by Amber Goodwyn
It is a universally acknowledged truth that the best parts of the winter holidays are old school pagan. As the planet leans into the longest, darkest days of the year, we unknowingly turn to our ancestors to keep our spirits (and courage) up. Behold: the lighting of lights! The feasting of feasts! The decorating of trees! The exchanging of gifts! The singing of songs!
Wait a minute…
All right, so a lot of holiday music is pretty terrible. I do know a few people who absolutely love Christmas music, especially stuff like Handel’s Messiah and Montgomery’s Realms of Glory, which can be enjoyed full orchestral-style this season (Realms goes down at the Knox Met Church on Dec. 15).
But the rest of it is kitchy drek, non? The relentless enthusiasm of Christmas tunes can sometimes have a Pavlovian effect and channel us into a holiday mood… but often they induce headaches like to a sonic sugar-overload, especially in shopping situations.
SLIP INTO SOMETHING A LITTLE LESS SANTA-SUIT-LIKE
I’d like to suggest some wintery listening for all those seeking an antidote to cheery sing-a-longs. I propose to you Ariadne Music (1984), a gorgeous, delicate and haunting collection of works by the late composer Eleanor Hovda. There’s something delicate and wild in the minimal compositions that pair nicely with deep snow, bare branches and the long nights of winter.
Named after Greek mythology’s Ariadne (a.k.a. “The Mistress of the Labyrinth”), the collection feels ancient and ritual-inspired… and wholly unrelated to the commercialism of the season. My favorite track is Song in High Grasses written for the soprano Charlotte Regni, featuring a yodel-like call she learned when she was young in Zaire, Africa.
WHERE THERE’S FUN, THERE’S LIVE MUSIC
On Friday the 13th (Ooo! it’s like Halloween in December!) there are three shows you might wanna winter bike to: in the Cathedral neighbourhood Halteras! will play “surf with trashy undertones” at the Mercury Café. Downtown, Delta Throats and These Estates will play for the Prairie Dog crew (and all those other people) at O’Hanlon’s, while over in the warehouse district Soiled Doves will release their new album (like so many soiled doves into the night sky?) at the SCES Club. On Friday the 20th, Regina heroes Library Voices will kick it out at The Exchange with the likes of Close Talker and Soundtracks for Sad Movies.
In my ears: Mammane Sanni Abdoulaye’s La Musique Électronique du Niger (1978)
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