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The sounds of Nocturne 

Léola Le Blanc
Geary Street Cemetery, Dartmouth

If Léola Le Blanc didn't hurry she would miss her ferry. Cutting through Dartmouth side streets, the artist found a path that looked like it would lead to Alderney Landing. It did, but not before snaking through the Geary Street Cemetery.

Le Blanc never noticed the cemetery before, which isn't surprising. There are only a few dozen headstones. Even the wrought-iron gate is hidden by foliage most of the year. And yet, thanks to the path and a bench overlooking the harbour, the cemetery has regular visitors.

"It redefines what a cemetery is," says Le Blanc. "It's still a living thing."

Le Blanc channels this experience with her audio installation, Perpétuel. For Nocturne, hidden speakers will play her eight-minute sound piece reflecting site's past and present.

Established almost 175 years ago, what the cemetery lacks in size it makes up for in history. The site contains a family crypt, the graves of early Catholic settlers, Anglicans, immigrants, the aunt of a French empress and possibly hundreds of Mi'kmaq along with two chiefs.

Le Blanc was right at home with the project. With a master's degree in cultural anthropology and experience digging up graves in Eastern Europe, she's long intertwined science and art.

"I walk through there sometimes and I stop for a second and think of how I'm stacked over the history. All of a sudden this one little space becomes so deep, like a palimpsest, it has so many different layers."

Le Blanc used four recorded Mi'kmaq songs from the public archives to structure the piece like a life---from childhood to love, then loss and death. Merging the songs with on-site recordings of birds, helicopters, sirens and children playing, Le Blanc weaves a decidedly Dartmouth sound.

And Le Blanc knows a thing or two about weaving. Before finishing her MFA at NSCAD last spring, she specialized in textile art. It's hard to believe, looking inside her backyard studio. The few textile works are outnumbered by shelves of secondhand electronics. But interested in weaving nontraditional materials she found her dream thread in sound---a way for art to activate space, and to engage not just the eyes but the whole body.

"Sound is a way of really engaging us on a whole other level," she says. "It's about discovering and knowing your space. Because we are in the world, and it's better if you tune in and explore the different possibilities of a space."

Scenes May Contain Violins
Hydrostone Park, Young Street, 9:30-10:30pm

Jessica Winton isn't a musician or a photographer. She's a sculptor. And for Nocturne she's molded a string quartet and the work of four photographers for an hour-long multimedia live performance, Scenes May Contain Violins. The music, composed by Alice Hansen, is scored in four movements, one for each artist. The photographs by Rachel Brodie, Mandy Wright, Karen Ruet and Damian Lidgard will be screened as a slideshow (choreographed by Winton and Lidgard), lending a speed and narrative to the imagery for the music to build on. The music, choreography and outdoor screening come together in a delightful study of the effect of presentation on art.

Picture Promenade
Eyelevel Gallery front window, 2063 Gottingen Street

Brendan Dunlop and Liz MacDougall are in for a surprise this Nocturne. Although "Å“collaborating" for the piece Picture Promenade, neither has seen what that the other has produced. Paired up by Eyelevel Gallery, both artists were working with the theme of Halifax's north end. Dunlop was behind the photographic component focusing on area architecture, while MacDougall compiled the audio element from news reports. "Both [parts] are focused on this community, and change and things that have happened," says Dunlop. "The north end's history is lively and the struggles constant, so, no matter what comes out, connections will be drawn and things will come together."

The Accidental Sound & Picture Show
Joanne Kerrigan and Chuck Blazevic
St. Paul's Cathedral, 1749 Argyle Street, 8-9pm and 10-11pm

Earlier this year in Toronto, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art presented Videodrome---a live video art competition based on hip-hop style DJ battles. It was undeniably rad---too bad Halifax's Joanne Kerrigan and Chuck Blazevic beat it to the punch two days earlier. The video artist and musician are presenting their Accidental Sound & Picture Show again for Nocturne. Although in different media, both Kerrigan and Blazevic are known for mish-mashing elements, so riffing off each other isn't a stretch. "Sound represents for me almost the same thing as image," says Kerrigan. "It's like their all flavours."

Stairway to Heaven
Will Robinson
Khyber ICA, 1588 Barrington Street

With only a week to go before this year's Nocturne, Will Robinson's computer crashed. Devastating, for sure. But given his particular project, Stairway to Heaven, Robinson can't help but see the irony. The audio piece layers hundreds of renditions of the Led Zeppelin epic found on YouTube to make an audio typology emphasizing the comedic ubiquity of the song for axe-strumming teenagers. It's only fitting Robinson have to listen and find all the tracks again. "I don't think I really like the song," says Robinson. "It's just such an interesting thing these people playing this song with such great conviction."

Tanya Davis and Leslie Menagh
Behind Halifax Provincial Court, 5250 Spring Garden Road

We can thank NSCAD grad Leslie Menagh for getting singer-songwriter Tanya Davis into the fine arts. Drawing on Davis' writing and performance skills and Menagh's installation art practice, Storybook is a looped five-minute multimedia performance complete with "a small and quirky choir." Flexing her writing muscles, Davis wrote six tales dealing with issues like a boy who gets flack for crying too much, and a misunderstood owl wanting to celebrate its impending death. The stories have been illustrated by Sydney Smith, Andrea Dorfman and Colleen MacIsaac. "They're not typical children's stories," says Davis. "The themes are a bit more grown up than your average kids' story."

NocTour podcast

For another route, download the NocTOUR podcast (free at Complete with sounds of birds and street noise thanks to production help from radio geniuses at CKDU, the 15-minute track is a guide to events outside the city core, from Dartmouth to the Marginal Road area. "We want to make very clear that Nocturne is much more than just a downtown Halifax event," says tour guide and podcast co-writer Jenny Johnson. "We wanted to provide people with as many ways as possible to experience the festival."

Nocturne buses
Running north and south from Barrington Street, until midnight Contemporary art is the business of cool. Take the least cool, most mundane thing you can think of---say, riding on a Metro Transit bus---and contemporary art will fill those dirty seats. At least that's what happened last year when Nocturne offered free transit between venues featuring on-board live music. And the buses are back and even better this year. Featuring again a variety of musical styles, and even some musical comedy, the bus route has been revised into two shorter north and south routes. Because art might help make the bus tolerable, but it can't work miracles.

The Coast's Nocturne Photopool

Photos by Aaron McKenzie Fraser and The Coast's Shutterbug Society.

Join our Flickr Photopool or send us a twitpic, include a location (just in case your phoone does not automatically include geographic data) and we'll post them up for you!

View Nocturne Photo Pool 2009 in a larger map


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