- Gardens —
Getting ‘Gardens’ (Scissor Tail Editions), my second album out, for me, felt like a huge advancement. I had worked on the piece for 2011-2013 and it really felt like I had found different and more potent resonances for me personally. The idea of coming into one’s one is a bit fraught but for some reason creating this work and putting it out felt like I was offering something more personal than my first album. To see that it was warmly received by several critics was also heartening.
- Endless Conjecture —
‘Endless Conjecture’ was released on Orange Milk Records within a week of Gardens and encompassed a bunch of other recent pieces made in a similar manner to its companion—Terminal Burrowing To have two releases come out on two really amazing independent labels and have other musicians, listeners and media folks respond was really nice.
- Year-End Mentions —
Speaking of media stuff, I had a few shouts-out at year end time which certainly made me smile. Haven’t really had my stuff recognized in that way before. BlogTO listed me among “Bands to Watch in 2015”, Scott Scholz’s “Words on Sounds” podcast listed Endless Conjecture among his year-end faves, and Bryon Hayes (who wrote a really generous review in Exclaim!) mentioned me as notable release on his roundup for Decoder, as did Decoder’s editor Dwight Pavlovic in his year-end. The Boston Hassle’s Damon Hastings also mentioned Gardens in his 2014 reflections, which collected five “heady experimental albums from 2014”. Tristan Bath over at the Quietus’ Spools Out column also cited I Have Eaten the City’s Secret Paths as one of his favourite tapes of the year. He also rated the release’s label, Tombed Visions, as label of the year!
- Scoring Terrance Odette’s ‘Fall’ —
In 2013 I provided a very modest score for Ingrid Veninger‘s the Animal Project, which largely did not need musical accompaniment of any sort. Not that Terrance Odette’s Fall *needed anything* from me to be a great film, but with it I was able to provide a more full-fledged score—one based around minimal multiple-cello arrangements with a lot of space and breath. It’s the first time I’ve contributed something that like that a feature film.
- Performing at Obey Convention —
I had never been to Halifax before 2014 and last year I had the privilege of visiting the HRM twice. The first though was for the amazing Obey Convention, the brainchild of Darcy Spidle of Divorce Records/ Heavy Fog. The vibe at the festival is super warm and friendly and was a wonderful way to visit the city. Crowds were receptive to a wide range of work from Maja Ratjke to Low and it was great to mingle with local artists, musicians as well as people I knew from elsewhere. It was also lovely to have the opportunity to open for Tim Hecker, whose most recent album, Virgins, really made an impression on me.
- Whitehorse and Manitoulin Island on tour with MT Space’s Body 13—
The aforementioned second time I visited Halifax (well we technically were staying in the underrated city of Dartmouth!) was with theatre group the MT Space. The theatre piece we were touring was also responsible for some other travel highlights this past year. In February we toured out to the Northwest (Edmonton and Whitehorse). While the former was not without charm, fun, great people and some great records, Whitehorse as a city felt like it made a much greater impace. For one, the natural landscapes that frame it are utterly gorgeous and the concentration of great food (shouts out to Burnt Toast and the Yukon Brewery), good vibes and artistic activity (our hosts Gwaandak, and the Available Light Film Festival) was stellar. At the end of the very warm fall we also visited the Debajehmujig Storytellers in Manitowaning on Manitoulin Island. We had a bit of time to explore the island’s breathtaking scenery and mingle with artists and WWOOFers at the Debaj’s Centre. We were also brought by our hosts to various points of interest in Wikwemikong nearby. That day was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. We attended a Pow-Wow for a couple of hours where we became part of a dance competition (where most of us looked like twits). But conversely were welcomed around a sacred fire where the tradition was described to us in great detail by an elder. Later we were taken to the serene Prairie Point that boasts an amazing view of the Cloche Mountains. We were also taken to the ruins of a residential school and into a church.
- Working with Yvonne Ng on her ‘SoloDuet’ show in May —
While I had done stuff with film, theatre and interactive collaborations, dance remains an area where I had only done a few projects. With Yvonne Ng‘s show SoloDuet (containing two works—’Metamorphosis of a Solitary Female Phoenix‘, for Linnea Wong and Magnetic Fields for the duet of Mairéad Filgate and Luke Garwood) this all changed. I sound-designed the former work but for the latter I created the full 24 minute score. Scoring that duet really felt like I was responding very directly to the movement as Ng was creating it. It was a really symbiotic relationship, where music can often feel like a very secondary thing. Observing how dancers respond to sound too was incredibly inspiring. I’m looking forward to doing more dance projects.
In July a bunch of us launched a new venue, Ratio in downtown Toronto. So far we’ve seen some really amazing stuff come, both local and from elsewhere as well as a notable increase in interest and activity. We’re all excited to see where it goes in 2015.
Some of what I am looking forward to in 2015
(There’s more of this stuff than I’ve listed below, but I’m omitting anything that’s not totally confirmed)
- Picastro tour
This spring I’m finally able to join Picastro (it’s my tenth year in the band this fall) on tour in Continental Europe. It’s going to be a blast. It’s also the first time with our new lineup (myself, Matthew Ramolo – Synthesizer, and Germaine Liu – drums). Here are the dates:
March 18 | Brussels – BE | Les Mariniers*
March 19 | Utrecht – NL | Db’s
March 20 | Munich – DE | Kafe Kult*
March 21 | Innsbruck – AT | PMK*
March 22 | Zero Branco – IT | Altroquando*
March 23 | Genova – IT | Garage 1517*
March 24 | Perugia – IT | Postmodernissimo*
March 25 | Rome – IT | Dal Verme*
March 26 | Bologna – IT | Freak Out Club*
March 27 | Lausanne – CH | Le Bourg With Toronaut
March 28 | Nijmegen – NL | Derde Wal
March 29 | Ghent – BE | Kinky Star*
March 30 | Brussels – BE | Le Chaf
* = with Khôra
- Exaptations —
Notice Recordings will be releasing a cassette for me later this year featuring two side-long cuts, Field Lines and Yield Criteria. They’re a fabulous label with a stacked roster (Coppice, Talk West, Anne Guthrie and Chik White to name but a few) and it’s honour to be working with them on a release! Field Lines was the score for the aforementioned dance piece choreographed by Yvonne Ng that I composed from November 2013 to May 2014.
- Another collaboration with Yvonne Ng—
Speaking Ng’s work I’m delighted to be working with her yet again on another piece for 2016. I’m excited to see how it evolves.
- Debut of piece for Eve Egoyan—
In 2013 Eve Egoyan secured the funds to commission a new solo piano work from me. Writing for piano by itself has proven to be a huge learning experience for me. As an instrument piano has qualities of extreme limitation but also a certain limitlessness. Last time I had written for piano was in 2001 or something—early undergrad so needless to say my sensibilities have changed drastically over the years. Given my usual approach which is really interested in colouristic possibilities as well as conventional pitch, it was hard to find a way into writing for the instrument. The new piece is still taking shape but I’m definitely feeling like I finally immersed myself in composing for the instrument. In fact working on this piece has piqued my interest in writing more solo works. The piece is being premiered in fall alongside works by two of my very favourite Toronto composers — Linda Catlin Smith (who’s launching a new album of piano work performed by Egoyan that night) and John Mark Sherlock.
- Chamber music album—
I’ve been working toward completing an album of chamber music for some time now with the magnificent ensemble Thin Edge New Music Collective and expert producer Jean Martin, who’s recording at his own studio and Canterbury Music Company. The album will contain several works from the past decade and a bit. We’ve already recorded A Destination (2012), a long piece written specifically for a subset of their instrumentation — english horn, violin, piano, marimba/ glockenspiel (featuring harmonica by the percussionist and pianist). They’ve also laid down Senesce, my 2009 string quartet. The album will also feature the trio Exits (2010) for piano, trumpet and percussion as well as two violin duet pieces — A Timid Statement (2003) and a brand new piece, Framing (2015) composed for the album. Release details should be solidified later in the year.
- Blue Bird —
Working with theatre is a big part of what I do and I have some really interesting stuff on the horizon for 2015. I’ll be scoring Blue Bird, a duo piece created by actors Brad Cook and Tawiah M’carthy and Anne-Marie Donovan (who’s taken a co-directorial role). The work unfurls a circuitous and poetic narrative and is very movement-oriented and atmospheric. Music’s role in the work will undoubtedly be a bit more central than more text-based work. I’m excited to collaborated with this bunch. We’ve worked extensively before, primarily with the MT Space, but this abstract intimate piece will be something different altogether for us!
- Making Music Project —
Following the composition of my 2013 harp piece, Hinting which was part of the Canadian Music Centre‘s New Music For Young Musicians Program, I was invited to compose another pedagogically-themed piece, this time for/ with a music class at a school in Ottawa. This is all taking place via an initiative through the University of Ottawa. I’ve been assigned a class of students at Henry Munro Middle School and I’m really genuinely excited to discover a collaborative creative process with them where they feel empowered and free to explore the potential of their instruments and the act of composing. In my opinion initiatives such as these are of great importance and are not to be underestimated. Not only is it a chance to get younger musicians engaged on a deeper level with different musical practices, it’s also pertinent for composers as it’s a chance to reacquaint yourself with what it’s like to be a younger musician and to better understand how people relate to music and art-making.
Favourite albums in 2014 (in no particular order)
- Flying Lotus – You’re Dead (Warp)
- Chik White – Jaw Works & Behind A Dead Tree On The Shore (Notice Recordings)
- Laurence Crane – Chamber Music (Another Timbre)
- Richard Glover – Logical Harmonies (Another Timbre)
- Coppice – Vantage/ Cordoned (Caduc)
- Talk West – Black Coral Sprig (Preservation)
- Ian William Craig – A Turn of Breath (Recital)
- Tashi Dorji – Tashi Dorji (Hermit Hut)
- Grouper – Ruins (Kranky)
- Ashley Paul – Heat Source (Important Records)
- Chiyoko Szlavnics – Gradients of Detail (World Edition)
- Chris Strickland – Animal Expert (Caduc)
- Hecker – Articulaçao (Editions Mego)
- THOMAS – When I’m Weak, I’m Strong
- Aurochs – Rational Animals (Woods and Wires)
- D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah (RCA)
Favourite non-2014 albums I heard for the first time this year.
- Maria De Alvear — Flores (World Edition)
- Maria De Alvear — Libertad (World Edition)
- Maria De Alvear — Equilibrio (Verso)
- The Necks — Open (Northern Spy)
- Annette Peacock — I Have No Feelings (Ironic)
- John Mills-Cockell — Heartbeat (True North Records)
- Roger Eno — Voices (Editions EG)
- Wim Mertens — Educes Me (Les Disques Du Crépescule)
- Beverly Glenn Copeland — Beverly Glenn Copeland (GRT)
- Harold Budd — Bandits of Stature (Darla)
- Amel Larrieux — Ice Cream Everyday (Bliss Life)
Music that already excites me in 2015
- André Vida — Minor Differences (Entr’acte)
- Matana Roberts — Coin Coin Chapter Three: River Run Thee (Constellation)
- Eric Chenaux — Skullsplitter (Constellation)
- André Cormier (perf. Markus Kreul – piano) — Zwischen Den Wolken (Redshift Music)
- Nicholas Krgovich — On Cahuenga (Orindal)
- Cluttertones — Ordinary Joy (Healing Power)
- Scott Tuma — Hard Again/ The River 1-2-3-4 (Scissor Tail Editions)