VNM’s Nomadic Streams music festival explores ambient music

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As the artistic director of Vancouver New Music (VNM), a society dedicated to the exploration of new music, Giorgio Magnanensi is constantly surrounded by innovative ways of interpreting sound. For Magnanensi, the term “new” when it comes to music is an equivocal one that isn’t just restricted to an artist’s latest release. Instead, it can be defined as a multitude of things, from original ideas to an “exploration of the spaces in which sound is presented.”

Since its inauguration in 1973 VNM has hosted a wide range of activities during the year that, through concerts, seminars, and collaborations with other organizations, encourage new ways of approaching music. One of their pillar events is a three-day music festival, which has been held in the last weeks of October annually since 2000 and presents a curated handful of performances that focus upon a different topic each year. This year’s edition, titled Nomadic Streams, will run from October 22 to 24, and celebrate ambient music.

“It’s another one of those very ambiguous terms,” Magnanensi explains about the festival’s theme. “When you think about ambient music, people may think about Brian Eno or Pete Namlook, [who are] very historically identifiable. But there’s lots of stuff happening in this kind of genre that has expanded [it] in many different ways. I wanted to reconnect to this term and present a very new way of thinking [about] ambience and sound in this genre…”

Nomadic Streams will feature a handpicked lineup of Canadian and international musicians who represent both the diversity of this abstract style and the curiosity that drives it. Some of the artists include New York composer Marina Rosenfield, Seattle multi-instrumentalist Rafael Anton Irissari, and Toronto’s Nick Storring — a young composer set to open the festival on October 22 and whom Magnanensi describes as “a very original thinker.”

The FLUX Quartet, a string quartet from New York, is another boundary-breaker whose dynamic sound make them a festival highlight. “The reason why I wanted them here [is] because they have been performing and recording beautiful pieces of Morton Feldman,” says Magnanensi. “His [Feldman’s] music is more of an ambience of sound. He’s very in tune and resonant with the ambient theme of the festival. And because of that, I also wanted to take an occasion to do something more creative with them — an homage to John Cage, who is not an ambient musician, though he kind of fostered the idea of space as a very important parameter of how we perceive, how we are thinking of sound.” Along with playing their own pieces, the quartet will band together with other artists, like Vancouver’s own souns, to deliver a live remix of the Cage composition, “Four.”

“Every night there are lots of things happening,” Magnanensi continues. “It’s not just a set or a performer — there are usually three or four sets. It’s a good concentrated number of events, so it’s a nice offering for people if they have time to devote three evenings to this kind of sound exploration.”

Nomadic Streams: A Festival of Ambient Music runs from October 22 to 24 at VIVO Media Arts. Pre-show discussions begin at 8:00pm on Thursday. Tickets are available online.

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Yasmine Shemesh is a freelance writer who was born in Vancouver and raised on The Rolling Stones.
@yasmineshemesh

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