Get to Know Our Summer Music Programs

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Co-Artistic Director of Summer Classical Music Steve Schick conducts participants.

New co-artistic directors of Summer Classical Music, Claire Chase and Steve Schick, are less concerned with genre and categorization, and more interested how music is ever-evolving. When explaining this philosophy, Claire quotes Austrian composer Gustav Mahler—“it is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of the fire." Put another way, "we care about our roots and we care about where we are growing," said Steve. "We are really wanting a balance between these two kinds of things."

The summer program is known around campus as "ARC" because each of the five, two-week modules is "committed to the Creation of new music, the Refinement of traditional and contemporary practices, and the Amplification of our music into the public space by means of reflection and conversation. 

The five modules explore different ways of music-making and collaborating, some overlapping with others to create a constant engaging buzz at Banff Centre. 

The modules for 2017 are: 

Ensemble Evolution

Chamber Music

Roots and Rhizomes Percussion Residency 

Pianist-Composer Collaborative

An Improviser's View of Notated Music 

We want to play older music as though the ink were wet and we want to play new music as though it came from some place and not just out of thin air."

-Steve Schick

Each module has a focus, a world-class faculty, and invites top-tier musicians to attend and create in an intensive environment. "We are simply here to witness and to nourish and to help along, not in any sense to teach in the traditional way, but to be a part and to participate in and to energize," said Claire. 

Follow along as we meet participants, attend events, and get the know the new Summer Classical Music program under Claire and Steve. It promises to be an exciting season.

Ensemble Evolution 

Ensemble Evolution

An Ensemble Evolution rehearsal 

Ensemble Evolution was the first program of the summer season, taking place from June 19-July 1. It was led by 12 members of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) and conducted by Steve Schick. This module took its name seriously and truly dug deep into the idea of evolving large mixed-instrumental ensembles. This was accomplished through exploring repertoire that ranged from Beethoven to brand new compositions written by participants themselves. 

Participants also had the chance to work with some of the contemporary composers on faculty for the residency, including Zosha di Castri, who most recently composed the Canadian Commission for the 2016 Banff International String Quartet Competition

This residency has been particularly special because it has given me the opportunity to work with some of the musicians and composers whose work I most admire.

-Ensemble Evolution participant Liam Elliot

Radhe Radhe

The Canadian premiere of Radhe Radhe: The Rites of Holi and The Rite of Spring at Banff Centre in 2017.

Members of the Ensemble Evolution residency also had the great fortune to work with Vijay Iyer, Artistic Director Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, on the live event Radhe Radhe: The Rites of Holi and The Rite of Spring (pictured above). The performance consisted of "a live film score paired with a new arrangement of Stravinsky’s original Rite to create an unforgettable alloy of new and old."

Chamber Music 

Chamber music

Participants from the Summer 2017 Chamber Music residency.

The Chamber Music program took place July 3-July 15 and brought together 50 musicians for a "collaborative, experiential approach to music-making that examines centuries of performance practices." The faculty was world-class, including Imani Winds, Miró String Quartet, and JACK Quartet, which all anchored the program. They were supported by Claire Chase, ICE winds Rebekah Heller, Joshua Rubin, and Ryan Muncy, along with Baroque violinist Aisslinn Nosky.

The program continued the dialogue between old and new "with side-by-side explorations of Schubert and Beethoven (Mirò), Ravel and Mozart (Imani), and the dazzling young Canadian composers Sabrina Schroeder and Erin Gee (JACK)."

Playing in a string quartet is challenging on so many levels. I've learned so much from my colleagues in my quartet and our amazing mentors.

-Chamber Music Participant Chris Whitley

The residency included five performances, including by Imani Winds, pictured below. 

Imani Winds

Imani Winds performs at Banff Centre during the Chamber Music residency in 2017.

Roots and Rhizomes 

Roots and Rhizomes was a percussion residency that ran from July 17 to July 29, and featured the work of John Luther Adams and composer Michael Pisaro. The residency was an opportunity for the 24 participants to "explore the impact of natural sound on contemporary music-making." One of the ways they did this was by performing Pisaro's work Ricefall, which involved choosing objects—some seemingly non-musical altogether, like an umbrella, and a shoe—and dropping grains of rice onto those percussive objects to simulate a rainy landscape within a concert hall. The result was experimental and utterly transfixing. 

For me composition is any ordering of sound. But I don't have any problem if someone says "well, that's not music." What's far more important to me is that they get to have the experience, regardless of whatever it is, whatever we call it.
-Composer Michael Pisaro

While during rehearsal for this performance, and in concert, we captured the story of Ricefall in the video below, part of our Spotlight series. 

Pianist-Composer Collaborative 

Pianist-Composer Collaborative faculty member Cory Smythe

Pianist-Composer Collaborative was an interdisciplinary residency that ran from July 24 to August 5. The program investigated the relationship between the pianist and composer, "a rapport spanning centuries," and explored "the fluid roles of creation, improvisation, curation, and collaboration." The program featured a number of distinguished faculty members including Canadian pianists Winston Choi and Vicky Chow, New York improv duo Craig Taborn and Cory Smythe, British pianist Nicolas Hodges, toy pianist Phyllis Chen, and multimedia artist Remy Siu. 

The program worked with compositions and pieces spanning "a mixture of the traditional, the modern, and the genre-smashing." 

One of those genre-smashing pieces was by participant Matt Poon. The composition, Piano Mechanics, Fingers and Arms Becoming Four Hands, by Gordon Monahan, pushed the very boundaries of what the piano can do. Watch our Open Studio video about Matt and his work below. 

An Improviser's View of Notated Music 

Versatility was the name of the game for the program An Improviser's View of Notated Music, which ran from July 31 to August 12. Participants worked with faculty like improviser Anne Bourne, violinist Carla Kihlstedt, vocalist and composer Sofia Jernberg, and Inuit artist Tiffany Ayalik, featured in the video above. The residency included workshops on deep listening, explorations of graphic scores.

The program also overlapped with two related programs. Participants were able to investigate the relationship between the improviser and the choreographer with members and faculty of the Dance program Collective Composition Lab. Improviser's also dovetailed with Vijay Iyer's Banff International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music.