Music From the New Wilderness

Feb 11 — 15, 2014



The Cultch, Vancouver


8:00 p.m. (Feb 11 – 14) / 2:00 p.m. & 8:00 p.m. (Feb 15)


In the 1970s, American poet Jerome Rothenberg proposed a framework for realizing contemporary art, citing the “new wilderness” as a source of renewal and innovation in traditional arts, ritual, and experimental practice. A decade later, Western Front incorporated these fundamental themes into Music from the New Wilderness—a festival that brought together international artists working across electronic and folk music, performance art, and traditional song-making. 

With support from the Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award for Music, Western Front was able to revive Music from the New Wilderness as a new production examining culture, remoteness, and the vanishing wilderness experience through live music and immersive audio narratives. Premiering at The Cultch, Music from the New Wilderness was a multimedia performance work between Jesse Zubot, Krista Belle Stewart, Christian Calon, Jennifer Schine, Adam Basanta, and Alicia Hansen that offered unique historical and bio-acoustic perspectives on a changing landscape. Emerging from a suite of new and archival field recordings from the Broughton Archipelago and the Nicola Valley, Music from the New Wilderness explored rural geopolitical and environmental issues—from the transformation of resource-based economies into eco-tourism economies, to the early histories and contemporary realities of Indigenous peoples—to ask, what does sound tell us about a place?  

The concert began with when you’re looking for something, all you can find is yourself (2014), a multi-channel audio work by Adam Basanta created in collaboration with acoustic ecologist Jennifer Schine. The piece was created following a trip to the Broughton Archipelago where Schine introduced Basanta to community elder Billy Proctor. The twenty-minute electroacoustic composition offers a portrait of Broughton from three perspectives: that of a visitor, a returning resident, and a life-long local. Schine also presented an audio installation based on recordings of her conversations with Proctor. The eleven-minute composition documents the transformation of British Columbia’s coast through oral history and storytelling, and was presented in the lobby of The Cultch during intermission.  

The event also included the debut of Alicia Hansen’s The Senses of Belonging (2014): five compositions for voice performed with accompaniment by a string quartet composed of Peggy Lee (cello), Jean René (viola), Jesse Zubot (violin), and Joshua Zubot (violin). This work was followed by Christian Calon’s electroacoustic composition 31 Objects from a Landscore (2014), which manipulated field recordings of weather and industry collected from the Broughton Archipelago into multichannel audio. 

Music from the New Wilderness concluded with the premiere of Songs of Love and Despair: The Songs of Therese and the Potato Gardens Band (2014), a composition for strings composed and performed by Jesse Zubot (violin) with Peggy Lee (cello), Jean René (viola), and Joshua Zubot (violin). The piece incorporated a rare wax-cylinder recording from 1919 of Indigenous musician and herbalist Therese Keimatko singing in Sylix (Okanagan). The piece unfolded alongside a video work by Krista Belle Stewart, who is also Keimatko’s great-granddaughter. 

In advance of Music from the New Wilderness, Western Front hosted Christian Calon for an artist talk in the Grand Luxe Hall in which he reflected on past work and the his new composition developed for the performance event. 

Music from the New Wilderness was presented with support from The Cultch, through the Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award for Music.

Video documentation of the event is available upon request.


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Western Front is a non-profit
artist-run centre in Vancouver.

We acknowledge the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations as traditional owners of the land upon which Western Front stands.