cbc evolution 2009 & the global peanut gallery
there has been a great commotion around the quiet mountains of banff in last two weeks called evolution. basically, the CBC is bringing back a composition competition back to life (which was defunct for awhile), and since it collided with the darwin anniversary, the team decided to put a new twist to the old game- not just the theme, but a great change in format. part of a process, i suppose.
for the laymen out there (if you know how this goes, skip a couple paragraphs pls): traditional composition competition usually works in submission basis. meaning they put up a deadline, along with a couple guidelines of what they would like (such as ensemble formats, the length of the music, may be even contextual themes etc), and the usual red tapes such as ages, nationalities, etc. and as a composer, you submit a work. could have taken you a day or years. as long as it's printed on a sheets of paper, ready to be read/eaten/digested/played by the performers, then passed on to the audiences or more importantly (silly enough), the panel members. and whatever happens in the discussion room happens, and someone is declared a winner, then comes prize/performance/publication/despair/whatever fits the bill.
the evolution 2009 was a quite unusual thing as it involved a three stages: first, the elimination round. you submit, they look, and call couple guys who they think are the appropriate candidates for this competition. then comes the twist. these 5 guys are then called into banff center, then within the given workspace (a hut, as the locals call it) and time (in this case, the duration was approx. two weeks), they compose. and yes, there are guidelines and rings of fire. DEADLINES (insert wicked evil laugh and screaming children noise)
the theme, evolution, was revealed to the composers on their first official day here, so the prepping for the actual composition was minimal (or it was expected to be). then you crank. crank as fast and furiously as you can. write write write. bite chew pencils. slam at your keyboard. perhaps im exaggerating, perhaps no one was really 'stuck' and 'frustrated,' i cant tell. their side of struggle i suppose.
then the second week, the ensemble, ECM: Ensemble contemporain de Montréal, rolled down to town, and they... grab the score still wet with fresh sweat blood and god knows what, and... play. as a performer, this is highly unusual. four days of rehearsal, fresh, and national broadcast by end of the four days. brutal. esp. there is not much materials you can get to even get close to what's going to be on your pages. dread. excitement. toil. trouble. oooeerrrr.
third stage: performance, concert in broadcasting, composers on toes, ensemble on toes, me- totally relaxed and curious to see what spectacle would happen. haha. for a change, i am an observer. great. i could do this. peanut gallery. then should you feel mildly being involved, you casually cast your vote on web. and wait. see.
all this for what: lots of money.
20,000 for first prize, 5000 for commission, 5000 for peep's choice.
for young composers, this is a big break. not only they all got some dough for making it to 5 finalists, they get a good performance of their compositions and a gamble for the prizes. though the situation- esp. time constraint may be a little less optimal. well world just aint peachy for anyone i guess. even for peaches- soon or later you be consumed, often even mocked further by being drowned in syrups until peaches themselves no longer resemble anything of a peach- no fuzzy hairs, no juices, no pits, just.. somewhat jell-o like sweet mushy stuff. mmm.
anyways. if you wanna know more,
so last night was the big hurrah.
it was packed in the auditorium and i decided to do this the old school style. through a radio! but with a twist! we evolved and hence came live web streaming. so i decided to check it out on video feed. alas, the feed was too sluggishly big for the bandwidth. no luck. so back to just audio.
and then came the magic.
me being a complete lunatic absolutely mad fanatic of web communication, i had some of my chat windows open. and since there is no visual element and i am not in a concert hall, i could do whatever i pleased: including chatting, naughty naughty monkey!
in less than 5 minutes, me and 3 buddies, all separated by distances- as close as my room to the music and sound building, to someone in toronto to some peeps in europe, we all were listening to the streaming. simultaneously, though as if we are riding the continuum of time together somehow, but avoiding the usual co-habitation clause.
we are all musicians, sprinkled around the globe like... well, crumbs off the bagels: one in gmt, one in mountain times, one in eastern time, one in cet. and fortunately, none of us had the luxury of having wide-enough bandwidth to ride the full visual broadcast. so as we are listening to the streaming, we had nothing really to look at, but our screens and the blinking 'screaming' from the chat buddies.
not only we got to experience the old school radio broadcasting, having the access of the web on the fingertips allowed me to infectiously get three others to listen to an event with me, real-time broadcast, we were non-stop chatting, eventually merging into a big chat window, like a conference call. what was that? did you hear? is that a bass solo? how did they do that effect you think? hold, was that a melody? okay- this is a ryhtmic pulsation- no it isnt- yes it is, so on and so forth. it opened up a new possibility where we could exchange idea and perhaps even influence each others' perception of listening. it was amazing.
not only that, we were able to call up on possible-contextual-extrinsic stuff, images, word definitions, writings, ideologues. pull them out of google. cut paste. let your cyber family lap it up like a sunday night supper!
even right up to the announcement, we were listening and arguing, all simultaneously. the event became nothing passive, in fact, all active. the real time exchange opened up new perspectives immediately, and like true friends (haha) anything that was undefended was discarded. opinions had to be validated and minds were convincing and being convinced.
the prize decision we made as a group was diversified- all over the map. but we took a great pleasure to explain one idea to another, sort of john stewart mill's 'on liberty' applied in music criticism:
1. form an opinion, an informed opinion that is
2. express thine opinion to thy neighbour
3. see if you agree or disagree
4. if agree: good, you are at least ont he same page. awesome.
5. if disagree: well, you can decided
i)simply co-exist, ii)convince, iii)be convinced
6. repeat as necessary
this wasnt like anything i have expected of the broadcasting of evolution and it's amazing to see that evolution, not just natural ones, but also so technological evolution have shapes the way we receive and contextualize abstract things, such as music and opinions. i am still fascinated with the experience and i hope to expand this idea further with my other friends in near future- go live streaming. let see how well we could all connect through this new dimension found on old school radio.
yes, you may sit and listen.
and open up a window and peek.