Nails as a Rose
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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

How it Happened
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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”. 

drift, drop
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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
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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.

Foundry
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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.

Miasma
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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.