Notes on Composing: 5 collaborations in film and music

Buy Tickets Now
Thursday, April 2, 2009 @ 20:00
Isabel Bader Theatre

Images Festival and Continuum Contemporary Music have collaborated in programming an event of collaborations: five Canadian filmmakers have created new works, each scored by a Canadian or Dutch composer. The films were premiered in Amsterdam, with the music performed live by Continuum's ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion, and one piece with composer/violinist Malcolm Goldstein. The marrying of moving images and sound seems like a single discipline. In Shift, the essential relationship of film and music is realigned in five different collaborative processes resulting in five very different works. Most of the collaborating artists had never met or worked together – as Images Festival Artistic Director Pablo De Ocampo writes, "these collaborations represent something of a leap in faith, or a dare on the part of all the parties involved." The result of this engagement – some between collaborators as far apart as Vancouver and Rotterdam, or Winnipeg and Arnhem – reflects distance, method, temperament, and still the individual voice.

Christina Battle with Martin ArnoldBehind the Shadows
Guy Maddin with Richard AyresGlorious
Clive Holden with Oscar van Dillen2 Cameras @ Sea
Vera Frenkel with Rick SacksONCE NEAR WATER:
Notes from the Scaffolding Archive
Daichi Saito with Malcolm GoldsteinTrees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis


Images Festival LogoEstablished in 1987, the Images Festival is the largest festival in North America for experimental and independent moving image culture, showcasing the innovative edge of international contemporary media art both on and off the screen. From Super-8 and hand-tinted celluloid to the latest video art, Images has presented thousands of films and media based projects in our 21+ year history. Images is committed to an expanded concept of film and video practice: alongside film and video screenings, the festival presents groundbreaking live performances, media art installations in local galleries and new media projects by many renowned Canadian and international artists. We go out of our way and over the edge to provide Toronto with an annual extravaganza of image making. Attended by more than 30,000 people each year, Toronto’s 2nd oldest film festival is a critical forum for the independent media arts in Canada and around the world and provides artists with a supportive and professional forum in which to present their projects. Many influential media artists have been nurtured by Images’ willingness to embrace new creative concepts and modes of expression in the media arts field.

The Images Festival exhibits and encourages the work of artists producing film and video outside of mainstream commercial production, distribution systems and aesthetic conventions. In addition to the international competition programs drawn from submissions to the festival, Images includes artists' retrospectives, national and regional cinema spotlights, publishing projects, touring programs and special guest-curated sections.

For more information on the Images Festival please visit

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 Christina BattleWith a B.Sc. in Environmental Biology from the University of Alberta and an MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute, Christina Battle currently lives and works in Toronto, Canada. An active member of the city's arts community, she has worked within Toronto's vibrant artist-run culture as jury member, arts administrator, technical coordinator, board member, educator and curator for various organizations including the Images Festival, the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto and the Ontario College of Art and Design. Her artworks have been supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto (LIFT), the National Film Board of Canada, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council, and have screened internationally in festivals and galleries including The London Film Festival (London, England); The Images Festival (Toronto); The Toronto International Film Festival (Toronto); The International Film Festival Rotterdam (The Netherlands); YYZ Artists' Outlet (Toronto); White Box (New York); Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery (Halifax, Canada); The Foreman Art Gallery at Bishops University (Sherbrooke, QB); the city of Toronto's Nuit Blanche 2006 and in the 2006 Whitney Biennial: "Day for Night" (New York). The CFMDC recently released a DVD compiling Battle's film works as a part of their 2007 Artist's Spotlight series. Battle currently sits on the board of the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre.

Toronto-based composer and performer Martin Arnold studied in Edmonton, Banff, the Hague, and Victoria where his teachers were Alfred Fisher, Frederic Rzewski, John Cage, Louis Andriessen, Gilius van Bergeijk, Rudolf Komorous, Douglas Collinge, and Michael Longton. Arnold is a founding member of the Drystone Orchestra and from 1995-2000 he was artistic director of The Burdocks. Besides having notated pieces performed internationally, Arnold currently plays guitar, banjo, melodica and live electronics in Marmots and Cow Paws as well as in bands led by Ryan Driver and Eric Chenaux and in a variety of ad hoc improvised music settings. Arnold works as a gardener and teaches in the Cultural Studies Department of Trent University.

Image by Christina Battle Behind the Shadows

Image: Christina Battle
Musical Composition: Martin Arnold

Christina Battle: Outside the window a storm unlike no other is taking shape. Behind the Shadows documents the imagined moment when the delicate balance between natural and developed worlds began to shift. Looking back upon an event yet to occur, time inside this threatened world is caught in an endless loop.  Seeming to have no end, it stutters... repeats... extends. As if caught in a void between dream and reality, characters struggle to reconcile threats from the outside environment.

Martin Arnold: Filmmaker Guy Debord, during the early days of the Situationist International, led the formulation of a particular concept of drifting, the dérive: “a technique of transient passage through varied ambiances. The dérive entails playful-constructive behaviour and awareness of psychogeographical effects; which completely distinguishes it from the classical notions of the journey and the stroll.”  Behind the Shadows is not about a dérive; rather it offers—at least, to my mind—an amorphous, shifting network of locations, varied ambiences, for my imagination to constructively drift through.  The psychogeographical effects that accompany my dérive certainly take place in spaces that are well behind the shadows; but they are also radically in between any solid surface that would catch and hold a shadow.

Photo of Guy MaddinGuy Maddin, independent filmmaker, was born and raised in Winnipeg, where he continues to be based. He has directed numerous short films and nine feature films, including, most recently, My Winnipeg, which won the City of Toronto Prize for Best Canadian Film at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, and was also presented at the 2008 Berlin Film Festival with the director himself narrating live. His previous feature, Brand Upon the Brain!, accompanied by a live orchestra and sound effects along with narrator and castrato has been mounted in Toronto, Berlin, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Buenos Aires, Mexico City and Tokyo, among many other cities. Earlier films include The Saddest Music in the World (2003) and the television ballet Dracula – Pages from a Virgin's Diary, which won an International Emmy for Best Performing Arts Program in 2002. Maddin has also exhibited his work in the gallery environment, beginning with Cowards Bend the Knee at The Power Plant in Toronto in 2003, and most recently in Collage Crimes at Dazibao centre de photgraphies actuelles in Montreal as part of the Ordnace Pictures collective. Maddin has earned the prestigious Persistence of Vision Award for lifetime achievement at the 2006 San Francisco International Film Festival, the Telluride Silver Medal for life achievement in film in 1995, and a U.S. National Film Critics Award for best experimental film for Archangel in 1991 and The Heart of the World in 2001; he is also an author, a freelance film journalist and Distinguished Filmmaker in Residence at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

Photo of Richard AyresRichard Ayres was born in Cornwall (Great Britain) in 1965. In 1986 he followed Morton Feldman's classes at the Darmstadt and Dartington summer schools, and after this experience decided to make music a full-time occupation.

He studied composition, electronic music, and trombone at the polytechnic in Huddersfield. He settled in the Netherlands in 1989 where he followed the postgraduate composition course at the Royal Conservatoire in Den Haag, studying with Louis Andriessen, and graduating in 1992. He took up a teaching position there from 2004-6 before moving to the Amsterdam Conservatory.

Since 1990 Richard Ayres has worked as a composer, receiving commissions from leading European contemporary music ensembles and orchestras, as well as writing for more unusual instrumental combinations formed for specific projects. Most recently he wrote No. 42 In the Alps for Barbara Hannigan and the Netherlands Blazers Ensemble. He is currently working on a new opera.

For more information on Richard Ayres please visit
For audio samples of Richard Ayres' work, please visit

Image by Guy MaddinGlorious

Image: Guy Maddin
Musical Composition: Richard Ayres

Set amidst a lingerie catwalk fashion parade held upon the perilously loose-boarded stairwells of a shadowy derelict apartment block, Glorious tells the story of an aging crime family patriarch, holed up with three generations of his kin, who is visited by his dead father's ghost with a disturbing vision. The film unfolds into an orgy of paranoia, bursting ammo shells, rackety disarmaments and oral gratification from beyond the grave. Working with the Amsterdam-based composer Richard Ayres, the film and score play out in playfully short movements of sound and light. In this paranoid dream world concoction, Glorious posits, perhaps spuriously, that there is a slippery slope between gun control and heinous degeneracy. What's next on the agenda for our politicians? Compulsory sodomy?

Photo of Clive HoldenClive Holden is a Canadian artist whose cinema, literary and photo-based, multi-year projects include Trains of Winnipeg (2001-2006) and the Utopia Suite project (2006-2010). His work crosses boundaries between media and genres such as film, video, music, web culture and new forms of literature. A native of Victoria, he lives in Toronto with his wife, novelist Alissa York. His films have been official selections at Images Festival in Toronto, the International Film Festival Rotterdam, the Toronto International Film Festival's Future Projections, the London International Film Festival, transmediale in Berlin, CPH:DOX Copenhagen Documentary Film Festival (winner of the New Vision Award), Anthology Film Archives in New York, the Danish Film Institute, the Ann Arbor Film Festival, the European Media Art Festival and the 50th Annual Robert Flaherty Film Seminar. His work has been exhibited in numerous galleries, and at arts festivals such as the Holland Festival in Amsterdam, Send + Receive – a Festival of Sound in Winnipeg, and the Kosmopolis Festa Internacional de la Literatura in Barcelona.

Photo of Oscar van DillenWith specialist studies in Classical North Indian and Medieval music as well as training in Jazz, World- and Classical Western music, theory and composition, Rotterdam composer Oscar van Dillen has a broad background on which to draw both in his works and as a professor of music at Codarts University for the Arts. With Mathematics and Architecture among his other studies, he can be regarded as a specialist with a universalist background. He was acclaimed as "a knowledgeable polyglot and a philantropic world citizen" when he served on the international board of directors of Wikimedia, the foundation behind Wikipedia. Oscar van Dillen's musical works are being performed worldwide. Perhaps the Chamber-Symphony de Stad is his best known work, recorded in 2003 in Germany with the composer conducting the work. In The Netherlands he worked with film directors Pieter Jan Smit and Adriaan Lokman. His collaboration with Clive Holden goes back to the International Film Festival Rotterdam 2005. After a screening of Trains of Winnipeg their first encounter immediately led to a frank and lively discussion. This inspiring first meeting gradually developed into a close friendship, and since 2007 they have been working on Utopia Suite, of which 2 Cameras @ Sea is the latest production.

For more information on Oscar van Dillen please visit

Image by Clive Holden2 Cameras @ Sea

Image: Clive Holden
Musical Composition: Oscar van Dillen

Clive Holden: To start, I interviewed my Dad while we looked out at sea. We've talked for years while staring out at 'trashing waves', with our own (connected but separate) points of view. I asked him about his two big passions: his life-long emotional relationship with the ocean and his deep love of music. Then I traveled the rugged coastlines of Vancouver Island. I filmed seascapes and especially waves using old and new cameras. The act of filming is very physical and emotional for me, something like a musical performance. This film connects my father's childhood relationship with the Irish Sea to the roiling waves surrounding our 'New World' home. It also bridges the worlds of film and music.

Oscar van Dillen: This music was composed after careful study of the movements of water and the sounds they produce. I recorded the salt water of the North Sea off the Dutch coastline. The obvious common element in music and water is the wave. While composing I started treating individual tones as drops, phrases as waves, parts as tides, as if working from the atoms themselves upwards. In this way the piece achieves its own flow. Music and voice take part in an auditive interplay: the layers of music, language and sound unfolding parallel stories and form, substance and content, water and music, becoming one.

Photo of Vera FrenkelRooted in an interrogation of the abuses of power and their consequences, the installations and new media projects of multidisciplinary artist Vera Frenkel have been shown at documenta IX; MoMA-NY; the Setagaya Museum, Tokyo; the Goeteborg Konstmuseum; the Georg Kargl Gallery, Vienna; the Venice Biennale (Club Media, 1997; Head Start, 2001); and the Freud Museum London, among other venues. Her touring project on the travails of a dysfunctional cultural organization The Institute™: Or, What We Do for Love ( was installed at the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, marking her 2006 Visual and Media Arts Governor General's Award. In 2007, Frenkel was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada's Academies of the Arts, Sciences and Humanities. Her much-discussed project on art theft as cultural policy, Body Missing, installed most recently in Strom des Vergessens, Linz, Austria, 2008, was the focus of 'From Theft to Virtuality', an international conference on the artist's work at the ICA London, that forms the basis of the first anthology on her work. Frenkel has published articles including "Letter to A. and A.", Intermédialités (Montreal, 2006); "A Place for Uncertainty: Towards a New Kind of Museum", in Museums after Modernism: Strategies of Engagement (Blackwell, U.K. 2007); "The Spark Between ...", a centrefold for n.paradoxa, London; and 'Notes from the Scaffolding Archive', for Horsd'oeuvre, Le Magasin's Session 17 curatorial project, Grenoble, 2008. Frenkel's honours include the Canada Council Molson Prize, the Gershon Iskowitz Prize, the Bell Canada Award for Video Art, the 2006 Governor General's Award and two honorary doctorates.

Photo of Rick SacksRick Sacks received his Masters in Music at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (1976). During his stay at Stony Brook, Sacks began freelancing in Manhattan, performing with ensembles including The New Orchestra, Newband, The New Jersey Percussion Ensemble and The Composer's Ensemble under such directors as Arthur Weisberg and Charles Wuorinen. After teaching for two years at Bennington College in Vermont (1979/80), Rick began traveling to Toronto to perform in the art-rock band KLO. The band's success led to an LP record and Permanent Resident status in 1982. Once settled in Toronto, Rick founded the PhenomeNONsemble which he used as a platform for his unique performance works mixing contemporary music practices with theatre techniques. Sacks also composes and creates sound designs for theatre and film. His work in children's theatre has resulted in continuous performances throughout Europe and the US. In 1986 he revised and edited, for COLFRANC Music Publishing Corp., Edgard Varèse's Hyperprism, available through Boosey and Hawkes. Sacks performs with the Canadian Opera Company, on film tracks, in modern dance works and with the contemporary and avant-garde groups Arraymusic, The Glass Orchestra, New Music Concerts, Ensemble Noir, Red Sky, Tapestry New Opera, The Evergreen Club Gamelan, Queen of Puddings and many others. He has toured extensively throughout Africa, Asia and Europe and has worked with such masters as Pierre Boulez, Henry Brant, George Crumb, Heinz Holliger, Mauricio Kagel, Udo Kasemets, Helmut Lachenmann, Witold Lutoslawski, Terry Riley and James Tenney.

For more information on Rick Sacks please visit
For audio samples of Rick Sacks' work, please visit

Image by Vera FrenkelONCE NEAR WATER: Notes from the Scaffolding Archive

Image: Vera Frenkel
Musical Composition: Rick Sacks

Toronto, like Amsterdam, is a city set against a major body of water. Unlike Amsterdam's symbiotic relation to water, however (as exemplified by the splendid Muziekgebouw where this video is being premièred), Toronto resembles too many North American cities in anaesthetizing awareness of and access to their natural surroundings. ONCE NEAR WATER: Notes from the Scaffolding Archive is a work about a city turned away from its lakeshore boundary, and in trouble; where ubiquitous scaffolding marks both aspiration and loss.

Following a chance encounter, Vera Frenkel has combined documentary and fictional elements to create a work about someone she barely knew but still finds compelling—a collector of scaffolding images—fusing praise and lament into a video ballad for a changing city. The narrative unfolds in an interplay of two voices; a letter from one woman, read by another. In the special version created for the Muziekgebouw screening, these voices become a distant texture supporting the live performance of Rick Sacks' score.

Combining animation, text, stills and slow tracking shots of structures in transition, Frenkel's video traces the impact of 'development' in a city where greed threatens to trump topography. Braided masterfully through the narrative is Scaffold II, an evocative score in three parts by composer Rick Sacks, created in collaboration with the artist. Sources range from industrial textures using 'prepared vibraphone' through a pattern of careless clusters, to a pentatonic lament. In the central section, improvised notes laid on a static rhythm sequence with added long tone layers achieve a complex verticality connoting the near-chaos that characterizes any construction site. Using a Sudanese (Pelog) gamelan scale, the closing passage evokes the beauty without drama of what was, before the 'progress'.

Produced under a Charles Street Video Artist in Residence Program

Photo of Daïchi SaïtoOriginally from Japan, Daïchi Saïto is a filmmaker based in Montréal. He is a co-founder of the Double Negative Collective, a Montréal-based artist filmmaking group dedicated to the exhibition and production of experimental cinema. His films have screened in various venues both in Canada and abroad, including the London Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Hong Kong International Film Festival, Images Festival, Anthology Film Archives, Cinematheque Ontario and Museum of Modern Arts in Bogota, Colombia, among others. Exploring the relation between the corporeal phenomena of vision and the material nature of film, Saïto attempts to express the poetics of film art based on the notions of frame and juxtaposition. Saïto's work deals with visual perception and sensorial experience in the act of seeing as well as the inherent musicality of the medium of film. His films often treat the visual as a musical instrument, each frame being a musical note so to speak, so as to create an interwoven relation between sound and image in which one becomes a counterpoint to the other, forming a synaesthetic dialogue.

Photo of Malcolm GoldsteinComposer and violinist Malcolm Goldstein has been active in the presentation of new music and dance since the early 1960's. In New York City he was the co-founder of the Tone Roads Ensemble and a participant in the Judson Dance Theater, the New York Festival of the Avant Garde and the Experimental Intermedia Foundation. He has toured extensively throughout North America and Europe, presenting solo violin concerts and appearing as a soloist with new music and dance ensembles.

Since the mid-1960's Goldstein has integrated structured improvisation elements into his compositions, exploring new performance techniques within a variety of instrumental and vocal frameworks. His music has been performed at such new music festivals as New Music America; Meet the Moderns, NYC; Pro Musica Nova, Bremen; De Ijsbreker (Amsterdam), Weiner Festwochen, Time of Music (Finland), Inventionen, Berlin; and Musik der Zeit, Cologne. In the 1990's he was director of the Ensemble for New Music of the Hessischer Rundfunk, Frankfurt.

Goldstein has received grants for his music from the national Endowment of the Arts (USA), Massachusetts Council for the Arts and the Canada Council for the Arts. He has received commissions from Westdeustcher Rundfunk and the Canada Council for the Arts, most recently receiving a commission to compose a string quartet for Quatuor Bozzini, and has been represented on numerous CD recordings, including Experimental Intermedia (XI), da capo, wergo, Nonsequitur/0.0.Discs, and Eremite. He has written extensively on improvisation and is the author of the book Sounding the Full Circle.

For more information on Malcolm Goldstein please visit
For audio samples of Malcolm Goldstein’s works please visit

Image by Daïchi SaïtoTrees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis

Image: Daïchi Saïto
Musical Composition: Malcolm Goldstein

Characterized by a rhythmic and formal investigation of light and color, the films of Daïchi Saïto exist on the peripheries of the perception. His work often relies on the phenomenon of "persistence of vision": using succinct bursts of images, Saïto's works play with the retina's reaction to shapes and color and the afterimages that the audience "sees" in spaces of black. Trees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis, is the second collaboration between Saïto and composer Malcolm Goldstein. This new film picks up where their earlier collaboration, All That Rises, left off: an aural and visual exploration of landscape in their Montreal neighbourhood. The project deals with familiar landscape imagery the artists both share in their district at the foot of Mount-Royal Park. Using the images of maple trees in the park as main visual motif, Saïto creates a film in which the formations of the trees and their subtle interrelation with the space around them act as an agent to transform the viewer's sensorial perception of the space portrayed. Accompanying this is a structured violin improvisation by Goldstein informed by a system of overtones. A visual poem reminiscent of minimalist music, Trees of Syntax, Leaves of Axis invites perceptual insight and revelation through a syntactical structure based on patterns, variations and repetition.