Ives Ensemble with Continuum Contemporary Music

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Saturday, February 28, 2009 @ 19:30
Brigantine Room, Harbourfront Centre

An excavation of the origins of Shift reveals the idea of a joint Continuum/Ives Ensemble concert. Approached about presenting the joint concert, Jan Wolff, creator and at that time director of the Muziekgebouw, thought that more was called for, and so Shift, the multi-disciplinary festival was created. But the Ives/Continuum principle remains at its core.

Through a months-long process of feeding each other recordings and discussing reactions, Ives Ensemble artistic director John Snijders and Continuum artistic director Jennifer Waring arrived at a programme of four new works. In a programming structure that maximized building cross-national relationships, each ensemble chose a composer from the other country for new pieces for the combined ensembles, and also for a work for their ensemble alone. The result: a joint work by Guus Janssen (NL) where the ensembles play virtually independently; a joint work by Linda Bouchard (Can) for amplified solo violin and ensemble of doubled instruments (funded by the Canada Council for the Arts); a work by Mayke Nas (NL) for Continuum alone, ensemble members all playing on one piano; and a work by Gyula Csapó (Can) for the Ives Ensemble.

Linda BouchardJoint Venture (Ives and Continuum combined)
Guus JanssenEx Tempore (Ives and Continuum combined)
Gyula CsapóParmi les Blancs et Noirs... at...Intervals...from the Cabin (Ives Ensemble)
Mayke NasDouze mains (Continuum)
Gerald BarryPiano Quartet No. 1 (Ives Ensemble)


Photo of Continuum Contemporary MusicContinuum Contemporary Music presents the work of emerging Canadian composers alongside works by established national and international composers in its concert series, at festivals, on tour, over the air waves and through recordings. The Chalmers Award-winning group has generated interdisciplinary projects with celebrated Vancouver choreographer Conrad Alexandrowicz; Montreal video artist Ramona Ramlochand; and John Oswald. For l'Oreille Fine, Continuum combined new music and philosophy in concerts and a symposium wherein philosophers, poets and critics dealt with the subject of new music.

Formed in 1985, Continuum has a core ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion which is often varied and combined with electronics. The organization has commissioned and premiered over 100 new works from emerging and established Canadian composers; increasingly it commissions international composers. Continuum is active in developing new audiences, promoting art in the community, and developing the next generation of composers through public art projects, workshops across Canada and Europe, and through its Biennial International Call for Scores.

Continuum toured Canada in 1999 and Europe in 2003, and will be on tour again in the fall of 2008, with performances in Aberdeen, 's-Hertogenbosch, Amsterdam and Huddersfield. It has released two CD's on its own label, recorded one for Centrediscs and has two CD projects in the works.

Continuum is supported through grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the city of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council; the Metcalf Foundation's Strategic Initiatives programme; the SOCAN, Emerald and McLean foundations; by patrons Aurora Tewksbury Reford, Ann Southam and Christopher Des Brisay; by the accounting firm Newman & Sversky; and as well, through the generosity of many private donors.

For more information on Continuum please visit

Photo of Ives EnsembleThe Ives Ensemble was founded in 1986 by the Dutch pianist John Snijders and consists of a steady pool of 14 musicians. The ensemble concentrates on performances of non-conducted 20th and 21st century chamber music, in which, ever since the founding of the ensemble, the music of Charles Ives, John Cage, Morton Feldman and Stefan Wolpe has been serving as its base. A variety of composers have written especially for the Ives Ensemble including John Cage, Aldo Clementi, Walter Zimmermann, Gerald Barry, James Rolfe, Allison Cameron, Richard Ayres, Michel van der Aa and Gerhard Stäbler; the ensemble has performed at international festivals such as the Gaudeamus Music Week, the Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik, the Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, the Biennale Zagreb, the Aterforum Festival Ferrara, Evenings of New Music (Bratislava), Klang-Aktionen '95 (München) and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, and has presented programmes in Prague, Gütersloh, Köln, Essen, Berlin, Paris (IRCAM), Granada, Sevilla, Duisburg and Barcelona. The Ives Ensemble's major productions have included For Philip Guston by Morton Feldman (1993), a one-movement piece for flute, percussion and piano lasting 4 1/2 hours; the music theatre production Cahier du Soir by Luc Ferrari (1995); a Morton Feldman retrospective by the Ives Ensemble (1997) with the first Dutch spoken performance of Words and Music by Samuel Beckett/Morton Feldman; and John Cage, Pure Coincidence: a festival in Ten Thunderclaps (2003) during which 10 works by Cage were presented in three days on six different venues.

For more information on the Ives Ensemble please visit

Photo of Guus JanssenThe music of Guus Janssen (b. 1951) is difficult to categorize. It can be a composed improvisation (Brake for solo piano) or an improvised composition (parts from his Violin Concerto or his opera Noach). Music is like life itself – sometimes it asks for fast decisions and sometimes it needs to be thought over a lot. As a pianist and harpsichordist Janssen performed in various groupings with musicians from John Zorn to Gidon Kremer; since the early 1980's he has led his own ensembles, ranging from piano trios to an 11-piece band and opera orchestra. His compositions range from piano music and string quartet to symphonic work; they have been widely played by prominent Dutch and international orchestras and ensembles. Two of his operas have been premiered by the Dutch Opera.

Ex Tempore

"Ex Tempore is an early music description for a score without barlines. The player was supposed to play the written notes in a very free manner. In my piece there are some barlines but very often they don't correspond with the barlines in other (groups of) instruments. There are only some vague cues where the instruments come together. The reason for all this is that I wanted to work without a conductor. My experience as an improvising musician inspired me to compose a piece in which the musicians come together as in improvised music: the main subject of composed music, playing perfectly together, is avoided. On the contrary, the musicians play very well when they don't play together. The advantage of all this is that the score can generate complex music while looking quite simple. The piece consists of three parts, the first I would call a choral kind of Ballad, the second an untidy Habanera and the third chaotic Dixieland music. Ex Tempore is composed on request by the Canadian ensemble Continuum Contemporary Music and the Dutch Ives Ensemble with financial support from the Nederlands Fonds voor de Podiumkunsten NFPK+. "

Photo of Linda BouchardLinda Bouchard has composed over 70 works in a variety of genres, from orchestral and chamber works to dance scores, concerti, and vocal pieces. Her works have been heard on both sides of the Atlantic and have been recorded by the CBC and Analekta in Canada, ECM in Germany, and CRI in the US. A full compact disc of her orchestral works, Exquisite Fires, was released in 1998 on the Canadian label Marquis Classics. She has won awards in Canada and in the US including a Prix Opus from Quebec for Best Composer of the Year and a Fromm Foundation Award. Bouchard studied with Henry Brant at Bennington College and then moved to New York City where she lived from 1979 to 1990. In 1990, she returned to Canada for the premiere of her first orchestral work Elan; in the fall of 1992 she accepted a three-year position as the first composer-in-residence for the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa. She has lived in San Francisco since the spring of 1997. Bouchard has been active as a freelance musician, composing, conducting and orchestrating since graduating from school in 1982. After 25 years of composing strictly acoustic music she has become increasingly interested in how artistic traditions are evolving through the integration of electronic and digital tools, and she pursues this exploration through her own projects, integrating multimedia into her work. Linda is the founder and artistic director of NEXMAP, a non-profit arts organization based in San Francisco, which produces international events in all media.

Joint Venture

"Joint Venture is commissioned by and dedicated to the Ives Ensemble in Amsterdam and Continuum in Toronto who are joining forces and performing this work together. Frequently my pieces start abruptly as if the music has been going on for a while; there is no introduction, no development, just the most condensed version of the untransformed material. There is a dramatic quality to this approach. Whether the shifts from section to section are spare or complex, I am looking to evoke something that is in its own right complete: the reconstruction of an imagined emotional event that unfolds in a compressed time frame. In Joint Venture all the instruments – including the piano which is played by 2 pianists – are used as percussion instruments. There is very little melodic activity here – most of the action is taking place in the variations in the textures, colors and superimposition of rhythmic patterns that shifts the pulse. It is the live instrumentalists that create the alchemy. We are grateful to the Canada Council for the Arts for its support with a Commission Award and for the Travel Assistance Program, which allowed me to rehearse with the musicians and to be here tonight."

For more information on Linda Bouchard please visit For a video clip of Linda Bouchard's work please visit

Photo of Mayke NasMayke Nas (The Netherlands, 1972) studied piano and composition in Amsterdam, Tilburg, The Hague and Melbourne. She received commissions from the Dutch Fund for the Creation of Music, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Nieuw Ensemble, Ives Ensemble, Schönberg Ensemble and others. For her piece (w)here - written for the ASKO ensemble - she was awarded the Matthijs Vermeulen Prize of Encouragement 2003. For La Chocolatière Brûlée - written for the Nieuw Ensemble - she received the Anjer Muziekprijs 2005. Theatre, video, text and choreography are often an integrated part of her compositions. In 2005 she adapted I Delayed People's Flights By Walking Slowly In Narrow Hallways from Peter Handke's play 'Self-Accusation' for four players, four chairs and four amplified chalkboards with live electronics in collaboration with Wouter Snoei, commissioned by Percussion Group The Hague. More recently, in 2006, she revived the concept of audience-participation in the fluxus-inspired performance piece Anyone can do it for six unprepared players not necessarily gifted with any musical talent.

Douze mains

Two great joys in my life are first of all the simple do-it-yourself fun of playing quatre-mains (especially with my grandfather) and secondly letting myself be surprised again and again by some of the most creative, quirky, and contagious music of the twentieth century: The White Album by the Beatles. This is my ode to both of them.

For more information on Mayke Nas please visit

Photo of Gerald BarryGerald Barry was born in Ireland in 1952 and studied composition with Stockhausen and Kagel. He first came to public attention in 1979 with his radical ensemble works '__________' and 'Ø'. His works have been commissioned by the BBC and performed by the Ulster Orchestra at the 1988 Proms, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and the Mariinsky Orchestra in 2007. His first opera The Intelligence Park (recorded on NMC), commissioned by the ICA, was first performed at the 1990 Almeida Festival, and a second opera, The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit, written for Channel 4 Television, opened the 2002 Aldeburgh Festival, followed by performances in London and the Berliner Festwochen. In 1997 The Road was written for the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra gave the German premiere of The Conquest of Ireland in 1998. Recent commissions include First Sorrow, for Crash Ensemble premiered in October 2007, a work for piano solo, Los Angeles which received its premiere in a special Barry portrait concert at the Miller Theatre, New York in November 2007, and a work for bass voice and ensemble for the BCMG, based on letters of Beethoven, which was premiered in March 2008. Barry's most recent music has been commissioned by Betty Freeman (Le Vieux Sourd for piano) and RTE (No other people. for orchestra). Barry has enjoyed a long association with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and his music has been performed at the Warsaw Autumn, Musik Triennale Köln, Musica Viva, Festival Présences, Huddersfield and St Denis Festivals, the ISCM and many others. His music has been recorded on the NMC, Largo, Black Box, Marco Polo and Challenge labels.

Piano Quartet No.1

The Piano Quartet No.1 was written in 1992 and is in one movement. It was commissioned by ICA Live Arts for New MusICA with funds made available by the London Arts Board.

While writing it I was reminded of painting where blocks of colour meet or where objects intersect, of the mysteriousness of those moments. The painter Robert Ryman said that whatever is made should delight and have a rightness about it. That was my aim.

© Gerald Barry
Reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press

For more information on Gerald Barry please visit
For sound clips of works by Gerald Barry please visit

Photo of Gyula CsapóGyula Csapó, born in Hungary, completed his composition studies in the Bartók Conservatory (B.Mus, 1970-1974) and Liszt Academy (M. Mus. and D. Mus., 1974-81) in Budapest. He also studied musical acoustics and computer music at I.R.C.A.M. in Paris (1981) and, as a Woodburn Fellow, completed his Ph.D. in the United States at S.U.N.Y. at Buffalo with Morton Feldman and Lejaren Hiller (1983-87). He then received grants from The Soros Foundation and the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts at the recommendation of John Cage in New York. Cage also helped him to obtain Permanent Residency in Canada (1990) where he is now a citizen (since 2001). Csapó taught at McGill (Montréal, Canada, 1990-91) and Princeton (New Jersey, U.S., 1991-94) Universities before joining the Faculty at the University of Saskatchewan in 1994 where he is a Full Professor. His music has been performed worldwide including Lincoln Center in New York, The Huddersfield Festival, Royal Festival Hall in the UK and The Juilliard School. Csapó also taught composition at the International Bartók Festival and Seminar in Hungary (2008) where his orchestral work, Talea Iacta Est was premiered. In October, 2008 Rivka Golani premiered Csapó's Concerto for Viola and a Changing Environment at the Budapest Autumn Festival.

Parmi les Blancs et Noirs... at...Intervals...from the Cabin

"Interval" here is a radical notion including everything conceivable between any two distinct sounds: pitch, temporal, spectral, dynamical distances. Between points of identity we find straight lines, "scales", gradations, but also curved routes, dead ends, ramifications, labyrinths, black holes. First distribution of positions: the ensuing music is an exploration of the distances involved, a volatile, foaming texture, a lava-like state of affairs coming to a crush (wood is broken and Chinese balls start swirling inside the Tamburo Basco at that moment). Second distribution: the new positions change the way – although not the outcome – the cycle sounds. Yet: "breakdown" is creation itself: it, too, creates an "interval" that calls to be completed by a renewed round. Densities wildly fluctuate in time, lending the piece its stream-like form. The tile is an homage to French writer Raymond Roussel (1877 – 1933) who, in the short story "Parmi les Noirs", placed two nearly identical sentences (with different meanings) at the beginning and end of the work. He then invented the story to bridge the "interval" thus created. Reference to the black and white keys of a keyboard, and a citation (" the Cabin" from Roussel's novel Impressions of Africa) completes the explanation; the mixture of French and English is deliberate.