45 YEARS OF ART
AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Ear It Live - 1979-1981
Since its creation in June 1977, Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre, formerly known as the Kingston Artists' Association Incorporated (KAAI), has organized and hosted over 1000 art events in Kingston and its surrounding regions, including: exhibitions, workshops, festivals, art and music performances, local artist’s auctions, and poetry readings. Throughout the archival process, Modern Fuel has found information about the facilitation of three editions of the Ear it Live music festival in 1979, 1980 and 1981.
Since its creation in June 1977, Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre, formerly known as the Kingston Artists' Association Incorporated (KAAI), has organized and hosted over 1000 art events in Kingston and its surrounding regions, including: exhibitions, workshops, festivals, art and music performances, local artist’s auctions, and poetry readings. Throughout the archival process, Modern Fuel has found information about the facilitation of three editions of the Ear it Live music festival in 1979, 1980 and 1981. This festival was famous in the late 1970's and early 1980's for generating a following of performers and composers from different genres and backgrounds who explored profound new musical boundaries and landscapes. The Ear it Live festival was first facilitated in 1978 by the Music Gallery, a Toronto-based music centre established by the Canadian Creative Music Collective (CCMC) in 1976. Later it was produced as a collaborative project with the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal (MBAM) alongside the assistance of the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council. At its peak ,the festival was hosted by eight Ontario and Quebec cities: Toronto, Ottawa, Peterborough, London, Kingston, Montreal, Sherbrooke and Quebec City, and attracted musicians as diverse as Robert Leriche, Nobuo Kubota, David Mott and jazz saxophonist Jemeel Moondoc- who you can see here playing with his quartet and N.A.M.E at KAAI’s former location on Queens Street on October 6, 1979. Bart Testa wrote about the 1981 edition of the festival in Maclean’s Magazine (November 16, 1981): “the wildly experimental exhibition of musical esotérica attracted almost 3,000 people, up a full third over last year and a sharp contrast to the minuscule audiences that usually greet this type of music.” Also talking about the festival’s last edition at La revue Intervention (February 1982) Jacques Digle defined it as “une première manifestation de musique improvisée à Québec dans les années '80”-the first demonstration of improvised music in Quebec in the 80's. In 1980, the event was announced as “An International Festival of New Music” and in the following year as “An International Festival of Jazz and Improvised Music”. These names and the list of attending musicians reveal the broader, dynamic scope of the festival's artistic intent. Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre hosted at least three of the festival’s four editions (October 1979, October 1980 and October/November 1981), demonstrating its central role in Kingston as an open space dedicated to contemporary art and the exploration and experimentation of all its forms in the last 45 years. Avant-garde music performances were often present at Modern Fuel programs. Lubomyr Melnyk (1949), the important Canadian composer and pianist of Ukrainian origin famous for his continuous music, played at least two performances organized by the KAAI in the 1980’s at the Kingston Public Library. He also wrote a piece called NIHIL for the Kingston Youth Orchestra. Thanks to KAAI, Melnyk also performed at one of the first concerts organized by the Music Gallery (Toronto) in 1977, one year before the creation of the Ear it Live festival.
The Kingston Artists' Association Inc. (KAAI)/Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre funds at the Queen’s University Archives are being digitized thanks to a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.
See the exhibition poster on display at Tara's Natural Foods September 23 to October 14 2022.
List of musicians/formations playing in Kingston during the festival:
Jemeel Moondoc Quartet, USA (1979)
Henry Kaiser, USA 
Maury Cole Trio, Canada 
Gunter Hampel & Jeanne Lee, Germany 
Misha Mengleberg, Holland 
Eric Stach & Dennis Brown, Canada 
Walter Zimmerman, Germany 
Jon English 
Candice Natvig, Germany 
Sonde Quintet, Canada 
Three Sided Room, Canada 
Robert Leriche, Canada 
David Mott, Canada 
Tristan Honsinger, Italy 
ESB (Eppel, Simpson, Bell) Trio, Canada 
Al Neil Trio (Al Neil, Gregg Simpson and Richard Anstey), Canada 
Bart Testa. A tour of the frontier. Maclean’s Magazine, November 16, 1981, p. 78.
Jacques Daigle. Le festival EAR IT LIVE. Intervention, Number 14, February 1982, p. 46-48.
1. The Jemeel Moondoc Quartet playing with N.A.M.E at the Kingston Artists' Association Inc., October 6, 1979. Photo by Barbara Lounder. Kingston Artists' Association Inc. fonds, Queen’s University Archives.
2. Poster. Ear it Live - International Festival of New Music [October, 1980]. Kingston Artists' Association Inc. fonds, Queen’s University Archives.
3. Poster. Ear it Live - An International Festival of New Music [October/November, 1981]. Kingston Artists' Association Inc. fonds, Queen’s University Archives.
4. Poster. Lubomyr Melnyk concert Music in a Continuous Mode at the Kingston Public Library, September 26th . Kingston Artists' Association Inc. fonds, Queen’s University Archives.
5. Poster. Pianist Lubomyr Melnyk Continuous Music at the Kingston Public Library Wilson Room, October 30 [1980’s]. Kingston Artists' Association Inc. fonds, Queen’s University Archives.
About the Curator
Gabriel is an archivist and historian who is responsible for digitalizing the past 45 years of Modern Fuel Archives. In addition to his role as an archivist, Gabriel has curated a series of off-site exhibitions titled, "45 years of Art in Kingston Through the Lens of Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre," which includes the exhibition above.
He holds a Master of Science degree in History where his research focused on databases and digitization and conservation of performance and conceptual art in Brazilian and Canadian art museums. He is the collection manager of the aarea.co digital art platform and a consultant in cultural heritage digitization and preservation projects. He has been working with cultural heritage collections for the past 20 years. He was an archivist and collection manager in Brazilian art museums such as the Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo and the Instituto Moreira Salles. He served as a board member of the ICOM Brazil National Committee, ICOM International Committee for Documentation (CIDOC), Associação de Arquivistas de São Paulo (São Paulo, Brazil) and the Instituto de Arte Contemporânea (São Paulo, Brazil). He also works as a volunteer and collaborator in cultural heritage projects and organizations such as the Vulnerable Media Lab (Queen's University) and the Museu Afro Brasil’s documentation and reference center (São Paulo, Brazil).