List of Works
Symphony # 1
“Three Nights of the Full Moon” for large orchestra, sax quartet, percussion ensemble and mixed choir. (1979-2003)
This piece is based on a cantus firmus in the Phrygian mode and develops much like a mass in that it has Introits, Canticles and Psalms. It is cast in five movements to be played without pause and uses Latin texts from Gregorian chants as well as texts culled from HP Lovecraft’s “Cthulu Mythos”.The form is one invented by Harry Somers for his First Symphony where the first three movements contain mostly exposition material, the fourth contains the development and the fifth is the recapitulation. I started it in 1977 and finished it in '79, but have revised it again and again until 2001 when I went back to the original and modified it to include the fourth movement.
Symphony # 2 “Three Roads to Thunder Bay” for small orchestra and off-stage sopranos. (1991-93)
Inspired by a freight-train trip, this piece is a musical essay about the various ways to get to Thunder Bay; by land (rail in this case), water and air. Using mostly modal elements it is light and engaging and loosely adheres to traditional symphonic key sequences in slightly modified sonata form. The last movement incorporates motives from American composers Bernstein, Copland and Harris, because when I had gone to Thunder Bay to hear one of my orchestral pieces being played, I heard only American stuff on the radio. I thought it ironic and literally note-worthy.
Symphony # 3 “Laura’s Symphony” for large orchestra.(1997)
This piece is atonal, terse, lyrical, rhythmic, passionate and long. This large work is the first result of a codification of my own compositional theories where tonality is defined by a phrase’s intervallic structure and place in time. Tonic bass notes may be suggestive, but as the motives kind of “orbit” each other, no real sense of key develops. There are lots of tutti sections contrasted by lyrical solo sections. The opening theme is about twenty years old and pre-dates my hearing of “Concerto for Orchestra” yet is amazingly similar. On the strength of that, as well as my love of Bartok’s music, I have cast the work in a similar five-movement form and is the first of many pieces where I have used it (the arch form as Bartok calls it). The first, third and fifth movements are long whereas the second and fourth fulfill a scherzo-like function.
Symphony # 4 “The Jagged City” for small orchestra and samplers, five parts in one movement.(2002)
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Another five-movement form, although because of its brevity, is really five parts played together in one movement. This form is a direct consequence of Bartok’s arch form and one used in Roy Harris’ Symphony # 3. Much like Harris’, this one starts out with a simple melodic statement and grows organically into a complex whole. Entirely atonal and mostly serial, it is a consequence of writing tone-rows for String Quartet # 3. I was so immersed in various theories of tone-row machinations (Tremblay, Berg, Stravinsky, Webern and of course Schoenberg) that I began thinking up melodies that, while didn’t contain all twelve notes, were in fact tone-rows.
I began to develop the melodic cells and in a burst, wrote the symphony between Christmas and New-Years in 1999. Like Symphony #3, the second and fourth movements are scherzos but this time they are mirror images of themselves. The scherzo row is based upon a tone-row Stravinsky wrote as an autograph to a Pan-Am pilot (who promptly threw it away only to be retrieved by Stravinsky’s assistant, Robert Kraft).
This piece incorporates sonorist elements and is a portrait of a city. I recorded city ambiences, treated them in a studio and set them up to be triggered by samplers in real-time. Many urban motives have been transcribed and assigned to instruments so that a clarinet might trill the same two notes of phone ring, or a timp might pound out the rhythmic tattoo of an emergency vehicle. Although I call it a symphony it is only about twelve minutes long, (audio sample is a midi realization).
Orchestral Song-set # 1 “Alterwise by Owl-light” for small orchestra and mixed choir. (2001-2)
This piece is based on texts from Dylan Thomas and Jack Kerouac, and like a lot of my stuff, is cast in five movements. It’s been an idea I have had for several years but it began to culminate during my last revision of Symphony # 1. I’d been listening to Somers’ “Five Songs for Dark Voice” and Berg’s “Altenberg Lieder” and decided to put some of my ideas on paper. Two feverish months later, I had finished the whole piece. It uses atonality and tonality and an almost chamber orchestra approach.
Orchestral Song-set # 2 “The Petrarch Loop” for small orchestra and mixed choir. (2003)
The second in what I intend to be an on-going series, Song-set #2 uses texts from ee.cummings and Francesca Petrarca (Petrarch). Most of the poetry is about love (lost and otherwise) and the music is simply stated. At turns poignant and joyous, this piece is mostly tonal with atonal interludes.
String Quartet # 1 in one movement. (1991)
This piece, like Symphony # 4, is a model of brevity. It is played in four movements like a traditional quartet, only each movement is about one and a half minutes long. It is an early work that features counter-point and the beginnings of the cellular phrasing I use in much later works.
String Quartet # 2 in four movements.(1994)
The product of the first of many grants, this work uses melodies derived from Métis fiddle tunes, French, Scottish and Irish folk tunes, and transcriptions of First Nation folk music. The piece is cast in a very traditional four movement form and adheres very closely to conventional practices for each movement. This is perhaps my most traditional work and is almost entirely modal through-out.
String Quartet # 3 in five movements.(2000)
String Quartet # 3 is a reaction to the conventions of #2, and is almost entirely serial and atonal. The tone-rows used are a combination of some of the first musical ideas I ever had, mixed with later, more mature ones. Driving and propulsive, this five movement piece is the most ostensibly Bartokian one in my repertoire.
String Quartet # 4 in one movement (five parts).(2003)
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The latest quartet I’ve written, this is yet another five movement work. Like Quartet # 3 this one uses tone-rows exclusively, except movement two, which is unashamedly in Cmin. This piece vacillates between an almost rock-music aggression and an elegant gentle lyricism.
“House of Stairs” for guitar ensemble and percussion ensemble.(1984)
Based on the mathematical art-work of MC Escher, these pieces are scored for an unusual combination of instruments. Very motivic and rhythmic, the music has Bartokian influences and even some Fripp overtones. Very much like the art itself, these pieces use small cells to repeat and overlap into an artistic whole. Contrasting the turgid motives are pastoral sections that evoke a sense of calm.
“The Rebel Wheel Broadcasts” book of pieces for various wood, brass, string and percussion ensembles.(1984-94)
The “Rebel Wheel Broadcasts” is a book of pieces written between 1984 and 1994. The instrumentation varies largely, ranging from soloists to wood, brass, percussion, guitar and string ensembles. The name comes from a book by William Kotzwinkle called “Dr. Rat”
“Reverend Stink-finger” for tapes and sampler.(1985)
This piece was my very first formalised attempt at sound-design, or as was called at the time, “found-sounds”. Like Symphony # 1, I used texts from HP Lovecraft’s “Cthulu Mythos”. In this case I slowed them down to sound demonic and super-imposed the pontifical tirade of some Sunday-Morning evangelist.
Fold I, II,& III for electronics (2005)
Fold is a series of electro-acoustic pieces that features the effect of sound turned in upon itself. Set over two drone-like loops of processed noise, a series of sounds is presented and modified by having it's phase inverted and files reversed (among a host of other things).
Clamorous Guitars for electric guitar and electronics (2005)
Clamorous guitar is a piece done entirely on two electric guitars using a variety of techniques and post performance processing.
Cough! for tape, flt, clr, timp, perc, pno, vln, vcl (2005)
Cough is a piece that combines an ambient track of coughing with a small chamber ensemble. It is hard to listen to without coughing yourself, and has the dubious distinction of being one of the few pieces the audience is free to cough during.
The Futile Etudes for tape and string quartet (2005)
The Futile Etudes are a series of pieces that combine a more traditional approach to string quartet writing, mixed with interludes of electronics, and strange acoustic sonorities.
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