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.


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

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 — watch on Vimeo.

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



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


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.


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

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.


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.