Last Friday, the super talented Rachel Mercer performed The Child, Bringer of Light at the Betty Oliphant Theatre as part of Toronto’s New Music Concerts. This concert has yet again made me feel how fantastically lucky I have been over the course of my young career to work with such amazing and dedicated performers.
Rachel played with gusto and extreme sensitivity. She dug into all the raw, scratchy sounds without hesitation and her sense of timing was superb. I felt like she really connected with my music. Hearing her reminded me yet again that one of the main reasons I compose is to form those connections with people; to feel something I created, a piece of my soul, pass through another human being absorbing their essence in the process and becoming something new. For this reason, working with soloists can be an especially intense and intimate experience.
Such intimate connections with performers in turn allow me to connect to listeners. At Friday’s concert Rachel helped me make a truly fascinating connection. This cello piece is my exploration of Carl Jung’s archetype of the Child. It is about a child’s innocently joyful arrival in the world being broken by the discovery of pain and loneliness, and his eventual rediscovery of light. For me, writing this piece was a deeply immersive and emotional experience.
To my great delight, one of the audience members at last Friday’s concert turned out to be a Jungian psychologist with a particular fascination with the Child archetype. What are the odds??? She has been studying and living with this image for decades and here she was unexpectedly confronted with it in musical form. It was extremely rewarding to hear about her experience with my musical interpretation of an idea that was so dear to her. To have someone thank you for the music you created is truly the greatest honour.
It seems that I just got back from my last four-week-long trip to Europe (my suitcase was still in the middle of my bedroom until very recently), and already I’m getting ready to fly off for another five weeks. While the first trip was purely pleasure, this one has some work sprinkled in.
After a quick stopover in Toronto for a performance of my cello piece (see below), I’m heading over to Slovakia and Austria for the ISCM World New Music Days 2013 festival to hear my solo accordion piece, Light-play through curtain holes, in Vienna. To cap off the trip, I’ll spend a few weeks in Ukraine to do some more village recordings. Most of this is generously funded by the Canada Council for the Arts and the British Columbia Arts Council. I love my life!
First stop: Toronto. My piece for solo cello, The Child, Bringer of Light, which I originally composed for a Carnegie Hall workshop with Kaija Saariaho and Anssi Karttunen, will be performed by Rachel Mercer as part of Toronto’s New Music Concerts Series on November 1st. Check out more info here. Rachel will be amplified and I will diffuse her sound through eight speakers surrounding the audience. I haven’t tried this before with this piece, so I am super excited!
Also, check out excerpts of this piece in the current issue (No. 7) of Manor House Quarterly, which is available online or at Chapters. The score excerpts are accompanied by a very insightful artistic analysis by Cooper Troxell, and remarkably fitting photographs by Lissy Elle. The whole issue looks gorgeous!
After days of masochistic agony I have finally completed a long-avoided revision of my accordion piece, Light-play through curtain holes, which was originally written in 2010 and premiered by Olivia Steimel. This revision happened at last thanks to the upcoming performance of the work in Vienna as part of the ISCM World New Music Days 2013. The performance will take place on November 11 at 7:30 pm at the Berio-Saal, Konzerthaus, Lothringerstraße 20.
The primary reason I put off this revision for so long was the fact that the original score was done by hand. Just thinking about going through this process all over again made my eyes dry up, my back seize up and my wrists stiffen. Wanting to control every aspect of the layout, I even measured out my own staff lines. It took me days to do just five pages and all I could think was, “thank you to whatever deity might be up there that we have computer software for things like this.”
I love the final result of the hands-on approach; it has a certain density and fluidity hard to replicate in notation software. The lines feel juicier somehow and the possibilities for customization are endless. In this case, the piece seems to look more like it’s supposed to sound.
But, I am eternally grateful that I don’t have to do this with every one of my scores, that this is an aesthetic choice rather than a necessity. I can reserve this labour of love for pieces that would actually gain something from such representation (and I would argue that some wouldn’t).
I am happy to report that excerpts of my piece The Child, Bringer of Light, will appear in the upcoming issue of the art journal, Manor House Quarterly. The score excerpts will be accompanied by an analysis by Cooper Troxell, the journal’s composition editor. MHQ is a beautifully put-together publication covering contemporary visual arts, literature, music and other things artsy. I am really excited to see my work appear in this journal and recommend it to any arts enthusiast. It’s lovely to flip through and interesting to read (also looks great on a coffee table).
I am super excited to finally announce that I received two prizes in this year’s SOCAN Awards for Young Composers. My chamber opera On the Eve of Ivan Kupalo, which was my master’s thesis project, received a shared first prize in the Godfrey Ridout vocal category. Congratulations also to Marie-Claire Saindon, who is sharing the win with me.
The solo cello piece The Child, Bringer of Light, which I wrote for a workshop with Kaija Saariaho and Anssi Karttunen at Carnegie Hall, received the third prize in the Pierre Mercure category for solo and duo compositions. The Child will be performed by Rachel Mercer as part of Toronto’s New Music Concerts on November 1, 2013. Excerpts of the score will also appear in the summer issue of Manor House Quarterly.
Congratulations also to a super talented friend of mine, James O’Callaghan, for his first prize win in the Hugh Le Caine category for works with live or prerecorded electroacoustics.