They’re both being presented by the Queer Arts Festival, but ask composers Allison Cameron and Lyle Chan if their work expresses a queer aesthetic and you’ll get two very different answers.
“I don’t know,” says B.C.–born, Toronto-based Cameron, on the phone from her home. “I can say that I have a certain sensibility that is in line with experimentalism or conceptualism, but I wouldn’t know about a queer sensibility.”
Chan, in contrast, says that his music is undeniably rooted in a queer world-view—but only because that’s his world-view. “When a gay person or a queer-identified person writes their own biography, inevitably it adopts a queer aesthetic,” he says, reached on a rainy winter morning in Sydney. “But that might not be recognizable even to another queer-identified person, because it’s so diverse. Somebody might be writing about their life in Minnesota, or Ghana, and I might be writing about my life in Australia, and the only thing we have in common is that we’re recording change.”
This difference of opinion is reflected in the music each artist makes. Cameron’s compositions, which Toronto’s CONTACT Contemporary Music ensemble will perform here, are quizzical interruptions in the normal flow of time, slow investigations of timbre and gesture. Chan’s approach, as embodied by his upcoming performance with the Acacia String Quartet, is more conventionally tonal, and usually reflects some kind of narrative. What might link the two composers is their willingness to push beyond accepted forms, each in their own highly personal way.