Review from the Timepoint Party by Lyon Beckers

The Timepoint Ensemble keeps performing, so I keep leaving the house to go see them, and writing is a dying industry, so I might as well get more involved in it by doing another Timepoint review. This time around, it’s for the Timepoint Party, a joint gig with members of the Calgary Jazz Orchestra that was hosted in the basement of Commonwealth.

The casual environment of the venue was nice. Performers were not separated from the audience by a stage, instead playing directly on the floor. The audience moved around freely, some conversing, listening, and ordering drinks from the bar. It really put into the question the necessity of the usual pretensions of a classical music performance, where the audience sits in somber silence while the ensemble performs. You might still go to a performance by the CPO with someone, but it’s still a relatively asocial experience compared to a set in a bar, where you won’t get frowns and glares for making a comment about the music to your friend.

Timepoint performed a set of impressively complex music, giving justice to their name, executing constantly shifting rhythmic motives and time signatures, mostly featuring works by Ted Hearne. The evening began with 23 by Hearne, and Electric Counterpoint by Steve Reich. Both pieces pull you in and out of a dream-like state, developing subtly through repetition. Maybe it was the beer, or maybe it was the hypnotic quality of minimalism, but the first half of the concert definitely left me with a nice light buzz.

In-between halves, members of the Calgary Jazz Orchestra formed a quartet and took the stage (so to speak) to perform some harmonic and temporal twists on some tunes by Ornette Coleman, Horace Silver, John Coltrane, and something they apparently made up on the spot. As the night wore on, more and more people began to trickle in from upstairs, which was actually pretty nice because I think most of the newcomers were at least curious enough about the music to still give it a listen. You can do some pretty crazy things with jazz tunes, but ultimately I think the average listener is still going to be able to make out a general song structure and still be able to enjoy it.

Unfortunately, when the concert resumed with a combined ensemble of CJO members and Timepoint, the crowd had grown far too large and loud to enjoy the concert from where I was sitting, so I had to move closer. Ironically, the venue served as a cruel reminder as to why we can’t have nice things, and made me reflect once more on the pretentious conventions of a classical music performance as I struggled to hear much even from my new position directly in front of the band.

The idea of taking a more casual approach to live music performances isn’t something I think should be discarded because of one bad experience; I’m sure a happy medium can be achieved. In a similar venue, a concert attended mostly by people who were actually there to hear the music would have done well, but I think as more of the general public came down, it was harder to manage. Who knows, maybe with more amplification, ensembles could just play over the noise and subject a rowdy crowd to music they wouldn’t have otherwise listened to, potentially developing a new interest.

But let’s be real, most people just go out looking to fuck.

Review from Sound of Silence by Lyon Beckers

Nothing gets me out of the house quite like a new music concert, and I can back this up with statistics because Timepoint Ensemble’s Sound of Silence is actually the only thing I’ve managed to drag myself out of the house for in months. And I didn’t even wind up regretting it!     

Sound of Silence featured an eclectic performance of sound and film where each piece was uniquely varied. The first piece, The Arrest by Yannis Kryiakides featured a purely typographical animation of a text written by George Perec, where he describes a tense dream about evading the police. The music as performed by the Timepoint Ensemble provided an engaging experience as the narrator describes his predicament through flashing text, blending drama with tongue-in-cheek humor (sparking at least one laughing outburst from the audience) all while the ensemble expresses the emotional affect. 

Up next was The Gift, a film by Julio Pot and scored by Gabriel Mălăncioiu, presenting an animation in a more conventional sense, with a narrative guided by silent characters in a cartoon. Illustrator’s pen and composer’s quill become one as lines are drawn to the tune of lilting melodic phrases. Make no mistake, the instrumentalists do not provide a tune to serve as background music to a narrative, but become actors in the presentation of the action, moving synchronously with the characters and scenes (though not literally). 

Finally, the evening ends with Oddboy and Errdog by Marcus Fjellström, an eerie little film which combines both animation approaches, blending typography with character animation. The narrative is driven like a video game, with the protagonists’ objectives laid out beforehand, most action played out like in a side-scrolling game, and dialogue presented in animated text. The introduction even makes a nod to Castlevania 2, referencing the phrase “What a horrible night to have a curse”, stating “what a horrible night to hear a knock on the door”, before also presenting a laid out map of the hospital the protagonists would be traveling through, just like a mansion a player might travel through in Castlevania (again, I don’t get out much). The music is also approached much like the sound design in a video game, where electronics provide diegetic sound such as the ambient noises of the hospital (and the aforementioned knock on the door), while the instrumentalists provide the non-diegetic sound, such as background music.

The Timepoint Ensemble’s commitment to the medium of silent film is apparent in the way they programmed this concert, demonstrating the different ways artists can approach the art-form, and illuminating newcomers like me that there’s more to it than just Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. The Sound of Silence was programmed cleverly and executed fantastically.
Also I bought some cool buttons while I was there. So that was cool.