Music in the Barns: Bolton - Godin - Oesterle


Music in the Barns is a Canadian ensemble directed by violist Carol Gimbel highlighting the new chamber music community in Canada. Their debut album includes works by Rose Bolton, Scott Godin, and Michael Oesterle that are demonstrative of an aesthetic openness that is characteristic of the current Canadian new music scene.


# Audio Title/Composer(s) Time
Total Time 42:58

The Coming of Sobs

Rose Bolton
01I. Mysterious with Intensity
I. Mysterious with Intensity
02II. Baroque Style passacaglia; Bleak
II. Baroque Style passacaglia; Bleak
03III. Heavy (Euphoric, Tragic)
III. Heavy (Euphoric, Tragic)

all that is solid melts into the air

Scott Godin
04I. The Heroism of Modern Life: Charles Baudelaire
I. The Heroism of Modern Life: Charles Baudelaire
05II. The Prison of Modernity: Michel Foucault
II. The Prison of Modernity: Michel Foucault
06III. The City of Tomorrow: Le Corbusier; IV. In the Forest of Symbols: Robert Moses
III. The City of Tomorrow: Le Corbusier; IV. In the Forest of Symbols: Robert Moses
07Daydream Mechanics
Daydream Mechanics

Music in the Barns’ debut recording of music by Rose Bolton, Scott Godin, and Michael Oesterle chronicles a burgeoning Canadian new music scene. These pieces demonstrate an openness to broad aesthetics and an absence of stylistic dogma. Music in the Barns began during a transitional generation when composers absorbed stylistic trends they were hearing from elsewhere and integrated them into their work in a way that was responsive to their local communities of musicians and supporters. The three works presented here were selected to represent this Canadian voice in new chamber music, and were championed by Music in the Barns from 2011 - 2015 as part of their vision to advance this voice within the international musical community.

The Coming of Sobs (2008) is the debut string quartet of acclaimed composer Rose Bolton. Championed by Music in the Barns, the material in the three-part work is focused and geared towards intensification and transformation of expressive states. The opening movement unfolds over a drone, as a lumbering chordal passage grows in intensity. The second movement establishes a similar figure as a passacaglia in the bass, coloring it above with ornamental filigree in the violins. Cathartic, towering verticalities characterize the first section of the final movement, before the intensity gives way to chords deserving of the movement’s name, “Bleak.” Bolton writes, “The Coming of Sobs was written when I was becoming increasingly drawn to exploring intense emotions in music, and less interested in my previous approach, where harmony, melody and musical texture were more mathematically derived. Working with Baroque forms, combining these with extreme emotions that one would hear in the late 19th century or 20th century, is how I developed the middle movement, which has a passacaglia like structure. In this way, I was exploring the combination of musical elements of late Romanticism, and the Baroque era.”

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Scott Godin’s all that is solid melts into the air for string quintet explores the notion of modernism in musical and extra-musical terms. Musically, Godin’s cites Elliott Carter as his model, and while we hear several features of that influence, including the establishment of different contrasting characters across instruments and a taut motivic language in the opening two movements, the expansive harmonic language heard in sections three and four suggests more neo-romantic affinities. Godin’s movement titles conjure four influential modern figures outside of music, Charles Baudelaire, Michel Foucault, Le Corbusier and Robert Moses, evoking each of their unique characters through the contrasting approaches to musical material one hears throughout the piece.

Michael Oesterle took the title Daydream Mechanics from a book by French-Canadian poet and novelist Nicole Brossard. Inspired by childlike explorations of a backyard, he captures a moment in one’s life when a familiar landscape remains new and open to discovery. The mechanistic musical material evolves with subtle changes in rhythmic groupings, offset by pointed interjections that include whispering and vocalizations. As the piece progresses, we hear more harmonic, intervallic, and timbral inventiveness, as Oesterle finds myriad possibilities of manipulating the material through what might be described as an indirect variation technique. The work occupies a place within a rich repertoire of minimalist works for string quartet, steering away from the phase process that is so closely associated with Reich’s music and featuring more textural diversity than one immediately associates with Glass’ iconic early string quartets.

Throughout this recording, the performers from Music in the Barns show themselves to be versatile and communicative musicians, reaching out to the listener beyond the microphones to project three contrasting compositional voices. Each work is emblematic of a Canadian sensibility in its own way while integrating global stylistic influences.

– D. Lippel

Violin I: John Corban (Oesterle), Lance Ouellette (Bolton, Godin)
Violin II: Andrew Eng Viola: Carol Gimbel (Bolton, Oesterle), Pemi Paull (Godin)
Viola II: Carol Gimbel (Godin)
Cello: Amy Laing

Recorded at Trinity St. Paul's Centre, Jeanne Lamon Hall, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, March, 2016

Executive Producer: Music in the Barns (Carol Gimbel, Artistic Director)
Produced by Cullan Bryant, Carol Gimbel and David Jaeger

Engineer: Dennis Patterson, Big Smoke Audio
Edited, Mixed and Mastered by Peter Weitzner

Design: Marc Wolf (
Cover Photograph: Sacred Geometry #10 © 1999 Ken Collins

Music in the Barns would like to thank Amy Gottung, Pemi Paull, David Schotzko, Anna Sophia Vukovich and Young Artist performances for their support and vision.

Music in the Barns

Founded in 2008 by director and violist Carol Gimbel, Music in the Barns designs “rare and thought-provoking concert performance[s]” (Wholenote Magazine) that blur the lines between genres and mediums to engage new perspectives on art, music and the world around us. With a ten-year track record for commissioning and premiering new works, Music in the Barns' visionary programming includes new works presented alongside repertoire from the classical tradition. Music in the Barns has worked with composers Richard Reed Parry, Nicole Lizée, John Oswald, Michael Oesterle, Rose Bolton, Scott Godin, artistic director Jörn Weisbrodt, Pulitzer Prize-winning multi-instrumentalist David Amram, members of The International Contemporary Ensemble, Order of Canada dancer and choreographer Margie Gillis, Order of Canada poet Don McKay, CBC producer David Jaeger, experimental band Tasseomancy, filmmakers Joseph Johnson Cami and Ayelen Liberona, Tafelmusik Baroque Choir, VIVA! Youth Choir, and more.



The WholeNote

Classical traditions seldom come together so gloriously with the unpredictability of the avant-garde than on this disc titled after its contributing Canadian composers Rose Bolton, Scott Godin and Michael Oesterle. When that happens, it somehow seems fortuitous that Toronto’s Music in the Barns – a quintet where violinist Lance Ouellette and violists Carol Gimbel and Pemi Paull sometimes play musical chairs – should be tasked to play their repertoire.

Bolton’s The Coming of Sobs is a particularly intense work. But even here the musicians make the black dots literally fly off the page intensifying the experience that the composer has written into the work. After a relatively quiet opening the music develops – through a series of pulses and crescendos to a shattering fortissimo that emphasizes its darkly dramatic and veritably vocal human cry as brilliantly expressed by the string ensemble.

Godin’s work, all that is solid melts into the air, is more ephemeral and calls for a more nuanced performance, one which Music in the Barns delivers in spades. Breathing their way into the composition that spans over 150 years of humanity, the ensemble traverses a work bookended by the visceral world of Charles Baudelaire and the beguiling symbolism of master-builder Robert Moses with transcendent splendour.

The disc comes to an end with Oesterle’s Daydream Mechanics. The quintet brings a near-rhapsodic reverie inspired by the spare lyricism of Nicole Brossard’s poetry into a sensuous awakening on a disc to die for.

-Raul da Gama, 8.28.19, The WholeNote



Il y avait vers la fin des années 1990 à l’Université McGill un bouillonnement créatif singulier d’interprètes et de compositeurs qui commencent à nous être plus familiers aujourd’hui. Rose Bolton, Scott Godin et Michael Oesterle étaient de ceux-là, Oesterle étant par ailleurs le cofondateur de l’ensemble Kore, qui a vécu de belles années. Ce sont ses hypnotiques Daydream Mechanics (2001) pour quatuor à cordes, que l’on connait déjà par un enregistrement du Quatuor Bozzini, qu’on trouve ici. Rose Bolton explore avec la même formation une relation entre les époques baroque et romantique, tandis que c’est un quintette à cordes qui livre les réflexions de Scott Godin sur la modernité. L’ensemble torontois Music in the Barns poursuit admirablement le travail amorcé par l’avant-garde montréalaise.

Approximate translation:

By the end of the 1990s, McGill University had a singular creative ferment of performers and composers who are becoming more familiar to us today. Rose Bolton , Scott Godin and Michael Oesterle were among them, Oesterle was also the co-founder of the Kore ensemble, which had a great year. These are his hypnotic Daydream Mechanics (2001) for string quartet, which we already know by recording the Quatuor Bozzini, found here. Rose Bolton explores with the same formation a relationship between the baroque and romantic periods, while it is a string quintet that delivers Scott Godin's reflections on modernity. The Toronto ensemble Music in the Barns continues admirably the work begun by the Montreal avant-garde.

-Réjean Beaucage, 6.12.19, Voir


The Wire

Music In The Barns are a Canadian new music ensemble and like South Of The Circle their album Bolton-Godin-Oesterle focuses on works from their homeland, specifically ones by what the sleevenotes describe as "a transitional generation" of composers who were "moving away from avant gardism and re-embracing popular forms''. Rose Bolton's The Coming Of Sobs doesn't sound especially weepy, no matter what the composer may say in the sleevenotes; its three movements are quite energetic, even excited, with the violins sweeping past like whirling shoal of fish as the cello provides a steady drone, like a massive field of seaweed swaying back and forth.

On Scott Godin's four-part all that is solid melts into the air, the quartet become a quintet with the addition of a second viola. The music is dedicated to Charles Baudelaire, Michel Foucault, Le Corbusier and Robert Moses, all of whom are associated with modernism albeit in very different ways — some shaped the physical world, while others altered the way we perceive it or think about it. Despite this, the piece has a romantic and even pastoral feel, almost resembling folk music at times.

The biggest takeaway from these two albums, beyond the brilliance of the compositions and the stunning skilfulness of the performances, is the foolishness of trying to infer anything about a nation's character from its classical music. There's nothing inherently Icelandic about the music on South Of The Circle, and nothing essentially Canadian about the music on Botton-Godin-Oesterle. If anything, the message is that beauty can be found anywhere. But based on this work, that's more than enough.

-Phil Freeman, 7.3.19, The Wire


Records International

Canadian 'new simplicity'. "In the mid-1990s a community of composers and performers came together at Montreal’s McGill University ... This group included many of today’s leading Canadian composers such as Rose Bolton, Paul Frehner, Nicole Lizée, Scott Godin, and Brian Current ... It was a transitional generation: the composers were moving away from avant-gardism and re-embracing popular forms, looking away from academia ..." These works, from the 2000s, continue this tradition. Bolton was consciously moving toward intense emotional expression and away from systems and theory in her music when she wrote The Coming of Sobs. She took Verklärte Nacht and Tchaikovsky's 6th, neither of which it particularly resembles save for a certain mystery and darkness of mood, as models. The music is tonal and straightforward of texture and form, and conjures a potent sense of atmosphere; the middle movement is a passacaglia, marked 'bleak', which it certainly is. The Godin is 'about' the idea of 'modernity', apparently, and its three movements are associated with figures who were in their own time associated with the concept. The first movement is an extended cello solo, the second is contrastingly more complex of texture, and the third, which has something to do with functional architecture and city planning is all clear lines and spare textures. Oesterle's Daydream Mechanics consists of repetitive, mechanistic, simple, tonal non-evolving cells which supersede each other, usually after a sudden brief, discordant spasm, in a different take on the idea of minimalism.

-Records International, 7.2.2019


Musicworks Magazine

While one no longer has to adopt postmodernism’s cheeky nihilism when referring to the past in exploratory musical domains, exhibiting this hungry curiosity in concert-music circles might still earn you the regressive neoromantic label. Toronto composer Rose Bolton addresses this threat with indifference and unvarnished earnestness in her string quartet The Coming Of Sobs (2008), which opens this new disc from Canadian chamber ensemble Music In The Barns. Announcing the release online, Bolton noted her “desire to create music in the classical genre, doing what classical music is loved for, expressing heightened emotions.” Yet Bolton is no conservative. Her chosen palette reflects tradition, but this impulse audibly extends from her own identity rather than a compulsion to reconstitute the canon. Robust, brooding harmonies occupy disarmingly rectangular shapes, modulated by terraced dynamics. There’s no shortage of expressive lyricism, but it’s filtered by Bolton’s distinctive and decidedly contemporary restraint.

Scott Godin’s string quintet all that is solid melts into air wears its reckoning with modernism on its sleeve. Although his notes cite ties to Elliott Carter’s music—the piece was premiered alongside a new Carter work in 2010, before the 2012 revision that appears here—there’s a marked stylistic distinction: Carter is mostly associated with a barbed and vivid atonality; Godin’s piece has a luminous transparency to its ensemble textures and harmonies. This is especially the case in its latter two movements whose brilliant, animated gestures recall Ravel’s Quartet in F.

Daydream Mechanics (2001) by Michael Oesterle consists of lulling loops of material punctuated by short interruptions. This juxtaposition elicits a strange tension akin to being repeatedly but gently roused from a nap. The vibratoless delivery, ornamentation, and dance-like lilt impart a vague Renaissance character, yet the obstinate repetition and jolting non sequiturs feel like a transposition of so-called glitch music into the acoustic domain.

The ensemble’s approach on these recordings artfully reconciles Romantic extroversion with the more objective model favoured by many contemporary music specialists. The fact that they manage this tricky fusion with seamless cohesion, honesty, and personality speaks to the collective’s exceptional musicianship and to leader Carol Gimbel’s vision. Moreover, it’s an interpretive approach that flatters and matches the timely individualism of the three composers.

-Nick Storring, 10.6.19, Musicworks Magazine

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