Posts Tagged ‘collage’


  • Instrumentation: flt, flt, clar, alto sax, bari sax, hrn, trpt, tbn, tbn, tba, pno, elec gtr, bass gtr, drums
  • Duration: 13'00
  • Performers:orkest de ereprijs, conductor: Wim Boerman
  • Commissioned by orkest de ereprijs

Program Notes

Much of my recent work deals with the issue of reappropriation. Where do we get our ideas? What do we owe, if anything, to our sources of inspiration? Historically, composers have stolen ideas from each other regularly, reworking these into their music and taking all the credit (and the money, if they could). The invention of copyright was the first attempt at giving credit to the originators of ideas, but this has evolved over time into a corporate-controlled system of property that promotes the fiction that new ideas somehow spontaneously appear out of nothingness.

Composers have always taken each others’ ideas, and if they didn’t, there would be no composing. But now the big music companies would want us to believe that this is somehow wrong. It is, certainly, wrong to profit from the work of others without making any contribution oneself, but there are many uses of existing music that do make new, meaningful contributions. For this reason, I’ve taken an interest in quotation, collage, and related techniques. It’s a way to pay homage to the music that has influenced me while at the same time exposing the false idea that creativity comes out of nothingness. So here I am, cards on the table, showing everyone the music I was thinking of when working on this piece—by quoting that music.

Thus the title Elegy of Others. I wanted to write a piece that was reflective and sombre, and I wanted to make it a collage of the work of others. This was a particular challenge, because I have found collage better suited to fast, upbeat music than it is to the slow and sombre; quotations tend to lose their character when the tempo is slow, and phrases made up of long quotes do not cohere very well. For this reason, I had to approach this piece differently than in my previous work, transforming the material in more extreme ways for the sake of musical expression. In Elegy of Others, therefore, the quotations are not always immediately recognizable, though they do come to the surface periodically. Nevertheless, almost every note in Elegy of Others is quoted, with few exceptions. The pieces quoted are, in order of appearance:

  1. The Four Seasons, “Drunkards Asleep”, Antonio Vivaldi, 1723
  2. “The Girl from Ipanema”, Antonio Carlos Jobim, 1962
  3. “Everybody Hurts”, R.E.M., 1992
  4. “Dazed and Confused”, Led Zeppelin, 1968
  5. Die schöne Müllerin, “Des Müllers Blumen”, Franz Schubert, 1823


    • Instrumentation: sop, vln, b. clar, pno
    • Duration: 14'00
    • Commissioned by New Works Calgary and the Canada Council for the Arts, for Ensemble Resonance

    Program Notes

    Kiss Around the World was commissioned by New Works Calgary and the Canada Council for the Arts for Ensemble Resonance. It is the second Around the World piece that I have written, taking a single word—in this case kiss—and presenting it in a wide variety of languages.

    The idea of kissing takes on very different connotations in different languages, and I wanted to find a connotation that was as universal as possible. Therefore, in Kiss Around the World I decided to focus on the idea of the nurturing kiss, the kiss a parent would give a child. This was the most universal use of kissing I came across. Romantic kissing, which is what I initially thought would make the best focus, is not universal. It did not exist in much of Asia before the arrival of the Europeans; Koreans and Japanese actually use a modified form of the English word for romantic kissing.

    Musically, Kiss Around the World is made up of a series of short sound units, usually one per word, that are arranged and developed into a lyrical, flowing texture. Being a composer obsessed with fragmentation and contrast, this was a novel and stimulating challenge for me that grew out of the theme of the piece and the musical materials at hand. The result is a soothing, gentle piece that has certain aspects of a lullaby, all the while employing the collage/mosaic techniques that are the hallmarks of my style. There is even a little collage surprise at the end of the piece…

    I’m pleased and excited to announce that I was declared the winner of this year’s annual Young Composers Meeting in the Netherlands, hosted by renowned Dutch ensemble, orkest de ereprijs. The jurors chose between 16 pieces that the invited composers wrote for the ensemble. My piece, Love in the Time of Connectivity, was a collage of approximately a dozen other pieces, with sources ranging from Claude Debussy to Pizzicato Five. I’ll be writing another piece for the ensemble, to be performed in 2010.


    • Instrumentation: sop, pno, keys, drums (all amplified)
    • Duration: 90’00
    • Made possible through the financial support of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Banff Centre

    Program Notes

    Recy­cled 80s Live is a col­lage of small frag­ments of ‘80s pop songs, recom­posed and recon­tex­tu­al­ized into a new, larger work. I chose this approach because artists have always bor­rowed mate­r­ial from one another, but copy­right is increas­ingly being abused to pre­vent bor­row­ing. This sit­u­a­tion is a threat to cul­ture and cre­ativ­ity in gen­eral and it deserves to receive atten­tion.

    Copy­right has always had two roles, to pro­tect the rights of the cre­ator, but more broadly, to encour­age cre­ativ­ity. With­out copy­right, artists would never be prop­erly rewarded for their work and art would not get made. But with­out fair deal­ing pro­vi­sions (or fair use in the U.S.), copy­right law stran­gles cre­ativ­ity by making art­works inaccessible.

    Over the past 100 years, cor­po­rate inter­ests have increas­ingly tried to restrict or remove fair deal­ing from copy­right. Copy­right in 1900 was only 14 years long and had to be offi­cially requested. This meant that artists at the time could draw on a huge store of rel­a­tively fresh mate­r­ial in their work, lead­ing to the explo­sion of cre­ativ­ity that marked the birth of Hol­ly­wood, the avant-garde, jazz, and more. Now copy­right is auto­matic, can last over 150 years, and legit­i­mate works that use fair deal­ing are fre­quently attacked in court by cor­po­rate inter­ests. This trend has only accel­er­ated with the rise of dig­i­tal music tech­nol­ogy and file sharing.

    For this reason, Recy­cled 80s Live draws entirely from mate­r­ial still under copy­right, with­out per­mis­sion. This can be done under fair deal­ing as long as the new work cre­ates new artis­tic value and does not take away from the market for the orig­i­nals. I designed Recy­cled 80s Live to respect these bound­aries, work­ing within the tra­di­tion of mash-up artists such as John Oswald or Girl Talk, but with live musi­cians. My mes­sage, to adapt an old adage, is that your right to swing your copy­right ends where my music begins.

    Some exciting news. I’ve received funding to develop a musical project that I have been planning for several years. It involves writing an evening-length piece for amplified instruments, to be performed in non-traditional venues such as nightclubs. This is a large-scale project that I will be working on over the remainder of the year. More information to be posted as the work progresses.