It is that time of year again. The sun is up, the clouds are high, the sky is blue, and pollen is in the air.
Everyone’s on a street corner, all mysterious and giddy.
Yes, it is summertime in Edmonton, which means a constant supply of festivals to attend.
My favourite of all is NextFest, Edmonton’s premiere independent arts festival. NextFest has a long and storied history in our fair city, and remains one of the most varied and vibrant events of the summer. The festival takes place in numerous venues throughout Edmonton and it spans eleven days, from June 7 to 17th. NextFest includes theatre, dance, music, film, visual art, and all sorts of interdisciplinary overlap. Any given NextFest features more than fifty events and literally hundreds of performers, all local to Edmonton. The festival is an amazing way to experience bursts of creativity and culture which are wholly unique to our city. Last year, my colleagues and I were part of a group of more than FIVE HUNDRED NextFest artists. We had the opportunity to participate in the brand-new NuMusic section of the festival, which features sound art, noise, free improvisation, and a healthy dose of experimental pop music.
This year my colleagues and I again are a part of the festival. The harried staff here at Sound and Noise thought it would be a novel treat for our readers to follow along with my group as we prepare our piece for performance. This article is the first in a series leading up to the June 15th NuMusic performances at the ARTery.
Introductions are in order. I am performing as part of The Pinecone Collective, a group of musicians devoted to exploring the sounds present but largely ignored in our daily environments. We draw inspiration from all that goes on around us, from the weird-vibe zone of the High Level Bridge to Edmonton legends like Robert Goulet. The Collective features musicians from such luminary groups as Motherboy and The Dada Police, veterans of both NextFest and several other festivals. We hail from all walks of life, and count among our number a medical physicist, an empathy technician, and a long-haul dangerous goods trucker. We also have extensive technical theatre experience, having designed lights, sound, or music for productions of Antigone, Pyramis and Thisby, The Black Rider, and a short run of the art-house classic The Apple, directed by yours truly (here performed by a group of well-intentioned schoolchildren in a rather watered-down adaptation of the gruesome original).
This year our focus is on one of Edmonton’s richest and most forgotten cityspace resources, our wonderful river valley. Edmonton has THE largest urban park systems in North America. This is something that defines our city and sets us apart from not only other Canadian metropolitan areas, but also large American cities like Detroit or Atlanta. I have often wandered into the ravine by my house and been unable to tell that I am even in a well-populated city at all. There are places in our city that feel like the green leafy cloisters hidden away deep in Kananaskis country. There have even been times when I have gotten lost in the trees, unable to find any path at all. Luckily, one must only choose a direction and walk. In time you come will back out into the city. Probably into someone’s back yard.
Today we started our process by going out into the nature inside our city and searching for inspirational sounds. We specifically wanted a good batch of crispy pinecones, as they are our namesake. This goal actually proved quite difficult due to the rains of recent memory, which left much of the lowland underbrush soaked damp. In the end, the difficulty we had finding what we were looking for actually ended up being a disguised blessing. It is often the case that the things you most appreciate can be found while you are looking for something else entirely. I often believe that people rarely know what is best for them, and most of my experiences in nature have confirmed this. In the end, things came full circle and we found what we needed anyway.
Stay tuned! Along with sound samples uploads and more photographs, later in the week we will be meeting with our special effects adviser Kristine Nutting. Kristine is a treat you shan’t want to miss.