≈ 90 minutes · No intermission
The music of Canadian composer Keiko Devaux (b. 1982) embraces a love of electroacoustic sounds and methodology by manipulating and distorting acoustic sound with digital tools, and then transcribing or re-translating these back into musical notation and the acoustic realm. In 2020, she was announced as one of the NAC’s new Carrefour Composers, a program in partnership with the Canada Council. Her first commission as Carrefour Composer is for brass septet. Bioluminescence (2021) has members of the NACO brass use multiphonics, a technique of producing two or more pitches simultaneously, to sonically evoke the glow of fireflies. She provides the following commentary about the piece:
“I have always been drawn to the elusive and dynamic quality of bioluminescence. An adaptation of marine and terrestrial organisms that serves varied functions, it expresses itself in countless complex beautiful ways, and has evolved numerous times. Earlier in history human encounters with various forms of luminescent emitting organisms were hypothesized to be perhaps even of the spirit world. The bioluminescence at the surface of the water took on multiple hypotheses as well: the reflection of stars, fire from undersea volcanoes, lights from phantom fishing boats. In Japanese folklore it was sometimes referred to as Onibi, a type of atmospheric ghost light that carries the spirits from humans and animals: the 'burning sea' as voyagers often referred to it.
Fireflies, a commonly studied form of terrestrial bioluminescence, also carry symbolism of the spirit world and the elusive light. The unpredictable flashing rhythms further feed into the sensation that they are not really there. As the majority of these bioluminescent creatures emit light only in quiet, dark areas, or in the deep dark waters of the open ocean, it is a phenomenon to seek out, to remain quiet, and patiently wait for. It is a special event, with unpredictable qualities, and a fragile complexity.
This work Bioluminescence takes inspiration from this marvel of an experience to explore the world of brass multiphonics. Multiphonics, particularly those in the brass family, carry these same qualities of complexity, fragility, and patience. The organization both rhythmically and spatially in this work aims to evoke, in a very abstract manner, the slow glowing and pulsating organisms in the deep sea. However other mannerisms, such as the group synchronization habits and rhythmic adaptation by proximity, evoke certain characteristics of certain firefly species. Bioluminescence is a homage to these pulsating and glowing gestures in nature, and in music.”
Program notes compiled by Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley
Originally from St. John’s, Newfoundland, Sean Rice has performed extensively throughout North America and around the world. His broadcasts include recitals with CBC National Radio, performances for Swiss Radio DRS, and Lucerne Festival live streams for the 2016 New York Philharmonic Biennial and 2019 Lucerne Festival Alumni Orchestra.
Recognized as an exciting interpreter of contemporary music, The New York Times has described Mr. Rice as a “technically precise, exuberant protagonist” in performance. Mr. Rice has performed at festivals such as Lucerne Festival, Ottawa Chamberfest, New York City’s Museum of Modern Art Summergarden Series, Toronto Summer Music Festival, and Banff Music Festival. In addition to numerous New York Times reviews, Mr. Rice’s performances have received high praise from the Ottawa Citizen, Musical Toronto, and Artsfile. For a recent performance of Golijov’s Ayre at Ottawa Chamberfest, Musical Toronto wrote: “The performers were strong, especially NACO clarinetist Sean Rice, who unloaded a wailing solo that rivalled even the best Klezmer effort by Giora Feidman.”
At an early age, Mr. Rice was invited to perform a concert with the National Arts Centre Orchestra during their 2002 Atlantic Tour and subsequently, he has appeared as a soloist with ensembles including the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Axiom, The New Juilliard Ensemble, and Symphony Nova Scotia. The recipient of numerous awards, Mr. Rice received first prize at the 2006 Canadian Concerto Competition hosted by the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec. Following his 2007 Montréal debut at Jeunesses Musicales, La Presse wrote: “…clarinettiste canadien Sean Rice y révéla une technique impeccable, une authentique musicalité, une sonorité tour à tour éclatante et chaleureuse, et un vrai talent de chambriste.” Continuing the 2007-08 season, Mr. Rice performed his first national tour with pianist Jean-Philippe Sylvestre for Jeunesses Musicales’ touring series. Since then, he has toured frequently throughout major cities across the United States, Europe, Malaysia, Brazil and Japan.
As an educator, Mr. Rice has served as Visiting Professor at Memorial University (2017-18) and Director of the Contemporary Music Ensemble at the University of Ottawa (2012-17). He has been invited to give masterclasses at institutions such as the Royal College of Music, Beijing Central Conservatory, University of British Columbia, and the University of West England. Additionally, Mr. Rice has adjudicated numerous competitions, including the National Music Festival Competition held by the Canadian Association of Music Festivals. Starting in the fall of 2021, Mr. Rice will join the clarinet faculty at the University of Ottawa.
As a conductor, Mr. Rice made his debut in 2012 as the Director of the Contemporary Music Ensemble at the University of Ottawa. In 2017, he led an ensemble of musicians from the National Arts Centre Orchestra and made his international conducting debut at the International Society for Contemporary Music Festival in Vancouver. Recently, Mr. Rice conducted the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra for their 2021-22 season opener – their first performance since the pandemic.
Outside the concert hall, Mr. Rice has developed a significant profile as a classical music podcaster and host. Under his tenure, the National Arts Centre NACOcast has enjoyed great success and international recognition, with ClassicFM continuing to list his podcasts among the Top 10 in the world for classical music. Mr. Rice also hosts the NAC Wolfgang Sessions – a contemporary music series that he helped design and curate for the National Arts Centre.
Sean Rice is a graduate of Memorial University of Newfoundland, where he received his Bachelor of Music while studying with Paul Bendzsa. Continuing his studies under the tutelage of Charles Neidich, Mr. Rice graduated with both a Master of Music and Doctorate of Musical Arts from The Juilliard School. Currently residing in Ottawa, audiences can hear him perform regularly as a recitalist and chamber musician and as Second Clarinet/Bass Clarinet of the National Arts Centre Orchestra.