Keynotes and Performances

Headshot of Fabrice Marandola in a black shirtParadigms and Drums:
Analyzing and Performing the Music of Iannis Xenakis for Percussion

Fabrice Marandola (Associate Professor of Percussion and Contemporary Music, McGill University)
McGill Percussion Ensemble

During his prolific career, Iannis Xenakis composed several master works for solo percussion (Psappha, Rebonds) and for percussion ensemble (Persephassa, Pleiades, Idmen B, Okho), most of them staples of today’s percussion repertoire. Known to be particularly challenging to perform, these pieces share many features related to their instrumentation and to their rhythmic and polyrhythmic organization.

Borrowing tools developed by Simha Arom to study the polyphonies and polyrhythms of Sub-Saharan African music, I will propose different strategies to analyze Xenakis’ works for percussion through paradigmatic analysis and rhythmic vs. metric transcriptions. The lecture will be enriched by examples performed by the McGill Percussion Ensemble, that will help demonstrate how to apply the outcomes of the analyses into informed performances.

Fabrice Marandola is an Associate Professor of Percussion and Contemporary Music at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University. Previously, he was a professor of percussion at the conservatories of Angers and Grenoble in France, a pedagogy instructor at the Conservatory of Paris, and an invited professor at the Crane School of Music (SUNY-Potsdam, NY). A founding member of Canadian percussion ensemble Sixtrum, he has an active career on the New Music scene, commissioning, performing and recording new works for solo and chamber ensembles.

Marandola holds a PhD in Ethnomusicology from Paris IV-Sorbonne and has conducted in-depth field research in Cameroon. He became the Director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Music Media and Technology of Montreal (CIRMMT) in 2020. As Senior Research Chair at Sorbonne-Universités (2015-16), Marandola led a multidisciplinary research project on Musical Gesture (Geste-Acoustique-Musique).

Headshot of Jason Yust in white and red plaid shirtRhythmic Regularity beyond Meter and Isochrony

Jason Yust (Associate Professor of Music Theory, Boston University)

Classical meter theory, derived from European, notation-based musical practice, requires notionally absolute isochrony. In this talk I propose a more flexible concept of rhythmic frequencies (or periodicities) represented by continuous functions over time, and develop rhythmic theory from it that is more global in scope. A rhythm is a good fit to a given frequency if its onsets are close to peaks of one of these functions, without having to precisely coincide. This provides some useful tools for understanding properties of rhythms and how different rhythms interact, including the rhythmic spectrum which shows all the frequencies present in a rhythm. Interesting rhythmic qualities, including many characteristic of non-European musical traditions, result from the interaction of frequencies that are co-prime multiples of a basic rhythmic cycle. I will use these tools to talk about rhythmic qualities and interaction of rhythms in Arabic Iqa’at, Akan dance drumming, Afro-Cuban jazz, the late music of György Ligeti, and recent jazz.

Jason Yust is an Associate Professor of Music Theory at Boston University. He earned his PhD in Music Theory at the University of Washington in 2006. He has served as co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Mathematics and Music since 2018. He has served in various capacities for the Society for Music Theory, the Society for Mathematics and Computation in Music, and the New England Conference of Music Theorists. His work addresses a range of topics, from mathematical theories of rhythm and harmonic spaces to eighteenth-century form to music perception. Among current research interests are theoretical approaches that draw on the cyclic nature of rhythmic and pitch spaces, and bringing a more global range of music theoretic traditions into discussions of rhythm, tuning, and scale theory. His 2018 book, Organized Time: Rhythm, Tonality, and Form, was the winner of the Society for Music Theory’s 2019 Wallace Berry Award.

Headshot of Nicole Lizée in a black jacketPost-Quantization Music

Nicole Lizée (composer, performer, and video artist; Montréal)

This presentation focuses on my personal rhythmic language and topics that have informed its development: malfunction, urbexploitation, microgeneres (both real and fabricated), iconography, schematics, post-quantization, hacking notation, unnatural transcription, the Satanic Panic, and more. I will provide insights into my Documentary in the Concert Hall series, examining excerpts from my films Black MIDI, A Guide to the Orchestra, and 8-Bit Noir.

Called “a brilliant musical scientist” (CBC), “breathtakingly inventive” (Sydney Times Herald), and “utterly inspiring” (I Care If You Listen), award winning composer and filmmaker Nicole Lizée explores themes of malfunction, turntablism, rave culture, urbex, film theory, and thrash metal to create a new kind of expression.

A graduate of McGill University (M.Mus. 2001), Lizée’s commission list of over 60 works includes the Kronos Quartet, BBC Proms, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Bang On a Can, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, l’Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, Donaueschingen Festival, and Sō Percussion. In 2019 she created the music for the National Film Board’s new logo.

Lizée’s works are regularly performed worldwide to international acclaim. Awards include the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding New Opera, the Prix Opus for Composer of the Year, the SOCAN Jan. V. Matejcek Award, and the Canada Council Jules Léger Prize for Chamber Music. She has received multiple JUNO nominations and is a Lucas Artists Fellow (California) and a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellow (Italy).

Ben Reimer illuminated on stage sitting at a drum set kit. Performance: Lizée’s Katana of Choice and The Filthy Fifteen

Ben Reimer, percussion
soundtrack and film

Ben Reimer is a “genre-bending wiz” (PuSh) and a performer of “stunning virtuosity” (Ludwig-Van Mtl). His album Katana of Choice is called “an exhilarating musical ride” (Wholenote) and “a modern classic” (I Care If You Listen). He is a contributing author to the Cambridge Companion to the Drumkit and holds a Doctor of Music from McGill University.

Reimer has been a guest soloist in the CBC JUNO Showcase, Bang On A Can Marathon, Montreal, Winnipeg and Calgary New Music Festivals, GroundSwell, Music on Main, Innovations En Concert, Luminato, Tapestry Opera, and Open Ears. He has performed with ensembles such as Architek Percussion, Paramirabo, Australian Art Orchestra, SMCQ, Collectif9, Standing Wave, and Land’s End Ensemble. Reimer’s duo Park Sounds, with violist Jennifer Thiessen, premiered its Root Systems program of Canadian commissions in 2019, and continues to cowrite new original works. Reimer is a Sabian Cymbals, Yamaha Canada, and Vic Firth artist.

Miles Okazaki posing in black shirt holding a black acoustic guitar. Teaching rhythmic embodiment

Miles Okazaki (guitarist and composer, New York City)

This presentation will provide a look into various methods for teaching rhythmic skill sets. It will draw on courses that I have developed over the last decade in University and workshop settings, using exercises that have produced the best results for practicing musicians. The idea is to focus on areas that are often neglected in music pedagogy, but crucially important for performers: internal time, using the body to accurately feel rhythm, memorization, vocalization, confidence. The material is not based on any genre or style, and is practiced mainly with clapping, singing, and stomping.

Miles Okazaki is a NYC-based guitarist and composer. His sideman experience over the last two decades covers a broad spectrum, from standards to experimental music (Kenny Barron, John Zorn, Stanley Turrentine, Dan Weiss, Matt Mitchell, Steve Coleman, Jonathan Finlayson, Jane Monheit, Amir ElSaffar, Darcy James Argue, and many others). He has released ten albums of original compositions over the last 12 years and recording of the complete works of Thelonious Monk. Other projects include a longstanding duo with drummer Dan Weiss, a duo with percussionist Rajna Swaminathan, and a published book, Fundamentals of Guitar, with Mel Bay. He taught guitar and rhythmic theory at the University of Michigan from 2013-22, joined the faculty at Princeton University in 2021, and holds degrees from Harvard University, Manhattan School of Music, and the Juilliard School.

Rhythm is Dangerous: A Conversation with Jacqueline Leclair

As a professor focused primarily on music performance, I will offer some of my perspectives on the multidimensionality of rhythm and how developing enhanced rhythmic awareness and complexity is often the best path to enriching and improving a wide range of performance domains. Treating “rhythm” as only one structural aspect of music separate from other structural and ornamental aspects of music is dangerous because doing so creates barriers to musical progress. Using a simple excerpt from Gordon Jacob’s Oboe Quartet, I will demonstrate by performing the excerpt in a variety of ways, whereby I hope to show how different ways of thinking of the rhythmic units can enhance the following domains: rhythm, phrasing, intonation, timbre, style, communication, performance confidence, and happiness.

Oboist Jacqueline Leclair is Associate Professor of Oboe at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University. She is a member of Ensemble Signal and performs concerts frequently. Dr. Leclair formerly served on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music and Mannes College and was Assistant Professor of Oboe at Bowling Green State University (Ohio) 2007-2012. Leclair worked directly with Luciano Berio on her 2000 edition of Sequenza VII for solo oboe. Leclair has recorded for Nonesuch, CRI, Koch, Neuma, Deutsche Grammophon, and CBS Masterworks, receiving critical acclaim in particular for her premiere recording of Roger Reynolds Summer Island. In addition to her musical research interests, Leclair has for many years been strongly supportive of music student wellbeing and has launched many initiatives to assist students with their mental and physical wellbeing.

Headshot of John Hollenbeck in a red shirt holding a drumstick"...what rhythm is..."

John Hollenbeck (composer/percussionist, Professor, McGill University)

Persuasion (drum solo) was written for David Cossin and commissioned by Bang on a Can with the support of Maria/Robert A. Skirnick and Meredith Monk. It premiered via video on the Bang on a Can April 18, 2021 Marathon and the live at the Big Ears Festival in 2022. The simple goal of this composition is to create the sound of (rhythmic) persuasion.

Epigraphs #6, “...what rhythm is,” takes its title from Virginia Woolf: “Now this is very profound, what rhythm is, and goes far deeper than words. A sight, an emotion, creates this wave in the mind, long before it makes words to fit it ...” It is part of the continuing series Epigraphs, in which each piece is based on and refers to the previous one. Each uses various epigraphs as the title and central core.

The Epigraphs ensemble consists of Jeanne Laforest (voice), Sarah Rossy (voice), Roman Munoz (guitar), and John Hollenbeck (composition/percussion). After Epigraphs #2, each piece has incorporated a “free agent” guest. We are very excited to have Miles Okazaki as our guest for Epigraphs #6. Except for the guest, who has total freedom, each piece is fully scored and timed precisely. The performers have the score before the performance, but there is no rehearsal, so the performers are hearing the piece for the first time and only time as the listeners are. Besides the pitch material, each piece has its own percussion palette of sounds and motives.

Genre-crossing composer/percussionist John Hollenbeck, renowned in both the jazz and new music worlds, has gained widespread recognition as the driving force behind the unclassifiable GEORGE, the Claudia Quintet and the ambitious John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, groups with roots in jazz, world music, and contemporary composition. He integrates his deep interest in contemporary composition and spiritual practice into a musical language that is as accessible and expressive as it is advanced. He has earned six GRAMMY nominations, has worked with many of the world's leading musicians in jazz including Bob Brookmeyer, Fred Hersch, Tony Malaby, and is well known in new-music circles for his longtime collaboration with Meredith Monk and for his work with Ensemble Cairn of France. Hollenbeck’s most notable awards include a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship, the 2010 ASCAP Jazz Vanguard Award, and a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. He has created an extensive body of work including commissions by Bang on a Can All-Stars, Ethos Percussion Group, Orchestre National de Jazz, and Frankfurt Radio Big Band. He was professor of Jazz Drums and Improvisation at the Jazz Institute Berlin from 2005-2016 and joined McGill University Schulich School of Music’s faculty in 2015.

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