REVIEWS

DVD Depicts Celestial Ballet
John Terauds, Toronto Star, March 9, 2006

Once in a while an event comes along that reminds us how inadequate words are in describing music and visual art.

Tonight’s launch of Gravitas, a new DVD of sounds and images, at the Music Gallery is a case in point. The backgrounds on both component elements are highly complex, yet the result – a 45-minute meditation on continuous transformation – is simplicity itself.

The moving pictures are eight sequences of inter-galactic transformation based on Newton’s laws of physics, created on a supercomputer by University of Toronto astronomer John Dubinski. One sees graceful clouds and millions of stars dividing, moving and colliding in a ceaseless celestial ballet.

The soundtrack is a trance-inducing landscape inspired by the vast history of music, from 16th-century English pavanes, to techno, to traditional Arab influences.

The interaction of looped beats and repeating sound samples has the power to pull us out of ourselves – a measure of great music.

Toronto-based composer John Kameel Farah is working on the boundaries of new music, one hand poised over his Mac computer keyboard, the other ready to strike a harpsichord. The result has a deceptive randomness – a notion blown away during a conversation with Farah recently.

Farah, 32, graduated from the University of Toronto 10 years ago, having focused on classical piano performance and composition. But he felt confined by the forms’ rules and traditional practices.

“I’ve got these distractions in me,” says Farah. He tells of dabbling in jazz and free improvisation. He listens to pop and electronica of all sorts. He is a big history buff and is deeply worried about the current state of world affairs.

Born in Brampton, he recently connected with his Palestinian heritage, and its long and pained history. Farah pays the bills by teaching piano. This has included giving master classes in Ramallah, East Jerusalem and Bethlehem. His first-hand experiences with Middle- Eastern conflict are never far from his thoughts.

But he says he’s not out to make political proclamations. “I don’t use music to make a point, but it happens anyway, in a natural way,” he says. “It comes from my life.”

For Farah, it’s a quest to understand how and why the world is as it is. And the insights he gleans are channelled right into his soundscapes. “Maybe the only truth I can express is in music,” he says.

His work with Dubinski in Gravitas points clearly at ties between the ideas of Isaac Newton and the music of Bach. To do this with sounds and images that appeal to club kids and new music fans equally is a major achievement.
WHAT Gravitas DVD release
WHERE The Music Gallery, 197 John St.
WHEN Tonight. Pre-show @ 7 30 p.m. Gravitas show @ 8 15 p.m.
TICKETS $10-$15 @ 416-204-1080

Credit: Copyright 2006 Toronto Star March 9, 2006