Roger Tellier-Craig, “Où s’inscrit tout indéterminé,” Études (Second Editions)
The music critic Shawn Reynaldo recently sparked debate on Twitter with a blog post about journalists’ modes of listening: are reviewers really hearing the music they evaluate in proper context? Reynaldo’s purview is electronic dance music, a genre that is typically produced for the nightclub at high volumes, or for audiophilic home listening. The reality, Reynaldo speculates, is that most journalists listen through laptop speakers and airpods, which cannot reproduce this music’s characteristic sub-bass frequencies. So they aren’t really hearing the music the way the artist intended, invalidating their professional judgements of it. I must admit my scepticism toward this claim.
First, artists’ intentions are unrelated to the audience’s reception of their works. “Critical inquiries,” wrote Wimsatt and Beardsley in their famous 1946 essay “are not settled by consulting the oracle.” And Reynaldo implies a spatio-technological hierarchy here, which then assumes an ideal economic and social stature. When I made music, I tried to preview it on every conceivable sound system. Oftentimes, the true test of a mix was hearing it through a factory car stereo. Nothing fancy. Composed at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal, Roger Tellier-Craig’s music exists at the very fore of academic sound design. But it would still be bonkers through a clock radio.
Written on Skin, Opéra de Montréal, Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier, Jan. 25, 2020
I love tragedy. When done well, a great tragedy can be indistinguishable from the most uproarious comedy. The 2004 Woody Allen film Melinda and Melinda cleverly tells the same story twice, through both comedic and tragic lenses. Audience members who caught David Lynch’s Twin Peaks pilot at its Telluride Film Festival premiere in 1989 reported outbursts of laughter during the gut-wrenching scene in which Sarah Palmer discovers her daughter Laura’s death. Written on Skin is unarguably tragic. And maybe it’s just me, still the smartass kid who wisecracks his way through church service, but I couldn’t help but find it riotously funny. The last scene could be ripped straight out of Soylent Green: “It’s people!”
Absurde, “Folding the Dishes,” Folding the Dishes (Humidex)
In response to a desperate plea late last year by Plateau and Mile End independent record store owners, mayor Valerie Plante announced on Jan. 28 that municipal laws concerning opening hours and the fines incurred for extending them will be updated to accommodate special events like in-store performances and Record Store Day festivities. This is good news, and a signal that the city recognizes the businesses that not only pay the most in taxes, but also those that contribute to Montreal’s distinct cultural fabric. The circulation of capital within cities is never strictly economic.
Independent record stores in particular are under threat in every major city, partly because of dwindling physical album sales since the 1990s, but also due to encroaching gentrification, a process which paradoxically tends to eradicate the features that make neighbourhoods unique. But if you really want to discover and experience the vibe of any particularly vibrant place, go into an independent record store and tell the clerk to fill your bag with music made by local artists. Like, say you happen to be visiting Montreal: go into Phonopolis and ask by name for Absurde’s Folding the Dishes 12-inch.
Positions & Cause à effet, Bradley Ertaskiran, Jan. 23, 2020
The old Parisian Laundry building on St-Antoine is a venerable edifice and impressive exhibition space, and its renaissance as Bradley Ertaskiran holds promise for the future of contemporary art in Montreal. Its co-curators seem to want to throw as much at the walls as possible for their inaugural event, a group show of eight au courant artists on the ground floor, plus a solo exhibit in the bunker of Nicolas Grenier’s surrealist diagrammatic paintings. The whole schmear, which runs until March 7, is well worth a walk-through. And it gives us an inkling of the gallery’s direction.
The standout piece for me is tucked discreetly into the main room’s south-west corner: Carlos Reyes’s “7129619 (3)” — a readymade jeweller’s bust finished in crushed crimson velvet, a sun-faded silhouette where an extravagant necklace might have once been on display. Amidst a gallery-full of works frenetically competing to say something — anything! everything! — except that they, too, are products just as bound by alternating cycles of signification and abstraction as any other assemblage of consumer items, Reyes’s work quietly states just that, and speaks volumes besides. Here, we no longer have the object of luxurious enchantment. We have only its shadow, the scar of a trace, the trace of a scar, a removal that indicates the new ambience of our ruin. Some things say more in their silence.
Dale Nigel Goble, April 29 1972–Dec. 15, 2019
The artist Dale Nigel Goble mightn’t have been particularly well-known in the global art scene. But if you walked around Edmonton’s Whyte Avenue district in the 1990s, you would have seen his work everywhere. Goble was a prodigious graphic designer who created sandwich boards and storefront signs for the high-end fashion retailer Gravity Pope, the Black Dog pub and the pet shop Scales & Tails. And that was only within two blocks. Goble’s whimsical take on Pop Art was Edmonton’s coolest, most coveted aesthetic. And his warm and genuine personality made him magnetic.
Dale was also a great friend. When I needed a studio space, Dale recommended me to his building’s superintendent, and we became neighbours. Dale’s door was always open — mostly because of the fumes, but also because everyone was welcome to come in, hang out, listen to Radiohead, smoke cigarettes, talk about art, talk about life or not talk at all. If you stayed for long enough, Dale might enlist you to dry freshly silk-screened t-shirts or clean paint brushes. He generously gave me some of his paintings to decorate my studio. I still hang those paintings in my home today.
When you lose a friend, generally they don’t call you up to let you know that they’re about to expire. And when they ultimately do, you can’t call them back to say, “Hey, I heard you died! What was that like?” Dale had a handwritten sign on his studio wall, affixed with a strip of masking tape. It read: “Before you can be, you must do.”
Dale produced so furiously that it was almost as if he had a hunch that his life might be cut short. I remember that his father also died young. Dale did a lot. But he doesn’t have to do any more. In all of his doing, Dale earned the privilege just to be. ■
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