Join MOA for a journey of musical discovery from Asia, to Europe and the Americas. Learn about what it takes to create a new album as Vancouver-based musician Alex Morison composes his new album using audio archives and field recordings and collaborates with Indigenous poets and award-winning musicians throughout the process. This monthly podcast is created for audiophiles, the culturally curious, and lovers of the bizarre.
Alex Morison is a composer, multi-instrumentalist, singer, songwriter, producer and sound engineer from Whitehorse, Yukon. His innovative instrumentation, chaotic style, and harsh growling vocals produce haunting and truly unique sounds. He is perhaps best known for his work as the primary composer and lead vocalist for the Montreal-born band, The History of Gunpowder. Outside of the creative world, Morison works with Indigenous communities regarding community wellbeing and health and is a consultant for Indigenizing education initiatives.
In this podcast, Morison will feature work from his new album with The RumSalt Ensemble—a group that was born from a performance in response to MOA’s 2018 exhibition Marking the Infinite: Contemporary Women Artists from Aboriginal Australia. The exhibition featured the works of nine Aboriginal women from different remote regions of Australia whose stunning abstract works invoked the infinite, challenging the very constraints and constructs of time and space. Morison was invited by MOA’s Curator of Public Programming and Engagement, Marie Wustner, to assemble a group of musicians to respond to these other-worldly paintings through improvisational soundscapes. The musicians were challenged to react to these contemporary works in order to create an environment of contemplation and exploration for an intimate performance.
RumSalt is an eclectic ensemble featuring critically acclaimed and envelope-pushing musicians including: JUNO-award winner Meredith Bates on violin; prolific multidisciplinary artist Genevieve Mackay on viola; classically trained, folk musician Franki Lemon on cello; award-winning composer and musician Mike WT Allen on baritone saxophone; experimental blues rocker Nik Focht on percussion; and contemporary improvised music specialist Lyle Hopkins on double bass.
Episode 1: Listen–Introduction to A Taste of RumSalt (June 2020)
In this first episode of A Taste of RumSalt, MOA’s composer-in-residence Alex Morison introduces listeners to his band The History of Gunpowder, plays field recordings that inspire his creative process, and shares the words of Lutselk’e Dene and Plains Cree poet, Tawahum Bige—his first Indigenous collaborator on this new musical project.
References to artists mentioned:
Alex Morison is the primary composer of the band, The History of Gunpowder. In 2019 he received a Canada Council Grant which enabled a North American and European tour, beginning with a sold-out show for MOA’s Sound House series.
Tawahum Bige is a Lutselk’e Dene and Plains Cree, Two-Spirit, non-binary poet. Tawahum Bige’s work can be found in Red Rising, Prairie Fire, EVENT, Poetry is Dead, Grain and Plenitude magazines.
Jonny Greenwood is most well known as the lead guitarist for Radiohead, and is also an accomplished composer.
Krzysztof Penderecki is a boundary breaking Polish composer well known for his haunting orchestral arrangements that created the soundscape for many films, including The Shining.
Episode 2: The Sounds of Resistance (July 2020)
Sounds of resistance have echoed around the world for generations, crossing continents and oceans. Their rhythms and cadence inspire the movements that embolden strength and resilience. In this second episode of A Taste of RumSalt, father and daughter Steve and Xhalida September share the history of their families and their intergenerational, international activism for the equal treatment and respect for Black lives. It’s a struggle that spans space and time, from South African apartheid to the Canadian Black Lives Matter movement. Host Alex Morison elaborates on the music of resistance and the uniqueness of Indigenous music in the ongoing battle against systemic racism. Lady Vanessa Cardona, a mestiza Colombian poet, shares words of community organizing and Indigenous independence as a means of resistance and resilience.
References to artists mentioned:
James Brown was American singer, songwriter, dancer, musician and record producer. Known as the ‘Godfather of Soul,’ he contributed to the genesis of funk and soul music. Listen: “Say it Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud” by James Brown
Mavis Staples is an American singer and civil rights activist. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999 and the Blues Hall of Fame in 2017 for her contributions to soul music, rhythm and blues, and gospel with her family’s band The Staple Singers, as well as her solo work. Listen: “Change” by Mavis Staples and “I’ll Take You There” by The Staples Sisters
Sam Cooke was an American singer, songwriter and civil rights activist known as the ‘King of Soul’ for his importance in the development in soul music and popular music more broadly. Listen: “Chain Gang” by Sam Cooke
The Impressions were an American doowop, soul, gospel and R&B band who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003 for their numerous chart-topping hits and significance in popular music from the 1960s until the 2000s. Listen: “Choice of Colour” by The Impressions and “Move On Up” by member Curtis Mayfield
Buffy Saint-Marie is a renowned and celebrated Cree Canadian-American singer songwriter, musician, composer and social activist. Listen: “You Got to Run (Sprit of the Wind)” by Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq
Tanya Tagaq is an Inuk throat singer and author who won the Polaris Prize in 2014 and continues to push the boundary of possibilities of throat singing and experimental music. Listen: “Uja” by Tanya Tagaq
A Tribe Called Red is a Juno-Award winning electronic dance, instrumental hip-hop and dubstep group whose music is sometimes called “powwow-step” for its inclusion of First Nations music. Listen: “Stadium Pow Wow” by A Tribe Called Red Ft. Black Bear
Willie Dunn was a Canadian singer-songwriter, politician and film director of Mi’kmaq descent who was an important figure in the Indigenous folk music scene in Montreal. Listen and watch: “The Ballad of Crowfoot” by Willie Dunn
Peter LaFarge was a New York City-based folk singer-songwriter popular in the 1960s. He was most well-known for his associations with Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, and his songs covering Indigenous struggles and histories in America.