A Sound Relationship (The Noise of Silence)

August 2015, Ben Dextraze

While a varied array of patrons wandered amidst the still-life paintings from European expressionists like Cézanne and Pissaro, music played, dance erupted, and silence permitted the city-sounds outside to take on new meaning in the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG). The latest installment of  FUSE entitled ‘The Noise of Silence’ was a mix of old and new: it was unabashedly loud, yet imperfectly quite.

View from the VAG Rotunda during a performance of Michael Red and pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa

“Should we be honest about why we came –  or professional,” Troy McNemara questions his friend Ryan Nelson with a devilish smile.

Both McNemara and Nelson are architects who admittedly came to FUSE so they could check out the models. Of buildings. One of the VAG’s current exhibits entitled Material Future hosts a selection of miniature models designed by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron.

Patron examining exhibit ‘Material Future: The Architecture of Herzog & de Meuron and the Vancouver Art Gallery’

Without any double entendre, the pair of FUSE patrons went on to explain their love of the projections during their evening at the gallery. McNemara and Nelson noted that social media allows visitors to interact and engage with the changing projections of the new exhibition Beyond the Trees: Wallpapers in Dialogue with Emily Carr on the forth floor’s walls.

“It took me by surprise,” McNemara says. “I suppose that’s the next step in visual art exhibition, then it goes out on social media and promotes itself.”

Away from the crowds wandering through the projections, the gallery’s top floor lounge which overlooks downtown became a silent sanctuary. The noise was restricted in the lounge and listening to the city’s score became an exhibition of its own.

View from the 4th floor lounge of VAG

Meanwhile, just outside the ‘listening lounge’ Kara Nolte and Delphine Leroux from First Dance Vancouver gave willing patrons the chance to quickly learn an impromptu dance, and then perform it for their unsuspecting peers on the first floor of the rotunda.

Delphine Leroux teaching a impromptu dance class @ FUSE
Delphine Leroux teaching a
impromptu dance class @ FUSE

“We love to throw random dance parties at awkward inappropriate locations […] and bring first dance experiences to people” Delphine explains.
“This was the perfect opportunity for that–when you find yourself in a crowd of art lovers, they’re so open to join in and do anything.”

And dance they did. Line-ups formed to learn the choreography, and patrons then happily rushed downstairs with smiles to become part of the night’s celebrations.

Yet, on the foyer of the second floor partially sequestered from the swirling crowds (at a desk up against a wall), James Maxwell was busy at work meeting patrons. After greeting them and getting a sense of their personalities, the composer then spontaneously created a short musical phrase. The music was then passed-off and played nearby on a glockenspiel by musician Katie Rife.

James Maxwell composes a musical phrase for a FUSE patron

“I think (curator) David Pay wants to get composers more into the public consciousness and show people still compose — it’s not a dead tradition,” Maxwell says.

According to him, the idea for ‘spontaneous compositions’ translated itself into existence from other projects, but led him and his colleague Jocelyn Morlock to improvise compositions for patrons on the spot. Being comparable to a musical palm reading, line-ups formed around the lobby to get a chance for the musical self -encounter. Throughout the evening the compositions echoed in the air–as if someone’s personality was ringing though the gallery.

“Composing is a practise that can happen in silence, but at least symbolically it is music at some level,” Maxwell explains.

Close up of oil painting
Close up of oil painting

With the gallery’s four levels and countless paintings, exhibits, and happening throughout the evening, visitors could also take a break and sip an alcoholic beverage in the FUSE lounge while listening to a DJ’s stylings. Maybe not same level of composition Maxwell had in mind, but nonetheless analogues to a fashionable outing of new ideas, performance, art, music, and culture fusing together.

A Sound Relationship (The Noise of Silence) from Iconochasm on Vimeo.

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