August 24, 2016
The musicians behind Syrinx were composer and keyboardist John Mills-Cockell, saxophonist Doug Pringle and percussionist Alan Wells. All three were young veterans of the Toronto creative scene by the beginning of 1970.
The two instrumental albums that Syrinx issued in the early 1970s sound little like the psychedelic music prevailing Toronto’s rock venues at the time, and are even further removed from the electronic tape experimentations spooled by a younger John Mills-Cockell.
Instead, the path of Syrinx whimsically veers away from the dominant mode of ‘70s subculture, charting surprising commercial success. Tumblers From The Vault presents their entire recorded legacy, reviving the story of Syrinx and sharing their memorable, mind-bending melodies.
LSD played a supporting role in their artistic pursuits, but equal guidance also came from Mills-Cockell’s studies at the University of Toronto and Royal Conservatory of Music, where he established an ad-hoc, DIY electronic music course in the school’s basement.
Before long, Mills-Cockell was an accomplished young composer and an important conspirator in Intersystems, a rogue, multimedia ensemble that intersected heterogenous artists and musicians via the Toronto underground. In this freeform environment, Mills-Cockell’s compositions found alert ears, among them his primary collaborator Doug Pringle, a wily wind player, and producer Felix Pappalardi, whose credits include Cream’s Disraeli Gears and who helped John land an album deal with True North Columbia.
Between the two albums, Syrinx became a vital part of the Toronto music scene, with Doug Pringle’s loft serving as the central node for impromptu performances and the group’s collaborative activities. Syrinx also started receiving high profile work, first for television, film, and dance, and then for orchestra. One commission culminated commercially in "Tillicum", the unforgettable theme music for pioneering reality television show Here Come the Seventies. As a standalone single, "Tillicum" would climb to #38 on Canada's RPM charts. The most eventful assignment came from the Toronto Repertory Ensemble’s conductor and composer Milton Barnes, whose solicitation inspired the powerful orchestral suite Stringspace.
Syrinx’s music is more than a faded strain in Canada’s consciousness, but has never expanded universally. One modest task of Tumblers from the Vault is to reinstate Syrinx to their place in the wider canon of groundbreaking music so their story can be appreciated beyond the limits of Canadian notoriety. Another task is to simply have this music heard again, which is an endeavor made less difficult by the fact that the most defining quality of Syrinx’s music is its timelessness and agency.
Unlike so many turn of the ‘60s experiments fusing rock and pop music language with new technology, Syrinx was never excessive in expressing their vision of what electronic music could offer. Instead, they blended these sounds in a holistic way, allowing the acoustic and electronic textures to create one organic voice. They opted to foreground the lyrical and poetic content of their compositions rather than their innovative techniques.
Syrinx’s Tumblers From The Vault will be released on October 14, 2016 as triple LP set, double CD, and digital formats. An accompanying documentary about Syrinx by artist and filmmaker Zoe Kirk-Gushowaty will screen selectively.
1.Tumblers To The Vault
3. December Angel
5. Field Hymn (Epilogue)
7. Better Deaf And Dumb From The First
8. Aurora Spinray
9. Melina’s Torch
10. Journey Tree
11. Field Hymn
12. Chant For Your Dragon King
13. Hollywood Dream Trip
14. Father Of Light
15. Appaloosa – Pegasus
16. Tillicum (Single Mix)
17. Melina’s Torch (Solo)
18. Better Deaf And Dumb From The First (Alternate / Vocal)
19. December Angel (Demo)
20. Stringspace Live – Syren
21. Stringspace Live – December Angel
22. Stringspace Live – Ibistix
23. Stringspace Live – Field Hymn (Epilogue)