Zoopoetics

2015

First employed by Jacques Derrida in a 1997 text The Animal that Therefore I am, in which he referred to “Kafka’s vast zoopoetics”, a 2014 definition of the term by Aaron Moe calls zoopoetics, “the process of discovering innovative breakthroughs in form through an attentiveness to another species' bodily poiesis.”

We all share the same fascination with animals: the otherness they demonstrate in their physical form - walking on four legs, covered in fur, square wet noses for a heightened olfactory capability, among other delightful differences. But, we also experience animal-beings across borders and cultures with a degree of near universality; the dog that likes to ride in the car with its head out the window, looking outward excitedly, whether in Ontario or Japan; the human obsession with felines throughout history and geography - not to mention the collective drop in basic cognitive functions as one draws nearer to a cat’s disinterested visage. (see: XKCD 231, Cat Proximity)

Zoopoetics is a piece that approaches (non-human) animals not only as a kind of pure inspiration, but also an investigation into the sounds and proto-languages used by these wonderful creatures. By looking into the mechanisms of sound production, the bodies of animals become instrumental, and species categories flattened; for example, a howling wolf sends air through her trachea, mapping the interior topography of her body. The data we gather from the sound is deeply intimate, moreover, on an abstract level, semantic connections abound. How do we understand the sound of a wolf howling out of context, especially when, for brief moments, it sounds exactly like a clarinet multiphonic?

I am extremely happy to have Continuum premiere the work tonight, here in Toronto, and also very grateful to Ryan Scott for commissioning the work, and his encouragement along the way.

Premiered by Continuum on September 19, 2015.


Alec Hall CA

The music of Alec Hall is driven by the use of representational sound materials in order to create destabilizing musical situations out of familiar contexts. Located at the intersection of the absurd and the profound, Hall’s work is as aesthetically detached as it is politically engaged.

He has had notable premieres by the Ensemble SurPlus, Ensemble Intercontemporain, the JACK Quartet, ICE, Talea and Ensemble Pamplemousse. He has won six prizes in the SOCAN competition for young composers, and was also a finalist for the Jules Leger Prize in 2011. He was a guest composer at the 2015 Beijing Modern Music Festival, and the Ensemble Contemporain de Montreal recently toured his violin concerto throughout Canada as part of the 2014 Géneration project. Hall’s most recent string quartet, 28 Hours - a reflection on the police killings of African-Americans - was recently selected to represent the Canadian section of the ISCM World Music Days in 2016.

Principal teachers include George Lewis, Tristan Murail, Philippe Manoury and Fred Lerdahl, while he has also worked closely with Chaya Czernowin, Steven Takasugi, and Georg Friedrich Haas. He is the co-founder and present co-artistic director of Qubit, a New York-based group dedicated to presenting events that highlight new and experimental works with electronics. He is also an active violinist, participating most recently in The Art of Violin Playing, an experimental, evening-length work by Alwynne Pritchard, premiered in Norway in September 2015.

Alec was educated at McGill University, the University of California, San Diego, and also at Columbia University, where he is presently a doctoral candidate.

Alec Hall