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How I spent an enjoyable afternoon with Blow and Guinness.

October 27, 2014 | Bill V. | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

I bow before the fashion genius and daring that was stylist Isabella Blow. Her friend and fashionista Daphne Guinness used some of her own family fortune and influence to buy the entire clothing estate of the late Blow (who sadly died of suicide in 2007). 

Toronto you have a rare, free and very short window (until November 1st) to see some amazing modern couture fashion - never again to be seen in person or this close up. I spent Saturday afternoon gazing in wonder in "The Room" at the Bay's Queen Street location (3rd floor) which is showing 55 items from Isabella Blow's personal collection.

Ah "The Room"...... it is no longer the staid but expensive "St Regis Room" your grandmother might have frequented for that something special back in the 1960s courtesy of Margery Steele. It's now full of vintage Alexander McQueen and sliced leather.

Isabella Blow  a life in fashion

There are many iconic and couture dresses as well as some amazing accessories including shoes and hats. As well, Daphne Guinness has added some pieces from her own personal substantial collection.

Blow by Blow  the story of Isabella Blow written by her husband Detmar Blow 

Toronto has a smaller exhibit than the original show at Somerset House London but it still has many choice pieces (you can see the catalogue for the full show below). You may well know the pictures of the pink chiffon burka but to see it in person is something very different. They have intentionally been kept as they were during Blow's lifetime - so there are stains and rips which make them only that much more real in my mind. She had a small figure so I was especially struck by the rips in one lace sheath along the back zipper and edges (exactly where you would sit and where the pressure would be greatest). It's hard not to be touched by the well worn Manolo Blahnik pumps that have the broken heel.

Isabella Blow Fashion Galore! The original catalogue of the show from Somerset House London - published by Rizzoli Press
A beautifully photographed insider’s look at the highly influential personal style and wardrobe of Isabella Blow. She had a gift for spotting fashion genius—her discoveries included Alexander McQueen, Hussein Chalayan, and Sophie Dahl.  Isabella’s ...boundaries-pushing aesthetics, and her willingness to wear the outrageous made her into a fashion icon. This elaborate volume to accompany the fall 2013 exhibition—is an exhaustive survey of Isabella’s personal collection. With over 100 gorgeous full-color and black-and-white photographs.

The hats by Philip Treacy are quite spectacular. While many images of her in the hats are quite ubiquitous, the single eye patch with feather and Swarovski crystal and the variation of bird feathers as spears are really quite something else. For the serious milliner or lover of hats it's worth going just to see these.

Philip Treacy by Kevin Davies    Philip Treacy When Philip Met Isabella

The show at The Bay is part of wider fundraising initiative by The Isabella Blow Foundation & Daphne Guinness that will see a Canadian student sponsored at the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design (including fashion). Additional money raised will be going to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health / CAMH. 

Daphne Guinness


New Music 101: New Adventures in Sound Art and Christina Petrowska Quilico

October 20, 2014 | Brent | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

New Music Ganner

On Monday, November 3rd, New Music 101 finishes its Fall season with guests from New Adventures in Sound Art, and pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico. The music series features the best in new classical and contemporary music.

New Adventures in Sound Art recently kicked off its month long SOUNDplay series with a special presentation of Hive 2.0 by Hopkins Duffield (Daniele Hopkins and Kyle Duffield) as part of Scotiabank Nuit Blanche.

[This is from an earlier version Hive 1.0]


Now in its 13th year, the series includes multi-media performances, installations, and screenings. Most of the events will take place at NAISA Space—part of the Artscape Wychwood Barns at 601 Christie St #252--but be sure to check out their website for the full schedule.

For their performance at Toronto Reference Library, NAISA will utilize Audio Spotlight, directional speakers, in a mobile performance walk using the acoustics of the branch.

The loudspeaker produces ultrasonic waves that are very narrowly focused. They only become audible once they are dispersed through the atmosphere (or bounced off a surface). There’s a fuller explanation in an article at the Canadian Electroacoustic Community website


A child prodigy, Petrowska Quilico played a wide rage of the cannon from Bach, Beethoven and Chopin to Boulez but decided to specialize in Modernists like Stockhausen and Messiaen. She has introduced more than 100 new works over her career including the first performances of over 16 piano concertos

She has more than 30 CDs to her name and has appeared at  prestigious New York venues such as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center.

   Gems    Gems with an edge

    Pondlife   Portraits

Petrowska-Quilico is closely associated with the piano music of Ann Southam. Her 2011 recording of Southam’s work Glass Houses Revisited, received  four stars reviews from both the Toronto Star and Globe and Mail.

Here’s an excerpt from Glass Houses #12


She created over 100 paintings during the creation of her double album, Visions: Rhapsodies & Fantasias, featuring the music of composer Constantine Caravassilis. The title refers to Caravassilis’ synesthesia (in other words he can *see* music as colours) and remarkably many of the pianists’ paintings were similar to the composers.


Please join us for this free program at 7 PM on Monday, November 3rd at the Hinton Learning Theatre on the third floor of Toronto Reference Library. 

  image from

Library Books at Home 5

October 9, 2014 | John Elmslie | Comments (6) Facebook Twitter More...

 Every week I look forward to sitting down with a new stack of library books.

1 Library

It was sunny last Sunday, so I turned off my phone and settled in for some private time.

2 Library

I've already had a quick flip through these. They are all real goodies.

3 Library

Nature Morte: Contemporary Artists Reinvigorate the Still-Life Tradition. Wait 'til you see!

4 Library

This fish by Jed Quinn caught my eye. It is called The Myth of Metals, (oil on linen, 2012).

5 Library

The little glazed stoneware sculpture on the left is by Klara Kristalova. The text says, "Her sinister Black Pansy is wholly lacking the cheerful delicacy of this familiar flower." They've got that right, and what a hilarious way to say it!

6 Library

Christopher Williams, the photographer of Rittersport (above), says he prefers to stand beside the camera rather than behind it. What this means is he hires studio professionals to take the pictures he wants to see. How interesting.

7 Library 

One more still life. Rabbit with Curlers, 2010, by Nancy Fouts. Yes, that is a taxidermy rabbit. 

8 Library

If you like French painting you may feel you've seen all there is to see from Montmartre. Esprit Montmartre: Bohemian Life in Paris Around 1900 surprised me. It is full of art I've never seen before.

9 Library

Like these paintings by Ramon Casas from 1890/91. I don't know Casas. I'll certainly look for more from him.

10 Library

And these paintings jumped out at me as being quite fresh. That's another Casas on the left (from 1891). That's Santiago Rusiñol's Sacré-Coeur in Construction, from about 1890.

11 Library

Nice Picasso sketch -- La Buveuse d'absinthe (The Absinthe Drinker), 1901. Looks like Colette.

12 Library

That's a painting by Kees van Dongen on the left, and by Alexis Mérodack-Jeanneau on the right.

13 Library

Auguste Chaubaud is new to me as well. These paintings from 1908/09 (on the left) and from 1907 give me a powerful impression of walking around Montmartre at night. You can hear the music pumping out of those clubs.

14 Library

Inventing Abstraction 1910-1925: How a Radical Idea Changed Modern Art was a hit show last year at the Museum of Modern Art. This is the catalogue and, again, it is full of wonderful work I've never seen before.

15 Library

I love these paper-collage endpapers by Sonia Delaunay-Terk, 1914. So simple and yet very strong and fresh considering they are 100 years old.

16 Library

And how about this watercolour, gouache and pencil drawing on paper by Francesco Cangiullo. Great Crowd in the Piazza del Popolo, 1914. I'd love to see the original but it's in a private collection.

17 Library

Ivan Kliun: Studies in Colour, c. 1917. Oil on cardboard. There is something very satisfying about these shapes and the way they have been placed in the frame. Nice.

18 Library

I'll end with these unusual paintings by Aleksandr Rodchenko: Pure Red Colour, Pure Yellow Colour, Pure Blue Colour, 1921. I find this both restful and intense. So simple.

19 Library

OK. Now back the real world. Thanks for joining me.


More: Library Books at HomeLibrary Books at Home 2Library Books at Home 3 and Library Books at Home 4.

Subways, Subways, Subways

October 3, 2014 | Bill V. | Comments (8) Facebook Twitter More...

All the talk about subways has gotten me thinking about books, books, books. There is a vibrant publishing and artistic culture around international subways including:


New York:

 The city beneath us building the New York subway    New York's forgotten substations the power behind the subway   

      Subway by Bruce Davidson

Helvetica and the New York City subway system  the true (maybe) story


Subway Art  25th anniversary edition by Martha Cooper Art and the Subway New York Underground Meet Miss Subways  New York's beauty queens 1941-1976

Subway style 100 years of architecture & design in the New York City subway

Many are called by Walker Evans (vintage photographs of New York City subway passengers from the 1940s)  Life below  the New York City subway



Paris underground the maps, stations, and design of the Métro

Metronome A History of Paris from the Underground Up  Discover Paris by Métro  Metrostop Paris History From The City's Heart

Passengers photography book by Chris Marker




    London Transport Posters A Century of Art and Design see also Frank Pick's London : art, design and the modern city.  The moving metropolis  a history of London's transport since 1800

The tube station to station on the London underground

Underground  keeping London moving, 1863-2013   The subterranean railway  how the London Underground was built and how it changed the city forever

London underground  architecture, design and history




Underground Travels on the Global Metro

The Great Society subway  a history of the Washington Metro  Metro  the story of the underground railway

Transit maps of the world


For a different approach you may want to read the Book Buzz blog post Subways, Subways, Subways which talks about Toronto's subways in fiction.













Canadian Artists ... we have files!

September 19, 2014 | Bill V. | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Did you know there are 10,000 historical files on Canadian artists (emphasis on Toronto artists) at the Arts Department of the Toronto Reference Library

Canadian artist filing cabinet open showing files.

Our definition of “artist” is very inclusive: painters, sculptors, architects, architectural firms, illustrators, photographers, fashion designers, industrial designers, interior designers, type designers, video artists, performance artists and and high end crafts. 

    Canadian artist files showing one drawer open with contents.

Included in the files are: publicity material like press releases, artist statements, gallery announcements and exhibition reviews and selected newspaper articles. For a better known artist there can be a lot of information but there are many artists who only have a single gallery announcement or artist statement.

Suzy Lake Canadian artist file opened showing contents.

There are also up to 300,000 file cards that index hard to access information from books, magazines and newspapers and group exhibition catalogues.  This information was gathered from 1940s up to around 2009.  Some of the information in the files, card indexes and microfiche goes back as far as the 1800s. 

Canadian artist files showing whole drawer pulled out.

Some files have been microfiched and we also have biographical microfiche from the National Gallery of Canada.  There are also over 1000 historical files on Canadian art galleries and associations (with an emphasis on Toronto galleries).

Canadian artist files - card index pulled out showing one specific card.

Below is an alphabetical list arranged by family name with an attached PDF that you can open to search for specific artists.  We may have files, index cards or microfiche on any individual.  Ask at the Arts Information Desk on the 5th floor of the Toronto Reference Library.  It takes between 15-30 minutes to retrieve files (you can photocopy but remember to add money to your library or copy card on the main floor). 

Our currents holdings are listed below: 

A Download Letter A of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

Download Letter B of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

C Download Letter C of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

D Download Letter D of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

E Download Letter E of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

F Download Letter F of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

G Download Letter G of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

H Download Letter H of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

I Download Letter I of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

J Download Letter J of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

Download Letter K of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

L Download Letter L of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

Download Letter M of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

N Download Letter N of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

O Download Letter O of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

P Download Letter P of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

Q Download Letter Q of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

R Download Letter R of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

S Download Letter S of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

T Download Letter T of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

U Download Letter U of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

V Download Letter V of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

W Download Letter W of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

X Download Letter X of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

Y Download Letter Y of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF

Z Download Letter Z of the Canadian Artists Files, Revised 2014 PDF


Alex Colville: Beneath the Surface

September 11, 2014 | Muriel | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

"More than any other artist in Canada, Colville has a galvanizing,
sea-to-shining-sea appeal."
                                                                               Toronto Star

I am really looking forward to going to see the Art Gallery of Ontario's
retrospective exhibition in honour of Alex Colville, who died last
.  His work is indeed appealing, yet mysterious, and somehow
strikes a chord with many people.  Spanning Alex Colville's entire
career, this is the biggest show of his work ever assembled.      

Colville Burnett        Alex Colville Return

As reported in the Toronto Star, "More than any other artist in Canada,
Colville's images permeate both our psyche and our everyday life..."  This
has certainly been true for me.  I remember when I was a child, and
Canada was celebrating its Centennial in 1967, how fascinated I was by
the beautiful new Canadian coins with the rock dove on the penny, the
hopping rabbit on the nickel, the mackerel on the dime, and the bobcat
on the quarter.  Little did I know that they were designed by Alex Colville. 
I don't remember ever having a fifty cent piece with its howling wolf,
or a dollar coin with its Canada goose, but perhaps the
Royal Canadian Mint will some day reissue these lovely coins.

Later, when I lived in Montreal, I remember going to the Montreal
Museum of Fine Arts
and being intrigued and somewhat puzzled by
Alex Colville's 1964 painting, "Church and Horse."  Along with several
other of Alex Colville's images, it has appeared on a Canadian postage

Colville       Alex Colville The Observer Observed

Alex Colville's images were there again when I went on a trip to Ottawa,
to visit the Canadian War Museum.  His sombre paintings reflected how
profoundly this 24 year-old artist was affected by what he saw in Europe, particularly after the 1945 liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration
camp.  Alex Colville had become an official war artist in 1944, having
joined the army after graduating from Mount Allison University in
New Brunswick.  Alex Colville had moved to Nova Scotia as a child in
1929, and was born in Toronto in 1920.

After World War II, Alex Colville turned to painting images with which
we are more familiar: his family, animals and landscape.  As familiar
as these images are to us from reproductions, book and record covers,
I was still somewhat startled to learn that four of his works appear
in Stanley Kubrick's horror film, "The Shining."  Alex Colville also
thought Joel and Ethan Coen were "great filmmakers," according to
his daughter, Ann Kitz.
  Ann Kitz is the keeper of her father's artistic
legacy, and has been involved in the Art Gallery of Ontario's current
exhibition.  Here is her touching recollection of her father, and his
relationship with her mother, Rhoda Colville:


Not only familiar to many Canadians, Alex Colville's paintings reached
a wider audience with the touring exhibition of his 1983 Art Gallery
of Ontario retrospective.  The exhibition toured in Germany and the
Far East, and, for the first time for a living Canadian artist, to Japan. 
Gu Xiong, a Vancouver-based artist, has said that "Horse and Train"
had a profound influence on him
 when it was shown in China in the

You can visit the Art Gallery of Ontario for free with a Sun Life Financial
Museum + Arts Pass
, and look forward to discovering what the
exhibition's curator, Andrew Hunter, says about Alex Colville's work,
"There's what you see on the surface, but you can so easily go
deeper.  He wasn't controlling about that.  He
wanted you to come
to the work and take it where you want to go."

Green Roofs at Toronto Public Library

September 2, 2014 | Bill V. | Comments (9) Facebook Twitter More...

Did you know there are three Toronto Public Library branches with green roofs?  According to library blogger Zoe, in 2009 Toronto was the first city in North America to require all new buildings to incorporate a green roof.

The photos below show two green roofs at the Toronto Reference Library (TRL) which make up approximately 20% of the total roof surface area. They are part of the multi-year revitalization that is finishing up this Fall 2014.  The first photo was taken from the 5th floor Arts Department looking down to Yonge and Asquith.


Green Roof Toronto Reference Library looking down to Yonge and Asquith from Flickr by B. Cehan
Toronto Reference Library source B. Cehan / Flickr

Green roofs are beneficial as they help manage storm water runoff and as well they contribute to reducing the urban heat island effect (the temperature is cities is significantly hotter due to human activities).  The photo below shows the green roof parallel to Yonge Street. 

The growing medium is a special light weight mix about 150 mm deep.  The vegetation is a meadow mix as follows: 15% Buffalo Grass (Buchloe dactyloides); 5% Creeping Red Fescue (Festuca Rubra); 20% Chewings Fescue (Festuca rubra commutata); 25% Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea); 5% Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta); 5% New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae);  5% Dwarf Plains Coreopsis (Coreopsis Tinctoria);  5% White Yarrow (Achilea millifolium);  5% Prairie Blazing Star (Liatris pycnostachya);  5% Evening Scented Primrose (Oenothera lamarackiana); and 5% Rocky Mountain Penstemon (Penstemon strictus).

Green Roof Toronto Reference Library


TRL was designed by Raymond Moriyama with an awe inspiring five-storey atrium open space and many hanging plants from the various floors giving it a "Garden of Babylon" feel as you can see from the vintage 1977 photo and the more current one below it. 

Metropolitan Toronto Library interior 1977
Metropolitan Toronto Library 1977 source TPL Digital Archive


Metro Toronto Reference Library by wmacphail on Flickr(cc)
Metro Toronto Reference Library by Wayne MacPhail on Flickr (cc)

The recently renovated and award winning Bloor Gladstone Library Branch (which celebrated 100 years in 2013) has a wonderful green roof and an outdoor reading garden  (see the two photos below).  We have a pinterest board that shows the history of the branch in photos.

Bloor Gladstone Branch Toronto Public Library green roof.  Bloor Gladstone Branch - Toronto Public Library - Green Roof

Bloor Gladstone Branch - Reading Garden
Bloor Gladstone Branch Toronto Public Library Reading Garden


Newly opened Fort York Branch is Toronto's 99th public library and worth a visit (see photos below). It has a green roof as well as a Digital Innovation Hub.

The Scarborough Civic Centre Branch Library, under construction and expected to be open in Fall 2014, will also have a green roof.  Lastly the Albion Branch, which will start its renovation in the Fall of 2014, will feature a green roof.

Fort York Branch Toroto Public Library Green Roof November 2013
Fort York Branch Toronto Public Library Green Roof November 2013

 Fort York Branch Toronto Public Library Green Roof November 2013

Fort York Branch Toronto Public Library Green Roof November 2013


I was inspired to blog about green roofs and gardens when I saw the cover of a new book New York Rooftop Gardens

Rooftop Gardens of New York

This was not the only book we had on this subject - who knew there was a mini publishing bonanza on the rooftops of NYC?

Up on the Roof New York's Hidden Skyline Spaces   Top of the City New York's Hidden Rooftop World



Toronto in Film with a bow to TIFF

September 1, 2014 | Bill V. | Comments (1) Facebook Twitter More...

Did you know that the Toronto Reference Library was one of the locations in a recent Hollywood blockbuster film starring Bruce Willis?

World Film Locations Toronto is full of interesting facts that encourage you to look at our city in a different way.


World Film Locations, Toronto


There are 28 books in the series covering cities all over the world. 


         World film locations. Mumbai World film locations. Istanbul

World film locations. Paris       World film locations. New York      World film locations. Beijing

By the way, the Bruce Willis movie was Red and shows off the atrium, elevator and public stacks at the Toronto Reference Library.  There were many other Toronto locations in that film; see this external blog post for details. You might also be interested in this blogTO article on the 10 worst movies made in Toronto.


As we move into the fall the talk locally always turns to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). If you're interested in movies you'll really enjoy the research potential of Film Indexes Online.  You can access it from anywhere and it's free of charge if you have a Toronto library card.

Film Indexes Online


These free online magazine databases can give you all sorts of useful, interesting information on filmmakers, actors, specific movies and critical analysis of film from many perspectives and sources.

All you need is a Toronto Public Library card to log in from home 24/7, your smart phone, tablet or from any of our libraries.
Information about film and television (some full-text), including FIAF Plus, the American Film Institute Catalog and Film Index International.
This blog post is dedicated to our colleague Pien who unexpectedly died recently.  Pien loved books and film and especially the TIFF festival. She would take two weeks off to attend as many as 50 films (a photo of Pien's TIFF programs are below).  At her memorial a close friend share a favored Pien saying "vast theoretical knowledge" and I think she would have appreciated the Film Indexes Online for this reason.
Pien was a consummate librarian and if you were lucky enough to have had her help at Lillian Smith Branch you will remember her smile, her knowlege and her exceptional customer service. One of Pien's many professional interests was the field of Reader's Advisory and I can see her at the Pearly Gates saying to St Peter in her distinctive voice "you may have been busy lately so I've created a booklist for you".
Pien's 24 years of TIFF programs with postit notes still on
Pien's 24 years of TIFF programs with postit notes. copyright Fengski Flickr
Pien was an avid traveller, gifted cook and photographer.  As she lay dying she even documented her hospital food which you can see here at her Flickr page.


Shakin' All Over: Canadian Rock History at TPL

August 27, 2014 | Beau | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

These days, Canadian acts like Arcade Fire, Tegan and Sara, and Drake have achieved worldwide fame, but their success rests on a foundation of bands who built up Canada's music industry one cross-country tour at a time, often while toiling away in undeserved obscurity. These books are a good place to start if you'd like to learn more about Canada's musical pioneers.

On A Cold Road                       Writing Gordon Lightfoot

On A Cold Road: tales of adventure in Canadian rock, by Dave Bidini

Writing Gordon Lightfoot: the man, the music and the world in 1972, by Dave Bidini

Who better to tell the story of Canadian rock than Dave Bidini, singer, songwriter and guitarist for the late, lamented Rheostatics? On A Cold Road doubles as a diary of the Rheostatics' 1996 cross-Canada tour opening for The Tragically Hip and a collection of wild anecdotes about Canadian rock pioneers like The Guess Who and April Wine (who once almost froze to death when their tour van broke down in rural Quebec). In Writing Gordon Lightfoot he details the Canadian folk icon's performance at the 1972 Mariposa Folk Festival, where fellow legends Neil Young, Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell also made appearances.

Whispering pines the northern roots of American music from Hank Snow to the Band

Whispering Pines: the northern roots of American Music...from Hank Snow to The Band, by Jason Schneider

Musical influence between Canada and the United States is often assumed to be a one-way street, but Whispering Pines shows how Canadian country, folk and rock acts blazed their own trails and impacted the musical scene south of the border.

The Top 100 Canadian Singles                         The Top 100 Canadian Albums

The top 100 Canadian singles, by Bob Mersereau

The top 100 Canadian albums, by Bob Mersereau

Listing the top 100 Canadian singles and albums is truly an impossible task, but these two volumes do a pretty good job of it. As you leaf through these two beautifully-illustrated volumes you'll learn more about the songs and albums you love and marvel at the diversity of Canada's musical stars over the decades.

Canuck Rock A History Of Canadian Popular Music                             Making The Scene Yorkville And Hip Toronto In The 1960s

Canuck Rock: a history of Canadian popular music, by Ryan Edwardson

Making The Scene: Yorkville and hip Toronto in the 1960s, by Stuart Henderson

These two books offer a more detailed look at different aspects of the story. Canuck Rock is an ambitious overview of Canadian musical history from the 1950s to the 21st century, with an emphasis on how the infamous Canadian content laws helped shape popular tastes and changed the industry forever. Making The Scene shines a spotlight on Toronto's Yorkville neighbourhood, which during the 1960s and early '70s was a hotbed of musical creativity, political activism and cultural change.


Treat me like dirt an oral history of punk in Toronto and beyond 1977-1981                Trouble in the camera club                 Perfect youth the birth of Canadian punk

Treat Me Like Dirt: an oral history of punk in Toronto and beyond, 1977-1981, by Liz Worth

Trouble In The Camera Club: a photographic narrative of Toronto's punk history, 1976-1980, by Don Pyle

Perfect Youth: the birth of Canadian punk, by Sam Sutherland

When people think of punk music it's usually England or the U.S. that come to mind, but Canada had an equally vibrant scene during the late '70s and early '80s. Treat Me Like Dirt and Trouble In The Camera Club (a photographic memoir) are safety-pins-and-all looks at the Toronto punk community, while Perfect Youth widens the focus to the rest of the country, from Moncton's The Robins to Vancouver legends D.O.A..

Have not been the same the CanRock renaissance 1985-1995

Have Not Been The Same: The CanRock Renaissance, 1985-1995, by Michael Barclay

By the mid-'80s, the Canadian music industry had fallen into a bit of a rut. This raucous volume tells the story of how hundreds of bands, from superstars who packed arenas and stadiums to local heroes who rocked garages and basement parties, laid the groundwork for a fresh new chapter in Canadian musical history.

2014 These 2 Groups Show You How to Live Operatically

August 26, 2014 | Brent | Comments (3) Facebook Twitter More...

New Music Template

The Toy Piano Composers and the Bicycle Opera Project are at the forefront of a playful (and entrepreneurial) wave of new contemporary music in Toronto. The two groups kick off the fall New Music 101 series on 7 pm  Monday, September 8 at the new Hinton Learning Theatre on the third floor of Toronto Reference Library.

Both groups have pushed composition and performance into new territories with the stories they tell, and the way the music is presented. Together, they are among the most vivid representations of the expansive energy of Toronto’s music scene.

Here's a clip from founding composer Elisha Denburg's "The Hipster Grifter":


In six seasons of concerts, the Toy Piano Composers have built a cult following: They have a passionate audience that grows each year (Anytime folks show up at your concerts wearing your merch you know you are doing something right!)

Led by Artistic Directors Monica Pearce, Chris Thornborrow, and Elisha Denburg, the collective brings together distinct voices. Their upcoming season begins with Pandora’s Box, an evening of inventions, oddities, and hidden treasures in collaboration with visiting American composer Anthony T. Marasco.

They follow up with a new edition of their successful To Be Announced project which pairs five emerging composers with the Toy Piano ensemble. Here are some clips from last year's show:


In addition, the collective is writing music for two exciting Toronto groups: TorQ Percussion Quartet, and Cellophone (a cello and  saxophone duo).

Bicycle Opera Project on Stage
Members of the Bicycle Opera Project on stage.

The Bicycle Opera Project has just wrapped up its third Ontario tour. As the group's name suggests, the trip was made with all performers biking between cities. (There is also an excellent CBC profile.) Soprano, and Artistic Director Larissa Koniuk has taken great strides in bringing Canadian opera to new audiences, and doing it in a way that challenges the performer, invites new listeners, and plays with the medium of opera itself.

The Bicycle Opera Project (or "BOP" ) has also set the standard for environmentally conscious touring: they had audience members use a stationary bike to generate power for the projector used during performances!


The Bicycle Opera Project has collaborated with memebers of the Toy Piano Composers before, with scenes that capture the operatic quality of everyday life. Imagine what these two groups will accomplish together!

Please join us for this FREE program at the Hinton Learning Theatre on the third floor of the Toronto Reference Library on Monday, September 8, 2014.



This is just the first of three exciting events this season. Visit the New Music 101 Facebook page for more news and upcoming concerts:

The library's blog devoted to the discovery of diverse artistic and cultural works in the library and Toronto. For more information on what the library has to offer please see our Theatre & Performing Arts page

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