O-Hisa and Thin Air

This week we said farewell to one of the weirdest summers ever. Here on the West Coast of Canada, the last few weeks in particular felt like they were taken from the pages of the Old Testament: forest fire smoke that blocked out the sun, a looper moth infestation, and a pandemic that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. Something else we’ve seen, arguably less biblical, is an explosion of online activity as artists turn to the internet to share their creative work during a worldwide lockdown. I confess that as far as this last item goes, I’m a guilty contributor (sorry/not sorry!). I’m extremely grateful for support from the Canada Council for the Arts, Creative BC, and the BC Arts Council, which has enabled me to create a series of videos that attempt to capture some of the performances I would have given this past summer, in Vancouver, Saskatchewan, and Mexico. The first of these was a video I made with guitarist Adrian Verdejo of Jocelyn Morlock’s Verdigris (which you can see HERE). My second video was just recently released, filmed by Dejan Radovanovic, and it features a solo flute piece called O-Hisa, by Vancouver composer Ramsey Sadaka:

Sadaka composed O-Hisa as a musical portrait of the eponymous character from Jun’ichiro Tanizaki’s novel entitled Some Prefer Nettles. While Sadaka certainly conveys the flow of O-Hisa’s psychological states (real and imagined) throughout the novel, the following phrase, translated by Edward G. Seidensticker, provided the main inspiration for this piece:

“O-Hisa was a shade left behind from another age.”

This piece was commissioned by the University of British Columbia’s Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery to commemorate the launch of Esther Shalev-Gerz’s outdoor art work, The Shadow. To this end, I think Dejan did a great job of playing with light and darkness, as well as commenting on O-Hisa’s dualities by creating (often distorted) reflections.

This past month I also had the opportunity to work with Music on Main to create a new video for the Festivals for Compassion, a Dutch online initiative that has been uniting music festivals and concert presenters around the world, inviting them to share their interpretations of a specially commissioned work by the Dutch/Greek composer Calliope Tsoupaki. Her piece, entitled Thin Air, was composed for any instrument, so the Festivals For Compassion timeline is replete with a diversity of interpretations: guitar, trombone, cello, bassoon, bass recorder, even theremin! It was a great pleasure to record the premiere of the flute version of Thin Air with MoM’s Joanna Dundas (director) and Mike Southworth (filmmaker).

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