‘There is a broader world outside of your bubble’

Matt Rogalsky, Queen’s music professor and musician, will be opening for the Tone Deaf music festival

Matt Rogalsky will be playing at Tone Deaf, a music festival in Kingston.
Matt Rogalsky will be playing at Tone Deaf, a music festival in Kingston.
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Matt Rogalsky knows his way around sounds — despite playing in the Tone Deaf festival next week.

Rogalsky is both a Queen’s professor in the department of music and a musician who has previously co-curated the Kingston experimental music festival, now in its 12th annual year.

This time, he’s returning to open it.

“[Tone Deaf] means suppressing your instinct to only gravitating towards music you already know and like,” Rogalsky said. “There is a broader world outside of your bubble.” The festival will take place over a period of four nights, each of which differ in style.

“They will try to cover a large spectrum of adventurous musical performance,” he said.

Despite featuring a number of ensembles and traditional chamber music performances, all the musicians will be pushing the limits of their genre.

One such performance, on Friday night, features Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq, accompanied by violinist Jesse Zubot and percussionist Jean Martin.

“[Tagaq] is going to improvise a live soundtrack for the 1922 silent documentary Nanook of the North, which is a famous problematic Inuit documentary,” Rogalsky said. “It will be an extremely rich evening.”

In prior years, the festival has had performances in unusual locations around Kingston, including a parking garage, where an abstract musical trio from San Fransisco played.

“It was a bitterly cold night and I remember the performers were freezing and constructing wind breakers out of garbage to keep the wind out,” Rogalsky said. “They were not impressed with the venue, but it was memorable.”

Rogalsky is performing on Friday with other electronic music acts in what’s being called “Ambient Occlusion.”

“My own piece will be entirely based on the ambient bass and hum that comes from your standard guitar pickups — when you’re not playing the instrument, when it’s just picking up the electromagnetic interference from the room,” he said.

Rogalsky has been creating experimental music for most of his life now. His most memorable moment was from an experience he had in England while a guest at the Sadler’s Wells, a London theatre.

“I was invited to sit in the pit for the show,” Rogalsky said. “Then they handed me a conch shell and I got to go join the band. It was really interesting being in Sadler’s Wells Theatre blowing a conch.”

The balance between teaching and having another career can be difficult, but Rogalsky said he doesn’t feel it detriments either of his lives.

“As I teach in the School of Music ... I have the good fortune to think about music and art all the time,” he said.

Tone Deaf begins Oct. 17. Tickets can be bought at the door or at Brian’s Record Option, The Jungle or ticketscene.ca. The festival will be taking place at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church.

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