Go West: Travel and Change, from Victoria to Curitiba

One of many “Imaginary Dungeons” by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720 – 78)

Artists are a thankless lot.

I speak, of course, as a thankless artist: We are capricious, volatile, and greedy; We spend our lives desperately seeking out patterns, rhythms, and order — and then, upon finding them, we immediately reject them; We begin every project, every endeavour, with the understanding that nothing will be good enough; We make unrealistic demands and, even when those demands are met, we’ll find a way to undervalue or abuse what we’ve been given. The pianist Rachel Iwaasa once shared with me the encapsulating words of Martha Graham: “No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching…”

Of course, there very well might be artists out there who completely disagree with the above, who are satisfied and thankful, who do not crave/despise the approval of others, who thrive on order. To you, I can only say this: I’ve got Martha Graham backing me up; you don’t.

This week, it is with mixed feelings that I step down from my position as artistic director of the Powell Street Festival Society, Canada’s largest expression of Japanese Canadian culture. I’m happy and humbled to pass the baton to the incredible Leanne Dunic, whose background in the literary, visual, and musical arts will energize and inspire the Society as it moves into its fourth decade. I’m entirely thankful for the experience: over the course of two seasons I learned about the complex and dark history of my Japanese Canadian heritage; I engaged with artists and communities I would never have had the opportunity to otherwise; I learned the nuts and bolts of curating a major Canadian festival (and for the record, there are a lot of nuts and bolts); and I learned how important it is for an artistic director to be surrounded by good, patient, informed, and inspired people. Most importantly, I learned that daily coffee breaks with Diane Kadota are generally awesome — they provided insight, inspiration, therapy, and caffeine. It doesn’t get much better than that.

But throughout my tenure, that “blessed unrest” was percolating beneath the surface, reminding me that, ultimately, I’m a musician before anything else. And so it is to music that I return, with renewed and refocused energy. This September I will join the faculty of the University of Victoria’s School of Music as their interim flute instructor (filling in for the sabbatical of my friend and colleague, Suzanne Snizek). It will mean a term of craziness as I zig-zag between the mainland and the Island, but it’s an experience I’m thrilled to begin.

September will also see my first sojourn to South America, as I join the faculty at the third International Symposium of New Music, presented by Grupo de Pesquisa Núcleo Música Nova in Curitiba, Brazil. From September 11 – 17 I’ll be giving masterclasses, workshops, and performances that will include the South American premieres of works by Nicole Lizée and Dániel Péter Biró, in addition to works by Sciarrino, Solomonoff, Feldman, and Ferneyhough, whose Carceri d’Invenzione IIb (inspired by the infamous etchings of Piranesi, pictured above) remains one of my all time solo flute faves.

But for now, it’s a whole lot of practising, score study, cautious stabs at beginner Portuguese, and coffee. A vida é maravilhosa!



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