Saturday, April 9, 2016, 7pm
Off-site: Pyatt Hall at VSO School of Music, Vancouver
Tickets available at: www.picatic.com/CAGglass
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents a new performative sound work with Norwegian/US artist/musician Camille Norment in collaboration with Victoria’s Experimental Music Unit: Tina Pearson, George Tzanetakis, and Paul Walde.
Norment performs with a glass armonica, a legendary eighteenth century instrument that creates ethereal music from glass and water. Combined with EMU’s reputation for sonic investigations of relationships between the natural world, sound and music, and between notation, improvisation and attention states in music making, Norment and EMU will develop a work that resonates with local history.
Songs for Glass Island will use US visual artist Robert Smithson’s failed 1969 proposal for the Strait of Georgia, Glass Island (or Island of Broken Glass) as point of departure. Granted permission by the Canadian Government, Smithson planned encrusting Miami Islet west of Fraser Point in 100 tons of broken glass. However, as public pressure against the idea mounted from environmentalists and anti-Americanists, it was suspended by a governmental telegram. Aside from drawings, letters, and plans, the only physical artifacts which remain are studies which Smithson called “maps.” What would have been Smithson’s first “permanent” earthwork morphed via the idea’s failure into the famous Spiral Jetty made the following year.
Throughout March and April, Norment will be in residence at the University of Victoria where she will be writing and rehearsing with EMU members. Using glass in various forms as their primary instruments, they will prepare a set of inter-related works including newly developed instrumentation, that imagine the possible sounds, stories, textures and ecologies of Smithson’s fabled island. Reflecting the themes in structure and content, sound will weave viscerally through this glass world, the project residing in realistic and fantasy scenarios provoked by Smithson’s proposal: glass as a material; glass in acoustic and marine ecology; inevitable mounds of post-catastrophe glass shards; and metaphors associated with glass, such as glass ceilings, broken barriers, reflection, transparency and invisibility.
Through the creative process, the juxtaposition of the practices of sound and experimental music performance in glass will create a visually stunning and sonically captivating audiovisual concert-length program that will debut in progress at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and be followed by its premiere performance in Vancouver presented by CAG at Pyatt Hall. Recordings of these works and performances will be subject to a subsequent audio publication. CAG will also partner later this year with Norment and the Montreal Biennale.
Camille Norment is a multidisciplinary American artist living in Oslo, Norway. Her work has been the subject of numerous international exhibitions and performances including the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013) and a commissioned artwork and performance for the Museum of Contemporary Art, Oslo (2012). In 2015 she presented Rapture, a site-specific, sculptural and sonic installation in the Nordic Pavilion for the Venice Biennale. She regularly performs and records with the Camille Norment Trio in which she plays the glass armonica.
EMU is a sound ensemble of LaSaM Music from Victoria, British Columbia featuring performer/composers Tina Pearson, George Tzanetakis, Paul Walde and producer Kirk McNally. During the past four years EMU has developed a reputation for sonic investigations of relationships between the natural world, sound and music, and between notation, improvisation and attention states in music making.
Songs for Glass Island is presented in partnership with LaSaM Music, Victoria and is supported by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway through its program for International Support, The Canada Council for the Arts, The University of Victoria through its Distinguished Women Scholars Fund, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts and the Department of Visual Arts.
Camille Norment and Experimental Music Unit – Songs for Glass Island, was presented on Saturday, April 9, 2016, at Pyatt Hall, VSO School of Music. It was an engaging, performative sound work with Norwegian/US artist/musician Norment collaborating with Victoria’s Experimental Music Unit: Tina Pearson, George Tzanetakis, and Paul Walde.
It is intriguing that their collaborative sonic exploration departed from Robert Smithson’s unrealized earthwork project for Southwest BC, Glass Island (or Island of Broken Glass), proposed shortly before he created the famous (or is it infamous?) Spiral Jetty. Smithson’s project to cover an islet in the Strait of Georgia with crushed glass was drowned by the noisy objections of environmentalists, yet it’s echoes live on through a completely different type of (sonic) exploration. So, how does one project live through the failure of another?
A highlight of Norment and EMU’s event was our introduction to the glass armonica, a rare and legendary instrument dating back to the eighteenth century that uses glass, water and fingertips to create otherworldly sounds. These tuned glass “singing bowls” reputedly have healing properties, leading to reactions from the listener that vary from mesmerized to fearful, and even to a one-time ban on its use … strange but true! Mozart has even penned works for this enchanting instrument, and it’s other worldly sounds have accompanied music by contemporary musicians such as Linda Ronstadt, David Gilmour and Björk.
In an interview published in e-flux about her recent exhibition at the 2015 Venice Biennale, Norment touched on her fascination with the powers of sound: “I am interested in how music has long been used to facilitate both the forging and transgressing of cultural norms. Sound permeates all borders. Throughout history, fear has been associated with the paradoxical effects music has on the body and mind, and its power as a reward-giving de-centraliser of control.”
Norment’s work has been described as visceral and poetic. From my personal perspective, much of my graduate research at SFU explores the human’s phenomenological relationship with the world, how our sensual experience with the surrounding environment plays a key role in defining who, and what, we are. Moreover, from an aural perspective, it is important to recognize that our location in the sonic environment is critical to our understanding and perception of it. I enjoyed exploring both of these concepts, and more, at Norment’s and EMU’s concert, immersing myself into the spellbinding soundscape.
– Jorma Kujala
Songs for Glass Island was presented by the CAG in partnership with LaSaM Music, Victoria and is supported by the Office for Contemporary Art Norway through its program for International Support, The Canada Council for the Arts, The University of Victoria through its Distinguished Women Scholars Fund, the Orion Fund in Fine Arts and the Department of Visual Arts.MORE