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"Minimalist Accepts Inspiration from a Maximalist Tradition"

Music that went (almost) nowhere slowly was both methodical and mesmerizing when the Wordless Music series went ambient on Friday night at the
Miller Theater. The program paired the only United States appearance of Wolfgang Voigt’s electronic project Gas with a performance of Brian Eno’s
“Discreet Music” by Contact, a Toronto chamber ensemble.
The ambient compositions Brian Eno created with tape loops, not live musicians, have a perverse appeal to chamber ensembles; Bang on a Can released its
version of his “Music for Airports” in 1998. Mr. Eno’s 1975 “Discreet Music” was made, he wrote, as “a piece that could be listened to and yet be ignored,”
not aimed for a concert stage. It floats consonant parts that were played on a synthesizer — a four-note phrase and a handful of two-note motifs — in
leisurely permutations.
Contact’s version of “Discreet Music” transferred the motifs to violin, soprano saxophone or recorder, guitar, piano or melodica, cello and bowed bass in
an arrangement by its percussionist, Jerry Pergolesi, with Mr. Pergolesi quietly sustaining a chord on vibraphone. The new timbres hinted at a Baroque
The transcription also tacked on a form: an introduction setting out the drone and motifs, and a coda in which each player gradually fell silent. The
phrasing of the live musicians traded Mr. Eno’s impersonal serenity for little ripples of drama and intimations of call and response. Those humanizing
touches, absent from the original and alien to it, made “Discreet Music” less discreet, but still lulling. - New York Times

"Music Left For Dead"

Herein lies a challenge for any composer, classical-based or otherwise: Come up with a segment of music plus two extra notes on paper, hide those notes from view,
pass on to the next composer who, utilizing those trailing two notes as a point of departure, would do the same for another composer in a group.
This particular “game,” named Exquisite Corpse, has attracted the attention of Contact, a Toronto-based ensemble skilled in genre-bending experimental, classical and
alternative works. The group’s main organization, Contact Contemporary Music, requested that three groups of composers from Toronto, Vancouver and New York take
part in this game and collectively compose three original works for the seven-piece group to perform.
“The funny part was the composers were going to do these works by e-mail and two small measures at a time plus two extra notes simply was not enough,” explains
Contact percussionist Jerry Pergolesi. “So we just let them write these long pieces however they wanted to do it. No restraint, no set limitations.”
The resultant works will be performed at the Music Gallery on Friday night, an event recognized as part of Pride Week festivities.
The tie-in to Pride is crucial, Pergolesi says, especially given Exquisite Corpse’s historical background.
The game got its start around the time of World War I, invented by a Paris-based cultural movement of artists and writers dubbed the Surrealists, and later extended
to other genres, including animation, digital art and ultimately music.
American avant-garde composers John Cage, Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison and Virgil Thomson were among the most notable composers of experimental music to have
participated in the game around the 1940s.
All of these men, Pergolesi points out, were homosexuals during a time when the gay community was being heavily ostracized by public at large.
“Cowell denied being part of the gay community, yet he was arrested for alleged homosexuality activities and spent a lot of time in jail,” Pergolesi says. “Cage never
came out of the closet, same with Thomson. But Harrison was surprising always open about it.
“Yet all of these men were very highly influential in music. In fact, there’s not a DJ alive who doesn’t owe his career to John Cage.”
Pergolesi explains the primary aim of the Exquisite Corpse performance is to “pay homage to the these men, who were able to think outside the box and thrive on
their sense of adventure and spirit.” - Metro

"Discreet Music"

Adam Leier writes:
Discreet Music LIVE!!! Thrilling title no? Anyways! I just went to the Bang on a Can all night music marathon here in New York and took in Toronto based group Contact's arrangement and performance of Discreet Music. Bang on a Can did the live version of Music for Airports you will recall.
It was quite good and had much the same effect as the original recording. They used a piano, violin, flute, sax and some guitar and other things, so it was all LIVE not a tape or delay or sample anything.
The whole thing took place in this big glass atrium downtown next the WTC ground zero site. The Eno piece started around 4:30, so by the time it was done the sun had come up. Not a bad way to start a day!

Microbunny writes:
Just wanted to share that I attended the ROM in Toronto on 15th June specifically to take in this rendition of "Discreet Music", which was held in the large open lobby of the museum. Wonderful stone walls providing fantastic natural reverb to all of the pieces played.
"Discreet Music" was the finale of the concert. Similar instrumentation as mentioned in the NYC performance. 2 Flutes, Soprano Sax, Violin, Grand Piano, Trombone, Electric Guitar, Bowed Double Bass and Vibraphone/Gongs. Performed totally live with each instrument taking "turns" simulating the various short melodic snippets of the piece and then repeating the parts at progressively lower volumes, emulating the tape delay decay characteristics of the original piece. This translated very beautifully to these instruments.
Interesting how your attention would float from one instrument to another as no single instrument was the main focus. A tribute to the performers' treatment of the piece. Also notable was that the soprano sax (not the flutes as you would suspect) most closely resembled the synthesizer sound Eno originally used.
Hopefully an official recording of this will become available shortly. Perhaps someday they can attempt something else from these same tape delay experiments, like Fripp & Eno's "The Heavenly Music Corporation" from No Pussyfooting. However I spoke to Jerry Pergolesi of the group and he mentioned they are currently working on performing the "Three Variations of Pachelbel's Canon" as well (Fullness of Wind, French Catalogues, Brutal Ardour), which should also be interesting to hear with this instrumentation. Catch them if you can... highly recommended!
- Enoweb

"Birds, Keys and a Paper Bag"

Yes, you can become a composer in
10 hours.
The proof is in a five-day experiment
that ended with a concert last
night at a downtown church.
Music From Scratch was the
brainchild of Toronto percussionist
Jerry Pergolesi, the founder and artistic
director of Contact Contemporary
He is one of many artists on the
new-music scene who is concerned
about the fear most people have of
listening to fresh creations.
And he’s doing something about
Pergolesi recruited composer Juliet
Palmer and four other professional
musicians. He also received
the support of the University Settlement
Music & Arts School, a
community organization that operates
in the shadow of Will Alsop’s
coffee table at the Ontario College
of Art & Design.
The mission: To offer youth aged
16 to 25 the opportunity to create
music with seasoned pros in a free,
10-hour workshop.
“This project has been two years
in the making,” said Pergolesi during
a break on Monday. “You can
imagine how difficult it is to get
funding when you say you’re going
to throw a bunch of people into a
room and see what happens.”
The money finally came through
and, despite the challenge to “make
music from scratch,” 10 participants
showed up.
“You’re going to be part of this,
aren’t you?” asked Palmer when I
walked through the doors.
There was energy and enthusiasm
in the room already — from Alison,
who was visiting from Newfoundland
and had come based on a listing
she saw in Now magazine, to
John, whose aunt was trying to find
away to keep him occupied.
Collingwood resident Brandon
Mendoza, 17, had come to visit his
father and soak in the culture of the
big city.
There were high-schoolers and
university students.
“I hope everyone learns something,”
said Pergolesi. “And I hope
the musicians will learn something
from the students.”
In the process, which left a good
impression on the youth as well as
the professionals, Palmer showed
us how we expect too little from our
Experiencing how each student’s
ideas were translated into sound
proved there really is a potential
composer inside every one of us.
We just have to find a way to unlock
the door.
Palmer wasted no time in trying
out a set of keys. We began to repeat
our names to each other, distorting
the sounds any way we wanted.
Then we went outside to record
sounds filling the downtown air. We
recorded those noises on a piece of
paper — using drawings and words
for lawn mowers, people walking,
birds twittering and roofers banging
next door.
Pergolesi on a variety of percussion
instruments, pianist Allison
Wiebe, violinist Sarah Fraser Raff,
guitarist Rob MacDonald and double-
bass player Peter Pavlovsky
translated these accounts into music.
Something clicked. We had found
the way through that secret door.
You could feel it in the room.
On day two, we joined the “real”
musicians to make music with
whatever was handy — beads, keys,
a bag of cashews and, in my case, a
particularly crinkly paper bag.
Slowly, surely, Palmer was building
disparate notions of what is
noise and what is music into a coherent
expression that could rightly
become a part of a concert of contemporary
music at St. George-the-
Martyr last night.
Palmer has worked with non-musicians
before, at the Regent Park
School of Music and with adults in a
special project with the Gryphon
Trio. She may not have known how
things would work out, but she
knew what directions to encourage.
Once sparked, musical energy becomes
it’s own driving force.
“This could not possibly have
turned out any better,” said a beaming
Pergolesi at one point.
This composer agrees.
Birds, keys and a paper bag
Allison Wiebe, on piano, and Sarah
Fraser Raff help non-musicians
develop their composing skills
during a 10-hour program.
That’s what creativity sounds like at innovative Music From Scratch workshop
A recurring exercise in the Music
From Scratch workshops was
learning to translate the sounds
of the everyday world into music.
The first lesson was how just
about any everyday object can
become a musical instrument —
like jangling a set of keys,
tapping a glass bowl or
manipulating a paper bag.
The second lesson was the real
ear-opener, as the professional
players in the room used their
instruments in unusual ways to
create new aural possibilities.
One of the workshop groups,
with the help of guitarist Rob
MacDonald, composed a
minute-long piece that facilitator
Juliet Palmer entitled “Swiss
Cattle at Sea.” It blended the
sounds of creaky timbers, wind,
waves and tinkling cowbells into
an atmospheric, meditative ebb
and flow.
Bass player Peter Pavlovsky set
his bow down diagonally on two
strings, right atop the bridge. By
pushing down on the bow lightly
while rotating it, he produced
eerily lifelike creaking noises.
MacDonald drew a pick across
one of his guitar’s wound strings,
producing the scratching noise
of waves hitting a ship’s hull.
At one point in the workshop,
percussionist Jerry Pergolesi
demonstrated how he could
draw a bass bow along the edge
of a cymbal. The result: a perfect
reproduction of a streetcar
screeching around a curve.
John Terauds
A crinkly paper bag holds all
sorts of musical possibilities. - Toronto Star


To be released 2010:
"Discreet Music": Contact plays the music of Brian Eno
"Undercurrents": Contact plays the music of Jordan Nobles



"…methodical and mesmerizing…" - The New York Times

"…high levels of musicianship… producing music that is invariably well produced and thought-provoking... highly entertaining…" - The Globe and Mail

Contact Contemporary Music started as a collective that has evolved into a contemporary music ensemble and producer/presenter organization that highlights collaborations with other media, established and emerging composers, performances in alternative spaces, and outreach to underserved communities that stress diversity, collaboration and accessibility.