Studio Bell: Home of the National Music Centre

Chapter 3: Take a Virtual Tour of the National Music Centre

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Studio Bell: Home of the National Music Centre

The Performer Jeremy Dutcher

Artist in residency Jeremy Dutcher brought his unique style and Aboriginal heritage to Studio Bell, performing for the public on Nov. 18.

Dutcher is a classically trained opera singer from the Maliseet community of New Brunswick, and composes his music around recordings of his community’s traditional songs.

The recordings were recorded in 1907 by anthropologist William H. Meshler, who lived amongst the Maliseet people for seven years.

“I really wanted to explore traditional music that our ancestors made and so some people pointed me in the direction of these archives,” explains Dutcher.

Dutcher went to Ottawa to listen to the recordings and transcribed 30 melodies in the process.

“I studied as a classical singer in university so I was able to take that background, skillset and knowledge and apply that to this collection and let it live again,” expresses Dutcher.

“It helped me connect with my culture as well.”

Language preservation was also important to Dutcher when arranging the songs in his language of Wolastoqey. There are less than 500 people left who speak the language.

The first song that Dutcher played for the public was a “death chant”.

The first thing the audience heard was the original recording, which was soon joined by Dutcher’s piano playing.

He sung the same melody with his classically trained voice and lyrical piano accompaniment, filling the room with sound.

Although it was a death chant, the music was uplifting and very different from the a capella recording.

“What inspired me to go back into these archives and to work with them and compose music around them was the fact was these songs weren’t really being sung in our community,” explains Dutcher.

“People were really disconnected from the kinds of traditional music that we made.”

As an artist in residence for the National Music Centre (NMC), Dutcher recorded four demos to be used in an album that he wishes to create.

NMC offers 300+ instruments for the artists in residence to use during their week-long stay, and Dutcher found himself learning new instruments to put on his tracks.

“It’s been really intense to have to go from instrument to instrument to instrument, track by track by track and sort of build a song from the bottom foundation,” laughs Dutcher.

“Most music museums you can go and see it, but to actually be able to go and sit there and play with it, that’s a whole other thing.”

As excited as Dutcher is with bringing back the songs from his community, he prefers performing his compositions.

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“It’s awesome to be able to have the ability to connect with people, even people that don’t speak the language that I’m singing in or don’t really understand the whole context of what I’m doing,” says Dutcher.

“As a musician I’m just a storyteller and so I’m able to tell this awesome story and use these awesome old songs and bring them into something new.”

Dutcher says he’s a product of his environment when it comes to his musical style.

“I feel like musicians are like a collection of all the things they’ve heard in their lives up until then,” says Dutcher.

“I grew up with chant music and I studied classical music and I was a lover of jazz music and rock music so for me I just sort of replicate everything that I’ve heard.”

He also drew inspiration from his three musical brothers, and growing up, he wanted to be just like them.

Despite drawing inspiration from many people in his life, Dutcher still has his own unique style.

“It’s just who I am you know!” he laughs.

The Composers Joshua Van Tassel and James Bunton

Stock sounds are not the limit for Joshua Van Tassel and James Bunton, who are sound creators of impossible instruments.

The artists in residence at the National Music Centre fully exploited the 300+ instruments that the centre has to offer, in order to create unique and beautiful sounds that have never been heard before.

“A lot of people have access to a lot of the same sounds via laptops or synthesizers with pre-set sounds so this is an opportunity to build a library that only we have,” explains Van Tassel.

“This week we’re primarily collecting what are called ‘impossible instruments’, by combining three or more instruments from the collection, blending them together, running them through each other, making a new sound, and then saving that to our digital audio workstation to play back later and use to compose with,” says Bunton.

Not only did the pair of artists exploit the centre’s collection, but they also used the building to record in interesting and bizarre ways.

“The bathroom, for some reason the hot water doesn’t do it but the cold water, has this strange thing coming from the pipes, it’s this weird gurgling sound so we took that and ran it through this keyboard,” laughs Van Tassel.

“The lower you go the gurgling becomes these sort of this drawn out oceanic bubbling but still with tone.

“It becomes a very playable instrument.”

Along with the faucets, the pair also recorded in the elevator, and the stairwell.

Bunton explains that the musical style that they wish to compose in is neo-classical and that it portrays a sense of space.

“There’s a lot of experimentation in it but its also quite slow and simple in a lot of ways, it also has really unique, beautiful sounds, or more than anything a sense of space,” he muses.

“Which is pretty vague,” laughs Bunton.

The pair plan on eventually creating an album with some of the sounds they record during their week as artists in residency, but they say they are still in the “collection phase”.

While they have been using the building in their impossible instrument “chains”, they have also used a plethora of old and new instruments, even combining them together in a way that was not historically possible.

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One of the sounds consisted of an old pump organ from the 30’s, an instrument from the 70’s and another instrument from the 2000’s.

“That’s where a bit of the impossible comes from, is combining very old instruments with each of these instruments and effectors so there’s probably at least 30 years between each thing,” says Van Tassel.

One of the most interesting sounds that the pair created during the week was created with Van Tassel’s favourite instrument from the collection, The Explorer.

The Explorer is an old keyboard instrument that has metal tines that create it’s intended sound, however the tines themselves make normally inaudible clicks that Van Tassel amplified to create a new sound.

Combined with another keyboard instrument and played through a guitar amp, they recorded a previously different instrument as an entirely new one.

“It just ends up being this strange sounding wooden xylophone exotic thing, it sounds much bigger than a little 2 mm piece of metal,” exclaims Van Tassel.

“They’re interesting because you’d never, when you plug just that keyboard in, it doesn’t sound like that, that sound is very deep within it.

“We’re trying to push ourselves to find inner sounds too.”

The artists recorded about five or six new sounds each day they spent at Studio Bell, and one of their most recent sounds was recorded in the stairwell.

“The one last night was plucking that piano’s strings with my finger and then playing an old analog keyboard called a prophet the same note together, and then running those into a mixer, then into a guitar amplifier that was in a stairwell,” says Van Tassel.

“Then James went up a couple stories up with a zoom recorder to record the sound coming out of the amplifier.”

They call the process of recording new sounds from scratch “chains”.

“It ends up being this very beautiful, chime-y, roomy keyboard sound,” says Van Tassel.

Once the final sound has been created, it can be played and spread out on a digital controller to create new compositions with.

Bunton says that a world where everyone makes their own sounds is an ideal one.

“To be able to share those with other people who don’t have the same tools in terms of sonics to create [new sounds], sharing those worlds is a great part of the composition,” he explains.

“The ability to create new sounds and new worlds and new ideas is really an amazing thing.”

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Studio Bell: Home of the National Music Centre

Chapter 1: Jam Club

The National Music Centre is now offering jam club, a safe space for teenagers to learn, play musical instruments, and make new friends.

Jam club runs every Thursday from 3-5 p.m. in the King Eddy side of Studio Bell, on the fourth floor.

“People come in, grab an instrument of their choice and they just kind of start off by finding a little corner and just get familiar and warmed up,” says Jason Valleau.

“Not everybody has an instrument to play, so this is a place for everybody to come and play some instruments.”

There is food for the participants every week, and once a month, Gruman’s provides a hot meal.

The club offers an array of instruments, musical clinicians, and practice space for youth aged 13-19.

“Essentially we just want to offer a safe space for youth,” says Chad Schroter-Gillespie, a manager of the club.

“It’s a place for them to go after school where they’re not getting caught up in maybe activities that aren’t ideal for their well-being.”

Many of the youth that come into the club have no prior musical experience, but that isn’t a requirement for jam club.

“I didn’t know I could sing,” explains Tycen Robinson, 19.

“They introduced me to a talent I didn’t know I had.”

Robinson has recently enjoyed singing Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd at jam club last week.

“One of them was like ‘hey lets make this more reggae’, so they started playing the reggae version and I started singing it reggae,” laughs Robinson.

“It was just so fun.”

This week, Robinson sang Simple Man with one of the volunteer clinicians who also started to teach him how to play the guitar part to go with it, an instrument Robinson has never played before.

“The coolest thing about jam club is that kids will come in at the beginning of the year and some of them are so shy that they won’t even talk to anyone, they don’t even play an instrument,” says Schroter-Gillespie.

“By the end of the year, they’re getting up on stage and performing in front of an audience.

“For us, I think that’s the most inspiring thing to see that progress and to see it have such a positive impact on their life.”

Ember Bland, a member of jam club, says that the club is a “breath of fresh air” in comparison the jazz and concert bands she’s a part of.

“It’s just nice to sit down and play instruments with people without the stress of having to learn sheet music or practice for a performance,” she expresses.

“You’re there to have a good time, and I find it a nice break from rehearsals in larger groups.”

The jam club wouldn’t be possible without help from committed volunteer clinicians, guitar technicians, and private funding from the Canadian Western Bank.

“They come from different musical backgrounds, and different skill-levels, so they kind of match-up with the students so that they can best fit their needs,” says Schroter-Gillespie.

“We also have had some professional clinicians come in, we’ve had some of the best musicians in the area and so they can deal with students that have advanced ability.”

Despite the long transit journey to get to the music centre, Bland comes to jam club every week.

“When I first came in they were doing a group jam that day, I sat down, was handed some drumsticks and we played a couple of songs together,” she reminisces.

“Some people were helping out with the chords while I kept a steady beat, some already knew the chords to Riptide so it went really well considering none of us knew each other beforehand.”

Jam club is one of the many programs offered by the new National Music Centre.

When asked what jam club is all about, Robinson replies,”jammin’.”

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Rant: Stop Politicizing the Fort Mac Fire

Hate towards the government spreads like wildfire, dividing us all

The destruction of thousands of people’s homes and belonging is not a prompt for you to further your political agenda of hate against members of our government. We are probably all feeling very scared and angry right now, but it is not fair to take it out on our leaders who are very much doing the best that they can in this situation. This is not the time to blame refugees, this is not the time to complain about the federal governments monetary assistance, and this is not the time to blame the Premier for preplanned budget cuts to the fire department.

The Refugee Argument

Here we go again. I really wish I didn’t have to keep ranting about the amount of idiocy people have on this subject.

I have heard many complaints that “Why did we lets these refugees in when our people are suffering?” Here are the reasons why you’re not being fair.

  1. It took months of planning and years of waiting for the refugees, and only 25,000 at that, to be able to enter our country. No one can predict a wildfire, no one actively made the choice to put them ahead of other Canadians.
  2. There were refugees displaced by the Fort Mac Fire. They are Canadians going through the same thing as us now.
  3. A large group of refugees has rounded up donations for the Fort Mac victims, because unlike the hypocrites out there saying “pray for Fort Mac” but “send back the refugees”, they actually understand what its like to have to leave your home, belongings, and life behind, never knowing if you can ever return, not preferring to leave but having to, because your life depends on it.
  4. The government paid the refugees loans until they can live on their own. And guess what, they have to pay them back eventually. If you would like the same treatment given to the Fort Mac victims, they would get loans that they would have to pay back. Unlike the refugees, the victims will be at least somewhat financially compensated and aided by insurance companies, the provincial and the federal governments. They will not have to pay this money back. I wonder if the refugees were ever compensated for their losses back home? No?
  5. What’s done is done. You can’t send them back to a place that looks just like Fort Mac does right now. I mean you wouldn’t force the Fort Mac victims to live in their scorched houses now would you?

The Trudeau Argument

Trudeau said the government would match Red Cross donations and then people got angry. The man cannot do anything right. Classic example of looking a gift horse in the mouth. When he tried to unify Canadians by encouraging them to donate, people with this argument divide us.

Here is why this is a bad argument:

  1. The government is not only matching donations, the money is on top of the federal aid they will already be giving.
  2. This issue is technically a provincial issue, and the fact that the federal government is stepping in at all and this much, proves that it really is important to them.
  3. The government cannot allocate many funds until they know the severity and the cost of all the damage. This can’t be done until the area has been evaluated and the fire has been put out.
  4. The reason Trudeau is matching donations is to encourage people to donate to the Red Cross so that they can help us now. The federal government can only do so much while the crisis is still happening. They will help clean up the mess.

The firefighter cuts argument 

  1. This was part of the Budget plan set asides months ago. Again, no one can predict a wildfire.
  2. The cuts don’t apply until August, so it has no effect on the situation, yay.
  3. No, calling Notley an old ugly hag is not an argument.

So. Everyone. Calm down. Wait for the fire to pass. Help out the victims if you can.

I do understand your frustrations though,

Nenshi set the bar way too high for everyone.

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Demolishing Nostalgia

The playground that has always sat behind my house, since I was one years old, it now being demolished and replaced. I, of course, always thought it was a great place to play. As a child, I discovered all the ways I could maneuver myself around the metal bars to come out on top in grounders and other games I played with my neighbourhood friends. It was also the place I received several injuries. Once I fell off the top of the pole all the way to the ground, and managed to escape with a couple scrapes. My neck faced off with the climbing bars once, and they almost won. I tried to balance on the seesaw as a cool trick all the time, and hit my knee on the metal so many times I feel it ache sometimes.That is one of the reasons, I think why they are changing a bunch of the playgrounds now, because they are too dangerous. Some companies are replacing playgrounds with more dangerous equipment, with the belief that children are too coddled these days.

The playground in the Hawktree Green Park is being demolished and replaced with a new one in Calgary on Sunday, April 17, 2016. The playground has been there for more than two decades and carries the nostalgia of the children who have lived there all their lives. (Photo by Miriam Johnston/SAIT Polytechnic)
The playground in the Hawktree Green Park is being demolished and replaced with a new one in Calgary on Sunday, April 17, 2016. The playground has been there for more than two decades and carries the nostalgia of the children who have lived there all their lives. (Photo by Miriam Johnston/SAIT Polytechnic)

Right now the play ground just looks like it has been severely destroyed. The bench is broken and torn from the ground like the earth took a vengeance on it, the swings have been ripped off their hinges and taken away, and the gravel has been shovelled and piled and driven through, a pile of dirt takes the place of the seesaw. This is the biggest attack its seen since the days of children picking up the tiny rocks and throwing them at each other, the slide, and into their treasured rock piles.

The playground in the Hawktree Green Park is being demolished and replaced with a new one in Calgary on Sunday, April 17, 2016. The playground has been there for more than two decades and carries the nostalgia of the children who have lived there all their lives. (Photo by Miriam Johnston/SAIT Polytechnic)
The playground in the Hawktree Green Park is being demolished and replaced with a new one in Calgary on Sunday, April 17, 2016. The playground has been there for more than two decades and carries the nostalgia of the children who have lived there all their lives. (Photo by Miriam Johnston/SAIT Polytechnic)

Its like watching the death of my childhood in a way. The lowest branches of the trees we used to climb on have been cut off to prevent children from doing it, the swings we felt our rush of adrenaline are gone and the bench we used to sit on and rest after a tiring day having fun has been uprooted and lies broken on the ground like a sad, dead, animal.

Soon enough, new children will flock to the brand new equipment, and the remnants of what I did there will be gone. The gravel that my back landed on when I fell will disappear, the pole that raked the skin off my hands as I flew down, will be gone. All the molecules of hours of my life will be replaced with the potential of childhood for new children. The playground is old, and rusty, and maybe a bit dangerous. It needs replacing, and the space has the chance of giving children the joy that the old one gave me.

I will be honest though, I will be one of the first ones out there to try the new thing out.

The playground in the Hawktree Green Park is being demolished and replaced with a new one in Calgary on Sunday, April 17, 2016. The playground has been there for more than two decades and carries the nostalgia of the children who have lived there all their lives. (Photo by Miriam Johnston/SAIT Polytechnic)
The playground in the Hawktree Green Park is being demolished and replaced with a new one in Calgary on Sunday, April 17, 2016. The playground has been there for more than two decades and carries the nostalgia of the children who have lived there all their lives. (Photo by Miriam Johnston/SAIT Polytechnic)
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The Benefits of Exercising in Pairs

Recently, my boyfriend and I have decided that we’re going to try exercising together. Being college students, we literally never have the energy or motivation to to go out and exercise. One thing we always make time for though, is each other. The idea of running or biking doesn’t sound so boring if you’re going to go have fun and do it with the person you love. So, yesterday, I took the initiative and suggested we go for a walk. Juan (my boyfriend) being the energetic and silly boy that he is, wanted to bring a soccer ball to mess around with. Off we went and we messed around with the ball, ran around a bunch, (although it was a bit difficult with my camera in hand) and messed around on random playgrounds we encountered.

My silly boyfriend and I walk outside and mess around with a soccer ball. We also play on the playground and stalk tai chi practicers.(Photo by Miriam Johnston/SAIT Polytechnic)
My silly boyfriend and I walk outside and mess around with a soccer ball. We also play on the playground and stalk Tai Chi practicers.(Photo by Miriam Johnston/SAIT Polytechnic)

It was about five minutes in to playing with the ball that I got a cramp because I’m so out of shape. It made me realize that I have a lot of exercising to do if I want to keep up my health. I’ve kind of let myself go and have been buying unhealthy lunches at school everyday too. I had no idea what I was going to do this summer, but now I know that exercising with Juan is one of them. The fresh air was also amazing, even though the two of us eventually got really cold. We encountered some people doing Tai Chi in the park, and I tried to stalk them but unfortunately I didn’t have my telephoto lens so they didn’t turn out.

I also taught Juan how to use my camera a little, and he took some pictures of me too. He was very impressed with my soccer skills.

My silly boyfriend and I walk outside and mess around with a soccer ball. We also play on the playground and stalk tai chi practicers.(Photo by Miriam Johnston and Juan Guerrero/SAIT Polytechnic)
My silly boyfriend and I walk outside and mess around with a soccer ball. We also play on the playground and stalk Tai Chi practicers.(Photo by Miriam Johnston and Juan Guerrero/SAIT Polytechnic)

Despite the obvious benefits of exercising, this was also a great opportunity to get out of the house and do something.

We tend to spend a lot of time together at the house laying around or watching TV, so it’s nice to do something different and productive together once and a while.

But finally, it’s a great way to get my mom off my back about exercising and making her impressed with my willingness to go out and do it.

If you’re looking for something to do with your significant other, or even a significant friend, just go outside with them, they’ll be more motivating than almost anything else.

Also, nothing is better than watching the sunset with the love of your life while the cold air hits your faces and you’re laughing because your soccer ball almost rolled down the hill into the neighbouring houses.

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My Review on Selena Gomez’s New Album

I really love this album so I have to share. I would recommend listening to every song at least twice.

Revival-Selena Gomez

This album is the kind that you can both dance to and cry to in the same period of listening to it. The pop synth beats and the really catchy hits have me listening to this over and over again. Not only does it have great hooks and accompaniment, but I also enjoy how well the lyrics are written.

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Notable Songs:

Kill Em With Kindness-Selena Gomez’s motto is apparently the title to this song.  The song has some catchy whistling in it, but don’t let it fool you into thinking its lighthearted at all. This is an artist clearly showing what they’ve gone through in a song. It reminds me of Ariana Grande’s “You Don’t Know Me”, or Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger”. I would listen to this song while pondering my life and driving back from work late at night.

Same Old Love-I knew this would be a hit as soon as I heard it. I listened to the album a couple weeks before it became a hit and it was the first song I noticed. The song is both sad but has an urgent beat that makes you want to dance. It would make a good “dance it out” song for Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang from Grey’s Anatomy. Sad, but with an amazing beat that is effortlessly syncopated. The way her voice inflections come up and down like she’s desperately heartbroken contribute to the desperately dancing thing. The melody follows the lyrics very well “I’m so sick of that same old of love”, because the vocals and accompaniment combined give a sense of just being fed up.

Me & My Girls-This song is the epitome of having a good time. Even if I’m in bed all by myself I’m tempted to do a hair flip. Gomez definitely took her latin roots to heart here with a very salsa-ish vibe. The ad-libs make you want to dance, and the melodies are different and interesting. Not only are they interesting, but she uses lots of inflections and chats in her voice as well, adding to the generally badass mood of the song. “I’m going home with who I came with and who I came with is not you.” She really goes all out in making a girls night out song, that genuinely makes you feel empowered even if you’re all alone. Needless to say I’m surprised this isn’t a mega-hit being played in all the clubs yet.

Perfect-If you’ve just been cheated on and want to cry about it I would definitely recommend this song. If you’ve been trying to forget being cheated on, don’t listen to this song. Gomez sings in a minor desperate tone throughout, with lyrics that send shivers down your spine. Not only do the lyrics rip your heart out but the melody twists in interesting and unexpectedly beautiful ways. Even if you’ve never felt this kind of heartbreak and the lyrics don’t relate to you, they still hit home.

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Yatta! (I did it)

Christmas Day I received a sushi making kit from my mom. I, in fact, knew that I was going to receive this gift because I saw it in the store with her and said I liked it, then a couple days later, saw a package about the same size under the Christmas tree. Anyways back to the point, when my boyfriend came on Sunday, we set out on our sushi making project.

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