Mirror developing

Work is progressing on what is turning out to be quite a monster score for the mini opera Mirror, mirror. I have finished carving the first two and a half sheets of linoleum and did some test prints. Here’s me painting on various red accents with watercolour. Stay tuned for photos of the complete score in the next week or so.

Photo by M. Teresa Simao
Photo by M. Teresa Simao

Thank you to M. Teresa Simao for the photos. And thank you to Princeton University and the Lewis Centre for the Arts for giving me these wonderful resources.

Laces and stays

Last year, I transformed my part-time work as heritage wood-restorer into Through closed doors, a piece for two violins notated on an antique door. Now I’m working on a new illustrated and hand-printed score, which combines my love of lace, luxurious yarns, fancy paper and dark fairy tales. The project is a reworking of my mini-opera Mirror, mirror, which explores the story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The original version was premiered by Janice Jackson in 2012. Stay tuned for more pictures in the coming weeks.

Materials: 100% merino wool from Uruguay, papers from Nepal and Japan, linoleum printing
Mirror, mirrorMirror, mirrorMirror, mirror

I am eternally grateful to Princeton University for giving me the space, time and resources to pursue this project.

P.S. – The only other composer I know who has managed to combine composition with knitting was Jocelyn Morlock, when she offered blue hand-knitted wear as rewards for the crowdfunding campaign for her album “Cobalt” (which is beautiful, by the way).

Weeping premiere

I’ve been in Toronto for a few days preparing for the upcoming premiere of my newest piece Weeping, which will be presented by New Music Concerts on Saturday, April 4th. The piece is based on traditional Ukrainian grieving songs (golosinnja). Since this is an exclusively female tradition, it amuses me greatly that all the performers in this case are male. They’ve been really great sports about trying all the funny squeaky sounds that I’m asking them to produce in an attempt to imitate vocal cracks, hiccups and the raw timbre of older, worn out voices. This performance is also going to be my conducting debut and I am eternally grateful to the performers for being so patient and kind to me.

The premiere will take place on Saturday, April 4th at the Betty Oliphant Theatre located at 404 Jarvis St. in Toronto. There will be a pre-concert talk at 7:15 and a reception following the 8:00 pm show.  The concert also features music by Ukrainian composers Karmella Tsepkolenko and Valentin Silvestrov, as well as Canadian composers of Ukrainian origin Gary Kulesha and Alex Pauk.

For more information on Weeping and my composing practice in general, I invite you to listen to this podcast recently produced by Paul Steenhuisen.

This commission and my presence in Toronto is generously funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and the Shevchenko Foundation.


Interview on SoundLab

Paul Steenhuissen recently interviewed me for his podcast series SoundLab. The interview was commissioned by Toronto’s New Music Concerts in preparation for the Ukrainian-Canadian Connection concert happening on April 4th, which will feature the premiere of my piece Weeping. Paul asked some very probing and difficult questions, which forced me to define my compositional practice and goals.

We discussed my work with Ukrainian folk music, focusing specifically on Weeping and the grieving songs which inspired and shaped it, as well as an earlier piece Bridal Train, which was commissioned by the Thin Edge New Music Collective. We also talked about my explorations of childhood, Carl Jung’s archetypes and the cello in the piece The Child, Bringer of Light premiered by Paul Dwyer at Carnegie Hall. Finally, we discussed my work with graphic notation and unusual materials in the piece Through Closed Doors, also commissioned by Thin Edge.

In addition to recordings of my music, the podcast includes archival as well as my own recordings of Ukrainian folks music, and a bit of my singing. You can listen to the podcast online or download it here.

Premiere at La Chapelle tomorrow!

Today I had the privilege of hearing Katelyn Clark rehearse my new piece for harpsichord …the obsessive circularity of thought… on the lovely harpsichord at La Chapelle in Montreal. The instrument is an original from 1772 and sags a little at the corner, but sounds absolutely gorgeous! We’ve had to make some adjustments to the piece because the upper manual is quite a bit higher on this particular instrument than I had anticipated and it is harder to play across manuals. And because it is an antique, we are not allowed to play under the lid. But, the sound is beautiful so I’m not complaining!

The concert, happening on February 11 at 8 pm, also features Luciane Cardassi performing on the Fazioli piano. The Rockeys Duo will perform music by Jimmie LeBlanc, Louis Andriessen, Linda Catlin Smith, Isaiah Ceccarelli and Antonio Celso Ribeiro, as well as my new work for solo harpsichord. More info here.

Harpsichord at La Chapelle in MontrealLa Chapelle in Montreal

Obsessive circularity

I just finished my first ever piece for solo harpsichord, …the obsessive circularity of thought…, commissioned by Katelyn Clark. She will premiere the work at 8 pm on February 11 at Chapelle historique du Bon Pasteur, 100 rue Sherbrooke E, Montreal.

The piece was inspired by the tendency to obsessively replay certain conversations in our minds, wishing we said something different and analyzing each phrase from a million different angles. Musically, I concentrated on the slight differences in colour and tuning between the two manuals found on some instruments, obsessively repeating the same pitches and patterns through interlocking hands.

The harpsichord, which I used to compose this piece, located at Princeton University, made in Pennsylvania in the 1980s. 

One of the harpsichords at Princeton University   Inside the harpsichord

“Through closed doors” video

At the end of September, Thin Edge New Music Collective performed Through closed doors at the Array Space in Toronto. Ilana Waniuk and Suhashini Arulanandam did a fantastic job. Here’s the video I put together using footage by A.J. Gray and audio recordings by John. S. Gray, as well as some great photos by Terry Lim.

The door score

The door score

Prints and Postcards for sale

I am now selling art prints and postcards derived from my hand-drawn scores. I will be adding more items as they become available so check the Purchase page or follow my Etsy store to stay in the loop. I ship the items from Princeton, New Jersey.

Art Prints

Through closed doors, Illuminated manuscript, page 1
$40 CAD
This 11×14″ art print is a high-quality copy of the first page from the hand-inked score for Through closed doors. It is digitally printed on thick watercolour paper with hand-made deckle edging. Available from Etsy.

Post Cards

Through closed doors, Illuminated postcard, page 1
$6 CAD
This 5×7″ postcard is based on the first page from the hand-inked score for Through closed doors. It is digitally printed on cardstock.Send through the mail as a lovely greeting or frame as wall art. Available from Etsy.

Through closed doors, Illuminated postcard, page 2
$6 CAD
This 5×7″ postcard is based on the second page from the hand-inked score for Through closed doors. It is digitally printed on cardstock.Send through the mail as a lovely greeting or frame as wall art. Available from Etsy.

Ontario Concerts

Just a quick heads up about two upcoming events in Ontario featuring Through closed doors performed from its antique wooded door score. The program, performed brilliantly by Thin Edge New Music Collective, will also feature fantastic works by Ana Sokolovic, Anna Hostman and Brian Harman. If you know me and would like to come to the Toronto fundraiser, get in touch with me please.

September 20, 2014, 8:00 pm (Waterloo, ON, Canada)
The Button Factory (Waterloo Community Arts Theatre), 25 Regina St. Tickets available here.

September 21, 2014 (Toronto, ON, Canada)
A private fundraiser in Rosedale. Entrance by invitation.

I will be selling high-quality copies of four of the pages from the paper manuscript of Through closed doors. They are printed on nice 12×15″ watercolour paper and will be available for $40 each (or $140 for the set of four). I also have 5×7″ postcards for $5 each (just the first two pages). Bring cash or cheques!

Through closed doors, page 1Through closed doors, page 2Through closed doors, page 3Through closed doors, page 4