With a DIY flair and twist of cool, FAWN Chamber Creative has established themselves as one of the savviest classical music presenters in the city.
Started four years ago by a tenacious Amanda Smith, FAWN has been dedicated to expanding the audience for Canadian classical music by bringing new opera and multi-disciplinary works to the Toronto stage.
This Saturday, FAWN presents the fourth instalment of their Synesthesia series, a collaborative event that bridges emerging composers and artists from multiple disciplines in the creation of a unified and transformative experience (how’s that for a tall order!).
I had a chance to chat with Artistic Director Amanda Smith and ask her about the FAWN Chamber Creative and learn more about the upcoming Synesthesia concert on Saturday.
So tell us about the upcoming Synesthesia IV pt.1 on Saturday.
Our Synesthesia Series concerts have always been connected to the FAWN Operas that follow them using some sort of loose thematic element (ex. Syn. I was about lucid dreaming, Syn. II about technology and Syn. III about film). This time, we would like to find an emerging Canadian opera composer to work in the thematic context of the type of opera we would like to create, a ballet-lyrique. I have been very interested in the automatic response music has on the body and how the body, in turn, can amplify one’s perception of sound — be it as a listener and you get tingles up your arm, or as a viewer and you hear music in your head as someone dances.
We wanted to select the next composer with our interests in mind, as well as our audience’s. Since operas take time to develop, we thought it would be interesting for our audience members to be a part of the early stages of the development process. Selecting a composer is also selecting a complete aesthetic, since I believe all other production elements come directly from the music, and we’re curious to know which direction our audience would like a new ballet-lyrique to go in. From the submissions of the open call we put out to Canadian composers for Synesthesia IV pt. 1 – Sound & Body, we have already selected the six composers we would be interested in working with on the opera, so we will be happy with any combination of composers the audience decides on.
During the evening, we will present the music with a performative dance-based installation. I brought together an incredible dancer, Jennifer Nichols of Extension Room, with a very talented emerging visual artist, Kathryn Warner of Warner Gallery, and together we are developing a physicalization of the concert program. The sculptural work that will provide the environment and will be given new context through dance and music. The pieces you will see before the performance will surely have a different meaning after. I wanted the audience to get a touch of the operatic experience, be it abstracted so that they can select their three favourite pieces with space and body in mind.
How does it all work exactly?
Synesthesia pt. 2 will involve the three audience-selected composers. This will be a highly collaborative process between dancers and composers. From this performance, FAWN Chamber Creative will select the composer we think writes music that lends itself best to the body and also works well collaboratively with dancers, since we hope to continue such a collaboration in the opera writing process.
How did you select the composers and pieces for the show?
We had a lot of wonderful composers from across Canada submit their work. What we were looking for was music that could illicit intense imagery. All of the pieces in the Synesthesia IV pt. 1 – Sound & Body program had undeniable visuals, which we will be drawing out on Saturday night with the work of Jennifer Nicols and Kathryn Warner.
What should people look out for?
Signs! This venue is tucked away on a street full of industrial buildings. We will be posting signs to help people find it. Just find the building venue and the rest will be self-explanatory. You can find directions, a map and more information about the show here.
With the exception of the Music Gallery, FAWN seems to favour off-the-beaten-path venues. It really changes the “vibe”, and makes them much more relaxed. Is there a philosophy behind that?
I look for venues that suit the context of the performance. I love it when the experience starts as soon as you walk through the doors, or even before, so that is the true reason why our venue selection can seem different. I think it ends up being relaxed for many reasons, including because it feels natural to experience the event in the specific chosen environment. The Music Gallery was selected with this in mind as well. Since the opera Adam Scime wrote, l’homme et le ciel, was derived from a 2nd-century Christian text and we were investigating the idea of constructed morals versus human impulses, The Music Gallery sanctuary seemed to be a really good fit.
For those not familiar with Ballet-lyrique, what can you tell us about it?
Well, we won’t be doing it strictly as a ballet-lyrique. Our objective will be to create something that is equal part dance and opera, which is where ballet-lyrique comes into play. Ballet-lyrique is a style seen more in French Baroque, which a number of us in FAWN are interested in, so we will be doing our own version of this. There are so many ways in which new music and Baroque music intersect!
At this time, we can’t say what style of dance will be used in the opera. It might be too early to tell.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Nothing else but to say that I am very excited about this event. It’s going to be a very unique experience for a lot of people, including myself.
There you have it, folks. You can check out Synesthesia IV pt.1 Sound & Body at 221 Sterling Rd. (Studio 5), Toronto, May 7, 7:30 p.m. You’ll find all the details, here.