Tennyson: Playing through Process

The crowd at Motorco Music Hall grooved along with Tennyson, deeply attuned to the myriad frequencies and rhythms being processed and punctuated before our eyes. Digital jazz pulsated through the crowd in pleasant bouts – when eyes weren’t closed, they were alight – captivated by the layers and levels The Canadian sibling duo brought to the venue.

Luke and Tess Pretty started playing music when they were nine and seven years old, respectively, playing jazz cover shows until deciding to share another dimension of their musical imagination with their hometown of Edmonton, Alberta in 2012. In late 2015, Tennyson released the Like What EP, filled with compositions telling stories through percussion, melody, and measured arrangements of space.

Tennyson has an interesting approach to creation and collaboration, charting new territory all the time armed with novel equipment, skillful musicality, and unbridled commitment to the daunting/invigorating creative process. Luke shared this insight on mistakes and creating with Yours Truly: “I noticed something recently,” says Luke. “Part of the reason why it was so hard, is because there was a fear of, like — if there’s a section that you know you want to make, but you haven’t started yet, there’s a part of you that’s scared to start. Because you feel like maybe now is not the best time to make it, or something. Or, tomorrow, maybe in the morning, you could really get that section to sound right. But I realized — the last song in the album is the only one I made in a week, where the other ones were two or three months. But that week was kind of like, ‘Whoa, you can just make it. You don’t have to worry about it.’ And same with lyrics. You could just write them. And then kind of fix it. And it’s good. It’s probably better if you’re not worried the whole time you’re making it.”

Like What? opens with the words of Oliver Sacks: “we see with the eyes, but we see with the brain as well. And seeing with the brain is often called imagination.”

The video for the title track is an exploration of process in itself. Director Fantavious Fritz played the song for Nikita – a 12-year old girl who has been blind since birth – and recorded her commentary, then created the video using the visuals that she described. The result is an engaging trip through a dynamic space, with rhythmic auditory cues and visuals that capture life and light playing in spite of limitations. You’ll rethink the way you experience music.

Tennyson’s tracks invite Sacks’ “seeing with the brain”, playing with different spaces and guiding the senses to place ourselves in the music. The Art of Cool festival at large took that on wholeheartedly, appreciating the plurality of experience and the effect of letting sound take over the space.

Alex Quirk invites you to explore memory and perception

“In Western thought, the conscious being is often divided into two parts: mind, and body. Senses, and thoughts. Perception, and memory. It seems every conscious thought is rooted in either instantaneous perception or recall. What, then, can be said about a person’s soul if one side of that duality is completely destroyed?” asks Alex Quirk.

 

 

Deborah Wearing Enters, the second track of Alex Quirk’s first EP, Looking Up,  explores the concept of instantaneous perception through consummate layers and resonant loops, telling stories of love and learning inspired by the unique life of Clive Wearing.

The video is a visual thought experiment.

It feels like an honest recollection, offering moments of clarity through altered perspective: sunlight entwined with lamplight, motion out of sequence. Clive Wearing’s consciousness is not tethered in the way the rest of ours is. In his amnesia, there is implied conviction that what he sees, feels, and says then and there, is true. That “truth” fades from his existence forever, in seconds.

His experience is enclosed in the present; one could hardly even imagine that as our reality. In our experience, the rest of us relive what we can recall of our lives and loves, again and again, perhaps under the pretense that those memories carry any promises or prescriptions for the future. The present is rarely better; to ascribe permanence to particular moments of instantaneous perception is literally illogical, yet innately human. So in Clive’s case, and in our own, where does meaning come from? As Quirk asks, what can be said about a person’s soul if one side of the mind-body duality is destroyed?

This is where Deborah Wearing Enters.

 

In his state, Wearing’s wife Deborah is the only human being he recognizes- and enthusiastically greets at every opportunity. That is when he and Deborah share in familiarity and love safe from the amnesia-induced void always a few moments behind him.

Alex Quirk’s visual thought experiment and musical homage to Clive and Deborah Wearing is simultaneously moving and grounding. It takes on that void; it’s a testament to what Clive is reliving through those seconds of clarity with Deborah, definitive of his experience though well beyond articulation.

 

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