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September 27, 2018

Transfigured Light: Proverb


Mountain View Cemetery

Vancouver, BC


September 13-16, 2018

Tasting Shorts

Tapestry Opera

Ernest Balmer Studios

Toronto, ON


June 5, 2018


Redshift Array

Downtown Public Library

Vancouver, BC

April 17, 2018

Invocation of Aeolius

Schwob Flute Studio

Coca-cola Space and Science Center

Columbus, GA

October 2018

The season opened with a bang in September with two shows very dear to my heart. The first by my Tapestry family in Toronto, was the biennial “Briefs” born from LibLab, 10 days of intensely inspiring and sleepless creation in August. I love LibLab for what is does for the operatic genre, not to mention what it does for my own creativity, so much so I went back for a second time. The WholeNote had some great things to say about it, check it out.


   Tapestry Briefs (photo by Dahlia Katz)                                    Arkora at Mountain View in Transfigured Light

Meanwhile back on the west coast, things were ramping up for the second and final instalment of Arkora’s Transfigured Light project: six world premieres, six ancient music masterpieces and two from the 20th century repertoire, fourteen musicians…31 notes per octave. Everything about this production felt bigger, more colorful, more challenging, more rewarding, and closer to our vision for this ensemble than we’ve ever come before. Calling it a “seasonal benchmark,” The Vancouver Observer described the works in poetic detail.



September 2017

Death and transfiguration in the cemetery, bandits singing Gilbert and Sullivan in the valley, electronic dance music ringing in defunct bell factories…it has been a summer of new music, new places, and transformative experiences. At the heart of it, a fortunate month of vacationing and festival hopping in Ireland, Scotland, and Germany with stops at the Galway International Arts Festival (Donnacha Dennehy's Second Violinist was a feat of technology in operatic production), the Edinburgh Fringe (Theatre Re's The Nature of Forgetting was a gorgeous, unforgettable work of storytelling, merging impeccable physical theatre with emotionally resounding music, hands down one of my top theatre experiences, getting choked up thinking about it), and the impressively eclectic, beautifully curated, nothing-quite-like-it Ruhrtriennale in western Germany, a long-standing item on my bucket list (Barbara Hannigan and Reinbert de Leeuw, guitar quartets, and electronic music in some of the most inspiringly re-purposed industrial venues I've ever seen).

Bandits in the Valley - photo by Dahlia Katz

Book ending this trip were two projects of my own creation contrasting in nature, long in the making, satisfying in the payoff. The first, Transfigured Light, featured my own new music collective Arkora in Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver performing premieres by myself, Dorothy Chang, and Brendon Randall-Myers and some of the edgier gems of the late Renaissance. The three poetic foci of the project were light, death, and microtonality, and the group even tackled Vicentino's 31-TET rep in a new arrangement featuring the lumiphone. On the Dionysian end of the summer, Tapestry Opera's Bandits in the Valley opened at the start of this month in Toronto's Todmorden Mills. Julie Tepperman and I wrote this site-specific, comedic opera at Tapestry director Michael Mori's request to animate the historic site, and I'll damned if we didn't have a blast with it. Pleased to say I've checked writing a music theatre work for performers that both sing and play the instruments off my list here with its top-notch cast. It runs every weekend throughout September.

Transfigured Light - photo by Jordan Nobles



January 2017

On February 19th, the Vancouver Academy of Music Symphony Orchestra will present Symphonie Fantastique at the Orpheum, a virtuosic program of works featuring Berlioz’s tour de force of the same name and Prokofiev’s beautiful Violin Concerto No. 2. I have the distinct pleasure of having composed an opener to the concert - a sort of ‘steampunk overture’ which I call A Stitch in Time. I’ve gotten to know many of these exceptionally gifted musicians in the classroom, and it’s a real honour to hear them embracing this premiere with such gusto. It’s going to be a fantastic show - get your tickets here.

November 2016 - Blue Notes


I grew up in the American South. Many times in the years since I’ve left, I’ve found myself in conversations with non-Americans trying to convince them that our country isn’t as racist as they assume. My argument always ran along these lines: Racism will exist anywhere where fear and insecurity exists (so pretty much everywhere in some way or another), but with the States, the problem is closer to the surface than elsewhere. The disease was systematic when our country was in its early stages, and so its symptoms, having flared up repeatedly, are more diagnosable. The problem was close to us all, and therefore in some way, one could argue, more manageable than stifled old world racism, right? A sort of “devil-you-know” mentality?


The last few years have proven this attitude shamefully wrong. With the repeated slayings of innocent black men by law-enforcement officers, with the normalization of racist rhetoric at political rallies, and now, with acts of aggression on the rise even in the few days since America elected a man whose name is too embarrassing to type, race relations appear to be at a low point in my lifetime. This kind of blatant bigotry doesn’t feel like a devil I know. Instead, it feels like an ancient beast I hoped was gone from this part of the world is all of a sudden at the helm of a circus horror-show of angry and desperate minions. Whether its my ex-pat vantage point (yes, I type these words from my home in Canada), my generally (though waveringly) optimistic outlook, or the liberal “echo-chamber” reinforced by social media and conservative-branded “elitism”, this devil has apparently been hiding in plain site, and it is one that threatens to undermine the essence of social progress.


It also challenges the pride I feel in being a Southerner. Born and raised in Atlanta, I grew up in a city that, though it had its struggles, was touted as a hopeful example of what the term “New South” could mean. The center of Southern commerce, a hub of Southern culture, a shining example of diversity in government (the last white man to hold mayoral office was in 1973)… I will generalize and say Atlantans are proud of these traits, as they are simultaneously proud of being Southern. Despite this pride, I’d often hear non-Atlantan Southerners challenge the authenticity of the term: “You’re from Atlanta? That ain’t the real South!” Apparently, after all the time I spent exploring the corners of my region, from cities to sandy beaches, to swamps, to farms, to the lush and deep river valleys of Appalachia, in the end, I was a city-boy, and a Democrat to boot. So, basically an elitist double whammy, and not a “real” Southerner.


Then, as if to confirm this assessment, I moved first to Ohio, then to New York, then to Canada. I’ve lived in Canada for the better part of a decade, and I’ve remarked on more than one occasion the allure and fascination many Canadians feel for the American South. To the Northerners, it represents more than just warm weather, it represents a particular way of life imbued with tradition, a connection to the land and old ways of knowledge, with folklore, a rich literary history, with hard times, with small town feuds but also neighbourly acts of kindness. It doesn’t hurt that the music to emerge from the South ever since the birth of the blues exerts an immense cultural influence over the globe, with figures of jazz, country, blues, soul, hip hop, and rock n’ roll that are now as large and pervasive as myth.


Well, I grew up there, and the South is all of those things to me too. It holds uglier things as well (e.g. the poor benighted assholes posting in black face on social media), but I’ll be damned if I’m going to let the ugly parts obliterate the beautiful parts of Southern heritage. More than ever, I feel the need to assert the good aspects of where I come from, the need to know what we must all fight for now, and that attitude holds not just for the South, but for America, Canada, and the world.


On December 1st, I’ll be releasing a record that I’ve worked tirelessly on with my band for over a year, Deep in the Pocket, Still No Change. Recently, while listening back over the songs – which are an assortment of tales from various perspectives – I had a eureka moment of realizing what in many ways the record is: its an ode to the South. Well, that was before America erupted in a shitstorm of post-election vitriol and confusion, and while I have had to take renewed stock in my own work and its meaning, the assessment holds. The South, much like the whole country, is a dynamic, beautiful, colourful, and yes, at times a very fucked up place…in other words, a giant paradox.


In retrospect, I have tried to reflect all of that with songs that span the range from the ironic to the sincere, from the realistic to the absurd, from the hopeful to the dark and aimless. Some of the characters in the crazy theater of my album are backwards, while some embody the wisdom of change; some are lost souls on the road, and some believe in the power of community. Most just want to throw down and party with people they love. I hope my Southern friends will find meaning in the record, and I hope it will give my Northern compadres a sense of the complexity, richness, and enigma that exists down yonder. 


To all you beautiful blue notes in what may now seem like a hopeless sea of red, this one's for you. I hope it will strike a chord.



Check out the full list of nominees here

July 2016 - Four months, four projects

All of a sudden we’re right in the middle of summer, and it’s been five months since posting. Hence I’ll get right to it! Here are a few things I’ve been to, with various links to videos, articles, and other fruitful digressions...

Show at the Fox Cabaret in Vancouver with the Rollaway Allstars, June 23rd

(photo by Curtis Mah)

Songs from the Rainshadow’s Edge in Austin, TX at the Salvage Vanguard Theatre, May 27, 28, presented by Church of the Friendly Ghost

Fun with the Lumiphone, my microtonal glass marimba

Also, check out this article I wrote for Megaphone Magazine chronicling its development.

Pledge Music campaign for Deep in the Pocket, Still No Change launched!

February 2016 - City of Water, Sea of Glass

“ingenious instrumentation...A splashy 2016 debut for Redshift and Fringe Percussion”                               

       The Vancouver Observer

“...his latest project sees him creating something musical in an entirely different way.”

Vancouver 24 Hours

“City of Water, Sea of Glass to thrill music lovers”

CBC Early Edition, listen to interview here

Just some of the press for January 29th's City of Water, Sea of Glass, a performance installation of original musical instruments and world premiere compositions that took place in Vancouver's Waterfall Building. For the past two years, Redshift, in association with This Is It Design, curated a collaboration between some of BC's most innovative composers and visual artists to develop strikingly original percussion instruments made of water and glass, materials that play a key role in defining Vancouver's soundscape. Under the virtuoso mallets of Fringe Percussion, these works of art by Robert Studer, Heather Konschuh, and yours truly made their debut along with world premiere compositions by Nova Pon, Chris Reiche, Christiaan Venter, and Mariah Mennie. I can say, especially with the loss of a couple of wine glasses, a bowl, and the E-flat 1 key of my microtonal marimba, that the show was a smashing success. Check out some photos:

Clockwise from top left: my 31 tone equal temperament glass marimba, the Lumiphone; Robert Studer’s glass bowl tree, The Rainbow, with blown glass by Heather Heather Konschuh; aerial shot of the sold out concert; Rob, Heather, and I.

December 2015 - Back to BC

Been a while since my last visit here. Many things have kept me from the blogosphere. I close my eyes and try to sum up in one picture what the last five months have been like, and, particulars aside, this is what I got:

Look familiar? Whether it’s just how time flies at this age or actually a blurring caused by too much motion in too few exposures, it’s probably safe to say time is picking up speed. Of course this is my perception only, but the reality of life nonetheless, is brought on by an acceleration of new events (the psycho-acoustician in me would say “pulses”) since I hurriedly posted that last post before heading overseas. Since then, whew…Zurich, Prague, Cap Ferret, Périgueux, Kroměříž, Vienna, St. John’s, New York, Toronto, down the TransCanada through the lower Provinces to Calgary and on to Vancouver. Back here.

Yes, more than anything, the last four months have been marked by a return to Vancouver. The funny thing, I expected things to slow down after dropping the old suitcase. In the words of folk comedian Christine Lavin – “what was I thinking?” Never mind the giant pile of suitcases amassed from various locales, various stations of travel, that had to slowly but surely be filtered into their tame yet glowering corners of the new apartment, never mind the great muster of friends with whom we longed to reconnect, this return to olden digs was more than anything marked by a feeling of being swept, nay, whisked into the mix of pressing professional obligations. There is the new (and very inspiriting I will add) emploi at the Vancouver Academy of Music, yes, but beyond this, in retrospect I must say that any prior supposition I held, that the fall’s creative projects could flourish without my ongoing physical presence here, was sourly founded. The operetta Off Leash (my first full-length to hit the stage) written with librettist Lucia Frangione, about the social vicissitudes of an inner-city dog park, deserves a mention:

The critical acclaim by the press may have been mixed - so it goes for those that try something new. For this composer in the 21st century, the risk, ultimately, was collaborating on a comedy, a genre rarely found in the “contemporary music” vein – why would it? Such ventures are for the popular artist, right? Well, Off Leash was a show that defied categorization – the theatre critics found it too complex, the music critics found it on the light side. The old adage applies: nothing ventured, nothing gained. Myself, I’ll harken to the audiences, who were ample and riddled with laughter and tears throughout – that kind of reaction doesn’t lie.
No time to ponder too much, for November found me swept into workshops for the culmination of Redshift’s glass percussion project, City of Water, Sea of Glass. The final workshop, involving multiple composers writing for the array of instruments in the show (including my 31 tone equal temperament glass marimba), was an inspiring success. Mark your calendars for the show on January 29th at the Waterfall Building Gallery. It’s sure to be something you’ve never seen or heard before.
Presently I write on the heels of a trip to Arizona, where my new work for wind symphony Plerion, extolling the virtues of a double pulsar, was premiered along with other new works by Vancouver and Arizona State University composers by their wind ensemble (Jason Caslor, dir.) spatially dispersed around the business school there. Resounding sonic punches were delivered between the bricks and beneath the blue sky, to the amazement of last week of class wanderers-by. Redshift’s first concert south of the 49th parallel was a success and likely the harbinger of more shows abroad to come. It also gave me an opportunity to escape from the busy-ness in Vancouver, not to mention the rain.

Sigh, the rain. Gazing out of an East Van back door through the night rain once again upon a city characterized by the promise of the new, the progressive, and yet at the same time by the almost pathological loneliness of its inhabitants – looks like I’m back again. No matter. Vancouver, let’s do this.

July 2015 (New Hampshire) - On the Road

When I was younger, it was easy for me as a musician to buy into the dream of living on the road, hopping from gig to gig and adventure to adventure, yeah…that old chestnut. Now with a few years behind me I see myself as a bit more of a homebody, but careful what you wish for, or have wished for, eh. This year the dream came knocking unexpectedly with the proposition of seven months on the road with no fixed address, and the promise of many great opportunities for Kathleen and I both. This probably explains the lack of blog entry for the last few months, as well as the short nature of this post. I'll be back in touch at the end of the summer, as there is much exciting news to share about the next chapter, but for the moment, I wanted to pause and share some pics from “the road” so far this year:

Clockwise-ish, from top left: the boys of Triplepoint Trio and I at Avaloch Farm (July); gig in downtown LA with Noah Meites and Dan Marschak (July); California coastline on road trip with my buddy Forrest Morrow (June); Grateful Dead show in Santa Clara (June), Lucia Frangione and I at Off Leash workshop in Vancouver (June); complete draft of Off Leash done in Florida (May); Arkora at Roulette in Brooklyn (March); Kathleen and I in Banff during residency (February); my band in Toronto before playing the Gladstone (January); workshopping my microtonal marimba with Fringe Percussion and guests in Vancouver (March); Guillermo Subauste and I at Revolution Recording in Toronto (January); my newly completed marimba in Vancouver (January); the car pack for the big trip leaving from Florida (January).

March 2015 (Brooklyn)



About this time three years ago, I was working on a commission for Redshift Music Society, a piece called Songs from the Rainshadow’s Edge. This was right between two productions of other works that dominated my daily brainscape for about two years prior - Shadow Catch and Hover - and thus, at the time, I didn’t consciously devote a lot of thought to the work. Rather, it emerged quickly and intuitively, like, as Tom Waits would put it, a potato being plucked from the dirt. Since then, I’ve come to understand how important Rainshadow was….is, to my creative journey, serving, as the fruit of that seemingly effortless labour, as a memoir of sorts for me. At the end of my restless and fervent twenties, I was adrift in the wake of a series of crises in a state, as I would come to know it, of depersonalization. When it came time to write Songs from the Rainshadow’s Edge, the fiery contours of pain had slipped downwardly through the layers of consciousness, coming to rest in a place of deeper knowing. As an excerpt from my program note at the work’s premiere puts it:

Songs from the Rainshadow’s Edge is a hindsight study on a difficult period of my life.  In many ways, it started out as a personal memoir – a relief map of my psychological landscape during this time, the predominant feature of which was a dichotomy between my inner and outer realities. For a long time it was as if my body and I were not the same, like “I” was watching it go through extreme emotions of bright euphoria and crushing despair from a strange, distant, and quiet place. 

When approached to write a work for a show that explored Campbell’s notion of the Hero’s Journey, I recalled the great interest I took during this period in the psychological research that attempted to account for, in simple terms, how hard it can be to become oneself, and in this case I use that term quite literally – “one” “Self”. Using this analytical framework as a sort of foundation, my work became, though still intensely personal, something more distanced (in the good way), more reflective. (2012, Vancouver)

Three years later, after being road tested through two showcases and a series of recording sessions with some fantastic musicians occurring in New Haven, St. Augustine, St. John’s, and London, the life of the work is reaching a maturity of sorts as the focus of a new EP released by Arkora. Feel free to check it out through the links above - we’re pretty proud of it to say the least.  I think the work was always destined for this, being born as a kind of more refined twin to my last record, the rawer The Return of the Lonesome Coyote Patchwork Pulpit, and Sundry Other Tales from the Rainbow’s End. That one I dedicated to the community that shepherded me through the hard times. This one, I dedicate to all those out there still in the middle of them. The best way out of the struggle - I say to you, as I said to myself many times in the past (not to mention in the past weeks while working over details of the record) - is simply to let it go.  


December 2014 (Toronto) - Whisky and the Apocalypse

What can I say?  It’s been a big season so far. What started out as an exploratory spell in Toronto turned into a residency in this city that has some legs. I owe this in many ways to the warm reception the city has given me, but also to my own take on it, which I humbly call an unfettered one.  In the past, my moves have been coloured by purpose, expectation…by dreams.  I came here in a nebulous category somewhere between the high-hopes of a major life move and the rosy glass of transience, a position that afforded me some objectivity. I’ve found the city not without its old school charm in its sagging brick and coins-in-a-bucket transit system, the people intense but kind and genuine, and the scene, well – alive and kicking hard.  From the packed woodsy glow of country bars to the glimmer of film festivals and opera houses, this place has it all: the authentic and the avant-garde.  Despite the buzz of a major cultural hub, there’s some room to move (sorry, New York, you know I love you).

Krisztina Szabó and Chris Foley in The Whisky Opera (photo by Dahlia Katz)

I’ve been doing more writing than ever, and much of it geared toward two works that had career highlight performances over the past couple months.  The first: The Whisky Opera.  Though it’s just a taste of the work to come, Tapestry Opera gave Hannah Moscovitch and I the chance to show our stuff with three scenes of a work in progress produced at their Tapestry Briefs: Booster Shots, a four-night bacchanalia of opera shorts and spirits. We were in good company with an amazing group of performers, composers, writers, directors, and designers, and the reception of our work was, to say the least, lively. I link one review from the National Post above, but a short list of press quotes includes “raw and amusing” (NOW Toronto), “amazing” (schmopera.com), and “irresistibly lurid” (barczablog.com). The other big event for me this fall – a performance of a new work for the Junior Choir of Saint Michael’s Choir School and chamber orchestra at Massey Hall – offered a nice contrast. A piece about end times for children’s choir was something I’d been wanting to write for some time, and the offer of a spot on their annual Christmas concert at one of Toronto’s most venerable halls was a real honour. The boys got really into this work and sang it beautifully alongside excellent performances by True North Brass, Schola Cantorum strings, and others.

Kathleen Allan, SMCS Junior Choir, Schola Cantorum Strings, True North Brass, Massey Hall (photo by Sebastien Duckett)

Well, that’s probably the last post for 2014.  It was a big year to say the least, and it seems things will keep on rolling in the New Year.  Take note to the side of upcoming events – a special appearance of the Benton Roark Band, a Banff Leighton Residency, a show at Roulette in Brooklyn, and a production of a new music theatre work, Off Leash.  Thanks as always for dropping by, and we’ll be in touch in the new year. 

September 2014 (Toronto)

A few days after that last post Sound Symposium exploded in a circus of swirling sound clouds, beer soaked new music nights, and shutter-rattling, dog-inciting foghorn symphonies.  Marrying a local community vibe to a far-reaching, sophisticated vision, this gem of a festival strikes a strange and beautiful chord out there in the east Atlantic. I had the double honour of being programmed and débuting a new collective on opening night with Arkora’s performance of my Songs from the Rainshadow’s Edge. Arkora, which I co-direct with my wife (! more on that in a sec) and partner in crime Kathleen Allan, was for this show comprised of an exceptional cast including Kathleen, Mary Barry, David Schotzko, Gillian Shepperd, Steve Cowan, Frank Fusari, and Kate Read. Later that week Redshift hit the Rock in the Vertical Orchestra’s east coast début - Trade Winds, an event I engineered with Jordan Nobles, the festival, Jason Caslor and the Memorial University Wind Ensemble, and the Rooms museum. This was one of the first music events of its kind the Rooms programmed, another honour – let’s hope we see more shows like it. Thanks Sound Symposium, hope to see you again in a couple years.  I’ll let the photos tell the rest of the story.

CBC interview link, Sound Symposium opening night
Arkora dress rehearsal for Songs from the Rainshadow’s Edge, LSPU Hall

Things only ramped up from there, as three weeks later found me standing on the edge of a cliff marrying the love of my life Kathleen Allan as the wind blew the fog across the tall grass, fireweed and guests assembled from far and wide up there by the Queen’s Barracks on Signal Hill. 

Redshift at The Rooms, Sound Symposium XVII (photos by Greg Locke)

Believe it or not, this was a moment of serenity in the middle of a three-day-long party full of illustrious musical performances. I elaborate here because, well, it was quite the production in its own right, with world premieres by the bride and groom and a line up featuring Yale choristers, Emilia Bartellas, The Fortunate Ones, Brian Way, and of course Rollaway of past and present, all excellent musicians we have the honour of calling friends. It was a classic case of what my good friend and collaborator Seth Fruiterman has dubbed “scope-creep”, when an idea just gets bigger and bigger, and I’m proud to say we pulled it off.

I don’t know if it’s the lingering buzz from this amazing summer or what, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a good season.  In a couple weeks I head into an intensive writing retreat with the incomparably brilliant Hannah Moscovitch to kick off a new commission by Tapestry Opera.  In October, the Victoria Guitar Trio is reprising their definitive interpretation of my Mystic Veil (“rich and divergent”, “emotionally penetrating” – the Vancouver Observer), which they commissioned earlier this year.  In November, it’s workshops for a new commission – Arcana Luminis – for Redshift and Fringe Percussion, as well as further development with Off Leash.  On the horizon – and I’m really stoked for this one so mark your calendars! – Arkora will be performing the US premiere of Songs from the Rainshadow’s Edge at the Roulette in Brooklyn in March 2015 as part of Ear Heart Music’s 2014-15 season. The New York Times has called Ear Heart and its director Amelia Lukas “feisty”, “innovative”, and “a staple in the New York new-music soundscape”. With a season including performances by Richard Reed Parry of the Arcade Fire, Contemporaneous, Ear Heart Ensemble, ICE and the Jack Quartet, we are in good company to say the very least.  This will also be the official release of Rainshadow on Redshift Records with Arkora. 

June 2014 (Vancouver – St. John’s)

I’m proud to announce that in just a few days time, Arkora, a new ensemble that my partner Kathleen Allan and I started, will have its début performance on opening night of Sound Symposium in St. John’s.  We created this organization to give voice to the wealth of new vocal chamber music that blurs lines between genres (i.e. such as post-minimalism, modern chamber, black box opera, indie rock), and to create more of the same.  Our inaugural season kicks off with this performance of my work Songs from the Rainshadow’s Edge, which Kathleen and the Mars Ensemble premiered to much acclaim in Vancouver back in 2012, and I feel blessed to be working with another outstanding ensemble that will comprise Arkora for this show (check out our site which gives more details by clicking the logo below). 

The season continues next year with performances with Ear Heart Music at the Roulette in Brooklyn and in Vancouver at Redshift Records’ 50th concert celebration showcase, which will each be a release party (American – Canadian respectively) for Songs for the Rainshadow’s Edge on Redshift Records.  We recorded the bulk of this EP back in May with a stellar ensemble of musicians from Yale and Brooklyn (Kathleen, soprano; Amelila Lukas, flutes; Brendon Randall-Myers, electric guitar; Jonny Allen, percussion; Anne Lanzilotti, viola; Sam Suggs, double bass; Will Gardiner, engineer) before packing up and moving up to Canada for the remainder of the year. 

Have I mentioned it’s been a busy month?  I just returned a week ago from spending 10 days out in Vancouver, where things as usual were a blur of workshops, meetings, performances, and good times with friends, all against the sunny breezy backdrop of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.  Here are some highlights:

Premiere of my new guitar trio, Mystic Veil, by the Victoria Guitar Trio at Cambrian Hall.  I permitted myself a moment of pride to let them know that, well, I love this piece.  Something about it all just hit for me in terms of form, language, joy.  No doubt I owe my appreciation of my own work to their amazing playing – these guys rule.  Check out this glowing review of the piece by Jason Hall of the Vancouver Observer here.

Off Leash workshop with Turning Point Ensemble, Fugue Theatre, and the incomparable librettist Lucia Frangione.  What a show, it’s hilarious, profound, moving, and wholly contemporary.  I’m afraid to give too much
away other than – I CAN’T WAIT to see this one hit the stage! A howling good time…

City of Water, Sea of Glass creation meetings.  Redshift is beginning what promises to be an amazing collaboration between five composers and local glass artists under the direction of Robert Studer.  The goal: design and create unique percussion instruments of glass and water for a performance installation by Fringe Percussion next year.  Featured below, visits to Terminal City Glass co-op and to Viking Profiles jet cutter.

April 2014 (Toronto-New York)

At some point on the road last month I got a call from Tapestry Opera’s new Artistic Director Michael Mori, asking me to write some scenes with playwright David Yee for Tap:Ex Revolutions, a strikingly original take on opera and contemporary dance.  My job: tie together improvisatory scenes in which characters riff on “found” material (Mozart, Bach, Leoncavallo, Strauss, among others) and write a finale to cap off their journey of discovery.  So I headed up to Toronto and dove in.  This production was conceptual, provocative, beautiful - I loved it.   Critics also had some really enthusiastic takes on the show overall, as these two glowing reviews demonstrate (from Schmopera and Leslie Barcza).  I also got to tromp around the Don Valley heritage site Todmorden Mills in the mud and rain with playwright Hannah Moscovitch, checking it out for a project we’re embarking on for Tapestry that promises to be a blast.  More on that to come soon, but for now suffice it to say I couldn’t be more thrilled with this team.  Thanks for the good times, Toronto, and see ya again soon! 

from Tap:Ex Revolutions (left to right: Neema Bickersteth, and Andrea Ludwig)

Two days after the Tap:Ex premiere I was back in Brooklyn with my band playing Pete’s Candy Store.  What a great little spot!  It’s like an old train car tacked onto the back of rustic drug store- bar a few blocks off the main drag in Williamsburg.  Nice crowd, good people, and boy is it great to play with that band!  Kathleen Allan, Seth Fruiterman, Jonny Allen, Doug Perry – we went for the chamber thing with the arrangements in lieu of Rollaway’s plug in and jam out format.  It felt like a new leaf, but the reality is that it’s an old leaf that’s been collecting dust since the college days and that first year in New York.  I recently unearthed a recording of my band on tour at the Cat in the Cream in Oberlin performing a four-part song cycle with a quasi-post-apocalyptic setting (we were living in New York in 2001 after all).  Based on that recording, you could say there is some full-circle action going on here, but it wouldn’t be entirely right.  A lot of things have changed as they are wont to do, but I’ll tell you, the feeling of bringing the words, images, structure, and colours inherent in those new songs to life at Pete’s reminded me of the type of nuance that our early chamber-folk style was capable of.  Look out for more of it.

Now it’s stay put and write.  At least for April.  We got a recording session next month of Songs from the Rainshadow’s Edge at Yale, and beyond, a three-day Off Leash workshop and premiere of my guitar trio Mystic Veil in Vancouver in June.  Then it’s way back east for Sound Symposium in St. John’s, Nfld, where Kathleen and I are putting on a performance of Rainshadow with some fine players and where Redshift has a Vertical Orchestra concert planned.  Yep, really excited about the summer shaping up – but more on that next time.  Thanks for stopping by, you’re always welcome.

February 2014 (New Haven)

These days are the days of this season, it seems, when the sit-down work shall be done.  Inward goes the journey, through the layers.  What else would one do with a pile of writing upon one’s desk and a fresh blanket of snow every few days outside, freezing the previous one to ice, the latter having frozen the one before, and so on…?  And when else would one do it?  Looking back at the past year, it has been a long blur of movement, coming into focus for memorable snapshots – pulling off ambitious new music festivals, singing my heart out on stage with the band, holding the newborn of friends in the hometown, crazy opera workshops, crossing the stage for the doctoral hood, getting down on one knee in Central Park…points of time and space forming an outline from New Haven to St. John’s to Toronto to Vancouver to Atlanta and back.   And what is beneath the layers of this psycho-temporal, geo-meteorological snow onion?  Well, I am peeling them away one at a time….almost there.

In many ways, this is what creativity is all about for me – the drive to uncover what’s underneath, and somehow fixing that journey of discovery into works of art along the way – landmarks on the path towards the truth (which itself is of course an elusive destination).  These days, many of the legs of the journey are long, the projects large in scale: microtonal instrument creation (see the post below) and music theatre.  November saw workshops for operas-in-development: Madonna of the Wilderness with Katherine Koller for co-producers Tempest Flutes and the Ensemble contemporain de Montréal (ECM+); and Off Leash (with Lucia Frangione for Turning Point Ensemble and Fugue Theatre), the latter slated for a lengthy workshop exploration in June.   Around this time, I’ll be heading into the studio with some amazing musicians to record an EP of my Songs from the Rainshadow’s Edge (Redshift Records), a work that will have some exciting performances in the coming season (stay tuned for details).  In the more short term, I’ve been composing a new work for the Victoria Guitar Trio (as seen in the composer “action shot” above) – Mystic Veil – that will have its premiere in May by the group during a tour of British Columbia.  Closer still, I will be performing a set of my songs, new and old, in chamber arrangements with members of my band at Pete’s Candy Store in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in early April.

For the next little while, though, it’s all about the “inside” work: concerts will be organized, grants written, inquiries made, music composed.  As I look out the window, some lines from Townes’s St. John the Gambler come to mind: “Winter held high round the mountains’ breast/And the cold of a thousand snows/Lay heaped upon the forest’s leaf/But she dressed in calico”....That’s what winter is about, finding the beauty down here among the layers as they accumulate, allowing time to continue unfolding while you, for a brief period, pause and commit reflections to paper.  By virtue of this unfolding we become, at least relatively, temporarily closer to the truth.  Will we get there?  I don’t know, but I will keep peeling all the same.

November 2013 (New Smyrna Beach)

Three weeks ensconced among the armadillos, palmettos, and freely roaming artists of the Atlantic Center for the Arts, visiting points of musical interest located within the stylistic vastness that spans (and somehow links) such seemingly disparate artists as Ligeti, Aphex Twin, Leonin, Steely Dan, and Debussy has given me much to think about.  Much of that I owe to my esteemed colleagues, the Associate Artists of the ACA, and of course the Master Artists, especially the immensely inspiring, larger-than-life Martin Bresnick.  Southward I traveled with an armful of projects that needed my composerly attention, and, while tend them I did, what I took away most of all was insight into our collective musical past, a renewed sense of experimentation, and a feeling of belonging among my colleagues. 

While I did really dig into some exciting long-term opera/music theatre projects, I also put up (in lieu of shutting up about) the once fair-weather dream of building a prototype of a microtonal mallet instrument in 31-tone equal temperament.  The ACA has among its beautiful facilities a sculpture studio, which beckoned me come sketch, measure, cut, and tune the bars for a new microtonal glass marimba (see picture below).  With the help of St. Augustine musician and woodsmith Darryl Wise and a design of my own, this project is well on its way to the spotlight in a Redshift premiere in 2014.  

November sees no rest for the weary, as I hit the road once again tomorrow to Vancouver for the Redshift and Vancouver New Music production of ChamberCon, opera workshops, and last but not least, the first Vancouver Rollaway show in over a year (Kozmik Zoo, here we come)!!!

Seeking a State of Metastability

September 2013 (New Haven)

It’s been a summer of bouncing back and forth across the continent producing new music concerts, defending dissertations (see upcoming event to the right), performing with the band, visiting with family, attending festivals, and fishing for cod in the North Atlantic. 

It was also a summer of eye-opening workshop experiences in the realm of new opera and music theatre.  Thanks to Tapestry Opera, Redshift Music Society, and Mitacs Accelerate, my most recent completed creative effort - Hover (text, Lindsay Cuff) hit the workshop stage yet again (well, if the aquatic nature of the first workshop environment could be called a stage). 

June 17 – 19 found Hover’s creative team in the Tapestry Opera studios in Toronto asking an oustanding cast of singers, instrumentalists, designers, and directors to do crazy things like combat, water torture, and gruesome surgical procedures against a setting of some of the work’s thornier musical sections.  More info on the work, including music, video, and past development history can be found in the music section of this site, or here.

After a July up and down the east coast from Florida to Newfoundland to visit with family and do some music festival reconnaissance, it was to Vancouver to help produce the ambitious and inspiring Redshift Music/Open Space Society collaboration, Transpondings.  A quick stop by Toronto once again to attend the libretto-read of a fascinating new work I’m embarking on with Edmonton-based writer Katherine Koller left me feeling invigorated and ready (after an entire summer on the road!) to spend some time back home in the office.  

Now the threshold of yet another season finds me happy to be writing, composing, cooking, running, welcoming the fall air, and sifting through the last few months of experiences, which seem to be accruing at a rate too prolific to overcome.  Alas, it won’t be long before it’s off again - in October and November I will be an Associate Artist at the Atlantic Center of the Arts working with Master Artist Martin Bresnick.  Oh, and one more thing...new website!