hornworts & liverworts

May 9, 2014 (Toronto) at the Canadian Music Centre:  Roseen Giles, traverso, Wesley Shen, harpsichord Edwin Huizinga, baroque violin, Evan Buttar, baroque cello Adam Scime, conductor


Utopia Machine II, Chedo Barone

above the tree line, Emilie Cecilia LeBel

An Overture for Joy, Christopher Reiche

Maritime, Christopher Butterfield


murmuring, Anna Höstman

Recasted Trope, Graham Flett


Program Notes:

Utopia Machine II (2011) is the second in a series of open-instrumentation works concerned with collective action. In this second utopia machine, the players are to play a single musical line; the unique, independent functioning of each human body destroys the possibility of togetherness.

above the treeline—”I used to think I could write a poem about anything that contained ambivalence or tension. The glue that holds poetry together, I thought, was doubt. There is very little to write about if you are sure about a thing. Doubt allows for the necessary thousand permutations of a question; it adds depth and dimension to almost everything…I think now that ownership is another key component. You need to feel entitled to speak for or to a place. You need to see yourself as part of the landscape, and this is true for our imagined spaces as well as the places that actually exist…” —Sarah Yi-Mei Tsiang

An Overture for Joy—A heartbeat and a sigh form the foundation for An Overture for Joy. In early music, the heartbeat was used to inform the tactus of a piece (the tactus being best understood as beats on which you would tap your foot). Here the “short long” of the heartbeat becomes inverted to form the characteristic “long short” of the French Overture inspired ending of this piece. Musically, a sigh was often expressed as a descending two-note pattern. This device was used most often when the affect (mood) of the piece was to reflect sorrow. A descending two-note pattern also makes an appearance in this piece. An Overture For Joy is a sorrowful piece, a manifestation of the stasis that goes along with that emotion, it is an appeal for joy.

Maritime comprises three distinct sections, with a fourth being an unsynchronized combination of the first three. There’s no particular organizing principle; it’s just a series of objects, brought together. ‘Maritime’ is dedicated to Anna Höstman and Blue Moss Ensemble.

murmuring—In September I walked the last 200 kilometres of the Camino de Santiago with three friends. “Murmuring” is drawn from this experience. The work is based on trilling, a musical technique that blurs harmonic material, placing it in a space harder to locate, somewhere between pitch and noise. This connects with my experience of walking the Camino, as I felt myself in continual conversation with the past and the present, with self and others, as well as with a vast number of ghosts, languages, and residual footsteps. The trill can also be an energetic and exuberant sound— like the flapping wings of startled grouse propelling from the underbrush. Somehow this also seemed to fit. I’m profoundly grateful for the support of the Toronto Emerging Composer’s Award in the creation of this piece, made possible by Roger D. Moore and Michael Koerner. Heartfelt thanks to Edwin, Wesley, Roseen, Evan and Adam Scime.

Recasted Trope is a variation based on another set of far more famous variations. Given the special sound of period instruments, I wanted to establish a connection to the era when these instruments originated, and also reinvigorate a very well-known musical language. With this in mind, the sharp listener (or avid program reader) will become aware that the bass line and harmony are from the famous ground bass that J.S. Bach also borrowed when he wrote the Goldberg Variations. This well-known ground bass embodies the trope, but beyond this, any direct connection to Bach’s work ends. Overall, my recasting of this old musical friend places it into quite a different light, gradually revealing music on the margins, denying and affirming many of our experiences and inherited expectations.