Posts Tagged ‘cuba’

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Too many artists embrace a mystical, new-agey approach to creativity that is completely counterproductive. There’s nothing magical about being creative; it’s just something you train your brain to do through practice. It’s part biology and part routine, and Chuck Close perhaps sums it up most eloquently when he says, “Just show up and get to work.” The way I write music is not mathematical by any stretch of the imagination, and I rely heavily on intuition, but fairytales are not required.

I wonder sometimes if new-agey, feel-good attitudes in the arts are simply the unfortunate byproduct of an artistic temperament: a sort of mental ground hum that comes from plugging the creative mind into the same neurons that power other human emotions. Maybe so, but when I read something like Mason Currey’s Daily Rituals, it becomes very clear that the world’s great artists are overwhelmingly immune to any such interference. They have strongly engrained routines, yes, and they may guard those to the point of superstition. They may also lead highly religious or mystical lives outside of art. But when it comes to the nuts and bolts of the creative act itself, great artists are extremely down to earth. (more…)

2008
2007
  • Culture no.1 included in the SCI Journal of Music Scores (Vol. 40)
2006–present
2006
  • “Gaudeamus Music Week Review”. Canadian New Music Review. cnmr.earsay.com
May 2005
  • Radio interview, CIUT, Music Factory. Toronto, Canada
Live interview and feature broadcast of my music
2004
  • Guest lecturer, Composers’ Seminar, University of Toronto
Gave a presentation highlighting the parallels between rhythmic constructs in Cuban music and functional tonality

2005–2007
M.A. in Composition, University of California, San Diego
Composition study with Chinary Ung and Philippe Manoury.
2002–2005
B.Mus. in Composition, University of Toronto
(Additionally: Jazz Performance, 2002–2003)
Graduated with honours. Composition study with Chan Ka Nin, John Hawkins, and Alexander Rapoport; percussion study with Bob McLaren.
1999–2002
B.A. in Composition, University of Alberta
Composition study with Howard Bashaw; percussion study with Brian Jones. Transferred to the University of Toronto in 2002.
1998–2001
Music Diplomas in Composition and Jazz, Grant MacEwan College
Graduated with honours. Composition study with Gordon Nicholson; percussion study with Brian Thurgood.
May–Jun 2001
Composition and Folkloric Cuban Percussion Studies, Havana, Cuba
Composition: Guido López-Gavilán, Instituto Superior de Arte.
Batá drumming: Tony Urdaneto, Ballet Folklórico Nacional.
Rumba drumming: Raul González, Conjunto Clave y Guaguancó.

Since the age of two, I have wanted to play the drums. A big part of my music career has been as a percussionist, and it was through percussion that I started with contemporary classical music. It was also the catalyst for my exploration of many other kinds of music, and I was quite active as a performer until recently.

As a child, I moved between classical percussion and jazz drumming, thanks to the influence of my teacher, Trevor Brandenburg. Because the classical percussion repertoire is largely modern, I had an early exposure to twentieth-​century music, and I always liked it. I had had relatively little experience with the classical Western canon, so I never learned the misconception that modern classical music is different, weird, or “difficult”. Also being a percussionist, I didn’t focus very much on pitch aspects of music until my later teens.

After high school, I decided I would study jazz drumming, so I enrolled in the jazz program at Grant MacEwan College (GMC) in Edmonton. Brian Thurgood, my teacher at GMC, encouraged me to polish my technique and work towards a professional level of performance. I enjoyed this challenge, and my playing improved tremendously. However, the more I refined the skills I had in jazz and pop, the more I was curious to learn about other kinds of music. I was especially interested in Cuban music, and studied privately with Cuban percussionist Mario Allende for several years. I also took some courses at the University of Alberta on Ghanaian Ewe music.

The Cuban studies in particular had an influence on me, and I eventually ended up studying in Havana (see Curriculum Vitæ). My curiosity for exploring new kinds of music also led me to start composing. I started out doing arrangements for bands I played with, then eventually began composing my own songs. Gradually I became more interested in learning how to write for instruments I didn’t play and that weren’t normally part of the jazz/pop ensemble.

After moving to Toronto in 2002, the demands of my compositional career prevented me from doing much performing. Since that time, most of my performance projects have been based around free improvisation.

I play the following categories of percussion. I also own most of these instruments:

  • Drumset, including rock, jazz, pop, and Cuban styles
  • Mallet percussion, especially the marimba
  • Orchestral percussion of all kinds
  • Cuban percussion, including congas, bongos, timbales, batá, güiro, etc.