Sessions and Activities

The theme of the FORUM is New Music and the Mainstream, and we have developed a remarkably varied programming to meet this challenge. The keynote address will be given by Pauline Oliveros. Our panels include a rich array of personalities from across Canada and abroad, and will cover subtopics of public engagement, the interplay of modern technologies and cultures, and orchestral programming, as well as a discussion on the history (and future) of CNMN. Our mini-portrait sessions will bring together representatives of distinguished new music presenters from Canada, France, the U.K. and the Netherlands, and our call for proposals has yielded a fascinating set of presentations, hands-on workshops, dialogues and demonstrations on a variety of topics.



Pauline Oliveros, Deep Listening – New York

Root Stream, Main Stream and Global Stream

Who are we who gather in community around new music or experimental music? How do we find each other? Who listens to us and why? These questions will be explored in what I call Root Stream understanding in relation to Main Stream and Global Stream music.



PANEL 1 – Concert Experiences in the 21st Century

How are concerts evolving? What is the effect of venue or circumstance on performance, and on the art form? And what is the effect of venue or circumstance on the public’s acceptance of new and unfamiliar kinds of music? What kind of relationships are presenters developing with their audience? These and other questions will be examined by a panel of top-flight figures working in a wide range of genres, on the Canadian and international scenes.

Jean-François Denis, empreintes DIGITALes – Montreal, QC
Véronique Lacroix, Ensemble contemporain de Montréal (ECM+) – Montreal, QC
David Pay, Music on Main – Vancouver, BC
Craig Pedersen, composer/improviser – Montreal, QC
MODERATOR: Jesse Stewart, SSAC, Carleton University – Ottawa, ON


PANEL 2 – New Music and Popular Music

What new relationships exist between these two previously distinct, virtually mutually exclusive genres? How do funding structures/realities affect the nature of both kinds of music? In what ways are the lines being blurred, and why? What are the implications for marketing and audience development?

Paul Théberge, SSAC, Carleton University – Ottawa, ON
Nicole Lizée, composer – Montreal, QC
Russell Smith, The Globe and Mail – Toronto, ON
MODERATOR: William Echard, SSAC, Carleton University – Ottawa, ON


PANEL 3 – Cultural Context(s) for New Music

What are the functional contexts for the practice of new music? If new music’s roots lie in the European classical music tradition, where does it live now as a practice? (Is this assumption about its European roots even accurate?) What is new music’s relationship to musical expression of “other” cultures? How do different cultures practice their own form of new music, if they do? Does it stem from the musical traditions of the particular culture or is it an adoption of the European classical music tradition? And, is new music just one practice, or is it multiple practices – with multiple communities, and multiple contexts?

Moshe Denburg, Vancouver Inter-Cultural Orchestra – Vancouver, BC
Kamal Hors, Windstreken – Amsterdam, NL
Ben Dietschi, Spectrum Music – Toronto, ON
Melody McKiver, violist, media artist – Ottawa, ON
MODERATOR: Juliana Pivato,
artist – Toronto, ON


PANEL 4 – New Music and Community Engagement

Grass roots movements, do-it-yourself-ness, citizen organizations and the like have all had an effect on how new music artists and organizations interact with the community. What are the stories and successes? What are the implications for the art form?

Ruth Howard, Jumblies Theatre – Toronto, ON
Juliet Palmer, Urbanvessel – Toronto, ON
Jesse Stewart, SSAC, Carleton University – Ottawa, ON
MODERATOR: Matthew Fava, Canadian Music Centre – Toronto, ON


PANEL 5 – New music and the orchestra: how to make the orchestra relevant

This panel examines the relationship of the orchestra not only to contemporary music, but also to our own time. Can an ensemble born of 18th century societal relationships truly reflect 21st century realities? Considering the orchestra’s “bread and butter” repertoire, how have they dealt with changing aesthetics? What is their obligation to contemporary creation? At a time when arts organizations have to compete with technology and a myriad of other entertainment options for audience, what can orchestras do to attract the numbers that a large and expensive ensemble requires? How might the solution to this problem lie in new music?

Alexander Shelley, National Arts Centre Orchestra – Ottawa, ON
Tania Miller, Victoria Symphony – Victoria, BC
John Estacio, composer – Edmonton, AB
Jared Miller, composer – Victoria, BC
MODERATOR: Adrian Fung, Toronto Symphony Orchestra – Toronto, ON


PANEL 6 – A Decade of CNMN: looking back and looking forward

CNMN’s 10th anniversary provides the opportunity to look back on its accomplishments and look forward to its role in continuing to help the Canadian new music community come together and deal with the next pressing issues.

Aimé Dontigny, Director, Music Section, Canada Council for the Arts; CNMN founding vice-president (2006) – Ottawa, ON
Kyle Brenders, president, CNMN – Toronto ON
Tim Brady, founding president (2005-14), CNMN – Montreal, QC
Gayle Young, past board member (2006-8), CNMN – Grimsby, ON
Lukas Pearse, Upstream Music Association – Halifax, NS
MODERATOR: Ellen Waterman, past board member (2006-7), CNMN – St. John’s, NL



The mini portraits provide new music presenters a chance to focus on their organization. Most of the mini portraits pair a Canadian presenter with an international presenter to stimulate dialogue across geographies and cultures.


Mini Portrait 1

Ben Dietschi (Spectrum Music – Toronto) + Koen Kaptijn (Splendor – Netherlands)


Mini Portrait 2

David Pay (Music on Main – Vancouver) + Susanna Eastburn (Sound and Music – U.K.)


Mini Portrait 3

Henk Heuvelmans (Gaudeamus Muziekweek – Netherlands) + Sonia Stevenson (Lichfield Festival – U.K.)


Mini Portrait 4

Isak Goldschneider (Innovations en concert – Montreal) + Jim Hiscott (Groundswell – Winnipeg)


Mini Portrait 5

Joe Bates (Filthy Lucre – U.K.) + Darcy Spidle (OBEY Convention – Halifax, NS)



Each session has a theme. Facilitators are there to help, but the sessions aim to move attendees from observers to active engagers. Participants are encouraged to bring their personal experiences, knowledge, questions and concerns surrounding the session theme, with the intention of creating deeper awareness, stronger relationships, and sustainable solutions within local, regional and national communities.

Session One deals with improvisation: specifically, how to incorporate it into “composed” work.

Facilitator: Jennifer Waring

Session Two is a continuation of the New Music and its ‘Others’ activity (see below).  It will give time for discussion and shared learning across diverse perspectives of gender, socio-economic status, sexuality and cultural heritage.

Facilitators: Juliet Palmer and Jerry Pergolesi

Session Three is the Plenary Wrap-up. Participants will decide what pressing topics need further airing.

Facilitator: Kyle Brenders


Additional opportunities for networking and development: we’ve learned that some of the most lasting partnerships and follow up actions from a FORUM come out of the informal programming. So, on each full day of the FORUM there is an informal break specifically for networking as well as a social lunch. This is your opportunity to carry on discussion from panels and open sessions, find out more after listening to a mini-portrait, pick each other’s brains, share experiences, and initiate collaboration.



You won’t want to miss this selection of mini-talks, hands-on workshops, dialogues and demonstrations!

New Music and its ‘Others’: Reviving the mainstream through a diverse musical watershed – Interactive presentation

The timeline of contemporary concert music development in Canada coincides with second wave feminism, the civil rights movement and the gay liberation movement. But while these scenes share a chronology, diverse voices are conspicuously absent in Canadian new music. This session investigates the structural barriers that prevent diverse musical tributaries from joining the mainstream of contemporary classical (new) music, highlighting experiences from composers, researchers and performers outside the narrow confines of the so-called “normal.” Followed up by an open session for discussion (see above).

Facilitators: Juliet Palmer and Jerry Pergolesi
Presenters: Mary Ingraham (University of Alberta), Dylan Robinson (Sto:lo Nation; Queen’s University), and Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa (pianist, Queer Arts Festival).


Making Contemporary Opera Mainstream – Dialogue

Erin Bardua and Maureen Batt, vocalists and co-founders of Essential Opera (Halifax, NS), will discuss collaboration between creators and presenters, and especially the importance of working together to help new works gain the momentum required to enter the mainstream repertoire. Success isn’t a lightning strike – it’s a snowball.


The Loyalty Debate: Single-ticket sales vs. Subscriptions – Dialogue

Tim Crouch, director of marketing for Toy Piano Composers, advocates for a healthy balance between single-ticket sales and subscriptions, bringing in his experience from Tafelmusik. Alternatively, TPC’s artistic director and founder Monica Pearce presents arguments for strengthening resources behind single-ticket sales. The goal for both in this debate: to achieve brand and long-term loyalty with audience members.


Feminism, interdiscipinarity and the voice in new music creation/performance – Performative dialogue

New music vocalist Sarah Albu and multidisciplinary artist and singer Ruby Kato Attwood discuss their experiences as interpreters and creators of new vocal music and experimental performance across various media and genres. These two artists find common ground despite perceived borders of discipline, calling into question the construction of a musical hierarchy, the changing definition of “new music composition” and the role of the female voice within these structures.


Music as a Catalyst to Bring About Social Change: Going beyond the fundraising concert – Mini-talk and group discussion

Greek philosopher Plato stressed the centrality of music to politics. He saw music as an essential component of society because it contributed to both individual and societal balance and harmony. As part of the new music community, we are in a unique position to elevate issues relevant to our times. How can we collaborate and share ideas to amplify our passions and music, and truly be musicians that facilitate change? Frank Horvat, composer, pianist, and activist musician (Toronto, ON) leads the discussion with attendees.


The Sounds of Montreal Project: Inter-Traditional Urban Music – Public interview with Q&A

Jonathan Goldman (Circuit, musiques contemporaines) interviews Montreal composer/performers Sandeep Bhagwati and Kiya Tabassian (Montreal, QC) on questions central to their Sounds of Montreal project, and the differences in this project to other inter-traditional ensembles. Can making new music today be at all meaningfully conceived as a continuation of eurological modernism alone?


Beside the Mainstream – Mini-talk

Luke Nickel, Co-Director of Cluster: New Music + Integrated Arts Festival (Winnipeg, MB) discusses how the inclusion of “other” genres does not constitute involvement in the mainstream. He will also discuss what motivations a programmer might have for wanting to interact with the mainstream. To conclude, he will speak about a project for Cluster 2016 that does touch the mainstream in a way accessible to new music programmers, and what the ramifications are, both aesthetically and logistically.


The Voices of Drawing – Hands-on workshop

Visual and media artist Isabella Stefanescu (Inter Arts Matrix, Kitchener/Waterloo, ON) leads a hands-on workshop where participants learn how to use the Euphonopen for both free and structured improvisation, as well as how to “compose” a drawing. The Euphonopen is a device that creates live aleatory electroacoustics using the by-product of mark-making gestures of a person who draws or writes.


Concert music in relation to other performance arts – Mini-talk

For practitioners of dance and theatre (and also of popular music) a production is created spontaneously from the work itself; in other words, the technical, financial and human resources, as well as strategies for promotion and dissemination, are determined in advance as a function of the specific nature of the project. Can it be the same for concert music? Composer and producer Simon Martin (Projections libérantes – Montreal, QC) shares his thoughts on this question in relation to his concert-length work Musique d’art for string quintet (2015).


In Pursuit of Balance – Mini-talk

How can we achieve a sustainable work-life balance? Is a self-employed artist ever on vacation? The line between work and life can be blurred – especially for artists and arts administrators. Soprano Maureen Batt (Halifax, NS) explores some of the challenges that we face when the balance is off, and offers some solutions that might bring you back to the middle.