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Photo courtesy of Ottawa New Music Creators.

Gig Pick: Noam Bierstone at Pressed—01.13.18

By Curtis Perry on January 11, 2018

Curtis Perry is a director of Ottawa New Music Creators. ONMC is a non-profit concert presenter of contemporary music and a resource for contemporary musicians.


Noam Bierstone is a busy guy. Aside from being a part of multiple ensembles, he runs an experimental performance series of his own in Montreal, No Hay Banda (Spanish for “there is no band,” taken from a line from the David Lynch film Mulholland Drive); his music has been heard all the way from CBC Radio to Switzerland’s Radio 2 Kultur. And now, he’s set to make waves with his brand of “non-percussive percussion” in a rare Ottawa performance at Pressed (750 Gladstone Ave) this Saturday, January 13, alongside guest composer Zihua Tan.

“It just comes from making music that I’m really motivated to make,” Bierstone explained. “It comes from having a community of friends, which develops into projects that I get really excited about.”

Photo courtesy of Ottawa New Music Creators.

After initial musical training at McGill and some time spent in Paris, returning to Montreal for doctoral studies, Bierstone’s musical practice is culturally omnivorous. He’ll take Tibetan singing bowls and incorporate them into a larger musical statement just as much as he will take everyday household items, constantly seeking new sounds that both riff on the familiar and invoke the unexpected.

In a program as diverse as Bierstone’s for this Saturday, what ties it all together is ultimately Bierstone himself as a presence. “A focus for this program is how the body is treated in different ways. In one piece, different sounds are being extracted from the body, as well as vocal sounds,” Bierstone said. “In another piece, the body is extended with two Tibetan bowls and a chant. The idea is that the body is fully incorporated as a resonating object, resonating to the bowls.”

For the piece with Zihua Tan, which will be a premiere, nothing was held back in terms of exploring new and interesting sound in service of the collaboration. “We tried many magnets and spoons, for example, trying different weights to find something that works. We’re also using a lot of metal whisks, kitchen whisks, which have an inherent unpredictability to them, creating different glissandi [sliding] sound effects when used or rubbed against the more traditional instruments.”

Although his current practice is a far cry from the regimen of classical orchestral music that comprised his formal training, Bierstone doesn’t think there is such a wayward path from there to here. “It’s always been part of a percussionist’s training to come upon new and inventive techniques,” Bierstone offered. “At the same time, I find it interesting to see how, not consciously, how far away I’ve gone from just hitting things.”


Noam Bierstone performs at Pressed (750 Gladstone Ave) this Saturday January 13 at 8pm, presented by Ottawa New Music Creators. Tickets cost $5 online and at the door.