ONCE NEAR WATER: Notes from the Scaffolding Archive


Toronto, like Amsterdam, is a city set against a major body of water.  Unlike Amsterdam’s symbiotic relation to water, however (as exemplified by the splendid Muziekgebouw where this video is being premièred), Toronto resembles too many North American cities in anaesthetizing awareness of and access to their natural surroundings.  ONCE NEAR WATER: Notes from the Scaffolding Archive is a work about a city turned away from its lakeshore boundary, and in trouble; where ubiquitous scaffolding marks both aspiration and loss.

Following a chance encounter, Vera Frenkel has combined documentary and fictional elements to create a work about someone she barely knew but still finds compelling—a collector of scaffolding images—fusing praise and lament into a video ballad for a changing city.  The narrative unfolds in an interplay of two voices; a letter from one woman, read by another.   In the special version created for the Muziekgebouw screening, these voices become a distant texture supporting the live performance of Rick Sacks’ score.

Combining animation, text, stills and slow tracking shots of structures in transition, Frenkel’s video traces the impact of ‘development’ in a city where greed threatens to trump topography.  Braided masterfully through the narrative is Scaffold II, an evocative score in three parts by composer Rick Sacks, created in collaboration with the artist.  Sources range from industrial textures using ‘prepared vibraphone’ through a pattern of careless clusters, to a pentatonic lament.  In the central section, improvised notes laid on a static rhythm sequence with added long tone layers achieve a complex verticality connoting the near-chaos that characterizes any construction site.  Using a Sudanese (Pelog) gamelan scale, the closing passage evokes the beauty without drama of what was, before the ‘progress’.

Produced under a Charles Street Video Artist in Residence Program

Rick Sacks CA

Rick Sacks received his Masters in Music at the State University of New York at Stony Brook (1976). During his stay at Stony Brook, Sacks began freelancing in Manhattan, performing with ensembles including The New Orchestra, Newband, The New Jersey Percussion Ensemble and The Composer’s Ensemble under such directors as Arthur Weisberg and Charles Wuorinen. After teaching for two years at Bennington College in Vermont (1979/80), Rick began traveling to Toronto to perform in the art-rock band KLO. The band’s success led to an LP record and Permanent Resident status in 1982. Once settled in Toronto, Rick founded the PhenomeNONsemble which he used as a platform for his unique performance works mixing contemporary music practices with theatre techniques. Sacks also composes and creates sound designs for theatre and film. His work in children’s theatre has resulted in continuous performances throughout Europe and the US. In 1986 he revised and edited, for COLFRANC Music Publishing Corp., Edgard Varèse's Hyperprism, available through Boosey and Hawkes. Sacks performs with the Canadian Opera Company, on film tracks, in modern dance works and with the contemporary and avant-garde groups Arraymusic, The Glass Orchestra, New Music Concerts, Ensemble Noir, Red Sky, Tapestry New Opera, The Evergreen Club Gamelan, Queen of Puddings and many others. He has toured extensively throughout Africa, Asia and Europe and has worked with such masters as Pierre Boulez, Henry Brant, George Crumb, Heinz Holliger, Mauricio Kagel, Udo Kasemets, Helmut Lachenmann, Witold Lutoslawski, Terry Riley and James Tenney.

For more information about Rick Sacks, click here.

Rick Sacks