2010 Truax Retrospectives

Barry Truax’s involvement with electroacoustics goes back to 1949, although perhaps the early seventies is a more realistic date for the beginning of his involvement as a composer. Time enough, in any case, for there to be retrospective concert of his music, starting with the 1979 The Blind Man and including a world premiere of the 2010 Fire Spirits. And that’s exactly what took place on the 14th of November last year, in the Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre of Simon Fraser University at Woodward’s in Vancouver, B.C.

But that wasn’t all. Only five days later there was another Barry Truax retrospective concert, this one at the Scotiabank Dance Centre in Vancouver, with pieces from 1986 to the present, and also including a world premiere, this time of staged extracts from Barry’s new opera Enigma: The Life and Death of Alan Turing.

So there you have it. A prophet (as it were) honored in his own country with two retrospective concerts in one week, each one with a world premiere of music written in 2010. That may seem a bit much, but for those of us who flew in from outside Vancouver (and there were at least two of us who did so), this was a great convenience as well as a great delight. A week in beautiful, downtown Vancouver (a genuinely beautiful city) with two concerts of genuinely beautiful music (with one fascinating lecture and one pre-concert talk thrown in for good measure)–it would be hard to ask for more.

The big surprise for me in the first concert were all the pieces I’d never heard before. I’ve been listening to Truax’s music since the late nineties, at least, and at the time of the concert had acquired several CDs and had attended several concerts that included his music. None of us had heard Fire Spirits, of course, but of the remaining pieces–The Blind Man; Solar Ellipse; Basilica; Bamboo, Silk and Stone; Island; and Steam–I had only heard Steam.

Though I had heard most of the music on the second concert–Riverrun; The Wings of Nike; Androgyne, Mon Amour; The Shaman Ascending; Chalice Well; Enigma–I had only heard Riverrun and Chalice Well in eight channel surround sound in a hall. With any kind of music, the experience live is different from the experience at home on the stereo. With multichannel electroacoustic music, the experience live–with all the spatialization in place–is almost like listening to new music. All in all, the week was for me more about discovery than about retrospect.

Barry’s site and Asymmetry both have many clips of his music. The only one I couldn’t find online of the pieces featured in the two retrospective concerts was The Blind Man, so here’s a clip of that.

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