniversary this year, has an official mandate ofpromoting innovation and experimentation inmusic, and for encouraging "cross-pollinationbetween genres, disciplines and audience." Yet,that barely describes a typical season. When it first started,in the 1970s, the Gallery was devoted mostly toimprovisational music. Artists like Michael Snow, whoseglobally acclaimed music and film work has been exhibitedin Paris's Centre Pompidou and the Museum of Modern Artin New York City, and John Oswald, a Governor General'sAward winner who is known for his saying, "If creativity is afield, copyright is the fence," frequented the place. Over thelast decade, artistic director Jonathan Bunce has openedthe Gallery to a diversity of music that spans differentphilosophies, cultures, genres and eras. "We're unique inthe way that we're not trying to present any specific genreof music," Oh explains. "We're trying to present a certainspirit of music - a spirit of exploration, of creativity and ofwhat's been explored or sourced by our generation."Oh is a classically trained pianist and conductor. He firstplayed at the Music Gallery in 2001, and since then, it'sbecome a performance home for him. "The projects I wasworking on at the time were a bit too, I don't know, esoteric?Weird. Strange. Not the types of projects that are supportedby more traditional venues." Last year, drawing inspirationfrom a wildly popular video game called Halo, Ohcommissioned the Halo Ballet. "I've always been fascinatedBy Jacqueline Nunesby video games - mostly by their ability to engage," Ohsays. "You can sit there for 12 hours and play the game andnever even bat an eyelash." In Halo, players are engaged ina virtual interstellar war and shoot other players - the gameis played through the Internet - with high-tech weapons.For his ballet, Oh commissioned Canadian composer AaronGervais to write the score and worked with a choreographerto train the "Halorinas," four ballet dancers who, rather thanshoot each other, danced together through improvisation.Each "Halorina" was a player in the game, which wasprojected onto a big screen. "They danced a very intricateand complicated dance in time to the music," Oh recalls."The dance was created live on stage - they werecontrolling their characters in the game by dancing together,in sync with the music. It was like a new media ballet."The Music Gallery also presents the work of visiting artists,often mashing them up with other artists to create a mind-bending experience. The final concert of the last season wasthe performance of a classical work called "Trance,"composed by the Gallery's composer-in-residence, MichaelGordon. Gordon is a member of Bang On A Can, a musiccollective from New York City. "It's an extraordinarily difficultTBut if you sit down inside the St. Georgethe Martyr Church, on John St., at thesouthern end of Grange Park, and builtmore than 130 years before the CNTower, you'll hear things that you won'thear anywhere else. "I don't think you'regoing to find a bigger range of soundanywhere else than you'll find at the MusicGallery," confirms Gregory Oh, theGallery's post-classical curator. "Peoplewill come to the Music Gallery withoutreally knowing what they're going to hear,but they're pretty certain they'll findsomething really interesting."We're trying to present a certain spiritof music - a spirit of exploration, ofcreativity and of what's been exploredor sourced by our generation.Disguises performing at the Music Gallery's X Avant New Music Festival. 2011.