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Sonic Responses with the Belkin Art Gallery and UBC School of Music

Posted on August 24, 2020

Standing on the crest of the grassy knoll in front of the AMS Student Nest at the University of British Columbia, Lucy Strauss conjures both familiar and unconventional sounds from the viola in response to a beaded score created by Anishinaabe artist Olivia Whetung. As one of the contributing artists in Soundings, Whetung has created Strata, a series of beaded works, one produced from each of the territories the exhibition has travelled. A cumulative work, each individual score is composed by threading different coloured beads from a mason jar in the order they are collected. The jar is filled through the participation of gallery visitors during the opening weeks of the exhibition.

Reflecting on her interpretation of Whetung’s score, Strauss writes, “I spent my first days with the score meditating on its physical elements: the individual beads, their texture, their colours, the patterns they form, the nail in the wall, the folds where the tapestry reaches the flat surface and the strings that loop around the nail and run invisibly through the piece. I also thought about the process of the creation of the tapestry: the hands that picked the beads to drop into glass jars. The hands that picked the beads out of the jars and arranged them into a three-dimensional object – a fourth dimension. I improvised freely on these concepts to build the material of my response, then chose to read the tapestry score from the top down as the material I was improvising shaped itself. Ultimately, I memorized concepts, a few key musical events, and the feelings and the physical gestures that fit these events – such as bowing parallel to the string to represent the falling strings of the tapestry, rather than perpendicularly. I am extremely grateful to have been afforded the opportunity to explore this work in this way. I gained some beautiful insights and I hope that my response can enhance the connection between the viewer and the work.”

Sonic Responses invites eight musicians and one composer to respond to the changed aural conditions of UBC’s outdoor spaces. Their music making confronts and enters into a dialogue with the quiet that currently resides on campus. Responding to different locales and situations, the repertoire for Sonic Responses stretches across a broad range of traditions.

For more information about Sonic Responses and Soundings at the Belkin Art Gallery click here.

Image courtesy of the Belkin Art Gallery and Rachel Topham Photography.

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