works

Discs <
X Discs

 

Inside Us

for solo vocalist, choir, audio tracks, multiple video projections, 3 televisions, and turntable [45′].

X Inside Us

for solo vocalist, choir, audio tracks, multiple video projections, 3 televisions, and turntable [45′].


Commission:
Western Front with funds from the Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: Laura Swankey with DB Boyko and the VOICE OVER mind Choir, February 8, 2018 at the Grand Luxe Hall, Western Front, Vancouver

Inside Us invites listeners into the acoustic poetry of the body’s interior. Vocal soundscape combines with diagnostic ultrasound recordings, giving voice to the rhythms of the circulatory and respiratory systems. Attentive listening dissolves notions of scale and place: from the constrained intensity of vessels leading to the brain to the cavernous resonance of blood as it washes from the liver back into the heart. Percolating through the immersive sounds of the installation, members of the VOICE OVER mind choir share moments of awareness of heartbeat or breath. Many of these recollections come from “the edges of life”.

Inside Us evolved during an artistic residency at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Research Institute. Through conversations with scientists and clinicians, I’ve begun to grasp the complexities and power of biomedical imaging. Riding my bicycle to and from the hospital, I started to see how physics and mathematics manifest in the everyday world around me. The video is a visual diary of parallel processes scavenged from my inner and outer journeys: fluid dynamics, breathing of trees, fluttering of moths, bubbles, drops and flows.

A custom-cut disc on the turntable features ultrasound Doppler recordings of arterial blood flow on Side A and venous flow on Side B and is the springboard for vocal improvisations by the soloist.

Ultrasound Doppler technology allows real-time imaging of blood flow at precise locations in the body. The audio output is not the sound of the heart beating, but rather the frequency shift as sound from a a transducer is directed towards the body, bounces off moving blood cells and then returns to the transducer. The resulting doppler shift conveys speed, pressure and direction. The development of this imaging method has gone hand in hand with advances in computing technology, allowing for higher resolution and greater precision. Meanwhile, bats, dolphins, porpoises and whales use bio-sonar to locate and catch their prey — their own bodies the site of technology humans still struggle to fully comprehend.

Artistic residency at Sunnybrook Research Institute funded by the Ontario Arts Council.
Ultrasound diagnostic recordings made with the assistance of: Paul Sheeran, Peter Burns and Caroline Maloney at Sunnybrook Research Institute.

Quarry

for soprano, choir, picc, alto fl, ob, 2 bass cl, 3 perc [23′] 2017.

X Quarry

for soprano, choir, picc, alto fl, ob, 2 bass cl, 3 perc [23′] 2017.

Commissioned by Continuum with funds from the Ontario Arts Council
Premiere: June 3, 2017 at Evergreen Brick Works, as part of FOUR LANDS, co-produced by Continuum Contemporary Music & Jumblies Theatre

“Everything stays the same,
Everything is yet to be discovered.”

Quarry excavates layers of memory and place through song and sound. The lyrics intertwine words from community members across Canada into a dreamscape that hovers between the present, the past and the future. What do we discover if we dig deep — beneath the ground where we stand, back into the bedrock of time, below the tangle of our everyday thoughts?

Invicta

2 actors/spoken word artists + 4 4 4 4 / 4 3 3 1 / timp 2 perc 2 hp / str [12′] 2017.

X Invicta

2 actors/spoken word artists + 4 4 4 4 / 4 3 3 1 / timp 2 perc 2 hp / str [12′] 2017.
Lyrics by Zaccheus Jackson
Commissioned by NYO Canada
Premiere: NYO Canada, conductor Jonathan Darlington with Zoey “Pricelys” Roy & Lindsay “Eekwol” Knight, National Arts Centre, Ottawa, July 22, 2017

Zaccheus Jackson’s words are fierce and fiery, veering from humour to tragedy in one sentence. His performances are musical — rhythms and rhymes which flow and hurtle, their political sophistication revealing Zaccheus’ grasp of the big picture. He was a poet who saw injustice in the world around him and called it out with energy and brilliance. Zaccheus’ uncompromising vision was a huge inspiration for me — everyone needs to hear this lesson in Canadian history.

Zaccheus raced through this poem at lightning speed, clocking in at around two minutes. In stretching out the journey to twelve minutes, we get the chance to linger with the genius of his words, allowing them more time to sink in and do their transformational work. I hope hearing this piece will open your ears and your heart to Zaccheus’ words and to the voice of his generation.

Thank you to the NYOC for inviting me to be part of the Unsilent Project and for supporting the creation of this new work. And many thanks to Falen, Zoey and Lindsay for their generosity and fearlessness stepping into a new world.

Vermillion Songs

Tenor with piano trio [ 15′] 2016.

X Vermillion Songs

Tenor with piano trio [ 15′] 2016.
Composed for Simon O’Neill and NZTrio with funds from CreativeNZ

The American Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) is regarded as one of the foremost poets of all time. Although her modern sensibility meant that little of her work was published during her lifetime, her poetry is now arguably the most frequently set by contemporary composers. Vital, vivid and pithy, Dickinson’s work is both immediately appealing and rewarding upon repeated listening.
Running through Dickinson’s work is a concern with the workings of the body itself. Her poems offer a compelling inner perspective on the breath, the circulation of the blood, varieties of pain, and the last moments of life itself. While human-scaled and engaged with the viscerality of the everyday, her work simultaneously conjures the epic and the immense — cosmic rhythms and the ineffability of consciousness.

This new work brings together six of Dickinson’s poems in sequence: from an acknowledgement of the insights of science, through contemplation of pain, disorientation, a return to consciousness, acceptance of the fragility of existence, to a final song of death.

In composing Vermillion Songs, I draw upon research at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre by medical biophysicist Dr. Peter Burns. The soundscapes of the inner body, captured by ultrasound, are both precise and evocative: from the constrained intensity of vessels leading to the brain, to the cavernous resonance as blood washes back into the heart from the liver. In bringing together the operatic voice, Dickinson’s evocative lyrics, the sonic possibilities of piano trio and the high-tech soundscapes documented by bioacoustics, I hope to offer listeners a fresh glimpse into the poetry of the human body.

Libretto

THE MAN WHO MARRIED HIMSELF.

X Libretto

THE MAN WHO MARRIED HIMSELF.

Libretto by Anna Chatterton

Commissioned by Toronto Masque Theatre with funds from The Toronto Arts Council, The Canada Council for the Arts & The Ontario Arts Council

Final Version: January 2017

Inspired by the Karnataka folktale, The Prince Who Married His Own Left Side (A Flowering Tree, ed. A.K. Ramanujan)

 

Characters

The Prince — counter-tenor

The Newborn Woman — Carnatic/jazz vocalist

The Lover — improvising jazz vocalist

 

The Story

PRINCE: The admired, pursued and proud Prince says:

Married people want everyone settled.

Nudge and nose me towards a wife.

But you can’t control a woman

Can’t keep them in line

So, this and only this is how I will marry:

PRINCE AND NEWBORN WOMAN: Split my body in two

Bury my left half in flowers

Blood and bone in earth

Will birth a woman

 

Dance of the NEWBORN WOMAN being born.

 

PRINCE: The Prince looks at his Newborn Wife and coos:

She’s perfect, such beauty

Same bright eyes, locks like mine that curl like shells

She has my round cheeks, satin neck,

rosebud lips, jasmine teeth

Same bright eyes, locks like mine that curl like shells

She has my round cheeks, satin neck,

rosebud lips, jasmine teeth

Young mango leaf wife

When I look into your petal eyes, I am home.

NEWBORN WOMAN:

eyes curl

eyes neck

lips teeth teeth!

eyes!

 

NEWBORN WOMAN: Eyes like you,

Teeth like you,

You, you, you!

 

PRINCE: The Prince says to his pretty wife, so pink and sweet:

Oh my pretty wife, you are my soft sugar, my pink, my sweet.

Let’s curl up in your penthouse suite

I bought it just for you. High in the sky, a view of the world

Yet safe and serene.

 

NEWBORN WOMAN

Soft? Sweet? Safe? Sweet? Soft? Sweet? Safe?

I want to fight,

Bite this town to the core,

Bite and fight this town to the core.

 

PRINCE: The Prince pastes on a smile, breathes deep, then says:

Impossible. Too polluted, seedy.

You who grew from flowers — my hidden half

Fragrant skin, petal eyes, sweet breath,

You would be plucked and trashed

Your rosy glow tarnished.

You must be protected

Twenty-four hour security to guard my sweetest self

Wall to wall windows and plush carpets

Where you can rest and bloom.

(He puts an ankle bracelet on her)

A bracelet for your lovely ankle —

Wear it and dream of me.

The PRINCE leaves.

 

NEWBORN WOMAN: What the newborn woman says:

Blast it.

This is just as lonesome and cramped as before.

My elbows in the cupboards

Toes curbed and cornered

Ceiling crowning my head

Nose pressed to the window

Eyes click, blink, scratch the glass,

Other half where oh where is my other half?

A lion is a lion be it female or male.

A lion is a lion is a lion is a lion…

A lion, a lion.

Who is that?

 

LOVER looking up at NEWBORN WOMAN, who is looking down at him.

 

LOVER: My heart is caught in her dark eyes

Black as laurel branches

Hair flowing as honey

How many floors, how many windows between us

And our arms’ embrace?

NEWBORN WOMAN: Moonlight man

I thought I was made for another, but

I want to lay garlands on your chest

Climb the tiger claw trees

And find my tiny flower heart

Beating for you.

 

LOVER & NEWBORN WOMAN: So the Lover sends an Old Woman

With a garland of blue flowers.

NEWBORN WOMAN: What does the Newborn Woman do?

LOVER & NEWBORN WOMAN: Smack! Cloud of vermilion on the Old Woman’s cheek.

LOVER: The Old Woman weeps, tears on her vermillion cheek.

I tell her: it is nothing.

The Newborn Woman’s slap says wait, for she is stained with red blood.

NEWBORN WOMAN: She is stained with red blood.

NEWBORN WOMAN & LOVER: The Lover sends the Old Woman back with a second garland

What does the Newborn Woman do?:

Slap! White lime hands upon her breasts.

LOVER: The Old Woman weeps, tears on her white cheek.

The Lover says: Shush your sobs.

Don’t worry. She is telling me it’s full-moon time.

NEWBORN WOMAN: full-moon time.

NEWBORN WOMAN & LOVER: So the Lover sends the Old Woman back with a third garland.

LOVER: What does the Newborn Woman do?:

NEWBORN WOMAN: Whack! Black ink hands upon her ass.

LOVER: The Lover comforts the Old Woman. He says:

Wipe your tears and read these signs right.

She is telling me to visit on a dark new-moon night.

NEWBORN WOMAN: dark new-moon night.

 

The LOVER and the NEWBORN WOMAN meet.

 

LOVER & NEWBORN WOMAN: Black ink night

Black soil, black earth

New moon kiss

 

NEWBORN WOMAN: What the Newborn Woman says to her lover:

Disguise yourself my love

Steal my nights and days

Snake into my pockets

Snake, snake, curl into my curves.

LOVER: I will slither up the drainpipes,

Slip into your arms

Snake into your pockets

Snake, snake, coil into your curves.

 

LOVER & WOMAN: Snake, snake….

 

PRINCE: Snake, snake!

Guard! Guard! Attack!

Lasso it, trap it, Snap its neck.

The brave Prince says to his wife:

I saw a snake sneaking into your sacred space

So I swiftly slayed it and hurled the remains in the streets.

What my wife says:

DEAD LOVER: What the dead lover says:

 

DEAD LOVER & NEWBORN WOMAN: Ayyo, ayyo, ayyo! Dark dark day.

NEWBORN WOMAN: Tremble, shudder, shake, quake

Almost, could have, so close- can’t-

Oh I can’t, oh I can’t, oh I can’t…

 

PRINCE: What the Prince says:

Scaredy cat!

You are beating your breast blue.

Do not worry — the snake is dead, gray, still, cold.

DEAD LOVER: Alone, alone, dead, gray, still, cold.

 

DEAD LOVER: Dead, gray, cold, dead, gray, cold, (continues)

NEWBORN WOMAN: Ayyo, ayyo, ayyo!

Why eat when he cannot taste?

Why sleep if he will never wake?

Rain on my cheeks,

Drown me to my death.

The Newborn Woman says to the concierge:

Find my lover’s body and I will pay you one.

Burn him into powder proper and I will pay you two.

Place him in a talisman and I will pay you three.

I will wear him always on my breast.

 

Dance of the NEWBORN WOMAN with her LOVER’s ashes.

 

CHORUS: The Prince is back, the Prince is back….

PRINCE: The Prince is back, lines snaking across his moon-like brow,

Heart thudding in his strong chest.

He says to his young wife:

Why are you thinner than the steel wires that stretch across the sky?

Why are you paler than ash?

I command you to speak,

I command you to…

Sit on my lap and whisper in my ear.

 

DEAD LOVER, WOMAN & PRINCE: This is what she says:

 

NEWBORN WOMAN & DEAD LOVER: What else can I/she do?

 

NEWBORN WOMAN: You keep me here,

Here in the clouds,

Only visiting on full moon or new moon days.

 

NEWBORN WOMAN & DEAD LOVER: How can my/her heart be strong? How?

 

PRINCE: The Prince’s heart is galloping,

He feels too hot, then too chilled,

He swallows the lump in his throat,

Grips her too tight and cries:

Then I’ll stay here, 

My eyes holding yours

As sun fades into moon.

My breath, your breath.

Locked in my arms while you sleep. 

I will watch over all your dreams.  

 

NEWBORN WOMAN: The Newborn Woman cannot breathe,

She shakes free from the crush of his embrace and gasps:

I’ll tell you a riddle, I’ll tell you a riddle.

If you answer, I’ll fling myself out the window.

If you cannot answer, you must hurl yourself out the window.

Either agree or let’s quit.

 

WOMAN & DEAD LOVER: This is what the crazy prince says:

 

PRINCE: Agreed, agreed, agreed.

 

DEAD LOVER: Now here comes the riddle, the riddle.

This is what the Newborn Woman says:

 

WOMAN: One for seeing,

Two for powder,

Three for wearing it round my neck.

A husband on the thigh,

A lover on my breast.

A husband on the thigh,

A lover on my breast.

Tell me what it means,

Tell me what it means.

 

WOMAN & DEAD LOVER: This is what the crazy prince says:

 

PRINCE: What? Woe!

Oh no, oh no, oh no…

Maybe maybe but but but how?

Wait wait wait wait

No! No no no no no

Damn woman!

Why must everything be so?

Why?

Oh before, before you everything was so simple

Now now now so complex

Curses!

Blast it bombast it, blast it bombast it, blast it bombast it!

 

NEWBORN WOMAN & DEAD LOVER: Moon rises, moon fades,

Sun rises, sun lowers,

Moon rises, moon fades…

PRINCE: This is- this is- splutter- utter utter

Curse- groan- roar- tear- groan- roar-

This is why I never wanted to marry-

Even you- even me- even you- even me-

You and me and you and me and me and you

Ha ha ha ha ha ha

I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!

 

NEWBORN WOMAN & PRINCE & DEAD LOVER: The spent prince teeters, hedges,

Edges towards the brink,

Then dives, plunges, tumbles, soars,

Arms bent, reaching up,

Crooked legs,

Twist, turn, twist, turn, twist, turn…

 

THE PRINCE falls to his death.

 

NEWBORN WOMAN (watches him fall then sees a lover-to-be): Who is that?

 

DEAD LOVER & PRINCE: The Newborn Woman spots another lover.

And another lover and another lover…

WOMAN: Black ink night,

New moon kiss, waxing crescent kiss,

First quarter kiss, waxing gibbous kiss,

Full moon kiss,

Waning gibbous kiss, third quarter kiss, waning crescent kiss…

The Man Who Married Himself

dance opera for 3 vocalists, 2 dancers & chamber ensemble [50’] 2017.

X The Man Who Married Himself

dance opera for 3 vocalists, 2 dancers & chamber ensemble [50’] 2017.
counter-tenor, baritone, Carnatic vocalist, flute, clarinet, percussion, portative organ, hurdy-gurdy, violin & cello.

Premiere: Toronto Masque Theatre, Crow’s Theatre, Toronto, March 10-11, 2017

Librettist: Anna Chatterton
Commissioner:
Toronto Masque Theatre
Funders: Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts
Production: choreographer Hari Krishnan, director Marie-Nathalie Lacoursière, conductor Larry Beckwith, set & costume design Rex, lighting Gabriel Cropley
Featuring: Scott Belluz (counter-tenor), Alex Samaras (baritone) & Subhiksha Rangarajan; Jelani Ade-Lam & Sze-Yang Ade-Lam (dancers)

Program note:
Unwilling to marry a woman, a man fashions a lover from his own left side. He’s enraptured by her perfect beauty – a mirror of his own – until he discovers that this new woman longs for freedom and wildly desires another. 

South Asian and Baroque music and performance traditions meet in a new masque based on a traditional Indian folk tale (from A.K. Ramanujan’s A Flowering Tree). A powerful & timely allegory of the female and male warring within, told through music, words and movement.

Composer’s Note:
Just when you think you’ve grasped it, the story slithers away like a snake — that’s what keeps me fascinated. What seems like a familiar “woman born of man” creation story gets a feminist twist: the Newborn Woman outfoxes the Prince and heads off into a blissful future of new lovers. The tale comes from Karnataka in South India, where elements of matriarchal culture still play out in family structures. It’s not a myth, but a folk tale handed down from one generation of women to the next. It could be understood perhaps as a story of consolation for women enduring the hardships of life in a man’s world.

On a more personal note, the tale suggests the need to find a balance between what we might understand as the masculine and the feminine within each of us — to seek a more nuanced understanding of gender. The Prince locks up and limits the Newborn Woman — the Other — keeping what is different at a suspicious distance. In contrast, the Lover and the Newborn Woman fall in love through a gentle process of listening and exchange. The Lover uses imagination to understand what the Newborn Woman is telling him. Unlike The Prince, who imposes an idealized femininity onto the Woman, the Lover listens, waits and understands. Openness to difference and generosity of imagination transform our encounters with “the Other”, both within our selves and in the wider world.

Image: Sze-Yang Ade-Lam & Jelani Ade-Lam (photo by Kakumi Mori)

 

Sweat

a cappella opera [70’] 2016.

X Sweat

a cappella opera [70’] 2016.
soloists: 2 soprani, mezzo-soprano & baritone
chorus: 2 soprani, 3 mezzi.

 

“The depiction of the women’s collective experience resonated most powerfully in the rhythmic ensemble evocations—sung and spoken—of the soul-destroying daily grind…and the slowly unfolding, overlapping textures of voices yearning for a better life.” —Wall Street Journal

Librettist: Anna Chatterton
Commissioner:
Soundstreams Canada
Funders: Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts

New York Premiere Production
Center for Contemporary Opera in cooperation with Urbanvessel. National Sawdust, New York, October 26-27, 2016.
Director
Giselle Ty conductor Lidiya Kankovskaya choreographer Nicole Pearce set design Frank Oliva costumes Asa Benally lighting Bruce Steinberg stage manager Jeromy Hunt
Featuring: Larissa Koniuk, Shabnam Kalbasi, Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, Patrick McNally and Eric McKeever
Chorus: Isabella Dawis, Katya Gruzglina, Leanne Gonzalez-Singer, Christine Duncan and Hanne Dollase

Canadian Touring Production
Bicycle Opera Project, August 2017

Director Baņuta Rubess conductor Geoffrey Sirrett choreographer Jennifer Nichols designer Sonja Rainey lighting Kai Masaoka stage manager Julia Howman
Featuring: Stephanie Tritchew, Keith Lam, Larissa Koniuk and Catherine Daniel
Chorus: Cindy Won, Caitlin Wood, Justine Owen, Stephanie Tritchew and Emma Char

Program note:
“Made in Bangladesh, Vietnam, Italy, China, India…the U.S.A.”  Who sews our clothes, who makes our shoes? Where do they live? How much are they paid? What would you dream of, sewing sleeves all day? Is life better in the village you left behind? Sweat is a kaleidoscope of characters and stories collected from factories around the world. Plunging headfirst into the ethical conundrums of the garment trade, the work offers a window into the lives of the unseen millions who work to clothe us and the high-flying designers whose fantasies feed the fashion industry.

Photos: Dahlia Katz, Bicycle Opera Production

Undercurrent

Audio installation, Singing River, Pan Am Path, Pedestrian Bridge, Lower Don Trail, Toronto, July 4-5 2015.

X Undercurrent

Audio installation, Singing River, Pan Am Path, Pedestrian Bridge, Lower Don Trail, Toronto, July 4-5 2015.

Transducers applied to the pedestrian bridge transform it into a vibrating loudspeaker, singing the river’s Anishinaabemowin name to the most constricted and polluted section of the waterway.

Original song for the Wonscotonach River composed by Marie Gaudet and performed by the First Nations School of Toronto girls singing group.

Wonscotonach has been translated by linguist Basil Johnson as “burning bright point or peninsula” or a point bright with fire, perhaps referring to the peninsula near the mouth of the Don (later the Toronto islands).

“When you think about it, a lot of these songs came from the women who did the laundry along the riverside. This song came to me when I was in the laundromat. I was in there alone, listening to the swishes of the water and the humming of the machines. And I was thinking of another song that I really liked and thinking that, geez, I’d like to make a really nice pretty song like that one. And so that is how the song came to me.” — Marie Gaudet, on composing the Wonscotonach River Song

Creative team: artistic director Juliet Palmer & sound artist Christopher Willes
Additional voices: Regent Park School of Music

Inner Rivers

Audio installation, Singing River, Pan Am Path, Belleville Underpass, Lower Don Trail, Toronto, July 4-5 2015.

X Inner Rivers

Audio installation, Singing River, Pan Am Path, Belleville Underpass, Lower Don Trail, Toronto, July 4-5 2015.

Diagnostic ultrasound recordings transport the listener along the body’s inner rivers. Entering the tunnel, we are immersed in a dynamic audio map of blood flow: from the tips of the fingers, through the abdominal region, to the head and brain.

Research work in Dr. Peter Burns’ laboratory at the University of Toronto makes use of Doppler ultrasound to measure the dynamic flow of blood, its pressures and the resistance of blood vessels themselves. Ultrasound imaging of blood flow can provide an audible indicator of health or illness.

Exiting the tunnel, listen for the sound of the river. What obstacles does the river face? What are the pressures and resistances it must overcome?

Creative team: composer Juliet Palmer, sound artist Christopher Willes & Sunnybrook scientist Dr. Peter Burns

Burble

Solo mezzo with mixed chorus [15’] 2015.

X Burble

Solo mezzo with mixed chorus [15’] 2015.
Premiere:
 Laura Swankey & The Burble Choir with conductor Christine Duncan, Singing River, Pan Am Path, Lower Don Trail, Toronto, July 4-5, 2015.
Text: Anna Chatterton

Burble gives voice to the Wonscotonach/Don River, one of Canada’s most polluted rivers.

My curves are straight

My mouth is a drain

Spewing grease and trash

Cars roar and ignore me

I am deaf from the din…

Dreaming of Trees

Mixed voices [12’] 2015.

X Dreaming of Trees

Mixed voices [12’] 2015.

Premiere: Alex Samaras & GREX, Singing River, Pan Am Path, Lower Don Trail, Toronto, July 5, 2015.
Text: Nicholas Power

 

 

walking at night in the woods

between my childhood home and the river

fully awake and wondering

in a dream both strange and familiar

particular trees reach out like lovers…

Stone’s Secret

SATB [4’] 2015.

X Stone’s Secret

SATB [4’] 2015.
Commissioner:
Victoria College, University of Toronto
Premiere: The choirs of Victoria and Emmanuel Colleges, Isabel Bader Theatre, Toronto, October 14, 2015.
Text: Margaret Avison (excerpted from Stone’s Secret, Sunblue, Lancelot Press, 1978)

stones

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Otter-smooth boulder

lies under rolling

black river-water

stilled among frozen

hills and the still unbreathed

blizzards aloft;

silently, icily, is probed

stone’s secret.

 

Word has arrived that

peace will brim up, will come

like a river and the

glory…like a flowing stream.”

So.

Some of all people will

wondering wait

until this very stone

utters.

 

Todas Las Tardes

mezzo-soprano & piano [2’] 2015.

X Todas Las Tardes

mezzo-soprano & piano [2’] 2015.

Commissioner:
 Soundstreams Canada
Premiere: Krisztina Szabo & Stephanie Chua, The Gardiner Museum, Toronto, September 18, 2015.
Text: Federico Garcia Lorca

Program note:

How to set a portion of the Ghazal for a Dead Child by Garcia Lorca without hearing echoes of George Crumb’s version? I purposefully didn’t refresh my memory of this vocal classic, focussing instead on the first stanza of the poem, interpreting it as a quietly obsessive rumination on loss. The singer and pianist are both called upon to step outside their comfort zone through body percussion and vocalization. In response to the lyrical devastation of the poem, I chose to work with numerical patterns based on syllabic and visual structures of the text. The result is an emotionally restrained, simple, stripped down setting.

 

TOUR

Video installation by Millie Chen featuring an original soundtrack by composer Juliet Palmer.

X TOUR

Video installation by Millie Chen featuring an original soundtrack by composer Juliet Palmer.

TOUR_MillieChen


Credits 
Direction & Camera: Millie Chen
Composer: Juliet Palmer
Sound Engineer & Producer: Jean Martin
Vocalists: Maryem Tollar, Jani Lauzon, Christine Duncan, Andrea Kuzmich
Funders: Ontario Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and Charles Street Video

TOUR is a video installation by Millie Chen featuring an original soundtrack by composer Juliet Palmer. Created in collaboration with producer Jean Martin, the work is at Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery until May 18, 2014. A quiet witness to four sites of genocide (Rwanda, Cambodia, Wounded Knee and Treblinka), the camera travels slowly through vegetation covering the arguably “healed” sites, while four women’s voices form a counterpoint of lullaby and breath. TOUR challenges us with the question: How can we sustain the memory of that which has become invisible?

Researching songs from each site was done “off-location”, mining the collective digital memory. The four songs were chosen for their emotional resonance and their musical fit within the shared sonic space of the soundtrack. The music was created through a process of learning and forgetting, allowing each song to drift and alter. Recording the singers outdoors allowed us to capture subtle vocal shifts as each performer negotiated unfamiliar terrain — the landscape embellishing the song, breath catching and flowing. As each singer walked and sang, my mind drifted to the image of Millie walking over the ground of those four distant sites. Memory beneath our feet.
Warsaw, January 2011

Film co-directed by animator/artist Miriam Harris and composer Juliet Palmer.

X Warsaw, January 2011

Film co-directed by animator/artist Miriam Harris and composer Juliet Palmer.

Credits: co-direction (with Miriam Harris) and score (with Jean Martin)
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Screenings: Catskill Mountains Film Festival, New York (Best Animation Award); New Media Film Festival, Los Angeles (Best in the New Media category); Brooklyn Film Festival, New York (Spirit Award); Melbourne International Animation Festival; Dada Saheb Phalke International Film Festival, New Delhi (Special Mention); Animator Festival, Poznan, Poland; New York Independent Film Festival.

This nine and half minute long experimental film is based on a journey artist/animator Miriam Harris made to her war survivor mother’s birthplace of Warsaw, Poland in January 2011. The film shifts between the time and space of her recent journey to Warsaw from Auckland, and the years when her mother enjoyed living in the city with her family, before the trauma and upheaval of WWII. Through an original soundtrack, drawing, collage, and painted and moving image, this poignant film brings to life the experience of a Jewish daughter returning to a place built in her imagination, through stories and recounted memory, and through the new experience of being in Warsaw, long after her mother had fled to make a new life for herself in Auckland.

‘Warsaw, January 2011’ was co-directed by animator/artist Miriam Harris and composer Juliet Palmer, and created in collaboration with Kate Barton and Jean Martin. Live footage filmed in both Warsaw and Auckland co-exists with drawing, collage, old photographs, and puppets, whilst drawing on a rich East European tradition of modernist graphics and animation. The approach to sound is similarly textured, incorporating recordings made on location, twenty-first century experimental compositions, the human voice, pre-war poetry by the Polish Jewish writer Julian Tuwim, and excerpts from the nineteenth century work of Warsaw composer Frédéric Chopin. 

Solid Gold

soprano + 1 1 1 1 / 1 1 1 / pf perc / str [15′] 2013.

X Solid Gold

soprano + 1 1 1 1 / 1 1 1 / pf perc / str [15′] 2013.

Commissioner: Orchestra Wellington
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Premiere: soprano Madeleine Pierard with Orchestra Wellington and conductor Marc Taddei, The Opera House, Wellington, September 8, 2013.
Program note:

Solid Gold riffs on mainstream culture’s obsession with the Number One Hit. Challenging the straitjacket of copyright law, I take as my starting point the titles of over 30 years of number one pop songs. Cracking open this shared archive of pop memory, I hope to unearth the heart of the love song. Collaging selected titles into new and original lyrics, my creative quest echoes the sentiment of British-American band Foreigner’s 1984 hit “I want to to know what love is”. In this maelstrom of romantic yearning, what does love mean? And who exactly is the singer? Is (s)he “Venus, Jezebel, Lady Madonna — Lola, Nikita, Sylvia’s Mother”? Or is gender itself in question? Fernando? Pinnochio? Nelson Mandela?

Soaring, Roaring, Diving

animated short [6:08] 2008.

X Soaring, Roaring, Diving

animated short [6:08] 2008.

Credits: co-direction (with Miriam Harris) and score (with Jean Martin)
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Screenings: Marfa International Film Festival, Artsfest Film Festival, Los Angeles SSG Summer Shorts Film Festival (USA); In the Palace International Film Festival, Bulgaria; XII Brooklyn International Film Festival, NY; Fest Anca Animation Festival, Slovakia; New Zealand International Film Festival; Kansk International Film Festival, Siberia; Antimatter Film Festival, Vancouver; St John’s Women’s International Film Festival, Newfoundland; Tehran International Short Film Festival; Cambofest International Independent Film Festival, Cambodia; Byron Bay International Film Festival, Australia; Mediawave Film Festival, Hungary

Award: Best Experimental Film, Brooklyn International Film Festival (2009)

slip

experimental dance short [6:00] 2008.

X slip

experimental dance short [6:00] 2008.

Funder: Bravo!
Credits: composer (with Jean Martin) and performer, director Chelsea McMullen, choreographer Yvonne Ng, cinematographer Maya Bankovic
Screenings: Toronto International Short Film Festival, Cinedans (Amsterdam), Dance Camera West (Los Angeles), Loikka Dance Film Festival (Finland) to the International Dance and Electronic Media Festival (Mexico City)

Awards: Best Experimental Short and Kodak Award for Best Cinematography at Toronto International Short Film Festival (2010)

 

evening rode tenderly

accordion + alto flute/piccolo [10’] 2010.

X evening rode tenderly

accordion + alto flute/piccolo [10’] 2010.


Commissioner: Joseph Petric
Funder: The Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: Joseph Petric & Sara Traficante, Ottawa ChamberFest, August 6, 2010.
Program note:
As I roved out one morning fair in the pleasant month of June
As I roved out one evening all in the month of May
As I rode out on a summer’s evening
As I went out walking one morning in June
As I went out walking one morning in May
Now as I did walk out one evening down by a riverside
As I roved out one evening I heard a tender cry
As I rode out one evening fair down by the riverside

evening rode tenderly combines and reconfigures the melodies of eight folk songs from New Brunswick. I love to sing these songs, seduced by their intricate ornamentation, tendrils of melody unfurling and doubling back on themselves. The singer is leaving home, heading off on a journey — roving, walking or maybe riding. It’s early summer, fair and pleasant. The journey begins at the time between dark and light. In composing the music I included a stripped down choreography — fragments of a folk dance which subtly shifts the relationship between the two performers.

the truth & the truth

solo snare drum [10-15’] 2008.

X the truth & the truth

solo snare drum [10-15’] 2008.


Commissioner:
Morris Palter
Funder: The Toronto Arts Council
Premiere: Lenny Sakofsky, Adam Concert Room, New Zealand, June 28, 2012.
Text: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Barbara Bush & Saint John
Performance: Corey Rae, Aventa Ensemble, March 6, 2015 

 

Program note:
While visiting Toronto’s historic Fort York, I learned that musicians had collected the wounded and corpses from the battlefield. Those least responsible for the violence were the ones most intimately acquainted with its effects. Exploring the traditions of military drumming as a form of signalling and communication, I began to look at how messages about war in our own time are shared and/or withheld. The snare drum part is based on speech rhythms and military drumming techniques.

Three voices run through this work. Each speaks to the slippery nature of the truth:

“Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt, radio address, October 26, 1939

“Why should we hear about body bags, and deaths…I mean, it’s not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?”
— Barbara Bush on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” March 18, 2003.

“And you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”
— John 8:32

 

Clip

solo piano [3′] 2004.

X Clip

solo piano [3′] 2004.

Commissioner: Daan Vandewalle
Premiere: Daan Vandewalle, Tone Roads Project, Evenings of New Music, Bratislava, Slovakia, November 26, 2004.
Program note:
Clip. to cut, snip or trim; to defraud or swindle; to strike with a sharp blow.

clip is an unreliable transcription of 3 minutes of the protest march against the Free Trade Area of the Americas on April 20, 2001. The video clip was recorded by CNN in Québec City and disseminated on the internet.

‘made mostly as a joke to knock the mollycoddles out of their boxes and to kick out the softy ears!’
Charles Ives’ Three Page Sonata

Mindmeat

piano + percussion [15′] 2003.

X Mindmeat

piano + percussion [15′] 2003.

Commissioner: Danny Tunick & Kathy Supové
Funder: Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: Danny Tunick & Kathy Supové, The Cutting Room, New York, November 5, 2003.
Text: Dennis Lee
Program note:

Poet Dennis Lee came to visit and left a blue folder on top of the piano. While plunking away at a new piece for Danny and Kathy the inevitable happened: I reached for the folder, opened it and began to read the most extraordinary sequence of poems I’d encountered in years. Like a thief in the night who turns out to be an incredible tango partner, Lee’s poems snuck into the house and danced their way into my music. mindmeat is based on four of the fifty-one poems which make up the recently published UN (Anansi Press). In the thick of an apocalyptic fug I was reminded that art can move us forward in a way that no scientific treatise or academic tome could even hope to. Thanks to Dennis for allowing me to ride the wave his poetry inspired.

Shelter

chamber opera — 5 singers (sop, 2 mez, ten, bar) + ensemble (cl/bcl, egtr, perc, pf, vn, db) [80’] 2012.

X Shelter

chamber opera — 5 singers (sop, 2 mez, ten, bar) + ensemble (cl/bcl, egtr, perc, pf, vn, db) [80’] 2012.

Commissioner: Tapestry New Opera
Funders: The Ontario Arts Council, The Canada Council for the Arts and Tapestry New Opera
Premiere: Edmonton Opera, November 16-20, 2012
Librettist: Julie Salverson
Production: direction Keith Turnbull, design Sue Page, movement Jo Leslie, video & lighting Beth Kates and Ben Chaisson

Program note: Shelter: a nuclear family adrift in the atomic age. Since Prometheus stole fire from the gods, we have flirted with the dangerous beauty of science. In the invisible shadow of Fukushima, how will we survive when knowledge so outstrips understanding? In this fable a father protects his family at any cost, a mother chases storms and a nuclear physicist is midwife to a child who glows in the dark. When the dashing Pilot enters, our world is forever altered.

Composer’s note: The Cold War hovered over my childhood, threatening imminent catastrophe and planetary doom. Growing up in New Zealand was no guarantee of safety — the governments of France, the U.K. and the U.S.A. all conducted nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean. This was brought home in 1985 when I heard the explosive boom as the French government bombed the Greenpeace vessel The Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour. Skip ahead fifteen years and I became a citizen of Canada, a country with a strikingly different atomic history. The lights in my house are powered by nuclear power and my neighbourhood in Toronto hosts a uranium fuel pellet processing plant. At night I lie in bed listening to the haunting sound of train whistles and wonder if another shipment of uranium has arrived from the west. In some sense we all live along the Highway of the Atom and everywhere is downwind. Tripping over tailings and bogged down in radioactive mud, perhaps laughter and beauty will cause us to linger a moment and consider which path leads us out of this mess.

Fire on the Water

Fire on the Water is a 60-minute choreographed performance for brass, winds, vocals and drumkit which premiered at the event of the same name, August 26, 2012.

X Fire on the Water

Fire on the Water is a 60-minute choreographed performance for brass, winds, vocals and drumkit which premiered at the event of the same name, August 26, 2012. Organized by TheWaves collective — Christie Pearson and Marcus Boon — the Fire on the Water event was a free all-ages all-day swim-in and dance party featuring installation and live performance at the Sunnyside Pavilion, Toronto.

Choreography: Aimée Dawn Robinson a.k.a. Motherdrift
Performers: Allison Peacock, Barbara Lindberg, Lo Bil, Victoria Cheong and Dawne Carlton
Music: Juliet Palmer (in collaboration with the performers)
Performers: Brodie West, Nick Fraser, Lina Allemano, Doug Tielli, Nicole Rampersaud, Charles Davidson and Alex Samaras
Funders: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council and The Toronto Arts Council

All photos by Giulio Muratori.

Like an Old Tale

An operatic staging of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

X Like an Old Tale

An operatic staging of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. For 2 operatic soloists — sop + bar, 2 traditional singers, 2 SATB choirs, traditional drummers and chamber ensemble – cl/bcl, pf, perc, vn, db [150’] 2011.

Commissioner: Jumblies Theatre Company
Funder: Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: Jumblies Theatre Company, director Varrick Grimes, soloists Doug MacNaughton (baritone) and Neema Bickersteth (soprano), Rosary Spence (First Nations singer), Sharada Eswar (Carnatic singer), Toronto, December 8-18, 2011.
Concept: Ruth Howard
Program note:

Like an Old Tale has drawn me into a world in which hundreds of people from all over the world retell an old story through sound, text, movement and image. How can music help or hinder our understanding of each other? Over the last year and a half we’ve worked together to create a musical world which makes room for different cultural traditions and skills. Some moments are soundscapes, while others are clearly operatic and driven by the vocal line. There have been break-through moments: the Bohemian chorus’ gutsy embrace of the call and response of the Daffodil song; Sharada singing Katrinile Varum Geetham while the Sicilian Choir sing a lament; Rosary and Sharada spinning a double lullaby together over the musical bed of the ensemble; mridangam drummer Sarma joining the groove in Rosary’s Water Song. When we read through the outline of the piece in the summer, I was struck by the compelling voices of children and seniors speaking passages from Shakespeare’s text: these extraordinary words are the bedrock of our collaboration. I am indebted to the generous contributions of Sharada Eswar and Rosary Spence, whose songs weave their way through the piece, and to the band (Adam, Adam, Aleksander, Alex and Martin) whose improvisations summon the Badlands and Bohemia. Thanks to everyone for giving voice to this new world!

Voice-Box

interdisciplinary work fusing boxing, dance & opera [60’] 2010.

X Voice-Box

interdisciplinary work fusing boxing, dance & opera [60’] 2010.

Commissioner: World Stage, Harbourfront Centre
Funders: Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, Toronto Arts Council, Roger D. Moore & Harbourfront Centre Fresh Ground new works.
Credits: music Juliet Palmer, text Anna Chatterton, choreography Julia Aplin.
Premiere: Urbanvessel with Vilma Vitols, Neema Bickersteth, Savoy Howe, Christine Duncan, Anna Chatterton, Julia Aplin & Juliet Palmer, World Stage, Harbourfront Centre, Toronto, November 10-14, 2010.
Program note:

During the research and development of Voice-Box we learned that Canadian women were not allowed to box until 1991. Lawyer and aspiring boxer Jenny Reid not only won that right for women, but fought the first sanctioned match against Thérèse Robitaille in Nova Scotia. It wasn’t until last year that women were granted permission to box in the upcoming 2012 Olympics. This is a huge breakthrough as the last time women boxed at the Olympics was in 1904 at a demonstration match. Savoy Howe generously supplied us with stories about being a female boxer in a world of men, the discrimination and eventual support she and other female boxers experienced.

Voice-Box celebrates and encourages women who choose to scrap it out, to display strength, sweat and skill, punching like a girl, fighting ugly but fighting fair, in the ring and in the world.

— Julia Aplin, Anna Chatterton and Juliet Palmer.

Stitch

a cappella opera [40′] 2008.

X Stitch

a cappella opera [40′] 2008.

Commissioner: The Theatre Centre, Toronto
Premiere: Vilma Vitols, Neema Bickersteth, Christine Duncan & Patricia O’Callaghan, FreeFall Festival/World Stage, The Theatre Centre, Toronto, March 12-16, 2008.
Creative Team: music Juliet Palmer, libretto Anna Chatterton, choreography Marie-Josée Chartier, direction Ruth Madoc-Jones, design Sarah Armstrong, lighting Kimberly Purtell
Awards: Dora nominations “Outstanding New Opera” and “Outstanding Production” (2008)
Funders: The Toronto Arts Council, The Ontario Arts Council, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Ontario Arts Council Theatre Creator’s Reserve and The Theatre Centre.

Preview in NOW Magazine, May 2010.

Stitch was developed in residence at The Theatre Centre and funded by The Ontario Arts Council, The Toronto Arts Council, and The Canada Council for the Arts.
Program note:

From the abuse of the sweatshop to the fantasy of costume and the empowerment of sewing-it-yourself, the sewing machine has been a force for liberation and exploitation since its invention in the 19th century. Hemmed in by the language of sewing and the inexorable rhythm of the machine, three women fight to find space for imagination and individuality. Stitch gives voice to the unseen women who clothe us all.

SLIP

site-specific performance for 3 singers, percussion and dancers [60’] 2006.

X SLIP

site-specific performance for 3 singers, percussion and dancers [60’] 2006.

Funders: The Laidlaw Foundation, the Ontario Arts Council, The Toronto Arts Council, and the City of Toronto.
Premiere: Urbanvessel with Susanne Chui, Louis Laberge-Côté, Jean Martin, Christine Duncan, Aki Takahashi and Vilma Vitols, Harrison Baths. X Avant Festival, Toronto, September 20-22, 2006.
Creative Team: music Juliet Palmer, choreography Yvonne Ng, lyrics Anna Chatterton, installation Christie Pearson.
Program note:

Slip is a site-specific performance for a swimming pool or bath house fusing sound, movement and light. Urbanvessel investigates each new performance site, reflecting the users and the history of the space, and evoking its latent drama, dream spaces and stories. Each production of Slip is unique, but builds on our previous performances. Cultures with distinct architectures and social rituals of bathing are juxtaposed to increase awareness of our own histories. As humans we are bound together by the intimate experience of cleansing and our precious connection to water.

In 2006 Slip travelled the labyrinth of Toronto’s Harrison Baths complex: from the tiled lobby, through the gargantuan men’s locker room, to the majestic pool, and finally, through the series of intimate rooms making up the women’s space.

Cypress

dance score for bass clarinet + double bass [35′] 2002.

X Cypress

dance score for bass clarinet + double bass [35′] 2002.

Commissioner: Yvonne Ng, Tiger Princess Dance Projects
Funders: The Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, The Laidlaw Foundation, The Canada Council for the Arts.
Premiere: Justine Chambers, Susanne Chui and Susan Lee; Robert Stevenson & Peter Pavlovsky, Artword Theatre, Toronto, December 5-8 2002.
Choreography: Yvonne Ng
Program note:

Conceived and Choreographed by Yvonne Ng, Cypress was inspired by the Chinese legend of the Three Friends: bamboo, plum and cypress. They do not die, but remain constant and blossom before the spring comes. The cypress symbolizes longevity, a core aspect of friendship. The dancers – Justine Chambers, Susanne Chui and Susan Lee – fill the space with flowing movements that are both strikingly awkward and yet starkly organic. They become the ever-shifting, ever-sifting landscape, creating and disarming their boundaries and conjoined limitations. As with many of her works, Ng found her movement vocabulary from exercises in constraint. Choreographic phrases are eked out of the dancers’ limited freedom and are surprisingly swollen with poignant, and poetically enduring images. In my score for Cypress, I was drawn to the rich web of connections the double bass and clarinet draw across musical cultures: from klezmer, tango, and gypsy music to Indian film scores. Performed by contemporary virtuosi Peter Pavlovsky (double bass) and Robert Stevenson (bass clarinet), the score veers from groove to grunge, as the instruments shadow, tangle, keen and sigh.

Inland

dance score for violin + audio playback [90′] 2002.

X Inland

dance score for violin + audio playback [90′] 2002.

 

Excerpt: Flock Dance

Commissioner: The New Zealand International Arts Festival
Funder: The New Zealand International Arts Festival Trust
Premiere: Douglas Wright Dance with violinist Deborah White, The Opera House, Wellington, The New Zealand International Arts Festival, March 7, 2002.
Credits: concept and choreography Douglas Wright, set and costume design John Verryt, film/video Florian Habicht

Program note:
Using animal imagery to take us into the heart of the human condition, Inland charts the fragile equilibrium between shepherd, flock, dog and hawk.

Flotsam & Jetsam

interdisciplinary performance for mezzo-soprano, piano & dancer [50’] 2001.

X Flotsam & Jetsam

interdisciplinary performance for mezzo-soprano, piano & dancer [50’] 2001.

Funders: The Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council, Laidlaw Foundation and the Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: Vilma Vitols, Ya-wen Wang, Susan Macpherson, Open Ears Festival, Kitchener, Canada, May 6, 2001.
Credits: music & concept Juliet Palmer, choreography Bill James, lighting Paul Mathiesen, costume Evelyn von Michalofski, video Nick de Pencier, set design Juliet Palmer, Paul Mathiesen & Evelyn von Michalofski.
Additional credits: Am Meer (1828) for voice and piano — Franz Schubert; Venus of the South Seas (1924) starring Annette Kellerman — dir. James R. Sullivan; excerpts from How To Swim (1918) — Annette Kellerman; recorded voice: Gladys Boyce.
Program note:

As a teenager in the 1920s, my grandmother Gladys played piano for silent films in the remote New Zealand town of Takaka. She still recalls a film which was shot nearby at Pohara beach. Although Glad has never seen the film, I found out later that it was the underwater spectacular Venus of the South Seas, starring Australian diver Annette Kellerman. A trained classical musician, Kellerman’s stage performances combined piano, violin and vocal recitals, along with high-diving and underwater stunts.

Flotsam & Jetsam weaves together memories of my grandmother with the fantastical watery world of Annette Kellerman. This performance is dedicated to my grandmother, Gladys Boyce.

 

Cocktail

interdisciplinary performance for mezzo-soprano, piano & dancer [50’] 2001.

X Cocktail

interdisciplinary performance for mezzo-soprano, piano & dancer [50’] 2001.

Program note:

As a teenager in the 1920s, my grandmother Gladys played piano for silent films in the remote New Zealand town of Takaka. She still recalls a film which was shot nearby at Pohara beach. Although Glad has never seen the film, I found out later that it was the underwater spectacular Venus of the South Seas, starring Australian diver Annette Kellerman. A trained classical musician, Kellerman’s stage performances combined piano, violin and vocal recitals, along with high-diving and underwater stunts.

Flotsam & Jetsam weaves together memories of my grandmother with the fantastical watery world of Annette Kellerman. This performance is dedicated to my grandmother, Gladys Boyce.

 

Dopey and The Moon

children’s chorus SATB [8′] 2010.

X Dopey and The Moon

children’s chorus SATB [8′] 2010.

Commissioner: Viva Youth Singers
Funder: Viva Youth Singers
Premiere:  Viva Youth Singers, Trinity-St.Pauls, Toronto, May 16, 2010.
Text: Dennis Lee

Program note:

These two songs for children’s chorus draw on the beloved Canadian poet Dennis Lee’s works for children — Garbage Delight — and adults — Yesno, creating a world which acknowledges distance and pessimism, but also hope and possibility.

The Moon (from Garbage Delight, 1977)

“I see the moon and the moon sees me

And nobody sees as secretly…”

 

Dopey (from Yesno, 2007)

“…mind to the

grindstone, ear to the plough.

 

Hi-

Hoein along with a song:

What home but here?  Whose grubby hands but ours?”

The Province of Impossible

three singers playing theremin, hand-held percussion, shamisen and clarinet [35′] 2007.

X The Province of Impossible

three singers playing theremin, hand-held percussion, shamisen and clarinet [35′] 2007.

Premiere: Christine Duncan, Aki Takahashi and Juliet Palmer, Voice++ Festival, Victoria, May 12, 2007.
Credits: music Juliet Palmer in collaboration with the performers (Christine Duncan and Aki Takahashi), text Anna Chatterton with additional lyrics in German (Wilhelm Müller) and Japanese (traditional).

Program note:

The Province of Impossible bridges the two worlds of Japanese folksong and Schubert’s Die Winterreise.

The first piano arrived in Japan in 1823, four years before Schubert composed his famous song cycle Die Winterreise (The Winter’s Journey).  Western classical music took firm root following the forcible end to Japan’s isolation during the Meiji Restoration.  Now Yamaha pianos glut the market and Kent Nagano directs the Montréal Symphony Orchestra.  Alongside this Western music invasion, Japanese folk music has stubbornly held fast. This new song cycle finds fresh ground in two powerful yet disparate traditions.

So Long

soprano and chamber orchestra [5′] 2005.

X So Long

soprano and chamber orchestra [5′] 2005.

Commissioner: Open Ears Festival
Funder: The Laidlaw Foundation
Premiere: Patricia O’Callaghan and the Canadian Chamber Ensemble with conductor Dan Warren, Open Ears Festival, Kitchener, April 29, 2005.
Text: Leonard Cohen

Program note:
Both So Long, Marianne and I were born in 1967. Leonard Cohen’s song lodged itself in my brain at an undetermined point somewhere between that first release and the present. The moment that stuck in my mind most clearly was when the back-up singers wiggled their way upwards in the chorus on “Marianne” (a moment which fails to reappear in my own version of the song). Now Marianne’s name has gone, and I hope I have found a way to make the song new. I don’t remember ever hearing the words to the verse I’ve set, but I can imagine Trisha on a window ledge, miles above the traffic, stuttering a song of goodbye. So long. 

gone

unaccompanied chorus SSAATTBB [5′] 2005.

X gone

unaccompanied chorus SSAATTBB [5′] 2005.

Commissioner: Soundstreams Canada
Premiere: Tafelmusik, Soundstreams Canada’s New Voices Choral Workshop, Trinity-St. Pauls, Toronto, January 22, 2005.
Text: Dennis Lee
Program note:

gone is based on one of the fifty-one poems which make up Dennis Lee’s UN (Anansi Press, 2003).

 

Over the Japanese Sea

chamber opera for 2 baritones, bcl, perc, acc + vc [14′] 2003.

X Over the Japanese Sea

chamber opera for 2 baritones, bcl, perc, acc + vc [14′] 2003.

Commissioner: Tapestry New Opera
Funder: Ontario Arts Council
Premiere: Tapestry New Opera with baritones Gregory Dahl & Ian Funk, Tapestry Gala Opening, The Distillery, Toronto, May 24, 2003.
Text: Julie Salverson

Program note:

Ordinary people who carry extraordinary events: Maurice (an office cleaner) and Thomas (an office intern). A normal day. The past is past.

 

Room

mezzo-soprano, clarinet & hurdy-gurdy [8’] 1999.

X Room

mezzo-soprano, clarinet & hurdy-gurdy [8’] 1999.

Commissioner: Bill James and Art in Open Spaces
Funder: The Laidlaw Foundation
Premiere: Vilma Vitols, Juliet Palmer & Martin Arnold, Water Sources 2, Art in Open Spaces, Toronto, July 23, 1999.
Note: music choreographed by Bill James for Shannon Cooney, Dancemakers, Toronto, Canada, November 16-20, 1999.
Program note:

When I dropped by in the springtime, there was a futon in the sphere. Someone had moved in and made it their bedroom. Vilma’s song is inspired by the Beach Boys’ classic tune, ‘In My Room’, along with a little snippet of Schubert’s ‘The Hurdy-Gurdy Man’ (from Die Winterreise).

‘In my room

No-one sees me, no-one hears me…

Now it’s dark and I’m alone

But I won’t be afraid.’

W is for

2 sopranos, clarinet, trumpet, drum set, keyboard, violin & double bass [9’] 1997, revised 1999.

X W is for

2 sopranos, clarinet, trumpet, drum set, keyboard, violin & double bass [9’] 1997, revised 1999.

Commissioner: Dogs of Desire, Albany Symphony Orchestra
Funder: Albany Symphony Orchestra
Premiere (revised version): Marty Elliott & Susan Lewis sopranos, Michael Lowenstern clarinet, Charles Lazerus trumpet, Danny Tunick drumset, Elizabeth di Felice keyboard, Andrea Schultz violin Maureen Llort double bass, Steve Mackey conductor, Taplin Auditorium, Princeton, October 20, 1999.
Program note:

Living in New York, looking wistfully back to my 1970s New Zealand childhood, my curiosity was sparked as to the origins of Maori action songs — a hybrid form combining traditional movements, borrowed Western melodies and Maori lyrics. Introduced into schools by an enthusiastic physical education specialist in the late 1940’s along with Maori children’s games, it was noted that they were ‘exceedingly good for the body of the pakeha’ (non-Maori). In the 1980s, language nests or kohanga reo further boosted the revival of Maori.

W is for is my response to those early years spent dancing and singing in Maori. The text is an excerpt from a Maori-English dictionary. It begins at waka (canoe) and passes through wakainga (true home, far distant home) and warawara (yearning), arriving finally at wareware — forget, forgotten, forgetful. In a nod to my second language as a new Canadian, the final line comes from Jacques Brel’s ballad ‘On n’oublie rien’ — you forget nothing.

bone-flower

soprano, bass clarinet, viola, accordion and percussion [7’] 1995.

X bone-flower

soprano, bass clarinet, viola, accordion and percussion [7’] 1995.

Premiere: Dana Hanchard soprano, Michael Lowenstern bass clarinet, Mark Zaki viola, Guy Klucevsek accordion, and Danny Tunick percussion. Richardson Auditorium, Princeton, March 1996.

“The systems they learn are nothing but skeletons to them…”
—John Ruskin, Arrows of the Chace (1880)

Ruskin’s words suggest that rigorous formulae, valuable as a starting point, may be overwhelmed by the vigor of life itself.

bone-flower takes its name from a dialect word for daisy, a humble bright flower growing on the bones of the dead.

Soon we’ll all be pushing up the daisies.

Aquamarine

solo piano [20’] 2000.

X Aquamarine

solo piano [20’] 2000.

Commissioner: Eve Egoyan
Funder: Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: Eve Egoyan, Music Gallery, Toronto, May 5, 2000.
Program note:

The tension between the piano’s percussive mechanism and the fluidity of water has borne fruit in countless works for piano: from Ravel’s Ondine and Chopin’s ‘Raindrop Prelude’, to Schubert’s Am Meer. Not coincidentally, these works were among those played by my grandmother as silent film ‘scores’ in the small New Zealand town of Takaka. In Aquamarine watery fragments from the musical past refract and reflect.

Aquamarine is dedicated to my grandmother, Gladys Boyce.

Starving Poetry

violin + marimba [9’] 1994.

X Starving Poetry

violin + marimba [9’] 1994.

Premiere: Marimolin, Princeton, April 14, 1994.

Program note:

The melody in Starving Poetry comes from a Russian folksong taught to two Chinese poets as children during the Cultural Revolution.
‘In the middle of a snow storm. Going far. In the middle of nowhere. Lovers must separate. The snow is covering their footsteps…’
Starving Poetry is written in memory of Gu Cheng and Xie Ye.

 

Swerve

2 2 2 2 / 2 2 1 / timp 2 perc hp / str [12′] 2004.

X Swerve

2 2 2 2 / 2 2 1 / timp 2 perc hp / str [12′] 2004.

Commissioner: Windsor New Music Festival

Funder: Ontario Arts Council

Premiere: The Windsor Symphony with conductor John Morris Russell, Capitol Theatre, Windsor, January 16, 2004.

Recording: The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra with conductor Kenneth Young, Recorded by Radio New Zealand Concert FM, September 8, 2011.

Program note:

Writing Swerve began as an exercise in reading. A poem caught my ear and lulled me with its rhythm: lilting and stalling, flowing and overflowing the bounds of the line. Just as there are an infinite number of readers, so are there infinite ways of reading a poem. I wanted to capture these subtle variations of interpretation. The words which constitute poetry can be simple and familiar, but new meanings jump out unexpectedly from one reading to the next. I imagined a piece of music which travelled with the reader: pressing forward, pausing, repeating, circling back…a process of rereading in which certain images start to resound, gaining clarity with each recurrence. Poetry doesn’t reveal itself on the first reading. It is not until we reach the end of the music that we begin to understand what captivates us.

Buzzard

3 3 2 2 / 4 3 2 1 / timp 2 perc hp / str [12’] 2003.

X Buzzard

3 3 2 2 / 4 3 2 1 / timp 2 perc hp / str [12’] 2003.

Commissioner: l’Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal
Funder: l’Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal
Premiere: l’Orchestre Métropolitain du Grand Montréal with conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin, October 9-20, 2003, Montréal.
Program note:

Two birds inspired this piece: Tchaikovsky’s Swan and Stravinsky’s Firebird. Buzzard is dedicated to my father, a high-speed pilot who loved Stravinsky’s music as passionately as that of Gil Gilberto and Dave Brubeck. A real buzzard…

“And as to you Life, I reckon you are the leavings of many deaths;”

—Walt Whitman Leaves of Grass (1900)

Bout

bcl/bsax, egtr, pf, perc, vn, db [9′] 2010.

X Bout

bcl/bsax, egtr, pf, perc, vn, db [9′] 2010.


Commissioner: CONTACT Contemporary Music & The Six Team League Project.
Funder: Ontario Arts Council
Premiere: CONTACT, ECM/Bradyworks, St. Crispin’s Ensemble, Motion Ensemble, Negative Zed, Toronto, Montréal, Edmonton, Fredericton, Vancouver, May 15, 2010.
Program note:

Bout is inspired by the sport of women’s boxing. In an interview with Canadian boxing pioneer Savoy “Kapow” Howe, I was struck by her detailed demonstration of the inner monologue of a fighter. Melodic and rhythmic material from her words insinuate themselves into the piece, along with referee’s whistles, counts and bells, training routines and the dogged persistence of the fighter.

Bout: A round at fighting; a contest, match, trial of strength, physical or intellectual.

Five

vocalizing piano duo and percussion [7-8’] 2008.

X Five

vocalizing piano duo and percussion [7-8’] 2008.

Commissioner: Toca Loca
Premiere: Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, March 25, 2008.
Program note:

Five leaps into the vexing world of Alanis Morrissette and the never-ending list of opposites found in her song Hand in My Pocket. Why choose this song? I heard it when I first came to Canada in 1996 which gives it a sentimental gloss, but I’m also intrigued by songs that we remember in spite of ourselves. How does that work exactly? I also couldn’t but help think of the invincible pianist and cyclist Gregory Oh when Alanis sings “I’m short but I’m healthy, I’m high but I’m grounded”. Finally, I guess I really do hope that “everything’s going be fine, fine, fine”.

A Bridge of Ice

double bass + audio playback [25’] 1994.

X A Bridge of Ice

double bass + audio playback [25’] 1994.

Premiere: Robert Black, Princeton, March 3, 1994.
Program note:
The tape part for A Bridge of Ice was recorded on Williamsburg Bridge, New Year’s Day, 1994.

 

Stitching in the Ditch

3 3 3 3 / 4 3 2 1/ timp 2 perc hp / str [12’] 2001.

X Stitching in the Ditch

3 3 3 3 / 4 3 2 1/ timp 2 perc hp / str [12’] 2001.

Commissioner: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Premiere: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra with conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, Auckland Town Hall, New Zealand, July 19, 2001.
Program note:

1. When I walked into St. Thomas’ Church in Leipzig last October, the space was filled with the sound and smell of sawing wood. Beneath the sawing came the rumble of a single giant organ pipe. A sign demanded complete silence: the organ was being tuned. Shhhhh! My mind jumped to other wood being sawn, other trees being felled — for canoes, sailing ships, houses, concert halls, violins…

2. It’s so far from Christchurch to Auckland…what we need is to cast off the South Island from its moorings, sail it north-east, nudge the two islands together and stitch them up nice and snug. An ambitious project, and very very noisy.

Secret Arnold

3 3 3 3 / 4 3 3 1 / timp 3 perc / str [5’] 1999.

X Secret Arnold

3 3 3 3 / 4 3 3 1 / timp 3 perc / str [5’] 1999.

Commissioner: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Premiere: Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra with conductor Samuel Wong, Auckland Town Hall, New Zealand, May 5, 1999.
Program note:

In his Second String Quartet op.10, Schoenberg stepped outside the four corners of the quartet and created a sublime part for soprano. In the last movement she sings ‘I feel air from other planets’. Just as Schoenberg opened a door for classical music with his Second String Quartet, Jamaican dub started the sampling and scratching scene which grooved all the way to 90’s Bristol. Clive Randy Chin’s “Easy Come Dub” is a stripped down remix of The Wailers’ “It Won’t Come Easy”. In “Only You” from 1997, the Bristol-based band Portishead create an ambient space in which even the “Inspector Clouseau” theme finds a new identity. Compressing time and space, Secret Arnold finds room for all three — Schoenberg, Randy and Portishead.

Mother Hubbard: f—mix

cl, perc, pf, vn, va, db [16′] 2004.

X Mother Hubbard: f—mix

cl, perc, pf, vn, va, db [16′] 2004.

Commissioner: Arraymusic
Funders: The Laidlaw Foundation and Ontario Arts Council
Premiere: FontanaMIX Ensemble with conductor Giorgio Magnanensi, Angelica Festival, Teatro San Leonardo, Bologna, Italy, May 23, 2004.
Program note:

The march is connected with both military and alternative political gatherings. Trying to understand the form, I’ve been listening to Purcell’s Queen’s Funeral March, the conga playing of Québec Summit protestors and the strangely military snap of Old Mother Hubbard (performed by the US Air Force Band). Revisiting this nursery rhyme, I was struck by the revolutionary aspirations of the last verse:

The dame made a curtsey, 

The dog made a bow;

The dame said, “Your servant,” 

The dog said, “Bow, wow.”

In bringing together disparate sources of inspiration, I wanted to retain a sense of their independent directions. With the intensification of policing at protests, a march may become a labyrinth with groups encountering barricades and teargas, circling back and morphing into a many-headed creature whose aspirations are diverse and sometimes divergent. The reporting of such events is frequently rife with ommissions and silences.

Mother Hubbard

cl, perc, pf, vn, va, db [16′] 2004.

X Mother Hubbard

cl, perc, pf, vn, va, db [16′] 2004.

Commissioner: Arraymusic
Funders: The Laidlaw Foundation and Ontario Arts Council
Premiere: FontanaMIX Ensemble with conductor Giorgio Magnanensi, Angelica Festival, Teatro San Leonardo, Bologna, Italy, May 23, 2004.
Program note:

The march is connected with both military and alternative political gatherings. Trying to understand the form, I’ve been listening to Purcell’s Queen’s Funeral March, the conga playing of Québec Summit protestors and the strangely military snap of Old Mother Hubbard (performed by the US Air Force Band). Revisiting this nursery rhyme, I was struck by the revolutionary aspirations of the last verse:

The dame made a curtsey, 

The dog made a bow;

The dame said, “Your servant,” 

The dog said, “Bow, wow.”

In bringing together disparate sources of inspiration, I wanted to retain a sense of their independent directions. With the intensification of policing at protests, a march may become a labyrinth with groups encountering barricades and teargas, circling back and morphing into a many-headed creature whose aspirations are diverse and sometimes divergent. The reporting of such events is frequently rife with ommissions and silences.

Dive(rs)

piano trio [3′] 2004.

X Dive(rs)

piano trio [3′] 2004.

Commissioner: Composing for a Change and Music Toronto.
Premiere: Gryphon Trio, Jane Mallett Theatre, Toronto, February 27, 2004.
Program note:

dive(rs) began life as a study for an orchestra piece for l’Orchestre Métropolitain de Montréal (Buzzard). I found myself sandwiched between dance music by two Russians: Stravinsky’s Firebird and Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. In writing this trio, I wanted to see what sense of the dancers’ movement and grace would survive my somewhat brutal compostional process of digitization and digestion. In chewing my sources well, it’s possible that I also wanted to cause them a little pain. Thankfully the dance survives — in spite of me, a young swan waltzes backwards up towards the ceiling…the firebird, slightly burnt, turns, leaps, flies into the sky…

 

Te Kahu

Violin and CD [15′].

X Te Kahu

Violin and CD [15′].

Commissioned by Mark Menzies (Los Angeles, USA) with funding from Creative New Zealand. 2002.

One spring afternoon, I wander over the hills of Te Kahu farm with Mark Menzies. This is the New Zealand sheep farm where he grew up: a place of steep gullies where voices (and bagpipes) echo and macrocarpa trees cling stubbornly to the eroded slopes. Following the sound of frenzied bleating we arrive at the docking yard, a make-shift enclosure of metal gates and ramps where lambs and ewes are separated for the first time in their lives. While chatting politely with the resident farmers, the male lambs are neutered, a pungent smell of barbecue wafting over the paddock. ” Did you use to go to Raukawa School? What do you do in LA? Have you been up to the house, your old place, to have a look around?”

Violin and piano are played by the same performer.

Compact disc is amplified with loudspeaker playback.

Recorded voices: Mark Menzies, farmer Greaves.
Bagpipes: Bill Menzies.

Te Kahu was composed for Mark Menzies with funding from Creative New Zealand.

Snap

string quartet [15’] 2001.

X Snap

string quartet [15’] 2001.

Commissioner: The New Zealand String Quartet
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Premiere: NZSQ, Adam Festival of Chamber Music, Nelson, New Zealand, February 6, 2001.

Program note:

‘Foreign kingdoms are like an enormous photograph’.

So begins ‘La Vuelta al Reino Extranjero’, performed by the greatest son huasteco trio in Mexico, Los Camperos de Valles. Comprising the virtuosic violinist Heliodoro Copado, Marcos Hernández’ extraordinary falsetto and the jarana guitar playing of Gregorio Solano, this trio sizzles to the words of a legendary trovador, Serapio El Güero Nieto. Rhythmic sleights-of-hand twist an already complex argument of two against three into an intoxicating ‘journey to a foreign kingdom’. The words of each verse were extemporized, the last line of each repeated as the first of the next, in an endless chain of surreal connections.

Snap is a musical tourist’s album of this virtuosic performance.

rush

clarinet in Bb, 2 bass clarinets [7’] 2000.

X rush

clarinet in Bb, 2 bass clarinets [7’] 2000.

Commissioner: The Solaris Trio
Premiere: International Clarinetfest, Norman, Oklahoma, USA, July, 2000.
Program note:

My high school in New Zealand specialised in rugby and horticulture. I was interested in neither. Twenty years later, rush takes me back to my roots — crisp early mornings playing in the school clarinet choir, an aberration in a world that spoke the language of rugby and kiwifruit. Revisiting the school sportsfield, rush is named after the rugby technique of moving the ball forward with short kicks and runs.

rush is dedicated to the Solaris Trio.

Nails as a Rose

vocalizing gamelan orchestra [25′] 2012.

X Nails as a Rose

vocalizing gamelan orchestra [25′] 2012.

Commissioner: Gamelan Padhang Moncar
Premiere: TBA
Program note:

Nails as a rose,

nails with tiny heads blunted of reason

hammered by iron held by a hand

at the end of an arm at the end of a brain

at the end of a nail at the end of a thorn;

 

—  Janet Frame The Goose Bath Poems

A Guided Viewing

sound installation 1998.

X A Guided Viewing

sound installation 1998.

Commissioner: Mercer Union
Premiere: Mercer Union Gallery, Toronto, Canada, May 15-June 20, 1998.
Thanks: Martin Arnold, Steve Bishop, Sam Bishop-Green, Nicholas Brooke, Allison Cameron, Ruth Caston, Millie Chen, Ann Christie, Christian Christie, Sasha Lutz-Winkler, Barbara Milewski, Eliot Palmer, James Rolfe, Nicholas Scott Rolfe, John Sherlock, Evelyn Von Michalofski, Todd Winkler and Mary Wright.

Program note:
A Guided Viewing hijacks the gallery audio-guide and reworks it into a face-to-face encounter between viewer and ‘artwork’. Questioning the idea of an authoritative voice, A Guided Viewing presents instead a polyphony of voices, each equally insistent.

Pale on the Ground

afl/fl, vn, va, vc, db [15’] 2000.

X Pale on the Ground

afl/fl, vn, va, vc, db [15’] 2000.

Commissioner: Continuum Contemporary Musi
Funder: Ontario Arts Council
Premiere: Continuum Ensemble, The Music Gallery, Toronto, Canada, June 16, 2000.
Program note:

When a handful of 9,000 year-old flutes was unearthed recently in China, the first impulse of the archaeologists was to play them. While hoping to reconnect to a lost time and culture, the archaeologists succeeded in cracking several of the instruments. More careful study revealed that the flutes were tuned to ‘familiar’ scales, enabling their former owners to play ‘perhaps even music’. A researcher then performed a Chinese folk tune, Little Cabbage, on one of the flutes. Xiao Bai Cai is the heartfelt lament of a child usurped by a stepmother and new stepbrother: “pale on the ground”, Little Cabbage weeps for the past.

With its mixture of carelessness, optimism and nostalgic yearning for times past, this story fascinates me. In 9,000 years time, what will other beings make of the crumbling remains of violins, flutes and double basses? Pale on the Ground is an invented music built on the imagined ruins of our own fragile culture.

Pale on the Ground is dedicated to my stepson, Nicholas.

How it Happened

fl, cl, pf, perc, vn, vc + narrator [14′] 2010.

X How it Happened

fl, cl, pf, perc, vn, vc + narrator [14′] 2010.

Commissioner: Continuum Contemporary Music
Funder: The Toronto Arts Council and The Ontario Arts Council
Premiere: Continuum Ensemble & RH Thomson, The Music Gallery, Toronto, May 21, 2010.
Text: Thomas King from the 1993 novel Green Grass, Running Water

Program note:

“In the beginning, there was nothing. Just the water.”
“But where did all the water come from?”

Throughout Thomas King’s novel the character of the trickster Coyote reappears, hopelessly bamboozled, trying to learn what really happened when the world began. Who knows the Real Story? Coyote would like to think he does, but then there’s Coyote’s Dream – “gets loose and runs around. Makes a lot of noise“. Coyote’s Dream has his own idea about things: “I’m in charge of the world”. 

Trellis

alto sax, bass clarinet + ‘cello [15’] 1999.

X Trellis

alto sax, bass clarinet + ‘cello [15’] 1999.

Commissioner: Mark Storey
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Premiere: 175 East, Hopetoun Alpha, Auckland, New Zealand, May 9, 1999.
Program note:

Three things:

1. Listening to Othello, drifting in and out of sleep, I hear Iago warn his master, ‘Beware my lord of jealousy! It is the green-eyed monster; cruelly aye it doth mock the meat it feeds on, and with its poison doth change our nature.’

2. A dislocated groove repeatedly interrupts  a seduction in the ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’ song Can’t Hide Love.

3. Trellis: what my sweet peas climb up each summer. It’s loosely woven together from strips of wood – named after the light-textured Roman fabric trilicius, ‘woven with three threads’.

Blood Shower

music theater for 2 percussionists [10’] 1998.

X Blood Shower

music theater for 2 percussionists [10’] 1998.

Premiere: Les Percussions de Strasbourg, Voix Nouvelles, Royaumont, France, September 26, 1998.
Text: Filippo Tommaso Marinetti
Program note:

Blood Shower is based on the poetry and polemics of Filippo Tomasi Marinetti, author of the Futurist Manifesto. Nourished by “fire, hatred and speed”, the futurists exulted in a Utopia of technological violence. In conflict with this ideal of a “heroic hygiene”, Marinetti’s work is pervaded by a passionate sensuality: love becomes both sadistic and voluptuous. Blood Shower juxtaposes and blends sounds from daily life with ‘normal’ percussion sounds, while weaving an enigmatic relationship between the two musicians.

drift, drop

fl, cl, ob, bsn, tpt, trb, 2 perc, pno, vc + db [16′] 2006.

X drift, drop

fl, cl, ob, bsn, tpt, trb, 2 perc, pno, vc + db [16′] 2006.


Commissioner: New Music Concerts
Funder: Ontario Arts Council
Premiere: New Music Concerts with soloists Robert Aitken (flutes) and James Avery (piano)

Program note:

drift, drop grew out of the folksong Down by Sally’s Garden as sung by Leo Spenser in Lakefield, Ontario in 1957. I don’t think I’ve ever been to Lakefield, and I certainly wasn’t there in 1957, but I have a small distintegrating volume of Canadian folksongs on the top of my piano. A lot of rambling and roving takes place in this song, and I kept finding myself singing it as I rode my bike through Toronto’s laneways. This song, which long ago drifted over from Ireland, guided me through the labyrinth of composing.

Drift — to float along, to deviate; something driven.
Drop — to fall, to collapse; a precipitous shift.

American Woman

sop, afl, bcl, perc, kbd, vn + db [10′] 2009.

X American Woman

sop, afl, bcl, perc, kbd, vn + db [10′] 2009.


Commissioner:
Motion Ensemble
Funder: Canada Council for the Arts
Premiere: Motion Ensemble, Sappyfest, Sackville, July 31, 2009.
Lyrics: Burton Cummings (excerpted from the Guess Who song)
Program note:

In 1970, at the height of the Vietnam War, Canadian band the Guess Who released the song “American Woman”. The album of the same name became their first U.S. Top Ten hit and first gold album. The group performed for President and Mrs. Nixon and Prince Charles at the White House. (Pat Nixon requested that “American Woman” be dropped from the set list.)

In recomposing “American Woman” I was thinking of two wars: the Iraq war and the strange war against the body waged by the American beauty industry. The war in Iraq costs over $2 billion per week while Americans spend more than $15 billion per year on cosmetic surgery. In 2004 nearly 12 million surgical and non-surgical beauty procedures were performed in the U.S., including more than 290,000 eyelid jobs, 166,000 nose jobs, 478,000 liposuctions and 334,000 breast enhancements. In The Real Truth About Beauty: A Global Report, Susie Orbach and Nancy Etcoff found that only two percent of women feel comfortable describing themselves as beautiful.

“American Woman” has been covered by Lenny Kravitz, Krokus and the The Butthole Surfers, among others. This version was commissioned by Motion Ensemble with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts.

miasma

CD/sound installation/radio broadcast 1995.

X miasma

CD/sound installation/radio broadcast 1995.

Commissioner: Artspace Gallery
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Premiere: Artspace Gallery, Auckland, New Zealand, August 29-September 22, 1995.
Radio Broadcast: Concert FM (NZ)and ABC’s The Listening Room (Australia)
Text: Josh Lacey
Program note:

Miasma is about the weather. Miasma is about the remote chance of getting what you want.

Miasma is a multi-track work for two compact disc players, mute weather channel T.V. and living room. Utilizing the random shuffle feature of two domestic CD players, twenty short dialogues by English writer Josh Lacey combine with forty-four music tracks in an endlessly changing remix. The dialogues use meteorological language to describe broader concerns, their randomization reflecting the chaos and unpredictability of our relationship to the weather itself.

Circus Dog

six pianos [9’] 1995.

X Circus Dog

six pianos [9’] 1995.

Commissioner: Piano Circus
Premiere: Piano Circus, Birmingham Symphony Hall, England, January 2, 1995.
Program note:

For a composer, the piano is so often merely a means to an end — the blank sheet on which we write. Focusing on melody seemed an apt way for me to rediscover the piano’s own voice. I owe a debt of inspiration to many pianists and composers, among them Aretha Franklin, Glenn Gould, Sergio Mendes, Theolonius Monk, Nina Simone and Cecil Taylor.

Foundry

afl/fl/picc, cl/bcl, hn, tbn, pf/cel, vn + vc [11′] 2004.

X Foundry

afl/fl/picc, cl/bcl, hn, tbn, pf/cel, vn + vc [11′] 2004.

Commissioner: Continuum Contemporary Music
Funder: The Laidlaw Foundation
Premiere: Continuum Ensemble with conductor Patrick Gallois, Music Gallery, Toronto, Canada , February 17, 2004.
Program note:

With the help of neighbours and a precarious arrangement of plywood and castors, we hauled an old cast iron bath tub from the back garden to the curb. Within hours it had vanished. Scooped up by scrap metal scavengers the tub was on its way to a new life as…girder, park bench, pipe, rebar, nail, hammer…who knows.

This piece is a musical foundry. My focus is on metal: sawn, hammered, melted, poured, moulded, cast, polished… The melodic material is based on pitch analyses of the sounds of drilling, hammering and sawing. I want to melt the material down to a metallic gleam.

Citrus

tape, voice, food blender, electronics, grapefruit & slides [25’] 1993.

X Citrus

tape, voice, food blender, electronics, grapefruit & slides [25’] 1993.

Commissioner: Richard Dale
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Premiere: Juliet Palmer, SoundCulture Japan, Tokyo, January 27, 1993.
Ars Electronica: honourable mention, 1994

Program note:

Beginning with a photograph I hold dear of my grandparents proudly displaying bunches of home-grown grapefruit, I set out to make this image resonate through my obsessive expression of this personal icon. I wanted to turn the grapefruit into sound.

Grapefruit.

I searched for texts using the words pulp, juice, juicy, grapefruit, squeeze, peel… Then I found and recorded people who seemed ‘right’ for the scenarios and characters these texts evoked. I recorded the fruit themselves: cut into pieces, sucked, juiced and drunk. I listened to the recordings and found that the most interesting moments were when the tape recorder caught people off-guard in their attempts to assume the new identities the written texts suggested. Not only did these ‘found’ words take me to a place apparently far from my family and the fruit, but my friends’ voices and personalities tapped into tones and emotions I had not expected. I wanted to stage an intense physical interaction with the fruit itself. A cadenza for blender and 75 grapefruit was born and is now the fulcrum of the entire performance piece. During the first 10 minutes I chop feverishly as many fruit as possible into segments which the audience devour before I deal the final electric blow to the remaining fruit. In the end, all that remains is to drink deeply and to sing.

 

Miasma

variable instrumentation + randomly tracking CD, 1995 & 2001.

X Miasma

variable instrumentation + randomly tracking CD, 1995 & 2001.

Commissioner: Artspace, New Zealand (installation); Wetterfest, Austria (concert)
Funder: Creative New Zealand
Premiere: Veni Ensemble, Wetterfest, Vienna, Austria. October 19, 2001.
Text: Josh Lacey
Program note:

Miasma is about the weather. Miasma is about the remote chance of getting what you want.

Miasma is a multi-track work for two compact disc players, mute weather channel T.V. and living room. Utilizing the random shuffle feature of two domestic CD players, twenty short dialogues by English writer Josh Lacey combine with forty-four music tracks in an endlessly changing remix. The dialogues use meteorological language to describe broader concerns, their randomization reflecting the chaos and unpredictability of our relationship to the weather itself.

Egg & Tongue

string quartet [10’] 1994.

X Egg & Tongue

string quartet [10’] 1994.

Premiere: Lydian String Quartet, Princeton, January 17, 1994.
Program note:

he ‘Elgin Marbles’, taken from the Parthenon, lie at the centre of a long-standing property dispute between Greece and the British Government. Encountering these sculptures in the British Museum for the first time, I was intrigued to learn that one of the decorative motifs adorning its carved stone form was known as ‘egg and tongue’. The sensuously rounded forms of eggs and tongues alternate and repeat along the borders of the monumental sculptures, an ancient pattern combining symbols of virility and fertility. The motif is widespread: several years later, walking through the ruined architecture of the Syrian city of Apamea, I found tumbled-down stones of Roman structures bearing this same pattern, rain-washed stones in a field of crocuses.

In the music of ‘Egg and Tongue’, I play with ideas of patterning and fragmentation, cultural property and style. Familiar motifs repeat, adorn, are lost and take new shapes.