FORUM 2016 OTTAWA Wrap-up

Photo credit: Curtis Perry. (1) Jesse Stewart, Ellen Waterman, Koen Kaptijn, Gayle Young, Pauline Oliveros, Ione, Raphael Weinroth-Browne, Lang Tung. (2) Mud Lake Symphony : students from the Regina Street Public School, Jesse Stewart, dir.


From January 14-17, 2016, CNMN hosted its seventh national / international FORUM, this time at the School of Music at the University of Ottawa.

Reaching a total of 129 registrants, many extraordinary members of the new music community presented, listened, discovered, discussed and debated. A room full of creative people is bound to generate new activity. Despite the so-far short gestation period, attendees have already informed us of several concrete projects materializing out of connections made at the FORUM, and there are undoubtedly many more to come.

Guests and speakers were from a broad spectrum of the musical practice, including experimental jazz, noise, installation, and forms without easy titles. There were a total of 49 programmed individuals: 1 keynote speaker – doyenne of new music improvisation, Pauline Oliveros, 5 high-profile internationals and 43 of Canada’s most important new music professionals from across the country.

Also deserving a mention, the Call for Proposals garnered such a high quality and innovative programming potential that many of them were integrated into the programming, representing 38% of the featured guests.

FORUM 2016 started on Thursday evening with a “show-and-tell” icebreaker. After Friday morning’s formal welcome by Shannon Chief of the Algonquin nation, everyone was ready to dive right in.

The activities promoted connecting, and the sort of in-depth, exciting discussion that leads to collaboration and exchange:

  • 1 keynote, 6 panels, 10 other activities (mini-talks, workshops, dialogues and demonstrations) and 3 open networking & community development sessions.
  • 2 education-themed activities: a demonstration performance by Mud Lake Symphony (middle school students led by Jesse Stewart), and an open rehearsal of pieces by uOttawa composition students (Thirteen Strings led by Kevin Mallon).
  • 10 portraits of organizations from across Canada, the UK and the Netherlands.

The theme was New Music and the Mainstream. The goal was to tackle the issues of ghettoization of new music: the relationship between creative music in the “classical stream” and other creative musics in a time when distinctions are becoming blurred and traditional labels are becoming meaningless.

These issues ultimately triggered a major thread of discussion throughout the FORUM: diversity – of practice and practitioner. Diversity was high on our agenda, as it was too on the agenda of the Prime Minister; only a few days later he stated at the the World Economic Forum in Davos, “Diversity isn’t just sound social policy. Diversity is the engine of invention.” The CNMN’s FORUM 2016 was a testament to how the new music community often mirrors the same relevant issues challenging larger society. The FORUM’s role as an outlet – a think tank, a Launchpad – to help the new music community be an effective force to address these issues, was made ever the more clear.

Indeed, FORUM 2016’s focus on the place of new music in society combined with the clear concern of participants with issues of inclusivity and diversity demonstrate that CNMN’s societal antennae are working and that this community can and will contribute to and influence the larger society for the greater good. But this is no news. As Pauline Oliveros said in her keynote speech (paraphrasing), “Go out, all you artists, and make positive change happen.”

This gathering of the new music community has become integral to the structure and culture of new music in Canada.

The extraordinary good will, the courage to be honest, and the skill at being sensitive to other viewpoints and realities were extremely evident amongst the participants at the FORUM. The concentrated experience of this dynamic is the kind of thing that can help improve the culture of how we do new music.

The FORUM 2016 team, many volunteer-based, deserve a great big thank you. Thanks also go to all the funders as well as our partners who contributed high-level musical performances for each of the 3 nights of the FORUM, many of which performed to a full house.

Read what others had to say: Souvenirs from FORUM 2016.

Planning for FORUM 2018 begins soon.

~ Jennifer Waring, Kyle Brenders and Emily Hall


Direct link: FORUM 2016 OTTAWA Wrap-up
Return to full Bulletin – June 2016