Upstream’s cool and composing in The Coast

June 14th, 2018


Upstream’s cool and composing 

The Upstream Music Association tries some new things and pays tribute to Paul Cram with a special show this week.


International Music Concert
Saturday, June 16, 7:30pm
Halifax Central Library, 5440 Spring Garden Road


New Directions UP
Sunday, June 17, 8pm
The Halifax Music Co-op, 2164 Barrington Street

Lukas Pearse and Halifax are in a mutually beneficial relationship. Pearse has dedicated his life to sound art and in return, Halifax has provided the backdrop. From being a foley artist for Trailer Park Boys to music director at CKDU in the '90s, from playing the bass with a steak knife in Rebecca West to becoming an award-winning film composer, Pearse has collected an array of experiences.


The Upstream Music Association is largely responsible for keeping Pearse in Halifax. The organization began in 1990 and for much of its lifespan was headed by Paul Cram, who passed away in March. Pearse became the artistic director in 2015, when Cram stepped down.

"Upstream started off as an intersection between classical music improvisation and composers," he says, "a group of musicians who were literate but also interested in pushing the boundaries of what their instruments could do."

As a way to refocus the organization, Pearse is ensuring that each musician in the ensemble is also a composer, required to write music while maintaining improvisation as a central component of each piece. "It's a bit of a paradox," he says, "where you have to figure out how to solve it."

Upstream is inventing and re-inventing compositions and improvisations in New Directions UP on Sunday. The ensemble will be joined by pianist Holly Arsenault and saxophonist James Shaw and play new pieces by local composers, perform some improvisation and offer reworks of Cram's music as a tribute to him.

"We have some excellent young players and well-established veterans. It's not like people are either in the band or not in the band, it is more like a community," says Pearse. "We end up having musicians that probably otherwise wouldn't play on gigs with each other. Sometimes really interesting collaborations happen and people end up working together."

Pearse is also playing bass on Saturday night at the International Music Concert, a 20-piece group with dancers at the Halifax Central Library. It's been eye-opening. "It's made me conscious of the fact that even though Upstream is experimental music," he says, "we are working in a tradition and in the world, there are a lot of different traditions and approaches to the art of music."