Darkest Dark Sky

Dark SkyI recently read that eighty percent of the world’s population has never seen the Milky Way. It makes me awful glad to be able to stand on my front stoop and see the Pleiades on any of the few nights when this part of British Columbia isn’t covered in clouds.

And I’m extra glad to be spending a few weeks as an artist-in-residence at Grasslands National Park in southwestern Saskatchewan this summer, which has been designated as a dark sky preserve. And the darkest dark sky in Canada, at that! If you’re in that part of the world, be sure to stop by. I’ll be putting on a couple performances and installing a new sound piece that will address the idea of dark skies.

In other news, I’ve been really lucky to have received some fabulous performances of my music this spring. The JunctQin Keyboard Collective just performed “Tweets”  (the only piece I’ve ever written for toy piano and melodica) and Ashlee Bickley sang “Ride Along East Hastings” at the Manchester New Music Festival, giving the piece its International Premiere. Later this month, the Erato Ensemble will premiere “What a Dream,” which gives three singers Google-translated Shakespeare lyrics mixed with harp, piano, flute, and cello.

Also, the new album is nearly ready for the world. It’s been mixed and mastered, and now Laurel Terlesky is putting together some beautiful album artwork. Stay tuned for a preview track and expect to hear the whole album this summer…

Saving Daylight

IMG_4569The music outside my window is all Varied Thrush and Chickadee these days; I guess the birds are back in town. And while the leaves aren’t quite coming out yet, the moss around here is plenty green. But my favourite thing about this season is the lengthening of the days. Light out later and later. This is the time when we start to save up all the extra daylight for the dark times.

The music inside my window sounds like a different world, or at least a different part of the world. I’ve been hard at work on a new commission for the Vancouver Chinese Music Ensemble, and my head is deep into the pipa, sheng, erhu, ruan, and zheng.

Spring also gets me thinking about festival season coming up. I’m scheduled to be at the Elevate Arts Festival on Vancouver Island in June, and there are more plans in the works, so keep your eyes on the EVENTS page for the latest details. As a warm-up, I’m headed out to the Manchester New Music Festival later this month.  Plus, I’m just finishing up mixing my new album with Andy Schichter at OSW Studios this week. It’s officially got a title now — “Old Paint” — and you can expect to see it out this summer. Stay tuned for a few bonus preview tracks in the coming weeks. In the meantime, sit back and smell the salmonberry blossoms…

Days Gone By

It’s calendar change over season, time to pay close attention when writing the date, reflect on the last group of months and look forward to the next one. IMG_0525[1]And there are so many great musical adventures ahead, both old music and new music.

This month, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra will present a piece of mine and later this spring another piece will see its International premiere. Check out the Events page for all the details.

Plus, I’m in the midst of writing a brand new solo viola piece for Sarah Kwok, a Shakespearean chamber piece for the Erato Ensemble, and a new commission for the Vancouver Chinese Music Ensemble. Let it be known that there are no shortages of papers littering my desk…

And my new album is getting mixed any day now, so you can expect to see it out in the world later this year. So far, it seems like 2015 is fixin’ to be a good one…

Pretty darn glad…

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” – L.M. Montgomery

And I’m awful glad that I choose to celebrate a holiday that celebrates gladness in both October and November. There’s a whole lot to be glad about. The clouds have been dumping water lately, and I reckon the river’s glad to be full. I suppose the salmon are glad about river being full. The bears are glad about the salmon swimming, and the eagles are glad about the bears’ leftovers. Me, I’m glad to run across an eagle print in the sand the size of my hand.

And, I’m also thankful to be working on so much great new music these days. I’ve got collaborations with the Erato Ensemble and the Vancouver Chinese Music Ensemble coming up in the next year. Plus, I’ve finished tracking a new album and I’m working on the mix in the upcoming weeks. If you can’t wait any longer, check out a live version of one of the tunes that’ll be on the new record….

I Truly Understand…

new banjo

Wood is an incredible substance. And I’ve seen some truly incredible wood in the past weeks: thirty kilometres of charred aspen and black spruce up along the Yukon River, a seven hundred year old cedar just down the road from my house in British Columbia, and a hunk of walnut shaped into a banjo that arrived in my mailbox.

This fretless banjo was hand crafted in Watauga County, North Carolina by John Peterson, and it feels like a great privilege to make it sound. When I initially picked it up and tuned the strings, the very first tune that I plucked out was “I Truly Understand.” Now, I haven’t heard that song in years, let alone played it, so the magic of the moment seemed to be predicting a pretty good future for me and this banjo. My practice regimen is just beginning, so don’t expect to see this beauty out on the stage until next year, at best. 

You will, however, see me out on the stage this fall over on Vancouver Island and in the lower Mainland – check out the Events page for all the details.

And I’ve been working on a new album this summer, so expect to hear some new tunes out there and prepare yourself to put those new tunes into your hi-fi system in the near future. Until then, I’ll be shedding my banjo licks… 

These are the days, my friends, and these are the days, my friends…

The full stride days of summer upon us. Tomatoes fruiting, raspberries ripened. The festivals of the past couple months have filled me up with music and friends and dance-flattened grass under my blanket. And I’ve been working on a new album, too – a whole new set of songs, and a whole new new set of songs on top of that. It’s been a pretty awesome summer, so far.

For the next few weeks, though, I’m headed up north to visit some folks and find a quiet place or two. But in the meantime I’d like to share with you a piece I wrote earlier this year that was performed by the Erato Ensemble this summer. The way the piece addresses my fear that we won’t know what we’re doing to this world until it’s too late seemed to strike a chord with at least a few people (you can check out a review of the piece here). And the Erato Ensemble gave it a really fabulous performance. Check it out for yourself:

Life and Folks and Folklife

It’s officially summertime now that the first music festival of the season has come and gone. Memorial Day weekend in Seattle is always a good time, and this year was an extra good time because I spent it at Northwest Folklife. There was a light drizzle in the air, but that didn’t stop anyone from dancing to great tunes, running through giant fountains, or eating elephant ears. And I was lucky enough to play a set for a real lovely audience – quiet and captivated and fantastic to chat with both during and after the set. I think it’s going to be a great summer. Here’s a little taste of what Northwest Folklife was all about:

This Is What Happened

Spring might just be my favourite season because it seems like so much is happening. Cherry blossoms erupting out my window, seeds sprouting on the sill, and hummingbirds whipping around the yard. There’s not a dull moment around here.

It’s been awful busy musically as well. I had a great trip out to the Rockies and was so pleased to perform for the very first time in several fine Albertan cities. Liked it so much, I’m already fixing to go back. Vancouver also saw the premiere of a brand new piece that’s part of a larger project of songs using Depression-era oral history as lyrics. The Erato Ensemble gave a great performance, and I’m pleased to share video evidence with you all.

I’m super excited to be working with the Erato Ensemble again this spring on a project of remixes of early music. I’ve taken an aria from an old Handel opera, asked Vancouver poet Kevin Spenst to rewrite the words, and rewritten the piece for two singers, two strings players, four woodwinds, electric guitar, and grand piano with a cast iron skillet placed inside. Should be awesome. Check out the Events page to find out how you can be there.


Chevrolet Setting

“There’s no Riviera in Festus, Missouri; and you won’t find Onassis in Mullinville, Kansas.”

Nor are you likely to find the Great Wall of China in Tacoma, Washington, but you will find me there this month. Same goes for Edmonton, Calgary, and Red Deer. It’ll be a combination of jet setting and Chevrolet setting over the next couple weeks, and I’m awful excited to see folks all over the western half of the continent.

All the miles (or kilometers) are for good reasons, of course. First, I’ll be heading south to attend the US premiere of my piece “Stars: Childhood” sung by the Dorian Singers. Then, I’ll be heading east to get lost in the Folkways archives and serenade Albertans of various sorts. And finally, I’ll head home to hear the Erato Ensemble give the world premiere of my new piece “This is What Happened.” There’s a heckuva lot of noise to be made; be sure to check out the Events page to find out just exactly where I’ll be scratchin’ gravel next…

I’m also pretty excited to share a recording from the world premiere performance of “Beautiful Dreamers” that occurred earlier this year. Take a listen to Marina Hasselberg on the cello and myself on the laptop:

Lucky ’14

I got a feeling about this new year.  I won’t break out all the complicated numerology — sevens and fives and fours, oh my — but I think it just might be a good one.  There’s a lot to look forward to already…

In January, Marina Hasselberg will give the world premiere performance of a brand new piece for solo cello and live electronics at the Western Front in Vancouver.  It’ll be part of the Further Electroacoustic Festival put on by Vancouver Pro Musica, and you can find out the details on the Events page.

Later this spring I’ll be heading out to Alberta.  I feel awful lucky to have received a grant to go explore the Folkways archive housed at the University of Alberta, and I can’t wait to spend some time listening to some old folk records.  I’ll be performing a few shows while I’m in the province, and you can get all the latest tour info on the Events page.

And on the 14th day of this fine year of 14, Rod Matheson posted this video, part of his Everyday Music Project, that he captured from last month’s performance at the Prophouse in Vancouver.  Check out all the great lamps…