SHHH!!… a powerful utterance designed to draw attention forward… creating space and awareness… opening ears to something important.
(Halifax/Kjipuktuk, NS) An Auditory Survey of the Last Days of the Holocene presents a radical catalogue of our created world’s sounds as a continuous multimovement work for piano, percussion, and fixed electronics. Composed by Frank Horvat for Ottawa’s innovative SHHH!! Ensemble, this work illustrates the current state of pollution and destruction by employing over 150 different audio samples indicative of the climate crisis. The musical score augments and interacts with this soundscape, using a broad range of percussion instruments and piano. The “Holocene” is the current geological epoch, which began approximately 9,700 years before the Common Era (BCE), following the Last Glacial Period.
An Auditory Survey was conceptualized during two week-long creative retreats at Port William Sound in Mountain Grove, Ontario. Nestled in an unassuming cabin and adjacent studio, the musicians worked with composer Frank Horvat, each track the result of extensive experimentation and an uncompromising search to create something compelling and real: “As nature lovers and artists we are conscious of humanity’s impact on the environment, and until this project we had been searching for a way to effect meaningful reflection on this issue that we care so deeply about. Collaborating with Frank and working on An Auditory Survey of the Last Days of the Holocene has been a powerful way for us to consider our shared responsibilities and explore our place on Earth,” the Ensemble said.
Percussionist Zac Pulak and pianist Edana Higham comprise the SHHH!! Ensemble, a duo carving a space for themselves as electrifying performers of new music. With a keen ear for experimentation and exploration, SHHH!! has been deemed “truly virtuosic and intense” by Toronto’s Confluence Concerts and “a beautiful discovery” following their debut with the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec. Formed in 2017, SHHH!! Ensemble began developing their signature “avant-accessible” style through residencies at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity and the Canadian Music Centre. Since then, SHHH!! has continued to develop innovative repertoire for their ensemble commissioning and premiering new works by Kelly-Marie Murphy, John Beckwith, Jocelyn Morlock, Monica Pearce, Harry Stafylakis, and Noora Nakhaei, among others. They are also artistic director of the Ottawa New Music Creators.
SHHH!! Ensemble’s creativity and vitality were especially notable through the pandemic, with one critic commenting, “This virtuoso duo are so agile and inventive… I doubt anything short of a geological cataclysm will shut them down” (The WholeNote). Major highlights in 2020–2022 include the duo’s acceptance into the prestigious Evolution: Classical career development residency at the Banff Centre, a National Arts Centre #CanadaPerforms concert, the world premiere of JUNO-winning composer Jocelyn Morlock’s Spirit Gradient with the Tuckamore Chamber Music Festival in Newfoundland, and a nationally broadcast recital on the CBC Music program In Concert.
SHHH!! Ensemble’s debut album Meanwhile (Analekta) was released to critical acclaim, reaching top positions on Apple Music and Spotify playlists, and nominated for 2023 Classical Recording of the Year at the East Coast Music Awards. The title track Meanwhile, by composer John Beckwith, was the first piece written for SHHH!!.
Frank Horvat is “one of the most inventive songwriters to come out of the contemporary scene in Canada” (The WholeNote). As a pianist and multigenre composer “he has made the tricky musical leap that allows him to pursue a niche of his own” (Edmonton Journal). Frank explores a wide array of themes in his music, from love to the environment, mental health, and social justice issues. His works have been featured on over twenty albums on ATMA Classique, Really Records, and Centrediscs. With composition premieres on four continents, his music has been showcased internationally in theatre, feature films, and on radio/TV networks, including BBC Radio 3, Bravo, CBC, CBS, Discovery, HBO, and Vice, and featured in publications such Gramophone, The Strad, BBC Music Magazine, Toronto Star, and Vancouver Sun. Frank’s 2021 album Music for Self-Isolation was listed in the “Top 5 Classical Albums of the Year” by CBC Classical, and his other 2021 album, Project Dovetail, was included in CBC Music’s “Must-Hear Fall Albums.” Frank has been a panelist at the Classical:NEXT conference speaking on the topic of “artivism” and was featured in Chris Gunness’s UK Classical Magazine podcast.
Born in Ottawa, and a University of Toronto graduate under Christos Hatzis, Frank lives and composes by the lake in Toronto with his wife, who is also his manager. Frank is a Canadian Music Centre Associate Composer and the inaugural recipient of the Kathleen McMorrow Music Award for contemporary composition.
Recorded at Domaine Forget de Charlevoix, An Auditory Survey of the Last Days of the Holocene will be released on October 20, 2023, on all platforms. SHHH!! Ensemble thanks the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council for their support of this project.
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