Tom Beedham, Exclaim!, October 16, 2015… The Virtuosity of Excess lives up to its name…
The Music Gallery has come a long way since it was founded by the Canadian Creative Music Collective, or CCMC, in 1976. Now celebrating the launch of its 40th season of operation and tenth X Avant festival, it’s embracing the occasion as an opportunity to measure its legacy. Opening X Avant X with acts that performed at the Music Gallery in its earliest years, last night (October 15) audiences were granted performances from the legendary improv group that is still a part of the Music Gallery’s legal, incorporated name, and a regular that first performed there in the ’80s.
Lori Freedman started with a bang, but one that belonged to a school far away from the unrestricted calamity that preceded her. Stationed behind a music stand, Freedman proceeded into a new program titled The Virtuosity of Excess, carefully following sheet music, stomping on a kick drum and wailing in an operatic voice, eventually leaning into a contrabass clarinet to demonstrate some of the peculiar sounds that have earned her a following.
Freedman’s storied catalogue bounces between the worlds of improvised and composed music, so it can be confounding that her new program promises excess but consists of complicated compositions by the likes of Brian Ferneyhough, Richard Barrett, Raphael Cendo, Paulo Perezzani, Salvatore Sciarrino and Paul Steenhuisen. Freedman doesn’t take long unpacking it to reveal there’s no drought of excess to be found in this show, though.
She took minutes between some pieces to prepare sheet music intended to be followed as a tapestry spanning six music stands; toward the end of one lengthy piece, she removed her clarinet’s mouthpiece as if asking for premature applause, only to proceed to play into the instrument without it. Her third piece was a composition Paul Steenhuisen less than innocently crafted out of transcriptions based on what he heard in select recordings of Freedman’s improvisations.
So yes, The Virtuosity of Excess lives up to its name: There are excesses of quiet, excesses of noise, excesses of structure, excesses of discipline, excesses of postmodernist indulgence and, in the best way possible, excesses of Lori Freedman.