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


The door’s reincarnation

As soon as the last coat of varnish was dry, the door score was picked up by the shipper this morning. Less than 24 hours ago I was still painting the last letters. Here are some photos of the door’s journey from a bathroom of a very old house in Vancouver to its new incarnation as a musical score. I am very happy to have given this broken piece of history destined for the landfill a new lease on life.

The door in its original condition.

The door in its original condition

The door was stripped of paint using a heat gun and some heavy duty chemicals. 

Stripping the door

When most of the paint and old varnish was scrubbed off, the beautiful old growth wood was sanded to silky smoothness. I then laid out and transferred the bits of manuscript onto the surface using oil-based paint pens.

Transferring the manuscript onto the door

And here’s the door just before shipping.

Through closed doors, the door manuscript

This door manuscript will be premiered by the Thin Edge New Music Collective in Waterloo on Sept. 20. Details to come soon.


Playing with curves

As I finish up the ‘B side’ of the massive door score for Through closed doors, I get to experiment with curving staves. This is something I didn’t get to do on the paper manuscript.

As soon as the paint dries, this score will be shipped off to Ontario for two events. You can see violinists Ilana Waniuk and Suhashini Arulanandam perform the door in Waterloo on September 20th. More info soon.

Door score excerpt

Door score excerpt

The door

As my departure from Vancouver draws nigh, I am feverishly working to complete the final objects involved in the semi-theatrical piece Through closed doors for the Thin Edge New Music Collective. I don’t think I’ve ever had to use so many different skills in any of my creative projects. There has even been carpentry involved (my ‘day’ job coming in handy). The only thing I haven’t done here is fiber arts.

The final ‘score’ for the piece is an antique door, which the violinists will circle in pursuit of each other. The piece was inspired by it and built around it. You can see some pages of the hand-inked manuscript I made first by scrolling down to some earlier posts.

Here’s the door all ready for engraving with the manuscript laid out below it. 

The door ready for engraving
My original plan was to burn the notes into the wood with a wood burning pen. It seemed like a good idea until the metal nibs started bending from the heat of the tool they were made for (talk about quality!). Moreover, the wood the door is made from has widely varying density and is not that suitable for pyrography (things got rather bumpy).

After an episode of some first rate artistic misery, panic and hair-pulling (“Oh my god, this whole project is a disaster!!!! Who the hell did I think I was trying to pull something like this????), I discovered the Sharpie oil-based paint pens. Life is looking up.

Some music on the door