Earmark // Tova Kardonne

January 22, 2019

In this installment of the Earmark series we speak with CMC Associate Composer Tova Kardonne about her interests in music, and some significant moments that affirmed her love of the art form.

Canadian Music Centre: What got you excited about music at a young age?

Tova Kardonne: Growing up has been a process of reluctantly picking a few things to not be excited about—the further back I go in time, the more I was excited about absolutely everything. Pictures of me as a child show only two expressions: delight and confusion. Those are my default modes. One leads to the other, in a constant cycle. But I was particularly prone to excitement about music because my parents are both in love with it. My dad’s a composer, of the constantly-dreaming-of-music variety, such that carrying me anywhere as a baby involved a constant murmuring of a walking-pace soundtrack. My mother was an accomplished pianist before she got really excited about nuclear medicine… they’re both omnivores intellectually. Music and dance, which seemed like basically the same thing to me, were absorbing and fascinating but also just kind of always there. They were special and they also weren’t.

CMC: What was the most important music event you attended?

TK: National Music Camp, the Jazz program 1997. Going back and forth, over a concentrated period, between listening and playing, playing and listening, being in Kirk MacDonald’s ensemble, having vocal master classes with Trish Coulter and Shawnee, whose last name I don’t remember but who was amazing and inspirational, and that magical, terrifying first time improvising vocal lines over chord changes: that all actually changed my life.

CMC: Tell me about a project/work of yours that you are particularly proud of.

TK: When I applied to participate in the Toronto Creative Music Lab in 2016, I wasn’t in a good place emotionally at all. I was a newly single parent of a two-year-old, and all the usual identity issues that come up in early parenthood were coming up, but with financial crisis and emotional trauma thrown in for good measure. And then I was accepted to the Lab, and for those ten days, it was just the most unreal reversal of my whole situation. My sister was able to fly into town to care for my daughter while I was in the workshop; the whole structure of TCML was mind-blowingly caring and flexible; I wrote this piece, and then the musicians were so full-throatedly invested in realizing it, that it came alive in a deeply cathartic way. I’m always going to love Allison Clendaniel (soprano), Mehdi Rezania (santur) and Jacob Armstrong (soprano saxophone) in an extra-blooming way for the commitment and care they showed in playing this piece Keening, because of the way that this one represented a re-emergence of my voice from a period of unhealthy silence. And I’m also always going to love TCML forever for what it showed me could still happen in this bizarre world.

Keening (TCML 2016) from Toronto Creative Music Lab on Vimeo.