Augustana lecturer and pianist will bring unique sounds from composers across Canada to local performance

A Canada Council for the Arts Grant has given Roger Admiral and his Edmonton-based ensemble, UltraViolet, the opportunity to work with innovative composers from around the country.

Tia Lalani - 4 February 2021

Roger Admiral’s favourite part of music-making isn’t the grand finale of the performance itself. Instead, it’s what he refers to as “the rehearsal before the dress rehearsal”, when each musician working on the piece has the chance to discover it and share in that experience of discovery.

Armed with a $29,000 Canada Council for the Arts Research and Creation Grant, Admiral’s ensemble UltraViolet—a quartet out of New Music Edmonton—intends to up the ante on discovery by working with four composers across the country who have very unique, and sometimes experimental, methods and sounds.

“New music can mean a number of different things. One of the best aspects of new music is that you get the chance to work with a composer and collaborate—something you wouldn’t be able to do if you were playing Mozart or Chopin,” Admiral said.

For this particular project, UltraViolet—made up of pianist Admiral, cellist Amy Nicholson, flutist Chenoa Anderson and saxophonist Allison Balcetis—wanted to choose composers who appealed to them and represented different areas of the country as well as different genders, generations and styles of music. The result is a widely eclectic full performance that the group hopes to put on in Edmonton or Camrose in March of 2022.

The first composer, Vancouver's Giorgio Magnanensi, will begin with the image of a spider's web, and use this image as visual data which will be transformed into sound for his piece.

Also from Vancouver, Roxanne Nesbitt will hand-make irregularly shaped ceramic bells which will be pressed into piano strings. In her words, "the ceramics are communal, egalitarian instruments, as each player is unspecialized in playing these unknown vessels. They can be played through scraping, rocking, striking and pressing into the piano strings. I am interested in juxtaposing the mass-produced, standardized, instruments with the intuitive work of the hand. Using ceramics is also about bringing domestic-like objects—tools for 'women’s work'—into my sound palette.”

As a third piece, Montreal composer James O'Callaghan will create a work that includes a secondary “doppelgänger ensemble” of recorded sound, played through loudspeakers in an adjacent space to the concert hall where the quartet will perform.

And lastly, Lesley Hinger, from Calgary, will create a work out of long-term improvisation and collaborative back-and-forth between her and the UltraViolet Ensemble.

Although it will be about a year before the musicians will be able to get together and perform, Admiral looks forward to the magic and collaboration that will happen remotely over the coming months.

“COVID made us realize that working together virtually is possible. Although it’s ideal to be in the same room as the other individual, it’s not always sustainable. Now, we see that it’s totally possible to do this kind of work—you’re still collaborating, still exchanging ideas. You’re still a community.”

If you can’t wait until next March to get your musical performance fix, Roger Admiral will perform a solo piano recital of sonatas by Ludwig van Beethoven at the Jeanne & Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre in the coming months. Keep your eyes on the Augustana Campus website for details!