The Muted Note


“The Muted Note Duo” at the Edinburgh Fringe, August 10 – 22, 2015!!!

The Muted note Susanna Hood Scott Thomson

Photo of Susanna Hood & Scott Thomson by Frederic Chais

The Muted Note Duo: Dances and Songs based on Poems by P.K. Page

Created and performed by Susanna Hood and Scott Thomson

HOOS mute print banner

“…For 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.”

-P.K. Page, “The Understatement”

Montreal composer and trombonist, Scott Thomson, and dance artist and vocalist, Susanna Hood, will perform The Muted Note, a suite of songs and dances based on poems by P.K. Page. In performance they bring these lyrical songs to life with extended improvisation both musically and in dance. A delightful, sensual homage to one of Canada’s literary treasures who, in a sense, was always singing and dancing with wonder as she relished the world around her. 
The Muted Note is a striking accomplishment. It ultimately resonates like P.K. Pages galvanized language itself.  Stuart Broomer, Musicworks (read full review by clicking on “Musicworks”).
Scott composed the suite — a hybrid of jazz and artsong — for Susanna to sing, and Susanna subsequently choreographed the songs. Susanna’s dances, like Scott’s songs, are made to be extended through improvisation, and the pair animate and activate Page’s beautiful verse, the core of this provocative Poetry + Music + Dance show. Though they have performed the suite in several configurations with various collaborators (see below for more details), in Edinburgh they will perform as a duo, the unconventional combination of Voice + Dance + Trombone, which they toured throughout Canada, performing 35 times along the way, in late 2014.
They are promoting their 2013 duo record of the suite, The Muted Note: Songs Based on Poems by P.K. Page was released on &records in October 2013.
Susanna Hood is an award-winning dance artist renowned, especially, for her synthesis of dance and vocal improvisation, as well as her beautifully crafted choreography. In performance, she sings the song lyrics with tremendous poise and intention, and animates them with her singular improvisations characterized by both their focus and wild abandon. As part of their duo, Scott switches freely from accompanying Susanna to soloing in a vocal, extroverted style reminiscent of his teacher, the great American trombonist, Roswell Rudd.
Patricia Kathleen Page (1916-2010) is one of Canada’s most celebrated literary figures, and wrote some of this nation’s finest poems. She was also a visual artist, working as P.K. Irwin, whose artworks are in the collections of major museums including the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
To see some video excerpts of the duo performance go here: (“Blue”) (“The Understatement”) (“The Mole”)
Performance Information:
Dates: 10-22 Aug 2015
Time: 16.55 (0h55)
Venue: C Nova, venue 145, India Buildings, Victoria Street 
Tickets: £8.50 – £10.50
Concessions: £6.50 – £8.50
Children £4.50 – £6.50
C venues Box Office: 0845 260 1234
Fringe Box Office: 0131 226 000
For further information, images and interview availability please contact Susanna Hood at susannahoodhum[at]gmail[dot]com
or the C venues press office on 0845 260 1060 / press[at]cvenues[dot]com

The Muted Note (octet)


Photo of dancers Alanna Kraaijeveld & Ellen Furey by Alejandro De Leon

Dances & Songs Based on P.K. Page Poems

Choreography by Susanna Hood

Composition by Scott Thomson

Poetry by P.K. Page

Dance by Ellen Furey, Alanna Kraaijeveld, Bernard Martin & Susanna Hood

Live Music by The Disguises: Susanna Hood (voice), Nicolas Caloia (bass), Yves Charuest (alto saxophone), Pierre Tanguay (drums) & Scott Thomson (trombone)

Lighting Design by Paul Chambers

Recently premièred at both at Toronto’s Citadel Theatre (5-7 September, 2014)in Montreal in a co-presentation by Tangente and L’OFF Festival de Jazz (2-5 October, 2014), The Muted Note is a new stage work by Susanna Hood that synthesizes poetry, music, and dance, with P.K. Page’s brilliant verse at its core. The show draws on the fundamental ways that words, music, and dance have been combined throughout history, from folk cultures to the present, but also extends these classic impulses through a novel approach to thematic improvisation in dance and music, one that brings the material ­­– especially Page’s rich poetic images – to life.

For over a decade as both a dance artist and singer I have become known for integrating voice and dance – that of both myself and my collaborators’ – into performance. In a dance milieu, this work has informed several acclaimed pieces, including the Dora-winning solo, She’s gone away, and the remarkable Francis Bacon-inspired trio, Shudder.  In a music milieu, I have contributed both vocal and dance improvisations to Scott Thomson‘s Toronto and Montreal quintet’s (The Rent and The Disguises) among other performances in the creative and improvised music scenes.

The Muted Note blends these two streams of activity, and unites the formal and dramaturgical rigour of my choreographic work with the playfulness of the jazz-based creative music, a field in which I feel equally at home. The foundation of the show is a suite of eleven songs by trombonist Scott Thomson based on poems by P.K. Page, one of Canada’s most celebrated literary figures.

From 2010 to 2012, under the guidance of Jean Derome, Scott composed this suite of songs, written specifically for my singing voice, more generally for The Rent, Scott’s Toronto quintet formed initially to play the music of Steve Lacy, and more recently for The Disguises, his Montreal quintet. These image-rich songs are the basis for my choreography for a quartet of dancers, with live music by The Disguises.

The dances, like the songs, are structured so that fixed, thematic material is animated through improvisation, with an approach that is informed in spirit (if not always in style) by the jazz tradition. The unifying principle, throughout, is fidelity to the poems, which speak (sing, dance) poignantly about human relationships, the artistic spirit, the profundity of the natural world, love in all its guises, and much more. The Muted Note is delightful, a sensual homage to one of Canada’s literary treasures who, in a sense, was always singing and dancing with wonder as she relished the world around her.

See a short documentary about the development of The Muted Note here.

See a video of the full performance of The Muted Note here .

Read some reviews of our performances in Montreal here: Le DevoirDfdanseLe Délit

We recently participated in the CINARS Biennale 2014 in Montreal: table 334A at the Exhibition Room; and an OFF-CINARS presentation.

We would like to thank the following indiegogo campaign contributors for their generous donations towards the Toronto and Montreal premières of the new octet:

Anonymous (x4), Paul Chambers, Public Recordings/Ame Henderson, Ralph Fiala, bodyofmystery/Woody Epps, Catherine Thompson, Christopher Willes, Gabriel Dharmoo, Riley Sim, Rachel Cohen, Amanda Hamp, Jillian Peever, girlcancreate/Lisa Pijuan-Nomura, Paul Kolinski, Martin Arnold, Diane Finlayson, Pete Johnston, Johanna Bristow, Karen Ng, Nathalie Bonjour, Lori Duncan, Julie Deschenes, Shakir Panjvani, Aviva Chernick,  Jini Stolk, Craig Pedersen, Isak Goldschneider, Sarah Kirkpatrick

Musicworks Review
13 June, 2014

Susanna Hood & Scott Thomson
The Muted Note: Songs Based on Poems by P.K. Page
&Records &20

By Stuart Broomer

The songs of The Muted Note represent an outgrowth of the work begun by trombonist Scott Thomson and singer Susanna Hood with The Rent, a Toronto quintet initially dedicated to performing the music of the late saxophonist/composer Steve Lacy, including his extensive setting of texts ranging from Lao Tzu to Gregory Corso. The experience led to Thomson composing this suite of song settings for poems by P.K. Page. Begun in 2010, following Page’s death at 93, the suite was written in Montreal under the supervision of Jean Derome with whom Thomson was studying at the time. Thomson has arranged the suite both in quintet form for The Rent and in this intimate duet form for voice and trombone.

The title of the suite comes from Page’s “The Understatement,” the penultimate poem in the collection:

I speak not in hyperbole,
I speak in true words muted to their undertone,
choosing a pebble where you would choose a stone,
projecting pebbles to immensity.

For 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.

Thomson’s work follows from Page’s sense of the undertone. What emerges is a kind of dance between voice and trombone, between word and sound, a subtle counterpoint between conjoined melodies and ideas of voice, always in close connection to the gestural power of Page’s phrases. If there’s initially a tone of reserve, a kind of deliberate precision in the setting of Page’s phrases, it may exist to establish a kind of reverence for the poems, a desire to present as well as represent, but as the suite evolves, the music and words sail further, both together and apart. This Heavy Craft extends to a stirring Hood improvisation with multiphonic throat singing, a vocal technique that’s reflected later in Thomson’s sustained multiphonics on The Mole. Blue takes the title literally, exploring the range of jazz vocalizing from liberated exuberance to clearly ironic cliché.

The Muted Note is a striking accomplishment. In a sense almost naked work, in which unaccompanied trombone and voice are frequent (It ends with a recapitulation of the opening As Ten, As Twenty, now for voice alone), one does not hear these episodes as the work of individuals but as part of a complex ensemble of poet, composer, and interpreters. It ultimately resonates like Page’s galvanized language itself.

monsieur délire
11 December, 2013

François Couture

SUSANNA HOOD & SCOTT THOMSON / The Muted Note (&records)

Onze compositions du tromboniste Scott Thomson, pour voix et trombone, sur des poèmes de P.K. Page. Des mélodies fort agréables, quelque part entre le lieder et le jazz. Musiques simples, portées par un fort recueillement et la force des mots de Page, rendus par Hood avec sensibilité et précision. Élégant et très cohérent comme proposition.

Eleven compositions for voice and trombone by trombonist Scott Thomson, based on poems by P.K. Page. Enjoyable melodies, somewhere between lieder and jazz. Simple music imbued with contemplation and carried by the depth of Page’s words, sung by Hood with sensitivity and precision. An elegant and highly coherent artistic proposition.

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