Rivers and Roads

Rivers and Roads

Tantramar River, Trans-Canada Highway, MacIntosh Brook, Blue Ridge Parkway. Watauga River, Dutch Creek, Peak Road, Thomas E. Dewey Thruway. US-4, I-95, Batemans Brook, Hudson Headwaters. Route 16, Reversing Falls. North River, West River. North River Road.

Man, oh, man. It’s been a season on the go. Uprooting my New Brunswick home and hitting the roads (and rivers) of the Atlantic provinces and states, up to the north, out to the east, down south, and back again. And now I’ve landed in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, a small chunk of land sitting in an ocean bay filled by three rivers, where I’m thrilled to be joining the faculty of Holland College in the fall.

I’ve got all sorts of exciting things in the future: a new album of songs to be released this fall, two new choral pieces published by Renforth Music, the American premiere of my piece Beautiful Dreamers (by the fabulous Nick Photinos!), a bass recording of a Bach cello suite re-mix, and a brand new literary musical collaboration. Plus a possible orchestral premiere in the new year. Some serious cubic feet per second.

The last couple months have seen some great music happening too. Erato Ensemble gave a fabulously playful premiere performance of Of All the Birds, a piece they commissioned for their Ayre II program. The concert also marked the last for Will George as the artistic director of the group, and you can watch his stunningly conclusive performance here (the video also features Dory Haley‘s spot-on rendition of a flycatcher!). Esther Lamneck performed I Will Stay Here recently in Manhattan at the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival. And the Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra presented my piece for erhu, pipa, ruan, sheng, and zheng Old As the River at the Canadian Music Centre in Vancouver. Take a listen…

Islands are Connected

“In a sense, each of us is an island. In another sense, however, we are all one. For though islands appear separate, and may even be situated at great distances from one another, they are only extrusions of the same planet, Earth.” – J. Donald Walters

This winter has afforded me the opportunity to traverse the entire length of this island we call North America. On New Year’s day I arrived in Sackville, New Brunswick where I will spend the season teaching at Mount Allison University. It is wonderful to have landed in this beautiful and welcoming town and to be surrounded by so many fabulous people.

I’ve got many projects on the go, as always. A new commission for the Erato Ensemble is underway. It will be premiered on their May concert in Vancouver, BC, Ayre II: the follow-up to their wildly successful Ayre program which featured Baroque repertoire and newly written “re-mixes” of those pieces. I’ll also have a few pieces performed at the SCI conference in Newport News, VA this spring. Check out the EVENTS page for all the details.

I’m working on a couple electro-acoustic and video projects that were born during several amazingly productive artist residencies in the fall, too. Below is a sneak peek of part of a larger project that was created during a month on the Oregon Coast at the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology. Enjoy!

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!

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

IMG_5963

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

Sound of Dragon 1.JPG

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…