88 Tuned Bongos Piano Series cont.

Celebrating the great lineage of experimental piano works over the Western Front’s 40+ year history, 88 Tuned Bongos champions today’s most cutting-edge pianists and keyboard projects. This Winter, Western Front New Music is pleased to release a second LP recording made up of archival recordings from 1985-2015 by Anthony Davis, Paul Plimley, Al Neil and John Kameel Farah.

Tickets per concert: $15/10 Advance; $20/15 Door



Andrew Wedman | Bass Piano V Installation

March 9 – April 2

March 9 @ 7pm – Artist Talk and Performance FREE

Musician/piano technician Andrew Wedman transforms an upright piano. Tuning it down a full octave to A220, the Bass Piano takes on a unique tonal quality comparable to carillon bells and steel drums.  Installed in our lower foyer for pianists to explore: stay tuned for details on noon-hour concerts and see the piano’s rebirth at Echoic Chamber.



Anthony Davis | Solo Piano

past · piano · present LP Release

March 24, 8pm


Tickets are available at the door for $20/15

In our continuing series 88 Tuned Bongos, renowned jazz pianist Anthony Davis returns to the Western Front for a solo concert. An award winning composer of orchestral works and film scores, Davis was deemed “A National Treasure” for his pioneering work in opera, notably X: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MALCOLM X.  His appearance here 30 years later marks the Front’s second archival LP release featuring performances by Davis, Paul Plimley, Al Neil and John Kameel Farah from 1985 to present.  Eric Metcalfe’s artwork graces the album cover of this important historical release.

 ~LP available at the concert for a special price of $15 (only availalbe for $20 from March 25th on)~

Made possible in part through financial support by the ArtsFACT Foundation (from radio stations 103.5 QM/FM, The Beat 94.5 and TEAM radio). Presented in association with Coastal Jazz and Blues Society.



Ground/Terre | Toy Piano, Harmonium and Tabla

April 1, 8pm


Tickets are available at the door for $20/15

Pianist Xenia Pestova and tabla player Shawn Mativetsky perform an eclectic programme of new music for piano, toy piano, Indian harmonium, and tabla. Their unique repertoire explores a multitude of trans-musical and cross cultural possibilities that emerge through the blending of Western and Indian classical music.


Tina Pearson – Migration of Their Materials (2013)

Toy piano and tabla

I Beacon

II Night Feeding

III The Nest of Imports

IV Gentle Hands

The overall inquiry of the composition is concerned with migrations – of people, materials and pelagic birds. It is placed on the seas that are the environment for much of these migrations, and the temporary meeting places of migratory routes. It is also about the making of things, the mixing of materials, and about rules of engagement from one place to the other. And it is about the listening and intimacy of new and unfamiliar juxtapositions. Dedicated to the memory of the late Jon B. Higgins (1939-1984), a masterful musician and teacher. The Migration of Their Materials was composed specifically for Xenia Pestova and Shawn Mativetsky with the assistance of a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.


Traditional, arr. Shawn Mativetsky – Tabla Solo in Teentaal

Tabla solo, with harmonium accompaniment

 In the Benares baaj (style), the art of solo tabla performance is greatly respected and very highly developed. There are more than twenty forms of composition in use, many of them unique to this tradition. Some are theme and variation forms which require spontaneous improvisation by the performer, while many others involve sophisticated compositional techniques with fixed pieces handed down from generation to generation. In addition, there is a well defined procedure for joining the various types of compositions to form a logical and pleasing performance. The solo also includes vocal recitation of tabla compositions, using the traditional ‘solfege’ syllables called bol.

A tabla solo is traditionally played in a sixteen beat taal, a rhythmic cycle, known as Teentaal. Throughout the performance, an aural outline of this taal is maintained by means of a cyclic melody known as a lehra, performed on harmonium.


 Joe Cutler – Clavinova Music (2005)

Piano solo


Shawn Mativetsky and Xenia Pestova – terre (2014)

Toy piano / harmonium and tabla / percussion

 A structured improvisation, unifying our entire array of instruments and reflecting on the overall theme of the programme. An intimate, embodied experience, deeply influenced by the warmth and intimacy of Indian classical music; a meeting of different sound worlds, idioms, and traditions.


Monica Pearce – damask (2016)

Toy piano and tabla

Formed by weaving, damask is a reversible figured woven fabric. Taking its name from the city of Damascus, the ornamental patterns are often elaborate, involving foliage, fruit, and scrolls. With extraordinary colours, it has been called the world’s most intriguing and luxurious fabric. In modern usage, damask tends to be simpler, but the core element remains the same: it is woven in such a way that the pattern on one side is the inverse of the other.

Using a damask pattern as inspiration, the work explores the concept from several angles, by using the pattern as a starting point for the shape of melodic material, and by considering the “personality” of damask as guiding the tone of the piece (luxurious, bold, ornate). In addition, there is a visual element – yards of damask fabric will be on the floor of the stage, setting a striking background to the concept.

 damask is the third in a set of a multiple-work piece based on the history and associations of various textiles/patterns. In each of these works, the textile or pattern is used both as inspiration (history, tone, physical characteristics) and as a physically present element, either visually or sonically. damask was written for and is dedicated to Xenia Pestova and Shawn Mativetsky, with the assistance of a grant from the Ontario Arts Council.


Tawnie Olson – Something to Say (2014)

Tabla with electronics (fixed media)

John Cage once famously declared “I have nothing to say, and I am saying it.” As I was writing this piece, I wondered what the opposite of Cage’s statement would be, and thought it might be “I have something to say, but I am not saying it.” I think the latter statement describes how we often relate to one another. I know that when people say things to me that hurt or upset me, I can have difficulty responding; I might be too upset to speak, or worried about overreacting, and decide to say nothing.

As part of the process of composing “Something to Say,” I wrote down some things said to me by family, friends, and colleagues. Since none of these things were recorded at the time they were spoken, Shawn and I asked friends to read and record these phrases. (For the record: none of these readers believe what I asked them to say!) I used these recordings in this piece, and I also borrowed from a genre of traditional tabla music, called “bol paran,” in which the tabla imitates the sound of human speech. If you listen carefully, after you hear a recorded voice you’ll often hear Shawn reproduce part of the spoken phrase on his instruments.

I am so grateful to Shawn Mativetsky for asking me to write this piece, and for playing it so beautifully. It is dedicated to him and to Equality Now.


Ed Bennett – Bright White Lights (2011)

Piano solo


Nicole Lizée – Metal Jacket (2005)

Harmonium and tabla

Inspired by K.K. Downing and Glenn Tipton circa 1983, Metal Jacket explores the raw, gritty qualities of the tabla and harmonium. At points in the work, the roles of the two instruments are reversed as the harmonium produces percussive sonorities and the tabla provides the melodic content through use of the tuning hammer. The work showcases the lower register of the harmonium, exploiting its rich, resounding tone, and emphasizing its compulsory need to “breathe.” Like Downing and Tipton, the two sound sources at times intertwine to create detailed harmonic material and synchronized grooves. At other times, they trade off in a duel-like fashion.



Andrew Wedman is a classically trained pianist (ARCT and McGill) and certified piano technician (University of Western Ontario). He has been performing and recording experimental music in Canada, the US and Europe since the late 90’s. Electroacoustic composition at McGill lead to altered vinyl record experimentation and an ambient techno duo Tinkertoy. Andrew was active playing with multiple free improv groups while living in Toronto as well as performing his own compositions as Lethbridge Lodge. His day job as a piano tuner led him to explorations in altered tunings and extended techniques for the piano. He developed the Bass Piano, a piano tuned down a full octave, in 2012 which was debuted in Berlin by John Kameel Farah. The Bass Piano has since been in performances with Marilyn Lerner, Tania Gill, John Oswald, Ryan Driver and more.

Perennially traversing the boundaries of jazz and classical music, Anthony Davis has charted his own path to become a major voice in American contemporary music. Renowned internationally as a composer, educator and jazz pianist, he soared to critical acclaim as a virtuoso soloist in the 1970s. His ensemble, Episteme (1981), was a vehicle for his explorations with improvisation, jazz and gamelan music. Over the years he has shared his musical ideas with jazz innovators Leroy Jenkins, George E. Lewis, ‘Wadada’ Leo Smith, Anthony Braxton, James Newton, Oliver Lake and Marion Brown. In 1981 he established his academic career at Yale University teaching Composition and Afro-American Studies, and is currently a professor at the University of California, San Diego. Today, Davis is known as an award-winning composer of operatic works and film scores. Recognized as a “National Treasure” for his pioneering work in opera including X: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MALCOLM X (1986), his most recent work, Lear on the Second Floor (2013) reimagines Shakespeare’s most enduring protagonist.

Xenia Pestova is a concert pianist with an unusual and colourful profle. As a dedicated promoter of music by living composers, she has commissioned, premiered, recorded and broadcast numerous new works, and is a frequent collaborator on the creation of interdisciplinary projects with new technologies. Xenia has appeared at international festivals including Archipel (Geneva), Christchurch Arts Festival (New Zealand), Musica (Strasbourg), MusiMars (Montreal), Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, Rainy Days (Luxembourg), Royaumont (France), Sonorities Festival of Contemporary Music(Belfast) and Spark Festival of Electronic Music and Arts (Minneapolis). As a concerto and ensemble soloist, she has performed with ECM+ (Montreal),Stroma (New Zealand), United Instruments of Lucilin (Luxembourg) and the Luxembourg Philharmonic Orchestra amongst others. She has a duo with Amsterdam-based pianist Pascal Meyer, widely praised in the international press for their recent recording of Stockhausen’s “Mantra” for the Naxos label, which won a Diapason d’Or award (France). In addition to her love for the piano, she enjoys performing on other keyboard instruments and interfaces, including her growing collection of toy pianos. She is a  Schoenhut Toy Piano Concert Artist.

Versatile percussionist Shawn Mativetsky performs in a variety of musical genres with dynamism and skill. Equally at home in Indian classical music, world music, and contemporary/new music, Shawn also composes and performs for dance and theatre. Exponent of the Benares gharana , and disciple of the legendary Pandit Sharda Sahai, Shawn Mativetsky is a highly sought-after tabla performer and educator. He is active in the promotion of the tabla and North Indian classical music through lectures, workshops, and performances across Canada and internationally. Based in Montreal, Shawn teaches tabla and percussion at McGill University. His solo CD, Payton MacDonald: Works for Tabla , was released in 2007, and Cycles , his new CD of Canadian compositions for tabla was released in the fall of 2011.

As a practitioner of Indian classical music, Shawn regularly gives solo tabla performances, as well as accompanying kathak dance, voice, bansuri, sarod, santoor, sarangi, and sitar artists. Since 2003, Shawn has been afliated with the Pandit Ram Sahai Foundation (UK/India), and in the summers of 2006 and 2008, hosted tabla maestro Pandit Sharda Sahai’s annual summer tabla workshop. In 2011, he established his own annual summer tabla workshop, hosted by the Schulich School of Music of McGill University. In recent years, he has worked closely with kathak dancer Sudeshna Maulik for her performances of Crossroads , Mehfil , Soul of Ganges , and Hands and Feet. Shawn has performed numerous solo recitals, spanning Canada, the United States, England, and India and has been featured in series such as the Windsor Canadian Music Festival, New Music in New Spaces, Groundswell, Festival Montréal Baroque, Jusqu’aux Oreilles, Evolutions, Voyages: Montréal-New York, Festival International du Domaine Forget, New Works Calgary, Music Toronto, and the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. As an ensemble musician, Shawn Mativetsky performs regularly with violinist Parmela Attariwala’s cross-cultural Attar Project, the Indian-folk group Galitcha, and the Indo-fusion group Ragleela.