Negative Zed performs music of Jordan Nobles deep underground in a cavernous, reverberant ‘Break Head Tank’
In 2014 Metro Vancouver workers were in the final stages of completing an extensive new water treatment facility at the Capilano Reservoir in North Vancouver. A key element of the facility was the Break Head Tank, an enormous concrete bunker connected to 7 km of water tunnels that allow Capilano water to be pumped to the Seymour Capilano Filtration Plant for treatment — but to the uninitiated, this space looked more like the high-vaulted subterranean passageways of some Tolkien-inspired superstructure, rather than any sort of functional regional infrastructure.
In preparing a documentary on the building of the plant, and noticing that the tank boasted an impressive 20+ seconds of reverb, Metro Vancouver staff reached out to composer Jordan Nobles to consider the unique opportunity to compose a new musical work for performance in this underground chamber, before the tank was permanently filled with water. The original plan was to have an audience descend into the break head chamber for the performance, but safety concerns made this impractical. In the end, it was decided that the musicians would perform in the space and the performance would form the basis for the documentary that would explore a piece of the water system normally unseen. Shortly afterward, the Break Head tank began its service as part of Metro Vancouver’s water system, and was flooded with water forever.
Nobles’ piece, fittingly entitled Immersion, is a four-part, 27-minute suite for mixed instruments and voice, perfectly crafted to exploit the break head tank’s unique acoustics. This four-part piece was recorded in four single takes, without any overdubs, edits, or audio effects. This is, essentially, exactly how it sounded in this incredible space on a chilly October morning in 2014.
Negative Zed preparing to descend underground into the breakhead tank chamber.
The final two works on this album were studio-made, but still reflect the spirit through which Immersion was born. Deep Breath (2015) previously existed as a piece for ten flutes called Hive (2008), which was multi-track recorded by flutist Mark Takeshi McGregor and then slowed down to 4x its original speed. This new, 24-minute work transforms the typically nimble flutes into a chorus of fog horns, giving the listener the unsettling feeling that they’ve been cast adrift at sea.
Deep Water (2016), the most recent work on this album, features an assortment of waterphones, cups, bowls, bottles, straws — and, as one might suspect from the title, water. Performed by the composer’s family, the sounds have been artfully assembled and modified to create a soundscape that weaves effortlessly between the sinister and the serene. Recently the video artist Dejan Radovanovic created a new work using the music of Deep Water at https://vimeo.com/155170790
1. Immersion (Parts 1-4)
Performers: Negative Zed Ensemble: Mark McGregor – flute; Colin MacDonald – saxophones; Adrian Verdejo – guitar; Martin Fisk – percussion; Katie Rife – percussion; Kelly Nobles – voice & glockenspiel; Karen Gerbrecht – violin; Rebecca Wenham – cello; and Mark Haney – doublebass
Immersion was commissioned by Metro Vancouver and recorded for a video in an underground ‘Break Head Tank’ chamber beneath Capilano Lake in North Vancouver, BC, October 10, 2014
Here is the link to the MetroVancouver video
Recording Engineer: Paul Luchkow
Immersion is dedicated to Marianne Pengelly
Special Thanks to Gordon Inglis Division Manager, Multimedia Services, Metro Vancouver
2. Deep Breath
Performer: Mark McGregor, flutes
Jordan Nobles – composer
Juno award-winning composer Jordan Nobles is known for creating music filled with an “unearthly beauty” (Mondomagazine) that makes listeners want to “close (their) eyes and transcend into a cloud of music” (Discorder Magazine).
“Technically, there was no other word for it than that much-overused modifier awesome.” Georgia Straight – Vancouver, BC
He has won numerous awards for his work including the 2017 Juno Award for Classical Composition of the Year, the International Composition Competition of the Unbound Flute Festival (Brisbane, Australia July 2016), the Sacra/Profana (San Diego 2013), Vancouver Bach Choir (Vancouver 2008), and Polyphonos (Seattle 2011) International Composition Competitions. He placed 2nd in the International Soli fan tutti Kompositionswettbewerbs in Darmstadt, Germany and was a finalist in the C4 Choir Composition Competition in New York., as well as has been chosen to be performed in Wrocław, Poland at the International Society for Contemporary Music’s 2014 World Music Days.
”…breathtakingly beautiful sounds.” The Daily Gleaner – Fredericton, NB
He has twice been nominated for Classical Composition of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards.
“…an experience of profound emotion.” Kitchener Waterloo Record
In 2009 Jordan was named the Emerging Artist in music from the City of Vancouver’s Mayor’s Arts Awards.
His string orchestra work Aurora was the CBC’s official entry at the UNESCO International Music Council’s International Rostrum of Composers in Lisbon, Portugal.
“…the most devastating work I’ve heard in a long time. It comes at you in ripples of heart-breaking melancholy that you only gradually acknowledge as such—you find yourself sad, then sadder, than closer to tears, then struggling not to sob, and not really knowing why. I was crushed by it…” Definitely the Opera, Toronto, ON
He is a member of the Canadian League of Composers and an Associate of the Canadian Music Centre.
“It was a huge success…The audience was in trance and we got a standing ovation in the middle of the concert!!!!” Michael Zaugg, conductor, Choeur Saint-Laurent, Montréal, QC
Recent projects included commissions for a spatial work for large wind symphony for Arizona State University, a work for soprano and chamber ensemble for the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, a concert length spatial work for the Surrey Youth Symphony, and an orchestral suite for the Thunder Bay Symphony.
“And just such a unique experience was provided, with spectacular effect, by Vancouverite Jordan Nobles‘ A Sign in Space, which scattered the musicians to the far, jagged corners of the Crystal to surround us with music of unearthly beauty. Specially written for the day, Nobles’ piece was as perfectly at home in the ROM’s Crystal as Gabrieli in St. Mark’s Basilica. And the museum-goers were caught in their tracks as they drifted in from neighbouring rooms: spellbound, they stood and spun around slowly, trying to place the sources of the sound. How long was it, ten minutes? Thirty? Time was suspended; I could have sat for hours.” Mondomagazine, Toronto, ON