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Saturday, August 1, 2009

La Sombra Espiral for guitar and string quartet by John Burke

On August 11 I will be performing (classical guitar) the premiere of La Sombra Espiral for guitar and string quartet by Canadian composer John Burke at MusicFest Vancouver, a work I commissioned from John a few years ago.

This music, designed both as concert music and as sonic "assistance" for those engaged in walking the labyrinth at Vancouver's Christ Church cathedral, is hypnotic and continuous, yet evolving in ways certainly unexpected if compared to the usual reference points for this sort of music: minimalism and New Age music. John Burke's music is unclassifiable in this regard.

My anecdote for today is to shed a little light into the process of internalizing the music, that is, practising and preparing for the concert. Usually a musician will prepare the music by identifying the difficult passages, working them until they are smooth and under the fingers, and then integrating them into the musical passage in which they exist. With minimal music, the challenge is more often mental and muscular stamina: the repetition and the counting put me, as a musician, in a different relationship with the sound I am making. There is time to "view oneself" performing the music. But such viewing is a distraction and the result of a busy mind. So I find I need to conquer the technical challenges, just as usual, but then, to actually perform the music, I need to put my mind into a meditative mode. In this respect, performing Burke's piece requires of me to enter the stream of the music in a similar way that the audience might: to quiet the mind and the body, and to focus on the sound. Those walking the labyrinth may have a two-fold task, making the possible rewards of the experience double: focus on the walk and the music at the same time. For those who enter the stream of John Burke's composition entirely, there will be a few surprises.

There are two performances of the work on August 11, the first at 6:45 and the second at 9 pm. More information here.

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