Reflections on Music from the New Wilderness

Feb 1, 2014

Talk, Media Artwork




With the financial support of the Rio Tinto Alcan Performing Arts Award for Music, Western Front presented Music from the New Wilderness, a multimedia production that examined culture, remoteness, and the vanishing wilderness experience through live music and immersive audio narratives. The production debuted new compositions by Jesse Zubot, Krista Belle Stewart, Christian Calon, Jennifer Schine, Adam Basanta, and Alicia Hansen that incorporated a suite of field recordings and archival wax-cylinder recordings from the Broughton Archipelago and the Nicola Valley. The works 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? 

Reflecting on the production, music scholar Ellen Waterman and doctoral student Tyler Kinnear were invited to share their thoughts on Music from the New Wilderness in a recorded conversation. Their discussion was guided by questions: how might we position these works in relation to a broader history of experimental music? In what ways do these works engage the concept of wilderness? What is “new” here? What genre expectations are foiled and/or fulfilled by this concert? What contextualization does the audience need in order to be let into these works? Amidst recent demands for expansion through the export of natural resources here in British Columbia, how do these works stimulate discussion around the cultural, environmental, and political aspects (perhaps also anxieties) of this moment in history? More directly, can such works raise environmental awareness?

Using the discussion as material, Kinnear created Reflections on Music from the New Wilderness: A Dialogue—a new twenty-minute audio work that combines excerpts from their conversation with field recordings collected throughout Vancouver and on Vancouver Island. 

Audio documentation can be made 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.