The label ‘new music’ barely scratches the surface of what you might get to hear when the organization known as New Music Edmonton hosts two concerts this month.

“This really is the underground in music,” offers Ian Crutchley, NME’s artistic director, who is a composer himself. “There’s no commercial aspect. It’s experimental and so we are about making sure there’s a place for this music to be heard and nurtured.”

While the organization’s origins date back to 1985 the notion of what the ‘new music’ banner includes remains pretty fluid. It often includes new classical or chamber music that you might hear from conservatory-trained performers and composers.

It could also highlight self-taught players or composers mixing their source materials, found instruments or conventional instruments played with unorthodox techniques, field recordings sampled outside the studio or concert hall, electronic or electro-acoustic sounds, free-form improvisations or avant-jazz, cross-disciplinary sounds with dancers or visual artists, you name it.

In the end, it might be appropriate to call it thought-provoking music. I guarantee that some of these player-composers will leave you with basic questions about what music is — or isn’t. At its best this so-called art music can pack a real sense of discovery for anyone with an open mind.

NME’s next event this Friday is New Music, New Voices #3, part of an occasional series of shows at The Aviary (9314-111 Ave., doors at 7:30 for an 8:30 p.m. show). Five separate artists or collaborations — all Edmonton-based — will take the audience well into the evening.

“One of the most amazing things about our place in this creative world right now is that more of these artists are actually coming to Edmonton instead of leaving us. Our community keeps growing.”

Tom Merklinger will be performing a live electronic set combining his voice, synthesized sounds, and field recordings. He borrows from both high-tech and folk music influences reflecting his European heritage and credits minimalists like Phill Niblock and Morton Feldman as influences.

Caitlin Sian Richards will combine electronics and live viola alongside a screen showing her own animations. Some of the themes behind her work involve the body’s respiratory and circulatory systems. Curiously, her pre-recorded work includes found objects she has gathered around the house.

“The electronic parts of the evening will be based on artists discovering ways of using technology that suit their own personalities and interests, and that can mean misusing them too.”

Isaac Earl is currently involved in music studies at the University of Alberta, and his work tends towards the electronic or electro-acoustic. He’s presenting two prerecorded electronic pieces that take off from ambient music called Rhododendrons and I Don’t Breathe Underwater.

Violinist Virginie Laliberté will be performing new contemporary classical music for solo violin, a piece by her partner Andrew Lawrence, and other genre-bending works by composer friends before she finishes with a free improvisation.

The show finishes with an all-improvised duo featuring saxophonist Leah Harmon and keyboardist Brendan McGrath. Expect hints of jazz, classical, and more outside sounds, but Crutchley notes spontaneity is the key.

“It’s really exciting because you never know where it’s going to go or how the audience might affect the performance.”

Tickets for Thursday’s show at The Aviary are $10 through NME’s website, $15 at the door.

UltraViolet put true colours on display

Meanwhile NME presents another feature concert titled From Your Lips, happening Nov. 23 at McDougall United Church (10086 MacDonald Drive). It features the local group UltraViolet with special guest vocalist Jane Berry (from Pro Coro and the vocal quartet Them).

UltraViolet is scheduled to perform at McDougall United Church on Nov. 23.


The ensemble UltraViolet dates back about four years now, incorporating some of the top players from the local new classical scene like Roger Admiral on piano, Chenoa Anderson on flute, Alison Balcetis on saxophone, and cellist Amy Nicholson.

For this concert they are mixing compositions by famous composers like John Cage (his Living Room Music) and Frederic Rzewski with new works by rising Canadian composers gaining national notice like Ana Sokolovic, Alyssa Aska, and Berry herself.

Tickets for the Nov. 23 concert can be purchased in advance through the NME website.

Lindemann’s Brassfire teams with ESO

In a very different realm, trumpeter Jens Lindemann brings his jazzy quintet Brassfire to perform jazz-classical crossover music Friday and Saturday with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. I happened to catch Lindemann in concert with most of this group at the Banff Centre in July and the horn man was in excellent form.

Over two recordings now Brassfire has taken on a rarefied mix of material. The most recent release Northern Stars includes Oscar Peterson’s Hymn To Freedom next to Lindemann’s own Heroes Trilogy, a string of pieces in tribute to Tommy Banks, Ken Taylor and Peter Lougheed.

Jens Lindemann’s Brassfire will perform with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra Friday and Saturday.


The expert jazz sextet behind this show features Juno-winning Toronto keyboardist Robi Botos, saxophonist Matt Catingub and Lindemann’s trumpet or flugelhorn. Hearing the ESO behind them will only amplify the power of the music further.

Brassfire is part of the Robbins Pops series with the ESO, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Winspear Centre. Tickets are available from the box office (780-428-1414 or online).