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.
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.
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 BridalTrain, 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.