I once found myself unexpectedly moved to tears by the singing of a Flemish folk song. I do not speak Flemish and I don’t have any particular connection to the subject matter, that of a woman whose seven sons immigrate to Canada from Belgium. Later that day I could not even fully remember the melody. But the very visceral effect it had on me — and as I later learned, on others who were in the audience that day — has me thinking about why it is that a musical performance can have more or less impact than expected. Continue reading “The mystery of musical affect (and effect)”
So often as artists or presenters we create and then share works with no idea of how they will be received by audiences. We start from a place of excitement or fascination and hope that those who consume our work will feel some of that, too. After it is over we try to gauge its reception with the sound of applause, box office numbers. But even in more traditional performance contexts, there are examples of performers inviting more direct audience feedback, such as when guest fortepianist Malcoln Bilson urged Tafelmusik audiences to talk or applaud during a piece or encore individual movements. Continue reading “interactions”
With typically intriguing introspection and detail, Michael Ondaatje talks about his writing inspiration and process in video interviews recently released by The Lousisiana Channel of Denmark. In one he compares poetry to novel-writing. But in the second, he talks about his relationship with music. “The rhythm of music has been the biggest influence on my writing — it’s not Wordsworth, it’s Ray Charles,” he explains. This is no surprise to me; he’s my favorite writer mainly because of the cadence of his prose.
In that interview, Ondaatje explained that music and writing are so connected that they must sometimes be separated. Continue reading “Ondaatje, music and archival inspiration”
Recorded in Goose Cove, Cape Breton, August 2004. Part of the soundtrack to my (unfinished) documentary, Faithful to the Song, which features The Boisdale Trio and members of the Iona Gaelic singers.
A highlight of my visits with Peter MacLean were sessions at his reel-to-reel machine. As we meandered thorough hours and hours of his recordings of Gaelic and English song, violin and piano, I felt like a time traveler eavesdropping on house parties, quiet visits, concerts and radio shows. Once we had fallen into that rabbit hole where long-vanished sounds came back to life, we were not likely to surface for many hours.
Peter MacLean’s collection of 48 multi-sided reel-to-reel tapes stand as a significant piece of Cape Breton musical history. They are a connoisseur’s collection of songs in Gaelic in English, fiddle music, party chatter and radio shows; an example of a personal archive; and a source of songs that sustained his own practice and along with other tape archives, which will aid in the future transmission of Gaelic song in CB.
When he moved into hospital Peter asked that we help to preserve his tapes, and so Paul MacDonald made digital copies of the precious ribbons. Coming soon on this blog: a preview of my article about this remarkable collection.