Diversity: a rolling national conversation – Halifax Report

Check it out!

On a blustery January day in Halifax, the Canadian New Music Network and local partners launched Diversity: A National Rolling Conversation. With next sessions to take place in Victoria (March 26) and Montreal (May 1), the conversation rolls – or perhaps more like bounds – across the country.

This first session, presented at Open Waters Festival in partnership with Upstream New Music Association and suddenlyLISTEN, brought the local community together with invited guests to discuss diversity in the new music community, with a focus on communication. It was an inspiring and catalyzing experience, with conversation that was intense, searching and honest.

Twenty-five people attended, many of them young and all of them eager to engage. An additional twelve people followed the discussion via live streaming. The guests that we’d lined up for the event were not your usual grizzled eminences: Moderator Ellen Waterman (musicologist and improviser from Memorial University) skillfully tapped the experiences and thinking of Rémy Bélanger de Beauport (Quebec City-based free improviser, organizer of safe performance spaces), Juliet Palmer (Toronto-based composer, interdisciplinary collaborator, AD Urbanvessel), and Dinuk Wijeratne (Halifax-based composer, pianist, conductor.) Collectively, sitting in the round, participants and guests identified and dissected diverse issues, including: aesthetic as a barrier to communication; the implicit messages we send; whether or in what ways the music we create corresponds with our identity; entry points into the practice of music; tokenism; historicism, among many other threads of discussion.

Diversity can mean so many things and have so many implications for art making. In new music, there is diversity of expression, diversity of practitioner, and diversity of audience, and all can be examined through philosophical, ethical and practical lenses. One practical lens is the new emphasis on diversity at the Canada Council. As of this April, our applications will be measured against a new standard. During the session I was gently chided for having mentioned, as a desired outcome, the opportunity to gain new ideas and arguments for our applications to the CCA. While I agree that this isn’t as important as the reflection required of all of us in examining our practice for barriers to inclusion, the CCA’s new requirements are a reality and I am certain that the people who attended, in person or online, came away with new insight and useful ideas. Luckily for those not there, CNMN has published a digest of the discussion on our project hub page, available here.

As we plan for the upcoming sessions in Victoria (March 26) and Montreal (May 1), I urge everyone within striking distance to attend in person, and for everyone else to join via live streaming. Information available on our website. Please add your voice and your ears to the discussion, and the community.

Until then,
Jennifer Waring
President, CNMN