Published May 18, 2019Debuting as a composer and conductor after a couple of decades appearing at FIMAV in an array of ensembles and musical duties, Montreal´s own Rainer Wiens assembled a dozen fellow locals, new and established luminaries all, and provided them with ten recordings of birdsong as a means to develop the score for this performance, dubbed "Birds of a Feather."
Wiens's technique as director resembled a variation of John Zorn's Cobra approach, using an array of specific hand signals and eventually index cards to communicate volume, complexity, tempo and various solos and combinations of the musicians.
As for the music… well, there were birds, as the title suggests. But these were not songbirds harmonizing on powerlines, nor Disney cartoon birds lending chorus to the main characters. These birds were the trilling, shrilling, crash into their own panicked reflection in windows kind of birds. With half of the dozen musicians performing on brass or woodwind instruments the dominant modes were sharp staccato punctuations that migrated across the stage in often cacophonous clusters.
Highlights included leads taken by maestro flautist Jean Derome, the rhythmic pairing of cellist JC Lizotte and double bassist Nicolas Caloia, vocal improviser Maya Kuroki's theatrical takes, and especially Navid Navab. whose mysterious rope-and-pulley-activated electronics provided convincing chirps and wingbeats at key moments.
All the musicians acquitted themselves admirably, but if there was one shortcoming to the piece, it was the overabundance of instruments that chose to directly mimic birdsong rather than more broadly interpret their musicality. Still, it was an auspicious premiere for Wiens in his new role.