Throughout late May and early June 2013, Western Front hosted Canadian composer, performer, and instrument builder Leslie Ross as musician-in-residence. Ross participated in a number of events, including a workshop on instrument building and acoustics, a concert, and a series of workshops and concerts with Square One, a diverse group of youth from the Burnaby School District, as part of Sonic Playground. The instruments constructed during this time included several bicycle-driven pump organs, which were used for a unique installation performance and were featured in Western Front’s 40th Anniversary Open House on June 16, 2013.
Ross’ work reflects a varied background in instrument building, drawing upon both historical methods and organological considerations as well as contemporary compositional and performative techniques. Although her main focus during this residency was the creation of a series of bicycle-driven organs, Ross also works with string and percussive instruments as well as early and modern bassoons, the latter of which are instruments she performs quite extensively with. In addition to her rigourous approach to conventional instruments, Ross’ repertoire also includes extensive multi-media work with sound sculptures and installations. This juxtaposition of refined instrument building with more experimental DIY practices makes for an interesting pool for other experimental musicians to access: Ross’ instruments have been worked into both acoustic and electronic contexts, solo and group settings, and in conjunction with choreography. Ross’ own compositional and performative work seems to be informed by her instrument building, and she has performed extensively throughout the New York area, where she is currently based.
The following images and video are taken from Western Front’s 40th Anniversary Open House, for which Ross led an instrument building table and performance of the bicycle-driven organs with the Square One youth group, and the Sonic Playground workshop held at Roundhouse Community Centre.