“Obsessive circularity” in Montreal

I was very pleased to find out recently that Katelyn Clark will be performing my piece Obsessive circularity of thought on Wed, February 22 (8:00 pm) at Chapelle St-Louis (4230, rue Drolet) in Montreal, QC. She commissioned and premiered the piece back in early 2015 and made this lovely recording at the Banff Centre. More info on the concert can be found here.

Forms of Sound 2017

I am excited to be a guest at University of Calgary’s Forms of Sound 2017 festival starting today. Tonight I will be performing my very first ‘invented folksong’ Weeping for a dead love with the university’s percussion ensemble. They have been fantastic and we’ve had two amazing rehearsals. This work is my take on traditional Ukrainian weeping songs known as holosinnya, though instead of mourning a person, I will mourn a dead relationship.

Tomorrow’s concert will include a performance of my piano trio Like doves with grey wings embracing originally written for the Gryphon Trio and here performed by university faculty and students. This work is an instrumental reinterpretation of Weeping for a dead love.

The concerts also features works by Michael Horwood, David Berezan, Tawnie Olson, Analia Llugdar, and Guidonna Lee Terzi, Alyssa Aska, J. Alex Young and Abdullah Soydan.

The festival will continue on February 3 and 8th. All concerts take place at the Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall in the Rozsa Centre at 8 pm. More info here.

Drowning in Princeton

Later today I will be performing a revised version of my invented folksong Drown in the depth, which was commissioned by the 21C Festival in Toronto and premiered there last May.This time I will be joined by composers Matt McBane on violin and Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade on cello, and Mark Eichenberger on percussion. Drawing on and subverting Ukrainian folk imagery, this work explores female erotic fantasy. In this performance, I’m continuing to experiment with theatrical lighting design as well as some interesting props. The concert also features new music by Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Noah Kaplan, Matt McBane, Juri Seo and Kendall Williams. You can hear the show live at Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall (Princeton University) or through this live stream link at 8 pm EST.

Unruly Sounds in Princeton

I am excited to be performing my piece What else can I give him? at the Unruly Sounds Festival taking place tomorrow (Sunday, Oct 2) outside of the Princeton Public Library in Princeton, NJ. I will be joined by Nick Tolle (cimbalom), Mark Eichenberger (percussion) and Florent Ghys (bass), who premiered the piece with me in December 2015. We are welcoming a new violinist, Andie Springer, for this performance.

The festival is free and will run from 12:30 to 7:00 pm. I will be performing around 2:00 pm. The rain location is inside the public library’s community room. For more info on the festival, visit this Facebook page.

What else can I give him? is part of a growing cycle of pieces I call ‘invented folksongs’ – pieces which draw heavily from the Ukrainian folksong tradition and marry it with a more contemporary compositional approach. Here’s a recording of the premiere performance with super duper violinist Courtney Orlando:

Leading up to the festival, composer-vocalist Annika Socolofsky and I got to visit Community Park Elementary school to chat and play with some kids in grades 4 and 5. Annika showed them some really cool ways to use their voices, and I told them about my upcoming opera Wild Dogs. We did some great howling, yipping, barking, chirping and croaking together. The kids made particularly great frogs hoping up with every “Enid” croak. I’ve never done something like this before and was surprised at how much fun I had with the kids.

The frogs say “Enid”

Continuing my exploration of the sonic world of my in-progress opera Wild Dogs, I give you a chorus of frogs that say Enid…Enid…Enid……Enid…Enid……..Enid.

This opera, with a libretto by Val Brandt, is based on Helen Humphrey’s novel Wild Dogs and will be produced by black bachx opera lab in collaboration with Standing Wave and Music on Main in Vancouver, BC.

Spirit of the pack

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.

Birds-of-Paradise in Korea

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.

Study of the transformation of the Black Sicklebill

This woodblock print is my study of the transformation of the Black Sicklebill.

Teach your daughters

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.

 

“Like doves” in Edmonton

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.

Weeping for a dead love

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.

You can download the text and translation here.