Vancouver New Music Society | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Vancouver New Music Society

Vancouver New Music Society (VNM). Founded in 1972 by a group of musicians, radio producers, and university teachers, including Ian Hampton, George Laverock, Phyllis Mailing, and Simon Streatfeild, to initiate performances of contemporary works.

Vancouver New Music Society

Vancouver New Music Society (VNM). Founded in 1972 by a group of musicians, radio producers, and university teachers, including Ian Hampton, George Laverock, Phyllis Mailing, and Simon Streatfeild, to initiate performances of contemporary works. After a successful season at the Arts Club Theatre, the society made the Vancouver East Cultural Centre its home in 1973. Most concerts have been presented there, though occasional use has been made of the Orpheum and other venues. At first, attention was given to early 20th-century works - Webern, Berg, and the young Stravinsky. In 1973 the emphasis shifted to newer music.

The society is regarded as a major presenter of contemporary music in Western Canada. It is committed to promoting cutting-edge new music and sonic art and supporting local Canadian performers and composers. Its mandate is to reflect the diversity of the Vancouver community, to encourage experimentation and openness to new philosophies, and to promote the interaction of contemporary music with other disciplines such as dance, film, and theatre. The VNM is also dedicated to keeping pace with technological developments through regular programming of electroacoustic music. It has co-produced events with the Banff Centre, CBC Radio Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony, Coastal Jazz and Blues, Goethe Institute, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver Chamber Choir, Western Front, and Ballet BC. The society moved to share its office with the Canadian Music Centre in 2001. Operas and theatre works have frequently been presented, including Harrison Birtwistle's Down by the Greenwood Side (1973), Stravinsky's Renard (1974), Peter Maxwell Davies' Eight Songs for a Mad King (1975, with Donald Bell), Michael Nyman's The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat (1989), Rudolf Komorous'No No Miya (1988, commissioned), Claude Vivier'sKopernikus (1990), The Star Catalogues (1994) by Owen Underhill and Marc Diamond, The Gang (1997) by Peter Hannan and Tom Cone, and elsewhereless (1999) by Rodney Sharman and Atom Egoyan. 120 Songs for the Marquis de Sade, by Peter Hannan and Peter Hinton and which premiered in 2002, won an Alcan Performing Arts Award.

By 2004 the Vancouver New Music Society had commissioned some 60 works from Canadian composers, including István Anhalt (Thisness), John Beckwith (Etudes), John Celona (Music for Portable Electronic Instruments IV),Theo Goldberg (Daedalus), Bengt Hambraeus (Trio Sonata), Alexina Louie (Winter Music, Pearls), Marjan Mozetich (Angels in Flight), Barbara Pentland (Disasters of the Sun), Alex Pauk (Tucume), Jean Piché (Steal the Thunder), Douglas Schmidt (Winter Songs of the Myth People), R. Murray Schafer (Snowforms), Elliot Weisgarber (Songs of a Thousand Autumns), and Hildegarde Westerkamp (Moments of Laughter). It has also performed works by Robert Aitken, Micheline Coulombe Saint-Marcoux, Jose Evangelista, John Fodi, Serge Garant, John Hawkins, Jacques Hétu, Rudolph Komorous, Bruce Mather, François Morel, Gilles Tremblay, Barry Truax, and others.

The society employs Vancouver musicians but prior to 1987, when Owen Underhill was appointed as its first artistic director, regularly imported guest conductors, including Lukas Foss (1974), Udo Kasemets, Serge Garant, and Peter Maxwell Davies (1976). Such foreign groups as Les Percussions de Strasbourg (1973), the Warsaw Music Workshop, the Kronos String Quartet, and Davies' Fires of London (all in 1976), Stuttgart's Trio Ex Voco (1977), and Tashi (1979) have been presented. Other composers and performers from abroad have included John Adams, Laurie Anderson, Louis Andriessen, Gavin Bryars, John Cage, Philip Glass, Vinko Globokar, Sofia Gubaidulina, Heinz Holliger, Giya Kancheli, James MacMillan, Meredith Monk, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Morton Subotnick, Frances Marie Uitti, Kevin Volans, the New Music Indonesia gamelan, the Schoenberg Ensemble, and Margaret Leng Tan. An average of seven concerts have been presented annually and most of these have been recorded for nationwide broadcast on the CBC radio program 'Two New Hours.'

In 1985 the society inaugurated a biennial competition for young composers in British Columbia. First- and second-place winners respectively were Peter Hatch (Lagtime) and Linda C. Smith (Little Venice). In 1996 Vancouver New Music conceived of a biennial, week-long new music festival with the aim to stimulate dialogue about new music and to allow audience members the opportunity to interact with composers and performers. In 2002, the festival became an annual event of three to five days involving musical programming dedicated to a particular theme in new music practice. Vancouver New Music commemorated the millennium with the concert X-Ten Centuries/Ten New Works that involved the participation of 34 performers and commissions for 10 Canadian composers. In September 2001 a new monthly music series entitled Mixtophonics, dedicated to the experimental music of emerging artists, was presented at the Havana Theatre.

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