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Pauline Oliveros and Jesse Stewart present unique concert on St. Patrick's Day

Pauline Oliveros and Jesse Stewart at Glebe-St. James United Church.  ©Brett Delmage, 2011

Pauline Oliveros and Jesse Stewart
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Glebe-St. James United Church, Ottawa

In a rare Ottawa appearance, pioneering musician Pauline Oliveros, and Ottawa improviser / percussionist Jesse Stewart presented a totally different sound for St. Patrick's Day. The concert started with a moment of thoughtful silence for the recent Japanese earthquake victims. This opening established the deep silence and careful listening that was sustained throughout the hour of music that followed. Oliveros and Stewart took full advantage of the dead-silent audience and wonderful acoustics of Glebe-St. James United Church to deliver their all-acoustic performance. Unlike many concerts that seek to deliver ever-increasing volume, the duo teased the audience to listen ever more deeply, by extending their dynamics from an occasional moderately high volume to unusually quiet levels of playing.

In the fully improvised concert, the duo performed on unusual instruments, Oliveros playing her Roland V-Accordion against Stewart's Waterphone and other percussion. Oliveros effectively used the different voices of the V-Accordion extensively, ranging from whistle or flute-like sounds to human voices, and even a normal accordion sound, while make effective use of the characteristic swelling sound of the instrument to shape the different voices. Delivering his share of unexpected sounds, Stewart came with a few surprises of his own. At one point he put a wood drumstick into his mouth against his inside cheek and banged it with another, while forming his mouth to shape the pitch. In reacting, the audience couldn't sustain its dead silence.

Pauline Oliveros (accordion) and Jesse Stewart (percussion) improvise at Glebe-St. James United Church. photo © by Brett Delmage, 2011Throughout the concert, Stewart and Oliveros were carefully listening and reacting to each other. They allowed ample space for each to express themself solely, and in unison. One sound that was not heard throughout this concert was the sometimes formulaic applause that follows many jazz solos; in the absence of a clear musical form and quiet dynamics, the appreciative audience was hesitant to applaud at the uncertain end of each piece, preferring to catch every last note without interruption.

    – Brett Delmage

Full disclosure: Brett Delmage was paid by Jesse Stewart for photos and video of Stewart's Glacialis concert.

Anita Malhotra interviewed Pauline Oliveros after the concert. Read the interview