Listening to Snow
January 18 – March 21, 2020
Justina M. Barnicke Gallery
Curated by Liora Belford
Michael Snow’s seventy years of international acclaimed experimentation and innovation in diverse media offers sound in multiple forms – composed and improvised music, sound installations, sound recordings, as well as visualized sounds in formats of sculptures, paintings, and experimental films. In an interview with Annette Michelson, Snow described his diverse interests in working with sound as ‘departments of interest’: “[M]y background is partly in jazz, so that’s a certain lineage. But then there are other things that really were more related to the way I’ve made films or some of the multitrack recordings that I’ve done that really don’t have any improvisation. They are compositions that use the possibilities of multitrack: of layering, of superimposing one element of music on the other, and so on. And it’s a compositional tool.”
Listening to Snow is a devoted-to-listening space, a music box, focusing on ideas and thoughts arising from a selection of Snow’s sounds. Composed and tuned, the exhibition manifests as one sonic experience from three sound installations [Diagonale (1988), Waiting Room (2000), Tap (1969-1972)] one screening (Solar Breath (2002), two recordings (Falling Starts, W in the D, 1975) and a piano for Snow’s performance – all sharing the same acoustic space.
The exhibition is part of the Hart House’s centennial programming recognizing the special place the institution holds in Snow’s biography. Michael Snow started playing the piano publicly in 1948 while in High School and subsequently continued to play with various Jazz groups while he was a student at the Ontario College of Art. During the 50’s, he played several times for frat events at Hart House. These musical performances were in a sense eclipsed, in 1955, by his first solo show of drawings and paintings which was also at Hart House. Since then he had numerous exhibitions with the now-departed Isaacs Gallery and had solo exhibitions or has work in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Tate Modern (London). His most recent exhibition (of sculptures) was at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. Snow is active musically, being one of the founding members of the Toronto free improvisation ensemble, CCMC. He recently played a solo piano concert at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He has made many films/videos, several of which have original sound/image situations, such as New York Eye and Ear Control of 1964 and the 4½ hour long talkie, Rameau’s Nephew… of 1974. Snow’s sound installations are a result of a mating of sculpture and music.
We gratefully acknowledge operating support from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council and the Toronto Arts Council.