Eve Egoyan Plays Ann Southam’s SIMPLE LINES OF ENQUIRY reviewed by Stanley Fefferman

Saturday, May 30, 2009. Enwave Theatre, Toronto

Being in the concert hall while Eve Egoyan plays the 12 movements of Ann Southam’s Simple Lines of Enquiry for solo piano is like being in an art gallery where 12 abstract canvases hang on white walls. The 12 movements of Simple Lines ‘depict’ slight-to-subtle variations of seemingly similar musical lines, hues and tonal materials. And, just as the experience of visual art occurs in a silent gallery, so the experience of this musical event, these sound paintings generate an atmosphere of silence.

Southam’s composition is atonal, minimalist, serial. Typically, you hear Ms. Egoyan play a cluster of 5-10 notes which are allowed to hang in the air, mingle their overtones, and fade away into near silence before she resumes her attack on the next cluster. These tone rows vibrating from the box of the fabulous Fazioli piano are like beads of different sizes, threaded at varying intervals along a continuity of overtones that seems to emerge as a principle subject of the music—a simple line of enquiry.

The melodies, such as they are, involve much repetition, like a lullaby. The end effect is to focus the mind and relax it at the same time, creating a steady state that binds the attack and flux of each note and each cluster together as a thing itself. This results in a kind of melting of the affections, as if Ms. Egoyan’s concentrated discipline develops a musical posture that enables a sense of fluidity to flow towards relaxation and the possibility of bliss.

The initial movements of Southam’s composition takes place more in the middle toward the high end of the keyboard. The later movements move the energy toward the deep end and facilitate that melting. As the piece progresses, there seems to emerge out the monochromatic subtleties of the tone rows, hints of romanticism. Out of the abstract purity of the music, nuances of narrative, passionate and dramatic arise as fleetingly glimpses, then subside into the coolness of abstraction.

As the in title Ms.Southam gave her work, this was the performance of an ‘Enquiry’, rather than a statement of anything. Her openness, and Ms. Egoyan’s daring presentation of the simple black and white of the music, remain appealing and memorable in my mind.

For more information about the Centrediscs recording of Ms. Egoyan’s performance of SIMPLE LINES OF ENQUIRY, please goto
www.centrediscs.ca

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