In the Field

IMG_7592It has been a magnificent fall out and about. Two concert tours have taken me through every state and province in the western section of North America. Four weeks at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology on the Oregon coast saw great collaborative work with Bren Simmers on a new eco-opera for young people and several great workshops with students in the community. New explorations in video with bass improvisations and live sampling also resulted from the residency. Now I’ve landed at PLAYA, an amazing residency in the Oregon desert, where these projects will continue to evolve. And what a place this is: juniper, sage, and wind that will knock you off your feet, wind that you can literally watch moving the lake laterally across the flats. The world sure is something…

In addition to these projects, I’ve got a couple other things up my sleeve. The new album is mixed and mastered and should be ready for the world sometime in the new year. I’m also working on a new piece for the Erato Ensemble’s spring concert. And some big changes are coming up in the next couple months. Stay tuned for all the details. In the meantime, I’ll share a great performance of Field Notes by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ Men’s Ensemble. It’s so wonderful to see young musicians engaging with contemporary music!

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Scratchin’ Gravel

Oysterville ChurchThis fall will see some wear on the tires, as I head out on a couple tours. First up is a survey of the smokey regions of North America starting in BC and heading to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Oregon. Then, after a month long stopover on the coast at the Sitka Center for Arts and Ecology, I’ll be headed down to California, Arizona, and New Mexico. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to get in out of the haze, enjoy a cold beverage, and listen to some music, so check out the details on the Events page.

The last couple months have been really fruitful, too. I spent the month of August holed up among the Sitka spruce and sand spits of the Long Beach Peninsula working on a new piece for bass and electronics that weaves found sounds and interviews with the lovely acoustics of the historic Oysterville Church. Transmitter and Receiver, for mixed choir with piano and electronics, was premiered at the Murau International Music Festival in Murau, Austria. And the tracks from my new recording project spent some quality hours over at Park Sound Studio being mixed by the fabulous Andy Schichter. I’ll be putting some finishing touches on it over the next couple months, and it ought to be out in the new year. Stay tuned…

Dance All Night

Two-step, ball change, do-si-do, waltz. Feather step, gancho, heel turn. Moonwalk, lock step,  thunder clap. Plenty of moves to put into your limbs out there on the dance floor. And as the days get longer, there’s less after dark hours to squeeze it all in. Better get dancing…

I spent an amazing month this spring at the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, near Saratoga, Wyoming. In and amongst all the box-stepping round the campfire, I recorded a new album of songs and tunes. Keep your ears open for a single to be released later this year, but as a teaser take a look at this taste of the bass fiddling that will be included on that record.

 

There have been some great performances of my music this season, too. Jason Hall premiered of I Will Stay Here for tarogato and electronics. The Vancouver Chamber Choir premiered Field Notes (and then the Brooklyn Youth Chorus performed it a few weeks later). And Mark McGregor gave an outstanding performance of Super Super Mother Bad for solo flute. Stay tuned for some audio samples of these and more soon!

Plant Trees

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As tree planting season is soon approaching, I am reminded of the fantastic month I spent this winter at the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts in Nebraska City, the home of Arbor Day. I’m so grateful for the generosity of organizations that provide artists with space and time to create. And I did make some great headway on a new project for bass and electronics in and amongst all the tree gazing. Pin oak, white oak, bur oak, post oak, black oak, ring-cupped oak, red oak…

I’m back at home now, but not for long. This spring is super busy, and I’ll be running around to all sorts of musical soirees. Just last weekend, I was down in Pullman, WA for Washington State University’s Festival of Contemporary Music where Sophia Tegart gave a brilliant premiere performance of my piece for solo flute, Super Super Mother Bad. And later this month Marina Hasselberg will be performing my newly revised piece for solo cello and live electronics, Beautiful Dreamers, at the Sonic Boom Festival. And if that ain’t enough fun to make a fella faint, Jason Hall gives the premiere of my brand new piece for solo tarogato and electronics, I Will Stay Here, in April. Plus, the Vancouver Chamber Choir gives the premiere performance of Field Notes followed shortly after by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus’ Men’s Ensemble giving the American premiere. Check out the Events page for all the deets…

I’ll be back on the road soon, too. Later this spring I’m fortunate enough to spend a month working alongside other musical, literary, and visual artists at the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts on a 15,000 acre ranch not too far from Saratoga, Wyoming. Life is good…

In Our Lifetime

“An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times. I think that is true of painters, sculptors, poets, musicians. . . . I choose to reflect the times and the situations in which I find myself. That, to me, is my duty. And at this crucial time in our lives, when everything is so desperate, when every day is a matter of survival, I don’t think you can help but to be involved. . . . So I don’t think you have a choice. How can you be an artist and not reflect the times? That to me is the definition of an artist.” – Nina Simone 

photo-1Speaking of the times, Bren Simmers and I collaborated on a small sound piece called “In Our Lifetime” that has been installed in the Ranger Station Art Gallery in Harrison Hot Springs, BC for the month. If you’re in the area, stop in and check it out.

I also got the chance to perform with Kevin Spenst recently at the launch for his newest book: “Flip-Flops Faces & Unexpurgated Lives”. It was a true joy to improvise the soundtrack to these poems along with live chalk drawing from Owen Plummer, the illustrator of the book. It’s an incredible choose your own adventure of words, each page cut into three parts with an exquisite corpse creature on every facing page. Definitely pick up a copy if you can.

And I’m hard at work on “I Will Stay Here” a new commission from Jason Hall and the BC Arts Council for tarogato and electronics. The rich textures of this Hungarian folk instrument are set against samples from interviews with refugees in an evocative piece that explores the immigrant experience. It’ll be premiered in the new year; check out the EVENTS page for all the details.

Lakelife

As the leaves are just beginning to shift from green to red, it seems like a good time for a change. And that’s just what’s happened around here. At the beginning of this month I moved into the top floor of an old decommissioned ranger station on Harrison Lake. Pines and water out the window, squawks of herons and hooting of owls overhead. I’m filled with gratitude for the Kent Harrison Arts Council and the fabulous space to live and create.

And I’ve got several projects on the go. First up is a new commission by Jason Hall with assistance from the BC Arts Council for a solo tarogato piece. The tarogato is a Hungarian folk instrument not too different from the clarinet, and the project is commemorating the migration of Hungarians to Canada following World War II. Stay tuned for details about the premiere in the early months of next year.

I’ve noticed recently that three years in Sea to Sky country has softened me a little in my driving habits. As I was making a foray into the city recently, I was reminded that highway driving with ten thousand of your closest friends is a different beast. So, in honor of that newly revisited skill, I’ll share a piece of mine called “Back in Traffic.” Marina Hasselburg and Zhimin Yu performed this at the Sound of Dragon Festival last April, and I think they capture the stressful intensity of the subject really well. Enjoy!

Dog Days

It’s the heart of the summer, and while we’ve managed to steer clear of the oppressive heat that much of the rest of the continent has been facing so far, there’s something awful refreshing about sleeping with the windows open and going days without wearing socks. And though a bumper crop of raspberries is behind me, I’m still looking forward to tomato season…

Likewise, while I’m up to my ears in new creative projects and looking forward to them coming to fruition later this year, in the meantime I’ll share with you all a fabulous performance by Erato Ensemble from this past spring of their commission “Orpheus Unplugged.” I was thrilled to work again with Kevin Spenst, my favorite Vancouver poet to grab takoyaki with, and Will George really owned his performance as an embodied “holographic noggin.” Take a listen…

 

Flower of Paradise

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Not long ago I found myself traipsing through downtown with a horde of literary enthusiasts on a poetry crawl organized by the always dynamic Vancouver poet Kevin Spenst. As we wandered from art galleries to cafes, we stopped briefly at each to take in readings by some of the country’s most fabulous writers. At Centre A gallery, I walked in the door to find every surface of the room covered with art. Stepping on the brightly painted loose canvases that plastered the floor took a little getting used to at first. But if you have a chance to take in Patrick Cruz’s “Bulaklak ng Paraiso (Flower of Paradise)” I highly recommend it. The installation is a full visual overload, and I’m so glad to be surrounded by so much amazing and inspiring art.

In recent weeks I’ve also been fortunate to hear Marina Hasselberg and Zhimin Yu premiere my duet for cello and zhongruan at the Sound of Dragon festival. The entire programme was phenomenal, and I believe it’s the first time that a piece of mine was followed by a dancer bouncing off of a piano accompanied by live improvisation erhu and painting. A huge thanks to Lan Tung, who expended an amazing amount of energy putting on the whole weekend of events. In the works later this spring is a new piece commissioned by Erato Ensemble entitled “Orpheus Unplugged” on a text by Kevin Spenst. I just heard a rehearsal the other weekend, and they are doing a fabulous job with it. For all the details on the concert, check out the EVENTS page.

The increasingly longer days have been keeping me extra busy these days. There seems to be an ever growing list of trails to explore, blossoms to smell, music to make, and seeds to plant. And lots of daylight to do it in; time to water the garden…

Spring, Sprang, Sprung

Foggy Mountain TopI was driving around Vancouver just the other day with the windows down, college radio blaring from the speakers. And when one Bjork song ended, another Bjork song started; then another and another. This went on for a good half hour; I really love college radio.

And I feel so supported by all the wonderful folks who spin tracks (Bjork and Bjork-less) on college radio. Old Paint spent a good eleven weeks charting on college radio, peaking at the number 8 spot on the national Folk and Roots chart. It’s still getting plays on over a hundred stations in Canada and the US, so don’t be shy to call up your local FM and put in a request.

Around these parts, the skunk cabbage is up, the bears’ll be around pretty soon, and with the lengthening days there’s an impending productive mode starting up. I’m just getting cracking on a new commission from Erato Ensemble which will feature an operatic tenor spinning in circles for six minutes accompanied by Motown-esque vibraphone. And later this spring, Marina Hasselberg and Zhimin Yu will premiere my piece Back in Traffic, for cello and zhongruan, at the Sound of Dragon Festival in Vancouver. Check out the events page for all the details.

That’s not all, of course, but that’s all that all for now. There are many more plans a-hatching, so stay tuned…

 

 

Looking up…

Wow, what a fall. In and amongst all the squirreling away of abundance for the lean winter months, there have been premieres and performances, writing and walking, great conversations and chuckles, and more music than you can shake a stick at (or shake a stick with?). I’ve been teaching a class on musical cultures around the world at Quest University, too, so my ears have been filled with Bibayak hindehoo, Carnatic varnum, and p’ungmul drumming. By the time I’ve gotten around to lifting my head out of the gamelan to attend to the interweb world, the leaves have dropped off the cottonwoods, the mountains have been dusted white, and we’ve already celebrated Thanksgiving twice. Apologies for being out of touch, electronic ether.

Michael Murray performed my piece for solo pipe organ, “Panic at the Discotheque,” a couple times over the last few months. A huge thanks to him for championing this work; it sounds better and better each time I hear it. And the UBC Centennial Quartet gave the world premiere of “A Springboard Not a Tombstone,” which was commissioned in celebration of the university’s 100th anniversary. Across the country over in Nova Scotia, “Five to Nine to Five” was given two fabulous performances by the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra. So great to see young musicians taking on contemporary music! I’m also working on a few new pieces, so stay tuned to hear about upcoming performances in the new year…

And kind words continue to stream in about “Old Paint;” check out the latest from Ear to the Ground. I’m so glad that so many folks are enjoying the record. It’s being played on over 100 radio stations throughout Canada and the US, too; so feel free to call up your local community, college, or public radio station and get a request in!

Finally, as the dark and wet and cold descends on us for the next little while, here’s a reminder of the summer festival season. Thanks to John Marsh for capturing this performance at the Tumbleweed Festival back in September…