On a breezy afternoon in early May, I met composer Allison Cameron and photographer Claire Harvie in the cheery little garden oasis behind Trinity St. Paul’s United Church in downtown Toronto. Allison’s compact studio is in the building, so she fetched her banjo, as well as an assortment of tiny, cool-looking amplifiers and transistor radios, which she uses in her small-noise improvisation work. I was delighted to see The Blinking Monkey, a novelty radio I first “met,” a couple of weeks earlier, at a show Allison played with her improv trio c_RL. During the shoot—which yielded the intimate photo-essay companion to Nick Storring’s eloquent feature—The Blinking Monkey serenaded us for a while, until a voice from an open window asked us to “please stop practising!”
Jay Crocker doesn’t have to worry about disturbing the neighbours when his new band, JOYFULTALK, is rehearsing. His spacious home studio—located in a outbuilding on his property in Crousetown, Nova Scotia—is filled with the maps, tools, and memorabilia of a life devoted to exploring the outer fringes of music-making. That’s where Halifax writer Andrew Patterson and photographer John McCarthy traveled (a day or two after a heavy late-winter snowfall) to gather some words and pictures for the rollicking feature you’ll find in this issue.
The personal interviews, research, and creative thinking of our writers are, of course, central to the storytelling in Musicworks. The CD companion is an enhancement our readers appreciate (as we learned from our recent readership survey); the Summer 2015 CD has at least one track from each of the artists in the issue—except for filmmaker Su Rynard, who wrote the short essay “The Avian is the Message” (you can step outside in the morning to get a blast from your local songbirds).
While working on this issue, I couldn’t stop looking at some of the beautiful contraptions used, assembled, and even invented by the artists in this issue: Allison’s collection of small amps, radios, and vintage Walkmans, Jay’s assortment of cool-looking homemade gear, with fanciful names like the Combover, the Cheadle, and the Pink Dolphin! I was reminded that visual images can often tell parallel stories, set a mood, provide some clues or, for all you flippers, help you decide which article to read first! Look over the shoulder of jazz legend Dave Burrell as he works on a score, and then read Kurt Gottschalk’s finely crafted story about his little known composition work. Examine the score to Andrew Staniland’s Orion Constellation Theory, then listen to it on the CD while you read Jonathan Bunce’s energetic profile of the composer. Imagine yourself in the Amazon rainforest with Nimalan Yoganathan, as he gathers the field recordings used in his track Unseen Songlines. Get a glimpse into the nuts-and-bolts of Sabrina Schroeder’s process as she prepares bass drums for her work-in-progress Stircrazer series.
Musicworks invites you to read, listen, and look. Enjoy the rich storytelling in our Summer 2015 issue.
Image of Honeytone mini-amps, The Blinking Monkey, and Allison Cameron with banjo by: Claire Harvie.