I am currently in the thick of a new chamber opera based on Helen Humphrey’s novel Wild Dogs. Set in a small town with crumbling industry and high unemployment, it features a ragtag group of individuals who lost their beloved dog. The novel explores the relationship, harmonious or opposing, between wilderness and domestication in the wider world and in our own psyche.
What made this opera project appealing to me was the opportunity to explore the sounds of animals, birds and the forest environment as a whole. As part of my research, I recently spent afternoon in the studio imitating wolf and dog howls, really exploring my voice to see how close I could get to the sound of a howling pack.
Tomorrow (Saturday, May 28) I will be premiering my new piece Drown in the depth at the 21C Festival in Toronto, along with Andréa Tyniec (violin), Amahl Arulanandam (cello) and Chung-Ling Lo (percussion). This ‘invented folksong’ borrows familiar formulas and structures from Ukrainian folk music, subverting them and pushing them beyond their traditional limits.
My text explores the richness of the female erotic imagination, contradicting the common myth that female sexuality is naturally dormant and passive until ignited by the more sexual and aggressive male.
The piece will be performed, along with my older work Bridal train, on Saturday, May 28 (5 pm) at the Conservatory Theatre at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
Tomorrow, April 22, gamin and Alexander Sheykin will perform my piece On the courtship displays of Birds-of-Paradise at the National Gugak Centre in Seoul. This duo for saenghwang and accordion was commissioned by Soundstreams and premiered earlier this year by gamin and Michael Bridge in Toronto. This performance, entitled “Paradise Laboratory”, will include traditional Korean dancers and improvisations by gamin. It will be the first time that my music is heard in Asia.
For more information, visit the National Gugak Centre site.
This woodblock print is my study of the transformation of the Black Sicklebill.
I can finally share the live recording of Teach your daughters, which I premiered with Katha Zinn and Illya Filshtinskiy from aTonalHits on a Princeton Sound Kitchen Concert on March 1. Because of the difficulty of the subject matter, this piece took a very long time to take shape.
This piece for voice, violin and prepared piano is my reaction to the horrific rape and murder of Ukrainian teenager Oksana Makar, which took place in 2012. More broadly, it explores the issue of victim blaming. The piece weaves Oksana’s story through a folk song I recorded while traveling in northwestern Ukraine in the fall of 2012. The story of the folk song’s heroine, Halya, is eerily similar to Oksana’s, which speaks volumes about the prevalence of such horrific violence against women and its perception throughout history and in the modern times.
I discussed this work in an interview with Nick Storring, which appeared in the fall issue of Musicworks Magazine. Katha, Illya and I workshop the initial sketches for this piece at Avaloch Farm in August of 2015.
Tonight, Essential Opera is performing a revised, two-voice version of my mini-opera, Mirror, mirror. It’s a retelling of the classic Snow White story, focusing on the relationship between Snow White and the Queen, and exploring issues of aging and watching children grow up and take one’s place. While the original version was written for one vocalist, Janice Jackson, performing both roles, tonight’s performance will feature Maureen Ferguson and Julie Ludwig, with musical direction by Cheryl Duvall.
The performance will take place at 7:30 pm at the Heliconian Hall, Toronto. More info here.
A year ago, I made an illustrated score for the piece comprising of five hand-printed panels. There are only seven copies, with six available for sale.
My piano trio Like doves with grey wings embracing, which was originally written for the Gryphon Trio, will be presented at New Music Edmonton’s Now Hear This festival. The piece will be performed by members of the Violet Collective at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church (10037 84 Ave) on Sunday, March 20 at 2 pm.
I’m happy to be sharing the program with Colin Labadie and Lesley Hinger, two very talented composers whom I met back in 2012 at the National Arts Centre Emerging Composers’ Program. The concert also features music by Talia Amar, Alex Mincek, Lansing McLoskey, Erin Rogers, Morgan Krauss.
This is the second time that my music is featured at this festival and I am eternally grateful for their support.
More info about the concert can be found here. Check out the rest of the festival here.
Today I will be premiering Teach your daughters with the Brooklyn-based duo aTonalHits at the Princeton Sound Kitchen concert Polyptych. The concert’s theme is Composer-Singers and will feature music by Elliot Cole, Christopher Douthitt, Alex Dowling, Emma O’Halloran and myself.
I discussed the initial idea for this piece in an interview with Musicworks Magazine before taking some sketches to Avaloch Farm last August. While there, I played with Katha and Illya’s box of Cage piano preparations and tried out some basic ideas with them. I am looking forward to finally bringing this piece to life.
Trying out sketches with Katha Zinn, violin, and Illya Filshtinskiy, piano, at Avaloch Farm.
I’m in Toronto having some great rehearsals with Michael Bridge and Gamin in preparation for the premiere of On the courtship displays of Birds-of-Paradise. This duo for accordion and traditional Korean instrument saenghwang was commissioned by Soundstreams. The premiere will take place on February 10 (8 pm) at Trinity-St. Paul’s Centre at 427 Bloor St West. I will discuss the piece with artistic director Lawrence Cherney at a pre-concert chat at 7 pm. More info here.
I just found out that Dobrochna Zubek will perform The Child, Bringer of Light as part of the “Fast Forward Crescendo” concert at Zamek Cesarski happening on January 7 at 7:30 pm. This will be the first time that my music is heard in Poland.
Dobrochna Zubek rehearsing The Child at the Music Gallery in Toronto in February 2014.
Back in May I premiered Weeping for a dead love with So Percussion Quartet as part of the Princeton Sound Kitchen. This performance was my debut as a folk singer of sorts and I’m very grateful to the guys from So for participating in this experiment.
This work draws on the now rare rural Ukrainian tradition of mourning songs, half-chanted, half-cried laments sung by women at funerals and over grave sites. They consist of small melodic cells, which expand and contract to fit varying phrases of text. For the content, the singer seems to borrow commonly used formulas filling in her own specific details to describe her loved one, the manner of his or her death, her own reaction to it, and the realities and fears of life without this person. The overall effect is both devastatingly emotional and meditative at the same time.
I discovered this tradition through archival recordings while doing fieldwork in Ukraine in the fall of 2012. Mesmerized by its sonic qualities and emotional power, I first explored it in Weeping, a work for six instruments commissioned and premiered by New Music Concerts in Toronto. Unable to leave this haunting world, I now draw and expand on its melodic and poetic formulas to mourn the death of a romantic relationship rather than a person. The vocal line is only roughly notated to allow room for ornamentation, and basic rhythmic and melodic freedom.