Commissioned piece by Western professor to make world première at Toronto Symphony Orchestra

An innovative collaboration featuring the music of award-winning composer and Western University professor Paul Frehner will make its world première at Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO)’s New Creations Festival.

Frehner, an associate professor at Western’s Don Wright Faculty of Music, was commissioned by TSO to develop the music, which will debut as part of a 15-minute, multi-media experience titled From the Vortex Perspective, for a concert scheduled for Wednesday, March 9 at 8 p.m.

The specially commissioned piece features live mixing of film directed and produced by Peter Mettler, an acclaimed Swiss-Canadian film director and cinematographer known most notably for his work with Atom Egoyan, Patricia Rozema and Bruce McDonald.

Composing is often a solitary endeavor so Frehner found the experience developing the project with Mettler challenging albeit invigorating.

“Collaborating on From the Vortex Perspective was a unique experience and while it had its challenges the whole project was overall quite stimulating,” says Frehner, who also serves as director of Western’s Contemporary Music Studio.

While developing the piece, Mettler shared video samples with Frehner that may or may not be part of the final production to inspire his musical decisions and also provide a framework for the what the visual component would be.

Predominantly environmental footage like bubbling lava flows or roaring rivers were included in the samples but there were some quieter moments shared as well like barren landscapes and early morning sun-draped farmers’ fields.

Frehner believes the symphony (and music) is for everyone and TSO has made an important and deliberate choice to include new thinking to its New Creations Festival and as a lover of music and a composer, he hopes more productions like From the Vortex Perspective will continue to be commissioned.

“Films and music have a long history but to explore the two media together, in this manner on parallel footing, is rare,” says Frehner. “Music moves people and even though film is considered a visual experience, the auditory sensation and emotion can not be ignored.”


From the Vortex Perspective is a piece for live cinema and orchestra derived through a cyclical exchange of musical and visual propositions between composer Paul Frehner and filmmaker Peter Mettler. The notion of cyclical rotation around an axis is at the heart of the work, both in the process of it’s creation but also thematically and musically. Notions of humanity’s relationship to cycles, orbits and tides are explored on various levels, from the experiential and environmental to the scientific and mystic. As the conductor and orchestra play the music from a score, so does Mettler perform the edits, mixes and combinations of sound and imagery live to the music, on three different screens. Every rendering of the piece reveals a different combination of the chemistry of image and orchestral performance. From the Vortex Perspective was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra for presentation during their New Creations Festival, 2016.

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