tumblr page counter

New Music Concerts Robert Aitken, artistic director

Then and Now


edge
Sunday February 3, 2013
Introduction 7:15 | Concert 8:00
Betty Oliphant Theatre, 404 Jarvis Street [MAP]
Canadian Music, Past, Present and Future
New Music Concerts Ensemble
Robert Aitken, direction

Interplay
for piccolo, tuba and piano (1998) - John Weinzweig (Canada 1913-2006)

Trio for Flute, Viola and Harp (2011) - R. Murray Schafer (Canada 1933)

In The Earth And Air (2013) for soprano and ensemble - Adam Scime (Canada 1982)
World premiere - NMC Ontario Arts Council commission

Die klingende Zeit (1993-94) - Brian Cherney (Canada 1942)

En Masse (2013) - Brian Harman (Canada 1981)
World premiere - NMC Canada Council commission

-

WEINZWEIG


Born in 1913 to Polish-Jewish immigrants, John Weinzweig became a noted Canadian composer, educator and advocate. Weinzweig’s early musical training led to an interest in composition and he spent between 1934-37 studying at the University of Toronto with Healy Willan, Leo Smith, and Sir Ernest McMillan. Following the completion of his education in Toronto, Weinzweig moved to Rochester, NY to study with Howard Hanson at the Eastman School of Music. There he was first introduced to serial compositional techniques. For the remainder of his career, Weinzweig continued to use serialism as the governing structure behind his compositions even when he experimented with other musical ideas.

Following a decade long tenure at the CBC (1941-51), Weinzweig’s compositional interests returned to concert music. In 1951, Weinzweig, along with Harry Somers and Samuel Dolin, founded the Canadian League of Composers. Aside from establishing the CLC in the early 1950s, John Weinzweig also joined the Faculty of Music at the University of Toronto in 1952 where he taught generations of Canadian composers. Although the late 1950s began a period of decreased compositional output for Weinzweig, he became a determined advocate for Canadian music. Weinzweig, along with fellow composer John Beckwith, presented a brief to the Canada Council in 1957 which led to the formation of the Canadian Music Centre in the same year. From 1973-5 Weinzweig acted as the president of CAPAC, the Composers, Authors, and Publishers Association of Canada.

From the late 1970s until his death in 2006, John Weinzweig’s compositional output increased dramatically. He moved away from chamber, orchestral, and dramatic works and towards solo works for instruments. In the 1990s, Weinzweig further explored vocal and theatrical works. Weinzweig received a number of awards recognising his advocacy, pedagogy, and compositions including the Order of Canada (1974), the Canada Council Medal (1978), President Emeritus of the CLC (1981), the Molson Prize (1981), The Roy Thomson Hall Award (1991), the Toronto Arts Award for Music (1998), and in 2004 at the age of 91, the SOCAN life achievement award. Weinzweig remained an active voice at SOCAN and CLC meetings until 2004 and continued to compose until shortly before he passed away in 2006. He is remembered as the Dean of Canadian Composers, as his advocacy, pedagogy, and compositional style changed the face of music in Canada.— Erin Scheffer

Interplay for piccolo, tuba and piano (1998)

Weinzweig’s music has long been celebrated for its natural affinity for the colours of wind instruments, which have often been featured as soloists in the series of twelve Divertimenti that have marked the stages of a creative career that spans over half a century. The first of these was composed in 1946 for fiute and string orchestra and the twelfth (from 1998) was scored for woodwind quintet and strings. It is with these works in mind that he described his composition which was composed for New Music Concerts and premiered during "Robert Aitken at Sixty" at the 1999 Massey Hall New Music Festival:

In retrospect, those intimate voices, the woodwinds, dominated my solo repertoire. I had served them well. Then I heard a high-pitched voice at my door. It was a Piccolo begging to join my woodwind family. I pondered its sonic personality; so unvocal, ranging from piercing to shrill, it seemed at odds with the intimate voices. Perhaps, by removing it from the orchestral environment I might discover a more serene temperament. Finally, during the summer of '98, I sensed a solution: three disparate voices, combining the agility of the Piccolo, the articulate power of the Tuba and the Piano’s orchestral spectrum set in a series of dialogues. — John Weinzweig

-

SCHAFER


Born in Sarnia, Ontario in 1933, R Murray Schafer has gained an international reputation not only for his work as a composer, but also as an educator, researcher, writer, ecologist, and visual artist. A highly prolific composer, Schafer has produced works in every musical genre, from opera to music theatre, to chamber and orchestral music, by way of pieces for choir and a variety of soloists. The richness and depth of works such as Loving (1965), Lustro (1972), Music for Wilderness Lake (1979), Flute Concerto (1984), the World Soundscape Project, and the twelve-part work for music theatre Patria, illustrate the wide range of Schafer’s artistic interests. His eleven string quartets are among his most significant works. The composer’s celebrated book, The Tuning of the World (1977), documents the results of the World Soundscape Project — research that brings together the social, scientific, and artistic aspects of sound and which introduced the notion of sonic ecology. A number of Schafer’s compositions and writings have become reference points for the evolution of music and musical thought during this and the past century. He has received commissions from countless organizations and has been recognized with a number of prestigious prizes. Schafer was the first recipient of the Glenn Gould Prize, and was also awarded the Molson Prize for his contribution to the arts; he holds six honourary doctorates from universities in Canada, France, and Argentina. His autobiography “My Life on Earth and Elsewhere” was published by The Porcupine's Quill in 2012.

Trio for flute, viola and harp (2011)

R. Murray Schafer’s Trio for flute, viola and harp was commissioned by the Trio Verlaine (Lorna McGhee, flute, David Harding, viola and Heidi Krutzen, harp) and was premiered at the Music on Main series in Vancouver on March 16, 2011. The first movement is predominantly lyrical, full of cascading figures and overlapping rhythms. The effect is a very fluid, almost impressionistic texture, with ebb and flow living, breathing organism rather than three separate voices. The opening flute motive is especially important as it reappears in various guises in both the first and second movements. Its first statement is delicate and lyrical in the flute and undergoes many later transformations and inversions — at times passionate and emphatic, or in the viola solos, mournful and hesitant until, at the end of the movement, it returns with joyful exuberance. The tonal language is full of rich sonorities and unusual, otherworldly colors (such as high viola harmonics above the flute).

The second movement opens with an incredible sense of hush — as if entering a sacred space. Murray himself was surprised by what he described as the “hymn-like” nature of the opening — an element that returns throughout the movement only to be interrupted by more active rhapsodic passages — as if the two are in a struggle with each other. At the end of the movement, although there is again the sense of hush, there is no resolution. The lack of resolution in the second movement acts as a kind of a pivot or hinge, creating a sense of anticipation before entering into the third movement.

The third movement is characterized by its wild, folk-like rhythms and driving ostinatos. Constantly shifting meters create an edgy, impulsive quality. The primary feeling of this movement is visceral — it is a dance. There is a brief moment of respite, where the flute sings a bluesy, whimsical riff over an ostinato in viola and harp, but then the wild opening material returns and drives the piece at break-neck speed to its conclusion. — Lorna McGhee

-

SCIME


As a young composer and performer living in Toronto, Adam Scime’s work has received many awards including The Socan Young Composer's Competition, and The Karen Keiser Prize in Canadian Music. Adam was also appointed Composer in residence with the GamUT contemporary ensemble for the 2010/2011 concert season, a residency that saw the commissioning of two new works, and one new installation. In March of 2011, New Music Concerts premiered Adam’s trio, After the rioT for flute, double bass and piano for a concert celebrating the music of the prominent late English composer Jonathan Harvey. Recently, Adam’s orchestral piece Mirage was selected as the winning entry in the Esprit Orchestra composition competition. Mirage was subsequently performed as part of Esprit’s regular 2011/12 season and broadcast on CBC Radio. In November of 2012, Adam’s work was featured in the Music Gallery’s Emergents concert series. In early 2012, the premiere of Adam’s new Opera, Rob Ford: An Operatic Life attracted an audience of over 800 people, and was received with much critical praise.

In addition to his activities as a composer, Adam also works frequently as a freelance double bassist specializing in new music, making regular appearances performing with the Arraymusic Ensemble and with New Music Concerts. Adam is currently studying with Gary Kulesha at the University of Toronto where he has been awarded a full fellowship to study as a Doctoral student in composition. Previous to his current position at U of T, Adam studied composition at The University of Western Ontario, where his teachers included Peter Paul Koprowski and Paul Frehner.

In The Earth And Air for soprano & ensemble (2013)

“Strings in the earth and air make sweet music” — James Joyce

As I began the search to find text for this piece, I decided that the crux of the poetry must directly relate to my compositional approach. It came as no surprise that I gravitated naturally to the poetry of the Imagists. Originating in America during the early part of the twentieth century, Imagism favored precision of imagery, a clear and defined syntax, and the attempt to isolate a single image to expose its fundamental nature. In the poetry of the Imagists I found a direct relation to my own compositional process. Throughout each movement of this piece, the hierarchy of musical parameters are defined by an attempt to isolate a single idea, and reveal its essence. Simple musical materials are juxtaposed in order to express a luminous abstraction in a similar manner to the way in which the Imagists created a clear and sharp language in their poetry.

In the four movements of this piece I have used poetry from James Joyce’s Chamber Music, Ezra Pound’s Ripostes, and one poem by Brandon Pitts, from his collection Pressure to Sing. Placing texts by Pound and Joyce, two prominent Imagists, together in a single work seemed appropriate due their similar approach to the Imagist movement. Pound was even known to have admired Joyce’s Chamber Music for its delicate temperament. To complement the texts by Pound and Joyce, I searched for an appropriate text by a living Canadian poet. The poem Loved Creatures by Brandon Pitts proved to be a most fitting companion to the texts I chose by Joyce and Pound.

I would like to thank the Ontario Arts Council for their assistance with the commissioning of this work. I would also like to send my deepest thanks to Bob Aitken and New Music Concerts for their continuing faith in emerging composers and contemporary Canadian music. — Adam Scime

-

CHERNEY


Brian Cherney studied composition with Samuel Dolin at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto from 1960 until 1963 and later with John Weinzweig at the University of Toronto. He received graduate degrees from the University of Toronto in both composition (Mus.M. 1967) and musicology (Ph.D. 1974). Since 1972 he has been on the staff of the Faculty of Music (now the Schulich School of Music) at McGill University in Montreal, where he teaches composition, the history of Canadian music, and twentieth-century analysis. In 2005 he was the recipient of an Outstanding Teaching Award from the Faculty and was chair of the Theory Department from 2002-5.

Since 1960 Cherney has written more than one hundred pieces, including concertos for violin (1963), oboe (1989) and piano (1990), chamber concertos for viola, flute, and cello, music for orchestra, and much chamber music, as well as for solo instruments and choir. Many of his works were published by the Québec publisher Éditions Doberman-Yppan. He is also the author of a monograph on the music of the Canadian composer Harry Somers, commissioned by the Canadian Music Centre and published by the University of Toronto Press in 1975. Recently, he and Toronto composer John Beckwith co-edited a collection of essays on the life and music of Canadian composer John Weinzweig, which was published in January 2011 by Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

In April of 2006, Cherney was the Michael and Sonja Koerner Distinguished Visitor in Composition at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto. In recent years, his pieces have been performed by such groups as The RIAS Kammerchor (Die Niemandsrose), the Hilliard Ensemble and the Tafelmusik Choir (An Unfinished Life), the Molinari Quartet (String Quartet No. 6), and the Trio Fibonaci (Musiques nocturnes). A recent piece for choir and percussion ensemble (Sérénade triste) was performed in May 2012 in Montreal by VivaVoce and Sixtrum.

Die klingende Zeit for ensemble (1993-94)

Die klingende Zeit was commissioned by the Pierrot Ensemble with the aid of a grant from The Canada Council. I began writing the piece in October 1993 and finished it at the beginning of February, 1994. Die klingende Zeit is scored for seven performers: flute (doubling alto flute), clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), percussion (1 player), piano, violin, viola and cello. The title (which may be freely translated as “The Music of Time”) is a reference to the ways in which the passage of time has been made audible in the West since the invention of the mechanical clock during the Middle Ages. At first, bells were rung to signal the hours of prayer (“canonical hours”) in monasteries and churches but with the invention of smaller clocks suitable for use in the home in the early fifteenth century, the sound of bells and chimes marking the passing of time became part of domestic life. The invention of the “repeater watch” by Daniel Quare during the 1680s made it possible for the owner of such a watch to “hear” the time upon demand: by pushing a special slide piece on the side of the watch, one could cause the watch to “chime” the hours and quarter hours (and later, minutes) by means of a system of tiny metal rods and hammers. In the twentieth century, the “repeater” mechanism has been sufficiently miniaturized to be placed in wristwatches made by leading Swiss watch manufacturers such as Blancpain and Patek Philippe.

In my piece, Die klingende Zeit, the twenty-four-hour day has been divided into four quarters, each representing a six-hour period reduced in real time (i.e. chronological time) to six-and-a-half minutes. The first section, representing one quarter, begins at 12:00 noon (imagined time) and is followed by a second section representing 18:00 hours to midnight, and a third section representing midnight to 06:00 hours (dawn). The fourth quarter — 06:00 hours to 12:00 noon — does not exist in the piece, only in the imagination. Thus the total length of the piece is nineteen-and-a-half minutes (3 x 6½). At the appropriate places during these three sections (representing three of the four quarters of the twenty-four-hour cycle), the “canonical hours” are “chimed”, using various instrumental resources (usually involving percussion instruments) and at certain places, the current “time” in the twenty-four-hour cycle (proportioned in scale to the four cycles of the chronological time of the piece) is rung in the manner of a “minute repeater” watch (using percussion instruments and/or piano). As the music unfolds, allusions are made to existing music having to do in some way with time: e.g. Ravel’s piano piece La Vallée des cloches, the movement entitled “Nacht” from Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and the song “Um Mitternacht” from Mahler’s Fünf Lieder nach Rückert. Thus, on one level, the piece is about time made “audible” but on another level it is about the way we experience music during the passage of chronological time. The “chiming” of “time(s)” during the piece is thus intended to be a symbol of a deeper preoccupation with the experiential time of music. (For instance, at a deeper structural level, each six-and-a-half minute section is based on a cycle of seven durations which I call “breathing rhythms”, ranging from six seconds (chronological time) to thirty seconds and the proportions of these seven durations govern the proportions of the seven larger structural units of the piece [which are superimposed on the three six-and-a-half minute units mentioned above]).

However, on another level, the piece is also a kind of chamber concerto for flute (doubling alto flute) and small ensemble. Thus, the flute is given a leading role during certain sections of the work. I did this as a special tribute to the founder, director and wonderful flautist of the Pierrot Ensemble, Robert Cram, to whom Die klingende Zeit is dedicated. — Brian Cherney

-

HARMAN


Brian Harman, born in Montréal in 1981, is a composer, pianist, teacher and arts promoter. Harman’s works are frequently inspired by extra-musical elements, such as human speech, architecture, modern dance and technology, with recent works exploring concepts of ritual in music. He has written for a wide variety of media: orchestra, wind ensemble, choir, chamber ensembles, song cycle, solo piano, theatre, modern dance, film music and live electronics. Harman received his Doctor of Music in Composition from McGill University in 2012, where he studied with Prof. Denys Bouliane, exploring music-architecture relationships in his research. He received his Masters degree from McGill, and his Bachelor of Music from the University of Toronto. Among his previous composition teachers are Brian Cherney, Larysa Kuzmenko, and Chan Ka Nin. Harman is an associate composer with the Canadian Music Centre, and has participated in various workshops and residencies, including Impuls (Graz, Austria, 2013), Rencontres de Nouvelle Musique (Domaine Forget, 2007), the National Arts Centre Composers Programme (Ottawa, 2006), and the Canadian Contemporary Music Workshop's String Quartet session (Toronto, 2006). He has received grants for his compositions and research from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the SOCAN Foundation, the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, and the Fonds de Recherche sur la Société et la Culture.

En Masse for ensemble (2013)

Much of my recent compositional work has been inspired by elements of ritual in music — most notably, music associated with ceremonies, celebrations, rites of passage and other communal events, as well as music related to routine human activities, quirky personal habits and the vocalizations that accompany repetitive physical actions. Rituals, in all their forms, define us and our beliefs, since they make up so much of our daily lives. We express ourselves through the rituals we perform. En Masse, for seven instruments, uses and manipulates “ceremonial” musical material from the past. It portrays a ritualistic communal procession, evoking group singing and incantation. — Brian Harman