Wild Dogs in Vancouver

For the last three years I have been involved in the production of a new opera Wild Dogs based on a novel of the same name by Helen Humphreys. This project is being produced by Vancouver’s start-up opera company black bachx opera lab in collaboration with Standing Wave and Music on Main. Producer Robert Carey and librettist Val Brandt brought me into the project in the libretto writing stage so that I could have some artistic input into the text I am setting. This has been a long, but fascinating process and I thank Val Brandt for her flexibility and openness. It is no easy task to stay faithful to the spirit of the novel, while at the same time creating a text that the composer is excited to work with. I started work on the music just over a year ago.

At the end of May, Vancouver’s contemporary music ensemble Standing Wave presented three scenes from the opera with soprano Carla Huhtanen singing the role of Lily. In these scenes, Lily, a twenty-something-year-old woman who suffered brain damage as a child, goes into the woods to find her beloved dog, Dog. She is instead found by the feral dog pack that Dog has joined. The pack takes her in as one of their own, and Lily begins a new life free of the prejudices and fears which have haunted her in the human world. Here are some excerpts from this performance.

The opera will continue going through a series of workshops over the next year or so. Keep tuned for more updates and performances!

Mise-En Festival 2017

I am exited to participate in the Mise-En Festival 2017 taking place June 20-25 in New York City. The festival will feature works by several dozen composers from around the world with concerts, workshops and presentations happening in different locations throughout the city. My piece Weeping, originally commissioned and premiered by New Music Concerts in Toronto, will be performed as part of the 7:30 pm set of the multi-hour marathon taking place on June 24. I am excited to share the program with Nick Omiccioli, whom I met in Ottawa at the NAC Emerging Composers Workshop back in 2012.

For more information about the festival, click here.

Weeping is my exploration of the nearly extinct tradition of weeping or keeping songs sung by women in rural Ukraine to mourn those they lost. I transcribed a number of recordings matching them with specific instruments based on timbral similarities. I endeavored to capture the idiosyncratic qualities of each voice using the idiosyncratic qualities of each instrument, often asking them to play against their classical training. The overall structure of the work is inspired by an archival recording made at a cemetery on a prescribed day of mass mourning. Here is an excerpt of the piece performed by the New Music Concerts ensemble.

For more information on Weeping and my composing practice in general, I invite you to listen to this podcast produced by Paul Steenhuisen before the work’s premiere.

“Waiting” premier in Vancouver

Tonight Ensemble Paramirabo will be premiering my piece Waiting as part of their joint tour with my long time collaborators Thin Edge New Music Collective. The concert, titled Raging Against the Machine: Coming Together, is presented by Music on Main and will take place at the Fox Cabaret. It’s a very special honour for me to finally be presented by this much beloved music series, which my family has been frequenting for many years. This is also my first time working with Paramirabo and I am super excited about tonight’s performance. More info can be found here.

The piece was inspired by a Ukrainian folksong I found in a printed anthology, which so elegantly and succinctly explores the state of waiting for someone much longed for. It is a complex mixture of conflicting emotions, which gives a great sense of meaning and poignancy to the simplest elements of one’s life. It is a state characterized by obsessive creation of many scenarios, both positive and negative, but always extreme. The image of weeping willows swaying in the wind inspired the structure of the piece. Thoughts of wind and breath were very much on my mind. Fragments of the folksong melody are constantly replayed and reworked, and the first four lines of poetry are obsessively repeated in three languages. 

Here’s my rendition of the song.

“Хилітеся, густі лози,
Звіткіль вітер віє!…
Дивітеся, карі очі,
Звіткіль милий (мила) їде!…

Хилилися густі лози,
Та вже й перестали…
Дивилися, карі очі,
Та й плакати стали.”

“Bend, O, bend, you thick willows,
From where does the wind blow?
Watch, O, watch, you brown eyes,
From where will your beloved come?

Bent, and bent, the thick willows,
And then fell still…
Watched, and watched, the brown eyes,
And began to weep. “

Drown in the depth

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.

“Mirror, mirror” in Toronto

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.

Mirror, mirror

Mirror, mirror

Teach your daughters

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.

Anna, Katha and Illya at Avaloch Farm

Trying out sketches with Katha Zinn, violin, and Illya Filshtinskiy, piano, at Avaloch Farm.

Birds-of-Paradise premiere

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.

MichaelBridge_Gamin_Feb 2016 (2)

The Child in Poland

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.

Moja Muzyka

Dobrochna Zubek

Dobrochna Zubek rehearsing The Child at the Music Gallery in Toronto in February 2014. 

The door in Mississauga

The lovely Ilana Waniuk and Suhashini Arulanandam will perform Through closed doors with the one-and-only door score in Mississauga, ON this Sunday, November 22. Dobrochna Zubek will also perform The child, bringer of light for solo cello. The performance will be part of a Thin Edge New Music Collective concert featuring music by Linda Caitlin Smith, Anna Hostman and Ana Sokolovic.

The concert will take place at 2:00 pm at the Great Hall in the Unitarian Congregation, 84 South Service Rd., Mississauga, ON.

The door score

Trio Chimera

I’m looking forward to the US premiere of my newest trio Like doves with grey wings embracing, performed by Trio Chimera as part of the Princeton Sound Kitchen concert happening on Tuesday, September 15 (8:00 pm) at Taplin Auditorium in Fine Hall (Princeton University, Princeton, NJ).

This piece draws on material from my work Weeping for a dead love, which I premiered with So Percussion last May. The violin and cello sing my vocal lines, while the piano expands on the sound of the four Noah bells, which so magically fit themselves into the sonic landscape of this piece.