When we encounter a group of artists that operate in a relatively small area, like Calgary’s urban sector, it’s tempting to group them under one umbrella and call it a “scene” — assuming that their proximity to one another will naturally cause some creative mingling. This seems particularly plausible in this city, where studio and performance spaces are in short supply, and the inner city is small compared to Calgary’s overall footprint. But, as local musician Chris Tenz discovered a few years ago, often this is not the case.
“I was at a time where I wanted to know what was going on in the city, so I started going to events,” says Tenz. “It led me to realize that the people involved in these different arts and performance communities didn’t really know one another. They seemed really exclusive — not in a negative sense, but I felt like it was a very small support system for them.”
Overwhelmed by the spectrum of talented artists he had encountered, Tenz decided to bring a handful of them together by putting on a multi-media event called Fragments. The show itself is fragmentary, made up of many distinct parts — music, film and visual arts — each with different influences and motivations, but it suggests these bits are waiting to be reassembled into something bigger.
Last October, the inaugural Fragments event drew crowds into Kensington’s Plaza Theatre where they encountered an eclectic lineup of voices and minds, compiled from the roster of artists that Tenz had met and felt could create some common threads. Evidently, Tenz was also careful to pick artists that could give a sense of cohesion throughout the night, seeing how things fit together or if they made sense.
“That’s how I picked the artists — things that would fit together or things that I could see inspiring each other’s work,” says Tenz. “I do feel like the event has a consistent direction.”
On October 6, the second instalment of Fragments will fill the Plaza with a wide array of music, film and visual art. Building a scene may not be the outright goal of the event, but Tenz is hoping that this year will help fuel partnerships and collaborations between artists. It’s something he’s been doing for the past few years, most recently with Joel Learoyd and Nicolas Field. Both will be performing at Fragments, and both have been working with Tenz in his home studio to develop their respective songwriting projects.
“I did recording production and was an extra musician on a lot of the tracks. I added various instruments and textures and samples…. It kind of sounds like when you’re worked up about a girl,” says Tenz, half-jokingly, of Learoyd’s upcoming album.
The collection of solo acoustic-based pop ballads will see its initial release at Fragments as a testament to what can happen when creative minds cross streams. Though his approach is subtle, listening closely to the recording reveals Tenz’s experimental and well-considered approach to ambient soundscapes that lends a frosty glaze to Learoyd and Field’s songs.
In addition to organizing Fragments, Tenz is a gifted music producer and songwriter in his own right, and has been crafting subtle yet stirring ambient textures from his home for several years, a small selection of which will be performed at the event. He’s also expecting to finish an album entitled Frozen Arms, which will be released this winter on Edinburgh, Scotland-based Mini50 Records.
Tenz plans to head to the U.K. for a brief tour shortly after Fragments before returning to start on the next multi-arts gala, which he hopes will happen as early as next spring.