solo flute with chamber ensemble (cl, bsn, hrn, perc, pno, 2 vln, vla, vcl)
Tirant Lo Blanc was written for flutist Marie-Hélène Breault and the Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal for their Générations 2016 tour. The title, Tirant Lo Blanc is taken from a chivalric romance of the same name, written by the Valencian knight Joanot Martorell, or rather Martorell claims it’s simply a translation of an english text, which has never been found, into Valencian. The text was published posthumously in 1490 and was influential on author Miguel de Cervantes, especially pertaining to Don Quixote, as Tirant the Blanc lacks the platonic and contemplative brand of love, instead full of a more naturalistic, human, and sensual character.
solo baritone, trumpet, trombone, and bass clarinet with string orchestra
Tarantism was written for Loadbang and the String Orchestra of Brooklyn in the Fall/Winter of 2015-2016. The text, both sung and spoken, was drawn from neoplatonic scholarly texts of the 16th and 17th centuries that describe the practice of curing victims of the tarantula bite with music, an ancient practice in Italy. This musical healing ritual was the root of the popular dance of the tarantella. The historical accounts also reflect the idea of music as a magical force, as a piece of music could also be a spell or incantation with the ability to cure the listener. In the drama of Tarantism, the soloist ensemble of lung-powered instruments takes the role of the the musician/doctor while the string orchestra takes the role of the afflicted.
11 players and electronics
Lush was written in the Winter of 2016 for Wet Ink Ensemble. This piece was conceived as a hybrid between concert music and orchestral film music. As a composer of concert music, the attempt to draw out new ideas from mainstream film music may seem unusual, however, as I began exploring the possibilities provided by commercial sound libraries, sampler instruments, and synths, I was drawn to the idea of retuning these electronic instruments to create an electroacoustic part that fills out and expands the chamber ensemble into a bigger, richer sound. The majority, if not entirety, of new film scores are produced using samples along with the occasional sprinkling in of a few live performers to heighten a sense of realism. By creating music in this way, the ideal realizationof this score may be as a recording, where the precise level between live and sampler instruments can be completely controlled.
A second impetus for using an electronic part made from sampler instruments is to facilitate the performance of precise microtones through pitch matching. This method has allowed me include unusual harmonies and chord changes since the pitches of the live instrumental parts are almost always doubled in the electronics.
ob, cl, bari sax, bsn, hrn, trp, bs trb, tba, vln, vla, vcl, 2 cb
This piece represents a departure from my normal way of composing music. The process of writing this piece was as follows:
1. I selected several songs that I enjoyed and knew well: songs that I would often get in my head. These songs were Lyre of Orpheus by Nick Cave, Jesus Gonna Be Here by Tom Waits, If I Were a Boy by Beyonce, Soul Suckin’ Jerk by Beck, and When He Returns by Bob Dylan.
2. I made remixes of these songs to re-imagine them in a way that they might exist if they appeared in one of my dreams. For instance, only a small portion of the song is repeated obsessively and is disjointed or whole sections of the song sound like they being played backwards or in slow motion, etc.
3. I completed detailed transcriptions of the remixes, taking into account instrumental timbre and microtonal inflections.
4. I orchestrated the songs for an ensembles of thirteen instruments.
5. I freely edited and embellished the orchestrations. This stage of the process was not an opportunity to move away from the source material or diverge from the transcriptions, but to move closer to it by using my ear and reacting to the written score.
Les trains ou vont les choses (2010)
chamber orchestra and video
Les trains où vont les choses was composed for le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne in connection with Forum 2010, their 10th International
Forum for Young Composers, combining music with video art. This score accompanies the Nathalie Bujold video of the same name.
In this piece, I attempt to create a one-to-one relationship between image and music. The entire video features a six-by-five pixel
grid, on which images rapidly pass from the upper left pixel to the bottom right pixel. These moving images suggest that the viewer
is looking out the window of a train as it speeds past constantly changing scenery. In composing the score, colours have been associated with tonal centres, while the intensity and shades of the colours have been translated into orchestration and harmonic density.
Following the same principle, the extreme ends of the colour spectrum, white and black, are manifested as noise elements and
microtonal clusters respectively. Furthermore, the oboe and bassoon fulfill a special function by only playing when the video features
a pixilated strobe effect. This pixilated effect appears at select moments throughout the video, most notably at the climax towards the
end, when the pixilated effect is the most intense. In an attempt to transcend the strict one-to-one compositional method, the score also
features musical processes that gradually unfold over the entire course of the work. In this way, a semi-autonomous large-scale musical
form emerges on top of the moment-to-moment correlations between the video and music.
This one-to-one method of composing for video is similar to many cartoon film scores from the 1950s and ’60s, where foley
(sound effects) are integrated into the musical score, most commonly realized as onomatopoetic instrumental sounds. The fast-paced
nature of these cartoons also encouraged the sudden changes in key, tempo and style that occur in these scores in rapid succession.
On the other hand, when working with an abstract piece of video art, such as Les trains où vont les choses, the final result of composing in this manner is vastly different owing to the video’s lack of representational imagery. Furthermore, Bujold’s video is both fluid as well as extremely active on the surface, which affords the composer a higher level of freedom in the sonic interpretation of the abstract
images. This rapid surface movement produces an overall static effect, where one becomes keenly aware of small changes and gradual
alterations in the texture. In this way, I associated this video with La Monte Young’s solo (just-intuned) piano work, The Well Tuned
Piano, which served as a self-imposed “temp track” for the composition of this score.
This work uses an extended just intonation (untempered) mode on B b, which employs sixteen notes per octave, and has been
designed to include a wide range of possible vertical sonorities. In particular, it allows for several just seventh chords that are
unobtainable in equal temperament, which is the standard piano temperament.
Mitya: Concerto for Clarinet (2009)
solo clarinet, chamber orchestra, and electronics
Mitya, a clarinet concerto by Taylor Brook, was composed in partial fulfilment of the Master’s of Music degree at McGill University,
under the supervision of Brian Cherney and Sean Ferguson. Mitya is dedicated to the clarinetist Mark Bradley.
The title of this clarinet concerto is a reference to Kitty and Levin’s son in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. In the final chapters of the
novel, Tolstoy describes the process of conception, pregnancy, birth and infancy from the perspective of the father. Simply put, the
emotional state of the father, Levin, moves from confusion and fear to understanding and acceptance.
In addition to informing the composition on a purely abstract level, I also used passages of the novel to develop the large-scale
form and structure of the work. By avoiding word painting and the desire to make the story evident through the music alone, I have
abstracted the dramatic contour from its original contents. I am interested in the derivation of musical form and structure from strong
physical and emotional experiences such as the conception and birth of a child in the hope that these nearly universal and life-altering
experiences may speak to an innate human emotionality. Perhaps, also, the act of artistic creation can be understood as a life-giving
activity in which one’s creation will go on to have a life of its own.
Mitya has three movements, performed without breaks. Each movement is defined by a different tonal centre and approach to
harmony. The first movement focuses on the note A5 as a point of reference, played by the clarinet throughout the movement. As this
A holds, harmonies fade in and out around it, giving the held note several different harmonic functions. The second movement is a
passacaglia, which modulates up a just major third with every cycle of the passacaglia theme. Because of the unusual modulations, the
tonality of the second movement slides further and further away from equal temperament as the theme repeats. The final movement
features a clear D pitch centre throughout, with many different harmonies changing in reference to the D using a quasi-functional