Times are strange right now, so one needs to create reasons to celebrate where one can. And for me, the above video is absolutely a cause for celebration, because it represents the end of a major multi-year project for me: to create three music videos of solo flute music by Canadian composers with strong connections to Pacific Rim culture and/or heritage. Nova Pon‘s piece Wrenegade is a virtuosic showpiece inspired by the call of the Pacific Wren — but more than that, it’s a response to my lifelong fear of birds (and also my fascination with that fear). By presenting the wren’s song at various speeds (including “as fast as humanly possible”), Pon gives us a glimpse into the sound world with which birds communicate, all the while lightheartedly playing with the old trope of the flutist as the extrovert, flamboyant exponent of birdlike virtuosity. The video was filmed by Mark Mushet in Musqueam territory (aka Pacific Spirit Park on UBC campus) with the playful, oh-so-kawaii animations of Cindy Mochizuki.

This next video is very much a response to current events. As the coronavirus began shutting down public gatherings across Canada, the Canadian Music Centre BC Region quickly realized that local musicians would be deeply affected. Their response is Unaccompanied, an online concert series that showcases Vancouver musicians performing solo works by Canadian composers. I’m feeling very honoured to be the first of this series, performing the beautiful work Four Directions by Vancouver composer (and dear friend) Jennifer Butler. Four Directions was originally composed as a piece to announce the day at R. Murray Schafer’s Wolf Project — but here, with the chiaroscuro camera work of Jordan Nobles, the work takes on a more sombre, pessimistic tone.

This week saw the release of the second of three music videos I’ve been working on for Lutalica, my ongoing performance and recording project that focuses on the flute music of Pacific Rim composers. I’m so excited to present Notgnirrac: a video by Bernardo González Burgos and Kiné Producciones, featuring the music of the Canadian-Mexican composer Alfredo Santa Ana.

Notgnirrac takes its name and inspiration from the British-Mexican surrealist artist, Leonora Carrington (spell Carrington backwards and you’ll get Santa Ana’s piece title). After the devastating end to her relationship with the surrealist painter Max Ernst, Carrington moved to Mexico City, where she established herself as one of the country’s leading artists, a primary figure in the international surrealist movement, and a founding member of the Mexican Women’s Liberation Movement.

For this piece Santa Ana was specifically inspired by Carrington’s visual and literary artwork. “I consider her artistry to be a path of self-discovery and a blend of psychological and physical geographies… Carrington displays a self-reflecting attitude inwards, to one’s own identity, culture, and work. This, I believe, is an awareness that is also at the core of McGregor’s examination of Pacific Rim music through the lens of identity. His use of ‘lutalica’ invokes the notion of never really being captured within the narrow categories that we use to describe ourselves.”

It’s almost too perfect that this video was, in fact, filmed on location at the Museo Leonora Carrington in San Luis Potosí, Mexico; throughout this video you’ll see a number of Carrington’s sculptures haunting the various courtyards and galleries of the museum, bringing an eerie surrealist energy to Santa Ana’s rhapsodic and virtuosic music. I’m deeply indebted to Museo Leonora Carrington for providing us the unique opportunity to film there, and to the Canada Council for the Arts for their support.