Between the Song and the Silence: Banding Together
During a fruitful and productive spring in Banff, Alberta at the Banff Center for Creativity and the Arts, I had the opportunity to meet up with gifted composer and musician, Peter Van Huffel. I tracked Peter down in Banff after hearing rumours of a composer on campus, whose name was either “Peter” or “Robert”. I gave notice to all and sundry that I was looking for him – and was able to finally track him down at the Leighton Artists’ Colony residency. I was admittedly worried about being seen as a stalker, particularly after I was able to ferret out his name and discovered that I had albums of his (fans of thrash jazz might be familiar with his group Gorilla Mask)!
On meeting, Peter said that he was very interested in hearing about the project, but that his concern was that he was based out of Berlin. Controlling my impulse to do a celebratory dance was no easy feat - and I suspect that I may have twitched uncontrollably regardless – I told him that that was fantastic news, as the project was based out of Berlin!
We had the opportunity to sit down and discuss the project a couple of times in Banff. Peter obligingly referred some other people that he thought would be interested in the project, and that he would provide introductions for.
Arriving in Berlin, I had the chance to meet up with Peter and his friend Meinrad Kneer to discuss Meinrad’s possible participation. It turns out that Meinrad is not only an accomplished musician-composer, but an avid birder who studied ornithology in university before deciding to switch to music!
I was able to see both Peter and Meinrad perform in Berlin: Peter with Gorilla Mask at the Shokoladen Hoffest, and Meinrad at Improvisation XChange at Dock 11. Following Meinrad’s performance, I had the chance to talk with a number of performers and musicians, which went a long way to changing some of my long-held ideas regarding the performance. I had been approached by a number of musicians regarding their possible participation in the performance. Up until this point, I had been pretty adamant that there would be only vocal performers and no instrumentation. Susanne Fröhlich in particular had questions apropos my decision. Between that and a couple of later conversations with Michael Bowdidge, I found myself re-considering the inclusion of instruments.
A few more deliberations, and I came to the conclusion that their inclusion made perfect sense. The history of music is rich with the influence of birdsong going right back to the beginning of musical notation, and so I found myself embracing that idea within the context of musicians performing onomatopoetic interpretation of these birdcalls.
And so, I have found my professional cast and backbone for the performance!
Controlling my impulse to do a celebratory dance was no easy feat - and I suspect that I may have twitched uncontrollably regardless ...