Virtual Noon Hour Concert Series: Connecting with Nature

Monday, January 24, 2022

Two musicians playing a guitar and a flute

Music unites people all over the world. This winter, Conrad Grebel University College is bringing people together virtually through the Noon Hour Concert series, starting January 26 at 12:30 pm. Additional concerts will premiere on most Wednesdays during the Winter term. These concerts are recorded with a small live audience and are broadcasted on the Grebel YouTube channel.

“In the Noon Hour Concert series, we feature musicians who are professionally trained in both Western and non-Western musical traditions,” states Kate Steiner, music professor at Grebel and coordinator of the Noon Hour Concert series. “When we feature music of non-Western traditions, we often discover just how Western our expectations of concert performances really are. In the Western Classical tradition, the audience is a passive listener. That kind of division between listener and performer doesn’t exist in many non-Western traditions, and so fitting that music into a concert performance often requires some adjustment.”

Gerard Yun, Assistant Professor of Community Music at Wilfrid Laurier University, and Nathan Stretch, Community Manager at Kitchener Public Library will perform the Shakuhachi Concert on January 26. These two musicians will showcase four different compositions with the use of the Shakuhachi, a Japanese Zen Buddhist flute, acoustic and electric guitars, and bio-electric fields generated from plants.

“In the Shakuhachi concert, Gerard Yun guides us through traditional Japanese forms of music as spiritual meditation, and also introduces us to the ways he has incorporated Shakuhachi into his own contemporary musical practices,” said Professor Steiner.

This concert brings forth the idea that plants are sentient beings with the ability to interact with people. Although plants do not have nerves to produce electrical signals, they have cells that can generate electrical impulses when exposed to a certain stimulus, such as sound, light, and temperature. Professor Yun highlights the plants’ reaction to the Shakuhachi and the guitar as electrical signals, by using a plant sonification device and its corresponding app. The plant sonification device performs a process called bio sonification, where it translates the electrical signals produced by the plants into musical notes. 

“We make electrical fields too, and they are interacting with the plants. We can see the interaction on an app,” explained Professor Yun. “The app takes those signals and translates them into a sound and somewhat into a rhythm. We can tell the app which notes to produce at certain signals.”

The Shakuhachi Concert demonstrates that technology can have a collaborative relationship with nature. This is prominent in Professor Yun’s own plant research, as he unveiled an invisible phenomenon and worked with it to create numerous beautiful compositions.

We hope that the concert, while not overly prescriptive, creates evocative space for people to investigate preconceived notions of what reciprocal music-making can be,” shared Nathan Stretch. “We hope the beautiful surprise of this unique collaboration was communicated to the audience as we experienced it.”

Grebel’s Noon Hour Concert series features seven unique concerts performed by professionally trained musicians. Some of these concerts include the Double Double Bass Concert performed on February 16, the Returning to Our Roots Concert performed on March 2, the Carnatic Violin Concert performed on March 23, and more. Join the Grebel community starting January 26 at 12:30 pm to experience both western and non-western styles of music. A special thanks goes to Staebler Insurance for sponsoring the Noon Hour Concert series. 

For concert details, visit the Music events page and find the Noon Hour Concert playlist on YouTube.

By Ashitha Mantrawadi