Bring the noise: Dal Wind Ensemble teams with the School of Architecture for acoustic innovations

- November 24, 2021

This Thursday, the Dalhousie Wind Ensemble performs Noise. (Provided image)
This Thursday, the Dalhousie Wind Ensemble performs Noise. (Provided image)

As the Dalhousie Wind Ensemble returns to the stage this week for the first time in nearly two years, it’ll look a little different than usual — and not just because of the new students who’ve joined the group’s ranks.

The Fountain School of Performing Arts ensemble will actually be surrounded on stage by acoustic paneling and installation work designed by students in Dal’s School of Architecture specifically for Thursday evening’s performance.

Noise, as the performance is called, emerged out of discussions between Jacob Caines — the ensemble’s director — and architecture students during a summer course on acoustics and design.

“We were talking about acoustics and sound difference and the difference between noise and intentional sound creation, and the title was taken from that,” says Caines.

The program features music by Paul Dooley, Edward Elgar, and a graphic score by Montreal-Egyptian composer Symon Henry.

During the summer course, architecture students designed acoustic paneling to amplify and balance the sound of the wind ensemble. Members of Symphony Nova Scotia gave lectures and demonstrated the acoustic properties of their instruments to the students.

Caines says the process yielded many useful insights on both sides.

“You’re constantly translating everything between musicians and architects, which is really useful, since we had to talk about sound and music using non-musical vocabulary,” he says. “Similarly, the architecture students had to think about architecture not in architectural terms, but by talking to musicians.”

Jacob Caines.

Community and connections

With this being the first performance that the ensemble has given since the COVID-19 shutdown in March of 2020, the group has changed dramatically. Several members have graduated and new students at the Fountain School have joined the ranks.

Returning to the stage is “nerve wracking, but exciting,” says Hannah Landry, a fourth-year trumpeter. Like many other music students, she’s been starved for the feeling of performing with a large ensemble. Gathering restrictions during the pandemic limited the size of music ensembles, and Landry notes that the largest group she has played with in the last year and a half has been a duet.

Now that musicians are getting back together, she says the feeling of performing with others is intensely appreciated. When asked about her experiences rehearsing with the wind ensemble once again, Landry homed in on the feelings of community music can foster.

“Eulogy [by Edward Elgar] is nice for the slower tempo, a chance for us to connect with each other while playing, which is great after COVID.”

Paul Dooley’s piece Masks and Machines provides a parallel for the feeling of reconnection. “There’s so much going on,” says Landry, “and it’s great hearing how the different parts fit together.”

The final piece of the program is a graphic score composed by Symon Henry, which allows the musicians freedom to interpret Henry’s visual art into a soundscape for the audience.

The concert takes place on Nov. 25 at St. Andrew’s church, 6036 Coburg Rd, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets available at the Dal Arts Centre box office and online at


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