Avant-garde is itself not a very avant-garde term nowadays. So, perhaps, I should say instead experimental or contemporary or new or noise music. But in the end, any nomenclature is limiting. However, you define it, most would probably say that Canadian composers Barry Truax (of SFU) and R. Murray Schaefer are pioneers in that category. Vancouver’s early punk scene is a topic for another day. If you want to know more, you should get Dave Thorvald Olson to tell you. I was lucky enough to hear him give a short talk on the subject a few months ago. On to the present.
“Absurd Machinery”, composed by Remy Siu, performed by Turning Point Ensemble:
Dan Mangan, at the Vancouver Folk Festival in 2012, started his set by saying that Vancouver has the best experimental music scene anywhere, and he feels like a kid in a candy store when it comes to choosing musicians to play with. Although I hardly feel qualified to judge, I can attest there is a diverse scene, technologically, culturally, and historically.
Western Front, now 41 years old, has musicians, speakers, and art exhibitions and performances that may leave you agape, thrilled, bored, or stimulated, depending. Music is a large component of the Front’s offerings, but literature and other art forms are important too. A recent performance: Dissonant Disco, “Copious Flow”:
Vancouver New Music organizes concerts. It has some community overlap with Western Front. Vancouver New Music and Western Front tend to have compositions and audiences with an academic bent.
Keep an eye out for Art for Impact events. This organization hosts events which raise money for very good causes, while providing an incredible combination of visual, theatre, and sound artists.