Jody MacDonald

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Jody MacDonald

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Jody MacDonald is no ordinary photographer.  For nearly the past decade, she's called a 60-foot catamaran her home as she's sailed to the wildest corners of the planet on a global kiteboarding, paragliding, and surfing expedition that's taken her to over 60 countries.  MacDonald, who was born in Saudi Arabia and has been traveling the world since she was a child, documents extreme sports, spectacular landscapes, and everyday scenes that open a breathtaking window on different cultures - from India to Mauritania to Morocco.  Jody is an award winning photographer represented by National Geographic Creative.  You can see her images in many international publications such as National Geographic, Red Bull, Outside, BBC, Patagonia, Islands, and Men's Journal, among others.

Michael Robotham and Louise Welsh join host Mojo Anderson to discuss what sparked their careers in crime fiction. 

This is an excerpt from the authors' Banff Centre Talk. Click here to see the full talk: https://youtu.be/0FvYkjzR9NQ

Mark Unrau

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Mark Unrau

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Mark Unrau is an award winning professional photographer, co-producer with Front Range Films and the founder of Rocky Mountain Photo Adventures.  Mark's extensive travel photography has earned him international acclaim with accolades such as the Grand Prize from National Geographic Travelers' 'World in Focus' competition and awards from the 'Prix de Paris' International Photo competition.

A photographer since 1998, Mark's work has been featured internationally in magazines and articles such as Highline Magazine and Canadian Geographic.

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Photo: David Cooper

In a dance studio, tucked away on the edge of The Banff Centre campus, six dancers are practicing telepathy.

“We've been trying to work on mind-reading, essentially … trying to read their body language,” says Lisa Gelley, co-director of Company 605.

The innovative Vancouver-based dance company is cloistered away in the studio this week, preparing to premiere their latest work, Vital Few, at the Margaret Greenham Theatre on Saturday.

If you ask Gelley and her co-director, Josh Martin, Vital Few has been in the works for about two years. But it quickly becomes apparent that the show truly began in 2006, with the birth of the company itself.

In Vital Few, the company explores the delicate balance of unity and individuality, and the way that a single person is influenced by the people around them. What it means to “dance together, as opposed to dancing at the same time side-by-side," as Martin puts it.

That attempt to build a gestalt whole while still maintaining individual flavour has been one of the key ideas behind the Company 605 since the beginning. The company got its start in a small Vancouver studio in 2006, a gathering of dancers looking to connect with and learn from others artists. Their backgrounds and dance styles were different — everything from ballet to hip-hop, jazz to tap — but their desire was the same.

“Just trying to find a group of people who are really motivated to make something together, it is such a huge deal,” says Martin.

Vital Few can be seen as a commentary on that. How this company of dancers has brought individual skills to its collaborations, creating something greater than any one dancer they could have done on their his or her own.

It’s a reflection that takes a lot of work, and a lot of trust, to pull off. Even though the company is spending the few days before the premiere in intense rehearsals, it can’t be entirely scripted. Much of Vital Few comes down to reading the other dancers and reacting to what they do on stage — more anticipation than memorization.

The approach is the only way to maintain unity while still allowing the personalities of the dancers to shine through.

“The core of their movement remains with the same thing, but all their eccentricities and all their habits and all their personality traits, we try to put those front and centre,” Martin says.

Photo: David Cooper

It’s also a risk — every little variation in each performance offering the chance for things to go awry. However, for a dance company that has always been hungry to trek into unexplored territory, that is it’s all part of the appeal.

"You need to be willing to see something not go as well as it once did," Gelley says.

“If we’re not pushing something, we don’t see the point.”

As much as Vital Few is related to 605’s past, it is also about the company’s future. It is in the middle of a massive shift. Many of the original members have moved on to other dance projects, although their influence remains, while new ones have come to take their place.

Gelley and Martin were two of the youngest members when they joined 605 a decade ago; Now they are two of the most senior. Vital Few represents their attempts to pass along the shared vocabulary the group has developed over the past 10 years, while still finding space for the fresh ideas new members bring with them. And exploring what they can only create at this individual point of time, with these individual dancers.

“The initial group we started with, [it] had its time working ... you can't replicate that with other people, nor should you try," Martin says.

Adds Gelley, "You have to build that new history."

Purchase tickets to the Saturday, March 5 presentation of Vital Few at The Banff Centre's Margaret Greenham Theatre. 

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Musician Jess Rowland

Jess Rowland wants you to really think about the sound of nails on a chalkboard.

“For me, and I think for a lot of people, that makes us want to run screaming,” says Rowland.

“Now imagine you took that exact same sound, but instead it's a sample on a keyboard. You would probably not get the same feeling.”

In both cases what’s going on in our ear is the same, but when the sound is paired with the image of nails on a rough surface we have a stronger emotional reaction.

“I think of sound not just as what’s going in our ear, but as the vibrations in our body, physical actions and gestures, and cultural context,” she says.

A composer and artist with a day job in a neuroscience lab, Rowland is investigating what we hear and how we understand it. She spent time wrestling with this concept last month at the Banff Centre as part of the Banff Musicians in Residence program.   

“We’re not neutral, we’re not passive,” says Rowland. “To be alive is to be engaged with the world and so much of what I do is trying to help that to happen by exposing the way sound is made.”

Her latest work is a piano piece composed of all the sounds a piano makes aside from notes. It’s a feedback loop of the sound of the lid opening and closing, the pedals pumping and the keys being released.

These sounds are nearly always present in a piano piece, but the audience rarely hears them. Rowland thinks this might because they’re not really listening.

To Rowland, hearing — the physical processing of vibrations of the eardrum — is clearly distinct from listening, which is an active mental process. Differentiating the two is a major part of defining the emerging field of sound art.

The most famous piece of sound art is John Cage’s 1952 composition, “4’33.” It’s four minutes and 33 seconds of silence — or, more precisely, of audience noise in three movements. However, the field wasn’t given a name until the 1980s and didn’t take off until the arrival of mainstream electronic music.

The art form draws attention to the vast amount of noise we tune out in daily life. We tolerate poor MP3 sound quality and live in cacophonous concrete cities, rarely pausing to notice the world of sound around us.

In fact, Rowland, who teaches a class on sound art, assigns her students the exercise of just listening. She insists that, unlike vision, which she believes we’ve maxed out, our sense of hearing still has a large potential to be developed.

“I could look at that wall for 15 minutes and not have that opening of experience you would have if you tried to listen,” Rowland says.

This process of training the brain to listen is where her role as manager of a neuroscience lab feeds into her art. Her interest lies in how our brains themselves can be musical instruments, in that we all physically process sound in the same way, but how we perceive what we hear varies with the individual.

She experimented with this idea in a tribute to Alvin Lucier’s renowned sound art piece, “I am Sitting in a Room.” Lucier recorded himself speaking in a room, then continued to play and re-record that track so it took on the ambient sound of the room. Rowland took this concept, but instead fed her track through an algorithm meant to mimic the way our ears filter sound.

We all perceive the vibrations on the surface of our ears the same way, so neuroscientists have been able to build a mathematical model to recreate that process of filtering sound. Rowland took this research and used it to alter the frequencies of her sentence in the same way that our ear would. What happens after that transformation is up to our brains to parse out and understand.   

This piece was a departure for Rowland because it was a process piece, set up like a science experiment instead of composed using a musical strategy. She had an initial condition, then cycled through repeating patterns, and ended with unexpected results.

It was also different in that it was an opportunity for her to bridge the worlds of art and science. Experts often draw artificial lines around their respective fields, but Rowland says they should come together more since she uses both to understand the world.

Rowland’s work centres on this idea of disrupting normal patterns to stretch our understanding. During her 18-day stay at The Banff Centre, Rowland had a break from the persistent buzz of New York, full-time access to a piano, and the peace required to create three new works.

With each piece, Rowland hopes her audience learns to experience sound in a deeper way.

“I hope their ears get bigger.”

Harry Manx

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Harry Manx
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November 21 to 25, 2016

“Mysticssippi” blues man Harry Manx has been called an “essential link” between the music of East and West, creating musical short stories that wed the tradition of the Blues with the depth of classical Indian ragas. He has created a unique sound that is hard to forget and deliciously addictive to listen to.

Harry forged his distinctive style by studying at the feet of the masters, first as a sound man in the blues clubs of Toronto during his formative years and then under a rigorous tutelage with Vishwa Mohan Bhatt in India. Bhatt is the inventor of the 20-stringed Mohan Veena, which has become Harry’s signature instrument.

Harry played slide guitar for many years before meeting Bhatt in Rajasthan,in fact he had been living in another part of India for many years already, but he started at the beginning under Bhatt’s tutelage, unlearning most of what he knew about playing a slide instrument. He learned Eastern scales and eventually ragas, deceptively complex and regimented musical patterns that form the basis of Indian composition. Learning the voicings of Indian music is a subtle art that comes with time. Harry spent most of twelve years in India learning that. It was later on that Harry decided to explore the connection between Indian ragas and blues scales which eventually led to the Indo-blues hybrid that has become his style.

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Blues, folk, Hindustani guitar
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Derek Charke

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Derek Charke

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November 7 to 11, 2016

Derek Charke is a Juno and ECMA award-winning composer and flutist. Derek has been commissioned by world-renowned artists including the Kronos Quartet, Toronto Symphony, Winnipeg Symphony, Symphony Nova Scotia, St. Lawrence String Quartet, and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, as well as an impressive list of other performers and organizations. Derek is a professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, Nova Scotia where he teaches composition and theory, and he continues to perform regularly as a new music performer and improviser on the flute. Although his music tends to defy categorization, it has been described as post-minimal, inventive, rich textured, full of colour, and imbued with drama and rhythmic vitality. His music often encompasses tonal/modal harmonies and melodies, sometimes with a strong rhythmic pulse in conjunction with extended instrumental techniques, often paired with soundscapes.

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Composer, flute
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Gretchen Peters

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Gretchen Peters
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January 16 to 20, 2017

Is an American singer and songwriter. She was born in New York and raised in Boulder, Colorado, but moved to Nashville in the late 1980s. There, she found work as a songwriter, composing hits for Martina McBride, Etta James, Trisha Yearwood, Patty Loveless, George Strait, Anne Murray, Shania Twain, as well as Neil Diamond and co-writing songs with Bryan Adams.

In addition, Peters has released seven studio albums of her own. The title track of her 1996 debut album The Secret of Life was later recorded by Faith Hill in 1999.

In addition to her numerous awards including two Grammy nominations Peters was inducted to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame on October 5, 2014.

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Singer songwriter
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Festival Content 

Noriko Ogawa

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Noriko Ogawa
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February 6 to 10, 2017

Noriko Ogawa has achieved considerable renown throughout the world since her success at the Leeds International Piano Competition. Noriko’s “ravishingly poetic playing” (Telegraph) sets her apart from her contemporaries and acclaim for her complete Debussy series with BIS Records confirms her as a fine Debussy specialist. 

Noriko appears with all the major European, Japanese and US orchestras including performances with the Polish National Radio Symphony Orchestra, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra of Moscow Radio, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, Czech National Symphony Orchestra and the Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as the BBC Symphony Orchestra for the world premiere of Richard Dubugnon’s Piano Concerto. Noriko made her BBC Proms debut in August 2013 with the BBC Concert Orchestra (conducted by Barry Wordsworth) and appeared again in 2014 with the Endymion Ensemble. She has been appointed Vice President of the St Cecilia Orchestra in Ripon, Honorary Patron of the Ipswich Orchestral Society and, from January to June 2012, was the Artistic Director for the Reflections on Debussy Festival, hosted by BBC Philharmonic and Bridgewater Hall. In 2015 she continued her relationship with the Bridgewater Hall as Associate Artist for Ravel and Rachmaninov Festival alongside Peter Donohoe.

As an adjudicator, she regularly judges the BBC Young Musician of the Year Competition, Munich International Piano Competition, Honens International Piano Competition and the Scottish International Piano Competition. Noriko has been appointed as Chairperson of the Jury for Japan’s prestigious 10th Hamamatsu International Piano Competition in 2018.

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Piano
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Festival Content 
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Today, Paddy Hirsch is writing about fear and greed. Just like he does most days. 

It’s those two sins that drive a lot of what happens on Wall Street, Hirsch says. And he’s seen a lot of it — Hirsch has covered the financial world for more than a decade, both as an author and a business journalist for places like CNBC and NPR’s Marketplace. 

Last month, he was at The Banff Centre, adding a new entry to an-already impressive C.V.: crime writer. 

“It so much more difficult. It really is,” Hirsch says. 

“[With non-fiction,] you're dealing with hard facts and there are limits on you, as you can only put those hard facts down on the page … When you're dealing with fiction, the sky is the limit.”

Hirsch is one of about half-a-dozen writers in the Centre’s inaugural Crime Writing Residency, crafting tales of murder and mystery under the tutelage of crime novelists Michael Robotham and Louise Welch. 

While he’s making the switch from reporting to fiction, Hirsch is not ready to leave the world of finance behind. His story takes place in 1800s New York, a tale of unrestrained capitalism, greedy investors and, of course, murder. 

“When you are writing crime fiction really only murder will do,” he says. 

“Yes, you can rip people off for millions of dollars and all the rest of it, but really, when it comes to this kind of fiction somebody's got to be a body.”

Hirsch’s book is a mix of fact and fiction, set in the financial panic of 1792, which almost brought a still-young American economy to its knees. 

He explains that banker William Duer and a few of his pals had tried to make some extra cash with what was effectively a Ponzi scheme. They hoped to drive up the price of some government bonds they owned. Instead, they caused New York’s economy to collapse and destroyed lives, Hirsch said. And, of course, they basically got away with it — history that would repeat itself during the financial collapse of 2008. 

Different century, same story. 

“This cataclysm happens, you know, the whole world nearly fell apart, depending on who you listen to. But nobody went to jail, nobody seems to be culpable.”

In researching the crimes of those bankers, Hirsch felt something was forgotten by history — the people whose lives were ruined. The written accounts from that time period are thin, mostly letters sent to back and forth among New York’s monied elite. Missing are the stories of the actual people who lost their savings, their homes and their jobs to the devils of fear and greed. 

Hirsch realized that to get to the real truth of what happened, he would need to make some of it up. A fictional account could give better voice to those forgotten people who bore the brunt of Duer’s crimes. To do otherwise would be to leave half the story untold. 

“The greater a picture of the real person that you have, the easier it is for you to connect to the history,” he said. 

“So, if you only have a very thin sketch of that person it's very difficult for you to connect with with him or her. With their stories.” 

The fiction approach also allows him to craft something a little more satisfying. Unlike the messiness of reality, Hirsch gets to decide who lives and dies in his world, who walks free and who gets punished. It means more freedom but, at the same time, higher expectations. 

“I need to make sure that this story makes sense and the people enjoy it,” he says. 

“If they feel like that at the end of there was no resolution there, maybe I haven't done my job properly.”

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