New Piece


This coming Friday May 24th will be the premiere of my new piece “Rift” by the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra.

It’s a  brutal short piece (ca. 5’00”) for chamber orchestra. Very intense and, well, brutal. This is me returning to what I loved to do and probably do best. To give you a sense of it, it starts with the timpani playing solo with the indication “Like war drums. Fill the hall.” So I am looking forward to it and I hope the orchestra does well with it.

Here’s information about the concert. 


Form that Makes Sense

As I always tell my students that music should come from a real place that relates to our human experience, to how we see the world and experience it.

I really believe that. Music theory should be a manifestation of something that is real and not something forced and artificial, and I live it everyday in my own writing.

For example, I am currently completing a new commission for the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra, and I am using some simple ideas of form based on what I think would be a universal human experience: confusion leading to clarity.

Here’s the passage from this piece that led to me writing this blog post.

Screen capture from work in progress

The counterpoint is very tight and overlaps, leading to lots of dissonance and lack of clarity in the lines as they get kind of jumbled together. It’s confusing, it’s messy, it’s nasty and unclear and and filled with tension on its way to a resolution.

I love this simple idea of confusion leading to clarity. I am sure this is something we instinctively understand because it is an intrinsic part of our daily lives. And so it has become one of my most commonly used guides in my writing.


Starting on new commission

Today I have started work on a new commission for the Vancouver Metropolitan Orchestra. The concert will be next month.

It is a short piece under 5 minutes to be accompanied by a slide show or short video created by a local painter. I have seen the paintings and they are abstract and colourful.

This is excellent, because I wanted to focus more on colour with this piece as a contrast to my other pieces for the VMO which have been driven by melody and rhythm.

The start of a new piece or score involves a few things for me.

Long showers where I imagine the orchestra and what I want to hear.

Lots of listening. I believe in standing on the shoulders of giants, and by this I do not mean that my aim is to imitate. No, this is quite against my nature. My goal is to take great ideas that excite me and build on them, extract a concept from them and do something completely different with it. The goal is find new ideas and constantly improve my technique.

Right now, my concept for this piece is to make colour and melody into one. What do I mean by that exactly? … Well, it’s hard to explain in a few words, and frankly, I am not really sure I’ll be able to make it work like I have in my head right now. It’s still vague. But it’s important to have a goal! So we shall see…