Computers versus clarinets?
That's what the Pacific Symphonic Wind Ensemble (PSWE) has in store for its show at Coquitlam's Evergreen Cultural Centre this Saturday when it presents the experimental piece Ecstatic Waters.
Written in 2008, the wind ensemble and electronic work is described - in not so easy terms - by composer Steven Bryant as "music of dialectical tension,a juxtaposition of contradictory or opposing musical and extra-musical elements and an attempt to resolve them," he writes on his website.
"The five connected movements hint at a narrative that touches upon naiveté, divination, fanaticism, post-human possibilities, anarchy, order and the Jungian collective unconscious.
"Or, as I have described it more colloquially: W.B. Yeats meets Ray Kurzweil in the Matrix," Bryant adds.
David Branter, PSWE's acting musical director, sums it up simply as "a really cool piece."
Branter said his 45-member band wanted to play a contemporary program to wrap up its season at Evergreen, which it calls home.
But its performances have always had an edge. For its Halloween show at Evergreen last October, it featured spooky works of Berlioz, Bach and Witacre; its Christmas event had Ukrainian Bell Carol, Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride and Ian McDougal's Bells while its penultimate concert highlighted New York City.
For the last session, PSWE will include "a rather fun first-half program," Branter said, that focuses on two works by the late Australian composer Percy Grainger (Molly on the Shore, and Ye Banks and Braes 'o Bonnie Doon) and Brant Karrick's whimsical Bayou Breakdown; PSWE will launch the second half with Ecstatic Waters, which runs about 25 minutes.
Overseeing the concert will be Robert Taylor. Branter said the audience can also expect "other weird things" happening for Ecstatic Waters, including a crystal glass array to project ethereal music, humming and singing by the band and "loud bangs."
As for the computer-generated sounds, Branter said PSWE downloaded them directly from Bryant's website when it obtained the licensing rights. "It's fairly complicated. Bryant often comes himself to operate the electronics [for performances] but we couldn't afford him."