Hopeful Monster at Modulus Festival – An experience in experimentation

This year marks the 12th iteration of Music on Main’s Modulus Festival, a four-day event filled with music, conversation and a closing night pizza party. One such performance at Modulus features a collaboration between Costa Rican-born composer Mauricio Pauly and Armenian-Canadian pianist Eve Egoyan. Pauly and Egoyan are one of the headlining acts at the Nov. 3–6 event, closing out the Saturday (Nov. 4) night with a performance at the Roundhouse Centre.

“We wish our audience to be embraced within our sound worlds,” says Egoyan about her album collaboration with Pauly, Hopeful Monster, which the duo are set to debut at the Festival.

Musical experimentation with strangers

Egoyan and Pauly met in 2018 through a mutual friend in Toronto who set them up on what Egoyan calls “a musical blind date.” Though they had never played together before, they immediately clicked, planning to collaborate in the future.

“In a musical space, we could recontextualize and build on each other’s propositions in very exciting ways,” Pauly says.

Egoyan felt similarly, adding that meeting Pauly gave her an immediate sense of ecstatic joy.

“I also felt a profound sense of musical trust and an open curiosity to the mix of our sound worlds, our otherness,” says Egoyan.

Hopeful Monster is an album born from online communication before finally coming together in studio at Simon Fraser University where Pauly is an associate professor. It combines acoustic piano with technology and software that manipulates the sounds, creating an album that aims to mix unique sounds into something completely different.

Egoyan blends the sound of a real piano with software that models the physical instrument, allowing her to shadow the acoustic piano with a virtual one. This extends the expressive and sonic range to allow her to create something experimental that plays with the limits of the instrument. Pauly brings his skills with transforming and sampling sound in real time to the project, creating music that is based in collaboration.

“The ways in which we can work with [each other’s] outputs and reactions is a process of navigation, of discovery. This ensemble that we are working with is itself a navigation device and world calling out for discovery,” says Pauly.

Hopeful Monster as a performance

Eve Egoyan and Mauricio Pauly. | Photo by Jessica Han.

Egoyan and Pauly improvised when making this album. They played off each other, creating Hopeful Monster by selecting moments of their recordings they thought could not only stand alone as a singular piece, but which could also work together to create a coherent collection. They believed it was hard to identify inspirations, concluding that there were none in the work. It was all improvisational.

“There was no discussion about what we played; no limits or paths were determined,” says Pauly. “The record is a snapshot of how our intuitions were braided together in performance.”

The duo will perform in the round, which is a circular stage surrounded by the audience. Egoyan and Pauly worked with Music on Main artistic director David Pay and his team to determine what would work best with the layout and acoustics of the space. The stage setup is simple, just a table for Pauly’s gear and a grand piano for Egoyan. Egoyan says the staging choice is meant to allow the audience to be focused completely on the sound.

“The blending of what we create is profoundly unique and layered,” says Egoyan.

Cover of the Hopeful Monster album.

Both artists are thrilled to be performing at the Modulus Festival. For Egoyan, who has played at Modulus before, it’s a joyful return. For Pauly who moved to Vancouver in 2017, it’s a homecoming.

As for what the artists hope audiences take away from their performance Pauly says he is curious. He does not have any specific hopes or expectations, but hopes the “unique expressivity of [their] connection comes through.”

For Egoyan, she hopes audiences will feel the emotion she and Pauly did while making Hopeful Monster.

“I hope that our audience will feel invested in our sound, taken on a new sound journey and feel the joy in our music making,” says Egoyan.

For more info about the show, and about Modulus Festival, visit: