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The Muted Note: Cross Canada Tour!

The Muted Note is a poetry, music, dance and improvisation project inspired by the verses of P.K. Page (Patricia Kathleen Page, 1916-2010). P.K. Page grew up in Saint John, New Brunswick where she started to write poetry to become one of the country’s celebrated wordsmiths. Under the P.K. Irwin pseudonym she also created visual art and some of her works are featured at the National Gallery of Canada and other prestigious museums.
Susanna Hood, The Muted Note
Photo: Frédérique Ménard-Aubin

Montreal-based Scott Thomson, a prolific trombonist and composer, and Susanna Hood, an award winning dance performer/choreographer, are the artistic brains behind The Muted Note. The stage work of the production will premiere in Toronto Friday-Sunday, September 5-7, at the Citadel Theatre. From there they will embark on a massive tour performing the project in nine Canadian provinces. 

Atlantic Canadian dates include September 10 at Back Street Records, Saint John NB (also presented by Back Street Records and Connection Dance Works);  September 12 (a concert presented by suddenlyListen, also featuring an opening set by pianist Tim Crofts ) and September 13 (a workshop presented by Mocean Dance) in Halifax NS; and October 7-13 at various venues in St. John’s and Portugal Cove NL as part of the Festival of New Dance.
Check out our Q&A with Scott Thomson to learn more about this suite brought to life with multi-disciplinary expressions.
How did the idea for The Muted Note come about?
ST: I read a lot of poetry in general and, around 2010, a lot of P.K. Page's poetry in particular. And, musically, Susanna Hood and I had done a lot of work researching and performing Steve Lacy's music, including many of his songs that are settings of other, published writers: Robert Creeley, Samuel Beckett, Blaga Dimitrova, Osip Mandelstam, Blaise Cendrars, and many others. So I tried writing a setting of Page's “This Heavy Craft” for Susanna to sing and to improvise on vocally and in dance (Susanna is both an exceptional singer and an award-winning contemporary dance artist). It worked well, so I continued composing settings of Page poems until I had a suite of eleven, which we call The Muted Note.
Susanna and I play them as a duo (as we will do on tour); with our quintet, The Disguises; and as a stage work, choreographed beautifully by Susanna, for three other dancers with live music by The Disguises. It's a Russian-doll model of interpreting the songs to suit different performance contexts and degrees of formality and informality. In each case, the creative contributions of all of the performers involved are key to the suite's vitality, since almost all of the songs and dances are composed in order to be animated and activated through improvisation.

How come the name The Muted Note?
ST: It's a phrase in one of Page's poems that I set, “The Understatement,”: “[...] where love is no word can be compounded / extravagant enough to frame the kiss / and so I use the under-emphasis / the muted note, the less than purely rounded.” A lovely line. I've dwelt on what it may mean in the disciplines in which we work.

Did the production’s components come together quickly or gradually over time?
ST: Susanna and I both work slowly.  Or, perhaps more accurately, we work as fast as we can but on numerous projects. The basic timeline for this one is: in 2010-11 I composed the songs; in 2012 we recorded them as a duo, conceived the full stage work, and started working with the dancers; in 2013 we released the duo disc, we started rehearsing and performing with The Disguises, and the choreography developed further. This year, between the Toronto and Montreal premieres of the full stage work and our extensive duo tour, the project is really fulfilled.

Susanna Hood & Scott Thomson
Photo: Joane Hétu


Without giving too much away, what will audience members experience when they see The Muted Note?
ST: Susanna Hood is an extraordinary performer. She sings the songs beautifully and soulfully, and improvises on them both vocally and in dance, a synthesis for which she is singularly acclaimed in Canada. I accompany her on trombone, and also improvise on the material. The songs are melodic in nature and, hopefully, animate the terrific poems they set.

Have you and Susanna Hood collaborated before?
ST: Susanna and I have been working together since 2008 in numerous contexts. The first was my Steve Lacy repertory group, The Rent, while we were based in Toronto.

Have you done a cross Canada tour of these proportions before? (Are you excited?)
ST: Never.  Yes!  It's wonderful to travel, to play for new people, and to meet them.

To learn more about Scott Thomson, Susanna Hood and The Muted Note, visit:

To check out the most updated dates/venues of The Muted Note’s cross Canada tour (September 5-November 30), visit:
www.scottthomson.ca/dates/

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