Music for percussion/chamber ensemble:
time has no place here (2021) for multi-percussion quintet (13')
When Sympatico percussion group and I first discussed a new work for them, the members also referenced an earlier composition of mine from 1990, Slow Swirl at the Edge of the Sea which has been a staple of their repertoire for many years. Thinking about the origins of that work led me to consider the different ways I have experienced musical inspiration over the years. I recalled the music which excited and intrigued me as an adolescent – progressive rock music of the 1960s and 70s with its raw energy, longer form compositions, episodic structures, and use of multiple and complex time signatures. Thematically and conceptually, music in this genre often reflects an alternate perspective of temporal experience. With these influences, I began to construct a piece for Sympatico that attempts to exploit musical time as a way to convey a deeper layer of existential timelessness.
time has no place here is about memory and how we experience time. Memories can arise in an instant and disappear just as quickly, seemingly at random. At times memories linger in the background or just beyond the edges of our awareness, like old dreams or fleeting visions. In other instances they can have a vibrancy that seems more real than our waking reality. These experiences are truly timeless because they take us out of our conventional sense of “clock time” and much like hearing a compelling piece of music, allow a glimpse of the true, eternal nature of consciousness. Rather than revealing time as a linear past-to-future, memory is an experience of the depth of the present moment.
time has no place here was commissioned by Sympatico percussion group.
rhythmimage (2020) for two marimbas (10')
rhythmimage explores ideas related to the repetition, fragmentation and gradual evolution of overlapping patterns. The concept arose through my experience of Toronto’s two principal river valleys, the Don and Humber, which flank the city core to the east and west. The two rivers are strikingly different in their respective characters, and yet both offer opportunities to experience the interplay of natural shapes, colours, textures and sounds of that environment while tracing parallel courses from north to south.
As the piece evolves, rhythmic and melodic phrases are repeated and/or fragmented, in constant variation as they flow from one instrument to the other. Variations serve to contrast the similarities and differences between the two waterways, their shape, length and contours. The piece is not intended to be programmatic or narrative in any way, but rather, a reflection of the more fundamental and universal processes of nature.
rhythmimage was composed for the Taktus marimba duo of Greg Harrison and Jonny Smith, with the generous assistance of the Toronto Arts Council.
Painted from Memory (2018) trio - two movements for violin, cello and marimba (15')
Painted from Memory is a reflection on the psychological process at work when one attempts to recreate an emotive, aesthetic experience out of its original context. It was inspired by readings on the life of Canadian painter Tom Thomson, who spent most of his last years in the Canadian northland where he would travel and paint his impressions of the natural landscape. During the harsh winter months from November to March, Thomson would return to his Toronto studio to “paint from memory” the sights and experiences he carried back with him. Many of Thomson’s works from these Toronto periods have an unusually abstract quality and a more vivid colour palette than his works created in the wild. This work plays on the fragmentation of memory, images and impressions which change over time when we are removed from them, especially in the light of the psychological impact that they have on us.
Painted from Memory was commissioned by Zac Pulac, with the generous assistance of the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council
Handhaving (2016) duo for viola and one percussion (marimba, tubular chimes, bass drum, snare drum, woodblock, sus cym) (11')
The genesis of Handhaving was a series of events that began in Amsterdam in August of 2014, where John Rudolph and I first discussed a new piece for viola and percussion. At the time, we were working with the Toronto Symphony, performing the Shostakovich Symphony no. 11 which I also performed with the National Ballet Orchestra later that fall, (twelve times in twelve days!), so it became ingrained in my thoughts. Also while travelling in Holland, and without knowing its meaning, I saw the word handhaving in many places: on the side of trucks, in elevators, hotel documents, etc. and I was intrigued by what it suggested in English, the idea of “hand having”, of control or possession. In fact, handhaving has several meanings in Dutch including “assertion, enforcement, and maintenance”. All of these qualities struck me excellent descriptors for the Shostakovich composition and thus, Handhaving is a kind of meditation and variation on these elements, with most of the musical material drawn from the Shostakovich work. Handhaving is dedicated to the father/daughter duo of John and Theresa Rudolph.
Ice Lake (2012) for solo vibraphone, viola and three percussion (9')
This work is a reflection of experiences at a remote frozen lake in winter, together with the sense of stillness and depth that such a scene can evoke. In a rural environment, sounds can be heard from a great distance and even slight changes in detail or movement within the larger landscape can take on greater meaning. The solo vibraphone was chosen for its icy and metallic tone as well as its ability to provide the soloist with melodic and harmonic material in contrast to the primarily non-pitched and supporting percussion instruments. The viola offers an element of spirit and otherness, evocative of a northern wind.
Ice Lake was composed for percussionist Michelle Colton with the assistance of the Toronto Arts Council.
Choro Sem Lua (2015) for voice, piano, 2 guitars, bandoneón (or accordion), bass, percussion (10'30")
Choro Sem Lua is a dramatic setting of poetry by Fernando Pessoa. It was premiered by the Soundstreams Ensemble in 2015 featuring Maria Mulata, vocal; Fabio Zanon and Grisha Goryachev, guitars; Serouj Kradjian, piano; Hector del Curto, bandoneon; Jeff Beecher, bass; Sarah Thawer, percussion.
Choro Sem Lua was commissioned by Soundstreams.
Acoustic Shadows (2016) for 2 pianos and 3 multi-percussionists (12')
"Acoustic Shadow" is the term for a naturally occurring phenomenon by which sounds emanating from a distant point are heard to sound loud and perceived to be nearby, or conversely, sounds produced nearby are heard to be very quiet or not heard at all. This occurs as the result of reflection or blockage of the sound waves by physical objects such as hills, cliffs, buildings and even wind. This effect is similar to light shadows and their protean quality which can make them unrecognizable from the shapes that they reflect. Depending on the proximity and angle of the light source, shadows can be larger or smaller than their objects, elongated, distorted, overlapping, grotesque and often, very beautiful.
On another level, the harmonic content of this composition is a type of tonal shadow, being derived completely from the two chords used by Edgar Varese in the final section of his work "Ionisation". This passage has always fascinated me, in that the first 3/4 of the piece utilizes only non-pitched percussion instruments. In the final section, the entrance of the piano, glockenspiel and tubular chimes creates an extremely jarring and otherworldly effect. I often experience this part of the piece as an opening to another, unexplored dimension. As such, Acoustic Shadows is itself an elongated shadow of those harmonies.
Acoustic Shadows was commissioned by the Newfoundland Sound Symposium.