GJFC 2018 banner Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium 2018

Hovering at the Edge: Words, Music, Sound, and Song

Guelph, Ontario, Canada
September 12-15, 2018

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Hovering at the Edge: Words, Music, Sound, and Song, this year’s Guelph Jazz Festival Colloquium, will feature curated panels, speakers, and performances, with participants riffing on the interplay among words, music, sound, and song.

The Colloquium is hosted by IICSI in partnership with the Guelph Jazz Festival, the University of Guelph, Central Student Association, CFRU-FM, Guelph Film Festival, Eden Mills Writers Festival, and the Art Gallery of Guelph

Brent Hayes Edwards

Brent Hayes Edwards

In his book Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination, keynote speaker Brent Hayes Edwards attests to the vibrant and compelling history of interplay in African American art-making and performance between sound and writing. Drawing specifically on transmedial encounters in jazz that “[hover] at the edge” of language, and literary texts that aspire to the condition of music, Edwards explores the ways in which “the practice of one medium can be inspired, provoked, or extended by an attention to the specificities of another.” 

Edwards will present his digital restoration of the legendary 16mm short film Sweet Willie Rollbar’s Orientation, originally made and scored by saxophonist Julius Hemphill in 1972 during his keynote on Friday, September 14. The film also features poet K. Curtis Lyle, actor Malinke Elliott, and other members of the Black Artists’ Group of St. Louis. Following the screening, Edwards will contextualize the film among the Black Artists’ Group and in relation to other black experiments in multimedia aesthetics in the early 1970s.

Emerging Scholars Program

Inspired by an initiative developed by our friends and colleagues at the ArtsEverywhere Festival, and in partnership with the University of Guelph, the Colloquium invites students and community members to join our inaugural Emerging Scholars Program. This program offers up to ten individuals (from all levels of study) an opportunity to participate in the program and engage with participants.

Selected scholars will receive tickets to Guelph Jazz Festival performances, an intimate 2-hour “emerging scholars breakfast” with panelists, presenters, and other distinguished guests including Lawrence Hill, and an opportunity to publish insights gained at the Festival and Colloquium on the IICSI website.

Emerging scholars will be expected to attend colloquium events and write a short reflection piece on their experience. Please complete the online form if you’re interested in joining this program.


Wednesday, September 12

5:00 pm | Reception and Exhibition Launch – Sounding the City 003: Guelph

2018 Improvisers-in-Residence Jen Reimer and Max Stein’s ongoing project, Sounding the City, is dedicated to re-imagining the urban soundscape through site-specific installations and acoustic interventions. These installations emerge from their surroundings and occur in the environments themselves. They invite our ears to focus on the music of the places we find ourselves in, and draw our gaze towards characteristics of urban environments that might otherwise go unnoticed. Co-presented by Musagetes (artseverywhere.ca)
Boarding House Arts, 2nd floor, 6 Dublin St. South + site-specific installations throughout Guelph

9:30 pm | SUNG RA – Post-Concert Talk Back

Rory Magill, Christine Duncan, and Rainbow Chorus (Ontario)
Guelph Little Theatre

Sung Ra performance at Church of the Ascension

Sung Ra performance at Church of the Ascension

In 2000, Rakestar formed as a musical and anagramic tribute to the Arkestra of the legendary Saturnian composer, pianist, and all-around-wisdomystic, Le Sony’r Ra, better known as Sun Ra, and played in Guelph in 2002. In 2017, the group’s leader Rory Magill mounted the ambitious program called SUNG RA, devoted to Sun Ra’s songs and poetry through a collaboration with Ottawa’s Tone Cluster Choir, an LGTBQ vocal group under the direction of the exceptional Toronto vocalist and conductor, Christine Duncan (of Element Choir-fame). To kick off this year’s festival, we are delighted to hear Rory and company remount SUNG RA, this time featuring a massed choir comprising singers from Element Choir, the  Rainbow Chorus of Waterloo-Wellington, and a few other intrepid singers, to sing and play songs that swing, dance, incant, and travel the spaceways. Rory Magill (keyboards and trombone), Don Cummings (Hammond organ), Mike Essoudry (drums and clarinet), David Broscoe (alto and baritone saxophones), John Sobol (tenor and baritone saxophones), Rob Frayne (tenor saxophone and electronics), Scott Warren (perscussion and transmissions), and Christine Duncan (voice and conducting)

GJF Concert – 8pm, Guelph Little Theatre, $15/$10

Rakestar website
Rainbow Chorus website
Listen on YouTube

photo credit: Brett Delmage

Thursday, September 13

12:00 pm | Concert – Co-presented by the College of Arts
Thursday at Noon (TAN) Concert: Augustí Fernández (Spain)
Goldschmidt Room (Room 107), MacKinnon Building, University of Guelph

2:00 pm | Roundtable – Improvisation in Music and Words
Kevin McNeilly (University of British Columbia), Sara Villa (John Abbott College), Rob Wallace (Northern Arizona University), Paul Watkins (Vancouver Island University)
IICSI Researchers specializing in the intersections of music and words will gather to discuss the synergetic relationship of improvised music making and poetic composition. Kevin McNeilly, published poet, blog editor and site co-ordinator for IICSI at UBC joins Sara Villa, Italian translator of Kerouac’s On the Road, Rob Wallace, percussionist and author of Improvisation and the Making of American Literary Modernism, and Paul Watkins whose doctoral dissertation focuses on music and text as a border-crossing praxis.
Silence, 46 Essex St.

3:30 pm | Panel – Rising Up Off the Page: Jazz and Poetry
Vilde Aaslid (University of Rhode Island) – With Urgent Words: Political Poetry and Jazz in 2018
Meta DuEwa Jones (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Interdisciplinary music scholar Vilde Aaslid will examine two recent compositions of poetry and music, Flesh & Bone by Mike Reed and Transformations Suite by Samora Pinderhughes, asking how each reflects shifts in genre politics, while drawing upon black radical tradition to create musicopoetic works that are entirely of now.

Scholar Meta DuEwa Jones will focus on contemporary poetry that emanates from listening to sacred sounds, signs and songs of the jazz instrumentalists and composers Mary Lou Williams and Alice Coltrane.
Silence, 46 Essex St.

5:00 pm | Reception and Exhibition Launch – Crepuscule
Performance by Douglas R. Ewart & Rita Warford (USA) and Kathryn Ladano (Ontario)
10C’s 4th floor gallery will feature a new multimedia exhibit by musician and multidisciplinary artist Douglas R. Ewart, created during his time as the 2015-2016 Improviser-in-Residence in Guelph and Waterloo.  The event will feature a performance by Ewart in collaboration with vocalist Rita Warford and bass clarinetist Kathryn Ladano.
10C, 42 Carden St.

Friday, September 14

9:00 | Interview
Dionne Brand (University of Guelph) interviewed by Winston Smith (Seneca College)
Co-presented with the Eden Mills Writer’s Festival

Award winning author Dionne Brand will discuss her two new works The Blue Clerk: Ars Poetica in 59 Versos and Theory in conversation with Winston Smith.
Lecture Room, Art Gallery of Guelph

10:30 | Keynote – Sweet Willie Rollbar’s Orientation
Brent Hayes Edwards (Columbia University)
Co-presented with the Guelph Film Festival

Edwards will present his digital restoration of the legendary short film Sweet Willie Rollbar’s Orientation (1972), featuring an original soundtrack by saxophonist Julius Hemphill, placing the film in the context of the Black Artists’ Group, and in relation to other black experiments in multimedia aesthetics.
Lecture Room, Art Gallery of Guelph

Noon | Concert – Co-presented by the Central Student Association
CSA Noon-Hour Concert: Thanya Iyer (Québec)
Branion Plaza, University of Guelph

Thanya Iver, photo credit: Frédérique Bérubé

Montréal-based composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist, Thanya Iyer, and her group make intelligent and sumptuous song-based experimental music. It moves gracefully and seamlessly between various kinds of music-making in ways that undermine simple genre classification. It is underpinned throughout by Iyer’s gorgeous voice, her knack for writing captivating melodies, and the inventive playing by her and her bandmates, Alex Kasirer-Smibert (bass and electronics), Daniel Gélinas (drums and more), and Simon Millerd (trumpet). This group has been touring tirelessly since mid-2015, through which the group’s sound has galvanized and been refined in ways readily apparent on their 2017 release, Do You Dream? (The answer, we say, is ‘Yes. We dream of hearing inventive, daring, and beautifully original music like yours!’)

Thanya Iyer website
Do You Dream? on Bandcamp
Listen on YouTube

photo credit: Frédérique Bérubé

4:00 | Artist Panel 
Darius Jones (USA), Emilie Lesbros (France), Amirtha Kidambi (USA), & Thanya Iyer (Québec)
Moderator: Kevin McNeilly
Jazz Festival artists will gather to reflect on the interplay between words and music. Drawing upon a wealth of experience presenting lyrical material in combination with improvised and composed performances, panel participants will share their understanding of how these two mediums combine and influence each other in the execution of jazz musicking. Saxophonist Darius Jones joins collaborating vocalists Emile Lesbros and Amirtha Kidambi, alongside band leader Thanya Iyer for a rare opportunity of knowledge transfer from a panel with a unique perspective on implementing the connection between sound and song.
Silence, 46 Essex. St.

5:30 | Concert
Darius Jones & Amirtha Kidambi (USA)
Silence, 46 Essex. St.

Amirtha Kidambi and Dariuis Jones promo photo

Darius Jones promo photo, and Amirtha Kidambi, photo by Reuben Radding

These musical friends and close colleagues are both in Guelph to lead their respective bands, which provides a golden opportunity for an intimate voice-saxophone duo concert. Singer Amirtha Kidambi contributed in extraordinary fashion to The Oversoul Manual (AUM Fidelity), saxophonist and composer Darius Jones’s all-vocal (but wordless) suite, the fourth installment of his Man’ish Boy Epic, performed by the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit. Kidambi has clearly been inspired by working with Jones, and has incorporated and synthesized his approach to composing for voice in the context of her group, Elder Ones. This concert provides a superb opportunity to experience the close rapport of these special musicians.

Darius Jones website
Amirtha Kidambi website
Listen on YouTube

Saturday, September 15

9:00 | Emerging Scholars Breakfast
Special breakfast for selected scholars with colloquium panelists, presenters, and other distinguished guests including Lawrence Hill.

1:00 | Concert
KidsAbility Youth Ensemble with SlowPitchSound
Co-presented by KidsAbility and Rainbow Camp
Market Square Stage, Carden St.

7:00 | Pre-concert Talkback
Jean Derome & Karen Young (Québec)
Guelph Youth Music Centre, 75 Cardigan St.

Derome & Young-headshot

Derome & Young

The Montreal trio of Jean Derome (woodwinds), Normand Guilbeault (double-bass), and Pierre Tanguay (drums) is renowned for dedicating each set of a multi-set concert to pieces by a single composer, giving listeners a rich immersion into the work of, for example, Charles Mingus, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, or Misha Mengelberg. Somebody Special extends this research to the singular repertoire of American soprano saxophonist and composer, Steve Lacy. Since Lacy’s death in 2004, several repertory bands have emerged to play his vast book of compositions, but Somebody Special is one of the very few to focus on Lacy’s songs, composed for his wife and close music partner, Irene Aebi, settings of wonderful texts by published poets and artists. For this formidable task, Jean Derome has engaged one of Canada’s great singers, Karen Young. With pianist Alexandre Grogg rounding out the ensemble, Somebody Special (named for a Lacy song based on a text by Brion Gysin) will no doubt be something special indeed.

GJF Concert Saturday, 15 September, 8pm, Guelph Youth Music Centre (on a bill with Darius Jones’s Le bébé de Brigitte), $30/$25

Jean Derome website
Jean Derome’s ‘Actuelle CD’ page
Listen on YouTube


All Colloquium events are free and open to the public.

This colloquium is generously sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Art Gallery of Guelph, the Office of the Vice-President (Research), the Office of the Associate Vice-President (Student Affairs), the School of English and Theatre Studies, the College of Arts, CFRU-FM, and the Central Student Association at the University of Guelph. Special thanks also to the Eden Mills Writers’ Festival, the Guelph Film Festival, and the Bookshelf for their support.