Mod­u­lus Fes­ti­val trav­els new realms

A con­cert-rit­ual at the Round­house Com­mu­nity Arts and Re­cre­ation Cen­tre on Fri­day (No­vem­ber 2). The Mod­u­lus Fes­ti­val con­tin­ues at var­i­ous Van­cou­ver lo­ca­tions un­til Tues­day (No­vem­ber 6).

The Georgia Straight - - Arts - by Alexan­der Varty

Mu­sic on Main’s artis­tic di­rec­tor, David Pay, is known for his gra­cious con­cert in­tro­duc­tions; he has a way of mak­ing lis­ten­ers feel at ease and at home, even if what they’re about to hear is ad­ven­tur­ous or even dif­fi­cult. But what Pay has on tap for the first night of Mom’s an­nual Mod­u­lus Fes­ti­val goes above and be­yond a warm wel­come. Walk­ing in Beauty: a con­cert-rit­ual is many things, but at heart it’s an in­duc­tion into a mag­i­cal com­bi­na­tion of text and sound, where liv­ing forms of spir­i­tu­al­ity meet an­cient rites, where the Old World and the New com­min­gle, and where cul­tures cross but never clash.

The brain­child of pi­anist and com­poser Thierry Pé­cou, whose Ensem­ble Vari­ances will per­form, Walk­ing in Beauty is a kind of three-part suite. Open­ing with Pé­cou and Guillermo Diego’s rel­a­tively com­pact and allinstru­men­tal Paseo de la Re­forma, the pro­gram will then move into vo­cal­ist Kata­rina Livl­janić’s in­can­ta­tory Kokla Kok­ab­ula be­fore cul­mi­nat­ing in Pé­cou’s own Chang­ing Woman, Can­tata of the Four Moun­tains, which in­cor­po­rates texts by the Navajo poet Laura Tohe. Over the course of the night, the mu­sic will take us through the dark and sur­real ex­or­cism rit­u­als of me­dieval Croa­tia, and then into the sun­lit beauty of the Amer­i­can South­west.

For Pé­cou, writ­ing Chang­ing Woman was an in­stinc­tual re­sponse to his own first en­counter with that land­scape. “I was very im­pressed by the speci­ficity and the power of Navajo cul­ture, and the way they place what we can call beauty, health, and har­mony in­side of their phi­los­o­phy of life,” he ex­plains in care­ful but ac­cented English from a Detroit, Michi­gan, tour stop. “So I started search­ing for more about them, and even­tu­ally I went to Ari­zona and New Mex­ico, and I met Laura Tohe in per­son, even be­fore read­ing much of her po­etry. She gave me some books and we had a very open ex­change, and then we de­cided that we would work to­gether.”

Tran­sit­ing from the green, man­i­cured land­scape of cen­tral France to the vast deserts and dra­matic moun­tains of Ari­zona and New Mex­ico had a pro­found im­pact on the 53-year-old com­poser. “It was so pow­er­ful to see the beauty of the land­scape—how large it is,” he says. “So in the mu­sic, I think the way I trans­lated this is… I did it in two ways: in this sort of feel­ing of space that I tried to put into the mu­sic, and the way I re­sponded to the Navajo ter­ri­tory, which is sort of a square ter­ri­tory, with four sa­cred moun­tains in the four cor­ners of the space. So in the piece, the con­cert space is di­vided into four places, and the mu­si­cians are go­ing from one place to the other all the time, de­scrib­ing a kind of cir­cle—which also, of course, refers to the role of the cir­cle in na­tive cul­ture.” Kokla Kok­ab­ula is very dif­fer­ent in both struc­ture and in­tent, but Livl­janić’s set­ting of an­cient texts that com­bine as­pects of both Catholic and pa­gan rit­ual also touches on the im­por­tance of the nat­u­ral world in var­i­ous be­lief sys­tems. And this recog­ni­tion of na­ture, Pé­cou says, is some­thing he’d like to see more of in con­tem­po­rary mu­sic. “There’s also an­other as­pect which is push­ing in an­other di­rec­tion,” he al­lows, al­lud­ing to ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence and no­tions of the tran­shu­man. “But as a com­poser, as an artist, I feel a need in my own work to work with these things.”

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