Thursday, 31 January 2013

SONICWAVES OF ICELAND - An interview with Mark Hamilton by Christine Leonard-Cripps

SonicWaves bridges the gap between Calgary and Reykjavik


Sonic Waves presented in conjunction with One Yellow Rabbit's  High Performance Rodeo

Local man-about-town turned international songwriter Mark Hamilton has spent the better part of the last decade nurturing his fledgling folk vehicle, Woodpigeon, into a recording and touring success. Relocating from Calgary to Brighton, Edinburgh, and eventually Vienna, his passion for fashioning new musical constructs has led him to develop relationships that would never have been available to him had he remained static. Best informed by exploring a broad scope of cultural environments, Hamilton will soon return to Calgary, bringing with him the SonicWaves event — a musical mini-fest that will hopefully bridge the gap between Iceland and Calgary.

“The idea for SonicWaves came from my first visit to Iceland in 2009,” Hamilton says. “Since then I’ve come back three additional times, including a performance at Iceland Airwaves 2012, one of the greatest festival experiences of my life. What I took primarily from my visits here was a sense of self-confidence — that if my songs got me here, they could get me anywhere. And with that in mind, I wanted to share that feeling with some Calgary musicians that I’m a fan of.”
Hamilton sought out Icelandic musicians to collaborate on a project that would come to be known as SonicWaves. He also called upon a handful of Calgary’s most prolific songmakers to pair their original creations with the material being generated by his Mid-Atlantic collective.

“As far as kinship, the Icelanders we know are some of the sweetest, most giving musicians I’ve ever met. It’s a great feeling to be working so closely with true friends like this,” he says. “Alongside me stand Clinton St. John, Laura Leif, Samantha Savage Smith and, from Reykjavik, Benni Hemm Hemm and Prins Póló. Our process has been incredibly stress-free, which could be a bit surprising given how we’re each so in control of our own projects. Despite our short time together, this feels like a band already. No one has acted sacred or unwilling to take suggestions. Each member has brought a piece or three of music along to flesh out. It’s been a great experience standing in a circle in a studio space on the waterfront, wandering back and forth between instruments, and seeing what sticks."

“I’ve always thought that coming to Iceland is a bit like visiting the moon,” Hamilton continues. “The colours and the shapes and the nature of the wild around you is unlike anywhere else I’ve been. We chose to take a tour of the country before sitting down to actually write the music. Yesterday, Laura Leif and I went for a walk through Þingvellir, the site of the first Icelandic parliament. We strolled between the Eurasian and Mid-Atlantic Ridge, towering on either side of us. The thought hits you of what exactly you’re looking at — glaciers bigger than you can comprehend, or massive volcanoes that could change the face of the planet with a single eruption.?

"I can’t help but think about the human spirit that keeps us as a species here — that at times the conditions can be so uncomfortable, but the Icelanders stubbornly stay put. I think we’ve got a similar attitude in the prairies, to an extent — I think it takes a special person to truly love the prairies and realize what’s stretching out in front of them. We’ve spent a fair bit of time talking about it this week, actually, despite the incredible differences in the landscapes we come from, (we are) a group of young musicians from seemingly opposite ends of the world communicating with song.”

An intriguing addition to the High Performance Rodeo, SonicWaves is a concept that has been three years in the making. Thanks to the assistance of key supporters Kerry Clarke, Mark Hopkins and Erin O’Connor, Hamilton was able to co-ordinate a sequence of SonicWaves performances.

 “The shows will change from night to night, and these songs themselves will also develop over the course of the three performances at HPR. I think we’ll be starting the evenings off with short opening introductory sets from Benni and Prins, so they can show off their own material to a Canadian audience, followed by the group presentation of the works amassed here in Iceland. We’ve got a song about an Icelandic folk tale, for which the Calgarians received a quick lesson in pronunciation, while another song features our Reykjavik collaborators singing in Icelandic with a beautiful backing bit.”

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