On top of my other bits of good news, I have also been selected to participate in the Canadian Music‘s New Music For Young Musicians initiative. As such I am one of this year’s recipients of the Norman Burgess Memorial Fund which funds the creation of a new pedagogical work for young performers.
The initiative is unique as it pairs composers with educators and funds both parties’ engagement in the project, and encouraging conversation between educator/ performers and composers.
The piece I’ve proposed is an intermediate-level work for solo harp that will focus on the various sound-colour possibilities inherent to the instrument. It will also be constructed with certain open-ended aspects that will permit a degree of play within the work.
I’ve been lucky enough to be paired with Toronto-based harpist Lori Gemmell as my educational adviser. Gemmell is a seasoned interpreter of both “standard” repertoire and more recent works. I’m fairly well-acquainted with her work because of her involvement as a harp instructor at Wilfrid Laurier University (where I did my undergrad), the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, and numerous chamber/ contemporary music projects in that region there. I’ve yet to come across her in Toronto, but she’s also very active here, from what I gather.
Her involvement and investment in education extends well beyond her teaching position at Laurier, she’s also an examiner for the Royal Conservatory, an instructor at Redeemer University College, Cardinal Carter School for the Arts (an arts high school) and instructs privately. She’s also engaged with the Keys To The Studioinitiative, a music program for people with developmental disabilities.
I’m really excited to work with her through to the work’s completion.
Although the work will focus a lot on sound colour, my goal is not to furnish a simple primer for extended and alternate techniques. It’s to demonstrate their full potential and compatibility with each other and so-called “normal” techniques. Frequently in young persons’ repertoire (well and, beyond too!), these sounds are treated mere sound effects. However, these techniques themselves have a range, and are capable of expressing ideas in sound, much in the same way that more conventional techniques can. I hope to convey in the work is that there is indeed a spectrum of colour on the instrument not just a binary between “normal sounds” and “weird sounds”.
It’s an effort to nip certain deleterious thinking in the bud. To an extent this “normal/ weird” rubric for extended techniques pervades the thinking of some adult performers, and the work of some composers even supports, or panders to this notion, through its construction. (N.B.: this is partially understandable, given our notational system)
However, it’s important recognize that in many East Asian classical traditions, some of these elements are seamlessly and fluidly integrated into a performer’s technique. I think any instrumentalist could benefit from adjusting their thinking in this manner.
The work is set to première in August at the PING festival, which is a celebration of new music for young performers. We’ll also be hearing a new work by one of my favourites, Allison Cameron as well as a solo bass piece by Monica Pearce, and works by Richard Mascall and Alan Torok. Here’s a press release about all the different proposed works.
The work will also be available for purchase/ rental through the Canadian Music Centre.