CUMS prize winner Robert Hansler breaks out

Recent School of Music graduate Robert Hansler has been announced as the co-winner of the Canadian University Music Society’s annual Student Composer Competition for his piece “Broken Branch.” Hansler, who received his Master’s degree in composition in June, studied with the likes of Christopher Butterfield, Dániel Péter Biró and John Celona, and his works have been performed in Canada, the US, and Italy, with upcoming performances in Germany and North America. He shares this year’s prize with Brazilian composer and University of Alberta Master’s student André Mestre.

CUMS competition winner & recent graduate Robert Hansler

CUMS competition winner & recent graduate Robert Hansler

“It’s certainly an honour and very encouraging to be awarded this prize and I was also thrilled that my friend André Mestre was my co-winner,” says Hansler. “I really can’t say enough good things about UVic’s program and the faculty. All three faculty members—Dániel Biró, John Celona and Christopher Butterfield—are absolutely committed to teaching and raising a new generation of thoughtful and creative composers. At the time I wrote the flute piece, I was working with John Celona, and his guidance was really helpful throughout the process of writing the piece

Robert Hansler is far and away one of the best graduate students I have encountered in 35 years of teaching at this institution,” says Celona. “As my composition student, I found him extremely open to ideas regarding content, structure, form, narrative, orchestration, literature and more. He came in with a flute piece he wanted to develop. I helped him expand and create a larger work he pursued with wonderful discipline and ingenuity thus making our weekly lessons rewarding for both teacher and student. The flute work won acceptance to an Italian festival north of Milan that Robert attended last summer.”

Suzanne Snizek

Suzanne Snizek

Visiting assistant professor Suzanne Snizek performed Hansler’s “Broken Branches” at the recent CUMS conference during Congress 2013, as part of a concert of contemporary music. “It’s a challenging piece, but one which is really fun to play once you develop some familiarity with it,” Snizek says of Hansler’s winning composition. “It uses lots of multiphonics—multiple sounds created by using alternative fingerings. The performer reads fingering charts that are placed above the staves, and attempts to produce the pitches intended by the composer. The flute naturally wants to produce one pitch more than another, so the challenge is to balance them and make sure they are all audible.” Snizek notes that, although there is a lot for a performer to do during Hansler’s piece, “there are also frequent spaces of silence and many extremely quiet passages. This seems to help create an atmosphere of melancholy and loneliness.”

Hansler originally wrote “Broken Branches” for a friend who was looking for new repertoire. “I became especially fond of this piece as a result of the process of working on it with her, and I thought it would be good to submit it for this prize to see what another performer might do with it if it was selected. I enjoyed hearing Suzanne’s performance, and it was exciting to see the piece in a new light.”

Hansler’s recent work has been described as being “concerned with questions surrounding identity of material, instruments and performers”. But how does that translate into a musical composition? “To my ears, melody is very present in this piece. However, there are certain small-scale melodic tropes that have been around for a few centuries—the “sighing” two-note slurs that combine into a gradually descending line, melismas that mark cadences, and many others—that this piece removes from their expected contexts and functions. These tropes are transformed by this kind of relocation, and their identities are destabilized, manipulated and reformed,” he explains.

A passage from Hansler's "Broken Branches"

A passage from Hansler’s “Broken Branches”

“Similarly, the silences can also be conceptualized in this way. The lengths of the silences do not really follow any particular trajectory during the piece, but still their function totally changes. In the opening of the piece, silences are rhetorical devices that serve and respond to the sounds. Later, the sounds seem to controlled by the surrounding silences. This has implications for the performer as well—for example, is this material ‘expressive’? I think that a feeling of loneliness is totally appropriate for a performer who is asking herself these questions—the performer becomes very exposed and vulnerable as a result of the alienation that happens through the piece. Familiar or expected contexts are denied, and if the result is a sense of ‘lostness’, I think that’s completely appropriate.” (You can hear samples of some of Hansler’s compositions here.)

What’s his feeling about the School of Music as a centre of contemporary new music? “As far as new music in BC and the surrounding regions in the US and Canada, Victoria is really a place where it seems that a disproportionate amount of relevant and exciting music is happening,” he says. “I was thrilled to come here and discover that the scene for new music is much bigger than I had expected for a city this size—and I think that the faculty at UVic are a major reason for that . . . along with the presence of ensembles like Aventa and Tsilumos, and of course Open Space, the SALT Festival and [the monthly experimental music series] A Place to Listen.”

Hansler also has high praise for local new music audiences. “My experience in Victoria has been that audiences were much more open than what I was expecting, based on my experiences in other cities,” he says. “One thing that I’ve always believed is that performers are the real heroes when it comes to engaging with audiences—a good performance of a good piece can really go a long way in winning over audience members.” As for his own work, he says he simply doesn’t pretend to know what any audience wants to hear. “My responsibility is to write my own music as honestly as possible, and if audiences are interested in that, then that’s wonderful. I have often been surprised by the varied responses I’ve heard from listeners, and I think that is an interesting part of making music.”

As far as what’s next for this year’s CUMS winner, he’ll be attending the Sommerakademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany this August to work with Ensemble Surplus on a new piece and study with some of his favourite composers. Fellow School of Music graduate Alexei Paish will be premiering a solo snare drum piece of his in New York in November 2013, and in January Hansler will be in Montreal for a premiere of a piece he’s currently working on for Ensemble Paramirabo. “After that, there are three pianists who have asked me to write for them, so for the first time since 2009, I’ll be writing solo pieces for my instrument,” he chuckles. “While I work on these projects I will be studying composition privately and working as a church musician and private music teacher, and afterwards I hope to pursue a PhD.”

That’s if he can find the time, of course!

The Canadian University Music Society Student Composer Competition is open to any university student who is a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant or who is studying at a Canadian institution, does not yet hold a doctorate and does not hold a full-time teaching position. The competition takes place in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Canadian University Music Society. CUMS gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the University of Victoria School of Music in the awarding of this prize.

Getting back to the Core

The latest exhibit at the Legacy Art Gallery is focusing on the first 20 years of UVic’s Department of Visual Arts. Titled Core Samples, this cross-section of work by Visual Arts faculty members presents an overview of the department’s first two decades, spanning 1966 to 1986.

"Black Diamond" by Donald Harvey (1964)

“Black Diamond” by Donald Harvey (1964)

From its earliest days as a breakaway department of the Faculty of Education to its current incarnation as a vital part of the Faculty of Fine Arts, the Visual Arts teaching faculty has individually and collectively earned reputations for innovation in painting, printmaking, drawing, photography and sculpture. Eighteen artists who were also appointed faculty members are included in this exhibition, including John Dobereiner, Donald Harvey, Pat Martin Bates, Gwen Curry, Douglas Morton, Roland Brener, Mowry Baden and Fred Douglas.

Primarily drawing on work from UVic’s permanent collection, Core Samples reflects a range of media and groundbreaking artistic practice. No question, strong personalities and artistic contributions shaped the direction of the department. Most of the work from this era is quite different from the artists’ recent output, but provides an overview of the calibre of work by artists who are now represented in world-class collections around the globe including the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art and the Tate Gallery.

"Hudson Street Beet" by Mowry Baden (1984)

“Hudson Street Beet” by Mowry Baden (1984)

Highlights of the exhibit include the unusual and playful pop-inspired work of Peter Daglish, the strong abstract compositions of Douglas Morton (formerly of the Regina Five) and some of the pioneering “body work” by Governor General’s award-winner Mowry Baden. Baden will also present a free artist’s talk at 1:30pm on on Saturday, August 24.

A short 50-page publication will outline the department’s beginnings and profile some of the longstanding faculty members and their artistic contributions. This exhibition falls in the same year as the University of Victoria’s 50th anniversary celebrations and provides an opportunity to look back at the department’s beginnings.

As for the current Visual Arts department faculty, whose work was seen during the brief Now Art exhibition during UVic’s recent Congress2013, a second Legacy exhibition entitled Paradox will present current faculty work in November.

Core Samples runs 10am to 4pm Wednesdays to Saturdays until October 25.

A progression of literary awards

Department of Writing BFA graduate Cody Klippenstein has always loved stories and storytelling. As a child, her curious and creative nature would often get her into trouble. “I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t inventing things, even when I probably shouldn’t have been,” she jokes.

Another win for Cody Klippenstein

Cody Klippenstein

And when she enrolled in UVic’s creative writing program, she asked herself the same question many amateur writing students do: Why am I enrolling in a writing program? In the end, it was her love of fiction, and her experiences in UVic’s writing department, that encouraged her to complete a writing degree.

“I had a feeling UVic was kind of special because it was the only fine arts writing department that I’d come across while looking at universities,” she explains. “I’d done some interviews and articles in high school and originally thought I wanted to be a journalist; after spending a week studying fiction in Writing 100, though, I totally changed my mind.”

Four years later, her talents and hard work have paid off with some prestigious—and well-paid—prizes: this past year alone, she won first place in The Fiddlehead’s 2011 Fiction Contest, and was a finalist for The Malahat Review’s Open Season Awards. That story appears in The Malahat Review’s Spring 2013 issue.

Perhaps her biggest success was winning the 2012 Short Fiction Contest with Zoetrope: All Story, a quarterly American magazine founded in 1997 by film director and screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola. Previous authors published in Zoetrope: All Story include literary powerhouses Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie and Don DeLillo, to name a few. Klippenstein’s story, “Case Studies in Ascension,” was chosen over nearly 2,200 other submissions.

“The best thing about winning was that I got the opportunity to correspond with Michael Ray, Zoetrope: All-Story’s editor, about my piece before the magazine sent it off for printing,” recalls Klippenstein. “I also had several great conversations with American agents and agencies that contacted me while the spring issue was being put together.”

When asked where she found encouragement to submit stories for publication, Klippenstein says it involved “a combination of support from instructors in the writing program and also this desire to get more involved with the journals that publish work I admire. Sometimes all it takes is a few words from someone whose opinion you trust to make you take that step forward.” Her successes as an undergraduate writer prove that student publication in literary magazines is no pipe dream.

Despite her recent accolades, Klippenstein admits that she has nagging doubts, just as all writers do. But she has a solution for keeping them at bay. “When I sit down to write, I take a fair bit of time before actually beginning to just be still and allow myself to sink into this state,” she says. “Once I’m far enough in, all those surface thoughts get a lot quieter, and I’m able to focus on the words themselves.”

Klippenstein is grateful that her professors provided more than just encouragement, citing their advice that as a writer, you also need to read. “[The department] reinforced that I read widely, constantly, everything, always—to react to stories and novels, to actively like them and to dislike them, and to want to understand why I’m reacting the way I am.”

Klippenstein will begin work on an MFA in fiction at Cornell this September. She’s also working on a longer manuscript whose pages will contain dinosaur bones, a potential revolution and, most importantly, lots of books.

—Patrick Grace (note: this story originally ran in the June issue of The Ring)

Flooding to Cannes

A short story turned short film turned out to be the shortest route to the Cannes International Film Festival for Fine Arts staff member and UVic alumnus Dan Hogg. A digital media technician who specializes in film production, Hogg was invited to Cannes in May when his 10-minute film, Floodplain, was included in Telefilm Canada’s annual Not Short on Talent showcase.

Dan Hogg on one of the many red carpets in Cannes

Dan Hogg on one of the many red carpets in Cannes

“The screening was great, people seemed to really respond to the film, and nobody walked out . . . which was good,” says Hogg, calling from Cannes. “The festival’s pretty incredible—it’s the largest film market in the world, with over 5,000 films represented.”

Floodplain is the latest collaboration between Hogg and Department of Writing alumnus Jeremy Lutter, who directed the film; they were also co-producers on the project. The bittersweet story of two childhood sweethearts voyaging across a Kootenay lake on a homemade raft, Hogg wrote the Floodplain screenplay from a short story by fellow Writing alum and rising literary star D.W. Wilson—and all three UVic grads travelled to Cannes for the screening, along with Chris Orchard, who did visual effects for Floodplain.

“Cannes is one big hustle,” says Hogg. “There was well over a thousand films in the short film corner and there’s maybe eight serious buyers of short films in the world.” But while Hogg says he didn’t have “an ulterior motive beyond enjoying the festival and figuring out what it’s all about,” he did meet producers, film fest programmers and attended a film-pitching workshop.

Jeremy Lutter and Daniel Hogg behind the scenes of Floodplain (Photo by Bettina Strauss)

Jeremy Lutter and Daniel Hogg behind the scenes of Floodplain (Photo by Bettina Strauss)

“When you’re there, you can talk to people you wouldn’t otherwise get to meet. A lot of countries are represented and have pavilions, and they all have networking events, happy hours, lectures, panels and workshops, press and industry events . . . there’s a lot going on.” Floodplain was promoted at the fest by the Canada Pavilion and Telefilm Canada’s own pavilion.

No stranger to either film festivals or awards, Hogg—who received his BFA from UVic and also graduated from the UCLA Professional Program—was part of the team that created the Leo Award-winning UVic web series Freshman’s Wharf in 2010. Not that he stopped there, however; in 2012 alone, Hogg also received the National Screen Institute Drama Prize, a second Leo nomination (for his own short film Woodrow Without Evelyn), was named a finalist in the Praxis Screenplay competition, earned two production grants, and is currently writing the feature film Rip My Heart Out (which he describes as “a tongue-in-cheek creature feature”) as part of the NSI/Movie Central Script to Screen initiative.

Cameron Bright and Sarah Desjardins in a scene from Floodplain (Photo by Eric Scott)

Cameron Bright and Sarah Desjardins in a scene from Floodplain (Photo by Eric Scott)

Beyond seeing the obligatory stars on the red carpet (“Robert Redford, Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Michael Douglas, Zachary Quinto, Tobey Maguire . . . the list goes on,” chuckles Hogg), the filmmakers are now looking to the future. They have a broadcast and webcast deal in place with Bravo television, are shooting a Floodplain-related music video for Victoria band Jets Overhead—which will be the third Jets video for Lutter, and Hogg’s second—and are now submitting Floodplain to festivals.

Once You Break A Knuckle author D.W. Wilson & Hogg puttin' on the ritz in Cannes

Once You Break A Knuckle author D.W. Wilson & Hogg puttin’ on the ritz in Cannes

“Our festival window is just over a year,” says Hogg. ““Some festivals have ‘premiere status’—Toronto, for example, has to be a North American premiere, whereas Victoria simply needs to be a regional premiere.” And the timing for festivals can be persnickety: if you apply to TIFF as a premiere, for example, then you can’t go in any other festival first. “It’s a little tricky. If TIFF were to be our North American premiere, we then only have an eight-month festival window due to our broadcast deal with Bravo.”

And is a feature-length version of Floodplain in the cards? “That would be one hope, especially with the world D.W. has created,” says Hogg. “These characters have a pretty solid narrative arc throughout their lives in his short-story collection Once You Break A Knuckle, from the first time they met to about 15 years after this story is set.”

The return of Quartet Fest West

Some ideas are just too good to give up on. Case in point? The Lafayette String Quartet’s highly successful Quartet Fest West, which originally ran from 1993 to 1998.

The Lafayette String Quartet

The Lafayette String Quartet

While popular with both performers and audiences, the members of the Lafayette String Quartet—famed artists-in-residence here at UVic since 1991—found organizing and hosting the annual event was just too much alongside the demands of teaching, performing and family life. “It was extremely successful and popular with students,” says LSQ violinist Ann Elliott-Goldschmid, “but we could not keep it going along with the million other things we were doing.” Now that their children have grown, however, Quartet Fest West is back.

An intensive chamber music workshop, the new Quartet Fest West welcomes select students from universities across Canada and the U.S., as well as Brazil and New Zealand.There will also be a series of public concerts on June 12, 14, 18 & 21 (details below), as well as masterclasses open by donation.

The current incarnation of the Penderecki String Quartet (photo: Tomasz Adam)

The current incarnation of the Penderecki String Quartet (photo: Tomasz Adam)

Also returning are guest artists the Penderecki String Quartet, who were part of the original Quartet Fest West in 1993. But their combined history goes beyond the stage—LSQ cellist Pamela Highbaugh Aloni first met her future husband Yariv Aloni (current music director for the local Galiano Ensemble, Victoria Chamber Orchestra and the Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra) when he was playing viola with the Penderecki Quartet at the original Quartet Fest. As Elliott-Goldschmid puts it, “Pam and he fell in love and the rest is history.”

Elliott-Goldschmid is also particularly thrilled about the participation of acclaimed violist and professor Gerald Stanick. A former head of UVic’s string department before leaving to teach at Western University and UBC, Stanick won’t be shy about putting these students through their paces. “It’s really intensive,” she says. “They learn how to communicate very effectively very quickly, they have to learn the music quickly, come to agreements quickly—they don’t have a semester to work on something, they only have 10 days.”

In addition to studying in masterclasses with the LSQ, PSQ and Stanick, the 25 students at this 10-day intensive also get to work with UVic recording engineer Kirk McNally on recording techniques, as well as rehearsing and performing in a musical hothouse environment—which, says Elliott-Goldschmid, is what sets QuartetFest West apart. “There are summer camps that offer chamber music and solo lessons, but normally you’ll only have one or two soloists and one quartet—but we have two string quartets and Gerald Stanick here.”

Ann Elliott-Goldschmid

Ann Elliott-Goldschmid

QFW students will also have the opportunity to learn from Feldenkrais specialist Diane Lade. “Musicians are athletes,” stresses Elliott-Goldschmid. “We use our bodies all the time, and you can get injured if you use your body wrong. For violinists and violists, the way we hold our instruments is very isometric and can be very damaging to the neck and shoulders; it’s repetitive work and if you have improper sitting postures, it’s easy to have issues with pains in our hands and arms. And for cellists, you need a lot of strength to get a sound out of that instrument; holding it and putting your fingers down to get the strings to stop requires strength, and sometimes people use their strength wrong.”

Whether you’re one of the students selected to participate or are simply attending the public concerts, Quartet Fest West has much to offer. “Audiences loved QuartetFest West,” concludes Elliott-Goldschmid. “It’s so nice that’s it starting up again after all these years.”

Quartet Fest West runs Tuesday, June 11 to Friday, June 21. Concerts are at 8:00pm on June 12, 14, 18 & 21 in the Phillip T. Young Recital Hall, in UVic’s MacLaurin Building. Concerts are $12 for students, $25 general through UVic Ticket Centre, by calling 250-721-8480 or the door. There is also a series subscription rate, where you can see all the concerts for $25 (students) or $65 (General). Daily masterclasses open to the public by donation.

Concert details:

• Wednesday, June 12: The Lafayette String Quartet perform Mozart’s “K 589 in B flat”, R. Murray Schafer’s “String Quartet No. 11” & Fanny Hensel (Mendelssohn) “String Quartet in E flat”

• Friday, June 14: The Penderecki String Quartet (program TBA)

• Tuesday, June 18: Gala concert with both the Lafayette String Quartet and Penderecki String Quartet performing Brahms’ “Sextet No. 2 in G Major”, Shostakovich’s “Octet” & Mendelssohn’s “Octet”

• Friday, June 21: Student concert (program TBA)

 For those arriving by car, pay parking is in effect—evening parking is $2.25. Parking info and campus maps can be found here.