As part of the AWSS Slow Tour, The Only Animal is commissioning sound artists and composers to create 15 to 30-min compositions that will be played on audio speakers inside the AWSS installation and shared online. 

The sound artists were invited to reflect on and deepen their relationship to an environment of their choosing and create intricate connections between land, people, culture and climate through the plurality of their experiences. Our partnerships with Vancouver Improvised Arts Society, Music on Main and the Roundhouse Community Centre will offer the commissioned artists live performance opportunities.

Commissioned Artists 

Aram Bajakian is an acclaimed Armenian guitarist and composer who has toured extensively with Lou Reed, Diana Krall, Madeleine Peyroux, and John Zorn, performing at Carnegie Hall, Royal Albert Hall, the Acropolis, L’Olympia, and the Montreaux, Newport, Monterey and Antibes jazz festivals. From 2018-2021 Bajakian served as the New Music Curator at Western Front in Vancouver, and is currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Ethnomusicology at UBC where his research focuses on the role of music in contemporary and historic Armenian communities. 

Toni-Leah C. Yake (European; Kanien’kehá:ka, Six Nations of the Grand River Territory, Turtle Clan) is a composer-performer and media artist residing on xwməθkwəy̓ əm, Sḵwx̱ wú7mesh, and səlilwətaɬ territories. Her artistic practices are influenced by the research of kanyen’keha (Mohawk language), the interplay between conscious and unconscious realms, symbolism, and experiences of sound that generate mnemonic experiences, relationships with unseen dimensions, and connections to archaic human memories.

Julia Ulehla is an interarts performer, improviser, and scholar who lives on the traditional, ancestral, unceded territories of the xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam) people. Her work explores song as a living being, vis-à-vis an ancestral song tradition carried by generations of her family members. She is a vocalist and bandleader of the avant-folk ensemble Dálava, with whom she performs throughout North America and Europe.  Julia performed as a lyric mezzo-soprano in opera and oratorio (2002-2008) and was a member of the renowned Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards in Pontedera, Italy (2008-2011). Julia teaches Performance and Research-Creation at UBC, and is an Artistic Associate at Music on Main where she will develop a platform for Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh musicians. Julia holds a PhD in Ethnomusicology from UBC.

Jen Yakamovich is climate-engaged musician, composer, improviser, researcher, and educator, who has worked with TRAction and the Climate Art Web (CAW-WAC), Education for Sustainability Research at Dalhousie University (K’jipuktuk/Halifax NS), the Dalhousie Art Gallery, and Wildwood Ecoforest in Snuneymuxw/Nanaimo, BC. She regularly collaborates with musicians, dancers, visual artists, galleries, essayists, theatre groups, and environmental scientists.

Why Choir was created by interdisciplinary artist and composer Roxanne Nesbitt and Juno-award winning drummer Ben Brown to create imaginative semi-improvised songscapes. Using a wide range of sonic tools including drum kit, voice, electronics, upright bass, and Nesbitt’s handmade ceramic percussion instruments, Why Choir blends experimental sounds with pop idioms to blur the lines between the accessible and the avant-garde.

Photos by Barbara Adler.