Upon entering a busy Koerner Hall during a snowstorm on Friday, February 9th, a sense of refuge and solace filled the venue for Toronto Renaissance man Andrew Forde’s presentation of Ideas of North #PrivateThoughts.
Although quipped as a special presentation during Black History Month, it went above and beyond, demonstrating an artistic piece that holds its own as a sonic essay or document, unbound by a season or time frame.
Joined by his immensely talented group, The Ghost Tapes (featuring friend of the show Unbuttoned’s Alexei Orechin on guitar), Andrew Forde produced contemporary, innovative arrangements of Glenn Gould’s most personal exploration of solitude; The Idea of North. Forde and Co. merged music with a narrative founded on a “dark night of the human soul,” celebrating Gould’s iconic work and enigmatic genius, yet with a twist – how this resonates with Forde as a young black man.
Forde delved deep into the project by examining Gould’s journey, and embracing a notion of “cyber solitude” through impressionistic contrapuntal art. Sampling elements of Nu Classical, Rap, Hip Hop, Electronica and world music, Ideas of the North questions identity, what it means to be Canadian while setting intentions on hope and visions for the future of our nation.
Locally revered pianist, Ron Davis, introduced the show excitedly before the projector began to deliver stunning images of the Northern Lights, pulsing to the music. Forde made quite the entry performing solo, in the dark, before giving a rundown of the show. Throughout each track, the artist expanded on the themes and questions surrounding them in essay-like fashion, almost presenting a thesis as he argued against Gould’s approach on his compositions and notably, distaste for “two dimensional” audiences (especially those who did not reciprocate movement, or react to performance). He shifted through intellectual dialogue on identity, authenticity, heritage and compassion. Mid-way through the concert, something remarkable ensued; he delved into the concept of “confronting your truth” by stepping up and relaying a personal fear, or private thought. Members of the Ghost Tapes followed in between virtuosic, individual solos as the spotlight shifted to relay personal, honest, vulnerable thoughts with humility – and grace.
One of the concepts Forde discussed was that of connections between solitude and audience/being in company with others. He examined solitude as meditation, in comparison to sharing with an audience as a “hands-on” experience, providing a bigger picture of the artistic process we often fail to examine or explore.
It’s no surprise that Forde’s narrative was complex and intricate. The self-proclaimed polymath gave background on his career as an engineer, entrepreneur and businessman. Forde, currently President and CEO for OneOne Technologies Corporation (previously serving as the CTO of Automata, a technology company that built advanced computational engines for data acquisition and analysis) wears many hats. He’s also a PhD student at the University of Toronto’s Industrial Engineering department. It’s a wonder how he can do it all, and with such focus and precision.
The performance of the aptly titled “Train To Wokeness” was inspired by Japanese Canadian poet and novelist, Joy Kagawa. As an excerpt of her poem served the backdrop, inflections of traditional Japanese music were audible through the song – this was one of many dedications to diaspora Forde examined during the set.
Local collaborations by prodigy, William Leathers (who rocked unparalleled steez in a wicked suit), added Toronto character to the evening. A digital performance of Shad’s signature verses to the divine lyricism of JUNO-nominated Iskwé continued to reinforce the air of diversity that was not only presented, but felt, at the fore. CapitaL spit bars on freedom, racism and justice with resonant energy; bold and brooding, intricate and ratifying.
Forde’s Ideas of North is not a tribute to Glenn Gould. It delved deeper, as a traditional performance as a multi-layered, diverse experience. The hard work and dedication of the project is evident, with its vast audio-visuals and powerful narrative. A tribute is a series of covers. Here, Forde and The Ghost Tapes performed true originals reflecting in individuality, authenticity and vulnerability. It is more of an honoured collaboration with Gould’s spirit; a joining of forces through sound, and the divine.
Ideas Of North – Credits
Executive Producer / Principal Performer / Director / Writer / Composer • Andrew Forde
The Ghost Tapes: Nathaniel James (Keys & Synth), Alexei Orechin (Guitars & Synth), Chris Pruden (piano & synth), Anthony Davis (drums)
Venue Production Manager • Malcolm Harris
Very Good Studios
Production Designer • Matthew Hemming
Playback Operator • Joshua Hemming
Playback Operator • Dylan Mitchell-Funk
Stage Manager • Astra Hemming