Program Notes

Large Ensemble

The End is in Sight­­­­­­ – Orchestral Composition (2021)

After completing the The Four Seasons of COVID-19 for full orchestra I felt that the piece wasn’t complete and that I needed to write another work for full orchestra to illustrate the end of the pandemic. At the time of completion of this composition Alberta was ‘open for summer’ and the province was elated about the prospect of the end of the pandemic being within reach. Unbeknownst to myself and the rest of Alberta we were in for another wave of the pandemic in the fall. Perhaps I will need to write yet another orchestral work when the pandemic comes to an actual conclusion but until then this piece will serve as the hopeful end to a difficult time. This piece is comprised of three movements; I. Third Wave, II. Time to Heal, and III. Time to Celebrate!.

The Four Seasons of COVID-19­­­­­­ – Orchestral Composition (2021)

This piece was commissioned by the Rocky Mountain Symphony Orchestra with support from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. This composition describes the different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic and the emotions and experiences that coincided with each stage. The title of this piece is taken from another orchestral piece The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi.  Similar to Vivaldi’s piece, The Four Seasons of COVID-19 also outlines the four seasons beginning with spring.  However, this work illustrates the stages of the pandemic as it progresses through the seasons instead of the character of each season as in Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons.  The first movement is entitled Spring-First Wave and illustrates the anxiety and panic felt at the beginning of the pandemic with the first wave performed by ascending lines that become increasingly faster in tempi and that are moving towards a higher tessitura to show the height of the first wave.  The second movement is entitled Summer-Time to Reflect and depicts the calm of the summer after the stressful spring.  The instruments carry a melody throughout sharing it among instrument families (the strings, the brass, the woodwinds etc.) to show the cohort system that was adopted to keep families safe.  This movement also has several solo lines throughout to depict the isolation and quarantine that many endured.  The third movement Fall – Second Wave is Coming shows the start and stop motion felt through the fall with school back in and sports back on but then students having to quarantine and sports and other activities coming to an abrupt stop.  Again the music depicts the anxiety felt with society trying to get back to a new normal amidst the pandemic.  This movement ends with wave-like rapidly ascending lines to show the second wave. With no end in sight the last movement is entitled Winter- This is Never Going to End.  This movement has a somber character with all of the instruments playing unison rhythm portraying a homophonic texture to show how united people are world-wide during the fight against the pandemic.  People around the world have been sharing similar emotions of frustration, despair, and anxiety.  However, the movement depicting summer did show some positive impacts of the pandemic as there was often more time for self reflection.  The last movement of the piece ends with a timpani solo showing the pent up frustration towards an unending pandemic.  

The Fog – Wind Ensemble Composition (2005)

Resound – Orchestral Composition (2005)

Northern Lights – Orchestral Composition (2004)

Small Ensemble

Awakening – Woodwind Trio Composition (2016)

Emily Dickinson Suite – Soprano and Cello Composition (2009)

The two works composed for the Emily Dickinson Suite may be performed together as a suite or individually as separate pieces.  The first work of the suite, The Skies Can’t Keep Their Secret! was premiered by Kathleen Corcoran and Tanya Prochazka during the fall of 2010.

The Snow Man – SATB (2009)

This piece was commissioned by the Airdrie Community Choir to celebrate the city of Airdrie’s centennial year. The text for this piece is taken from Wallace Steven’s poem ‘The Snow Man’ (1921). This piece begins with an extremely low range in the bass and a high soprano line to depict the space in the prairies and winter.

Waves – Piano Quartet Composition (2007)

This piece consists of five movements moving in a wave like structure.  The pitch content moves from high to low and then climbs back up to the high tessitura by the end of the piece.  Also, each movement emphasizes one open string pitch with each movement moving down by a fifth.  In addition to the structure of the piece creating one big wave, each movement contains wave like motions. 

I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud – Voice, Violin, Clarinet, Piano Composition (2006)

The text for this work is taken from William Wordsworth’s poem ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’.  The main focus of this composition is the melody line in the voice.  The piece opens with fragments of this melody in the instruments and voice.  The composition then moves towards a full statement of the melody by the end of the piece. 

Supernova – Soprano, Piano, Violin, Viola, 2 Horn, Tuba Composition (2004)

Horizon – Violin, Cello, Piano Composition (2004)

This piece was a finalist in the Land’s End Ensemble Composer’s Competition. This work is composed of two sections, entitled Sunset and Sunrise respectively.  Horizon is a programmatic work that aims to illustrate the image of a sunrise and sunset on the horizon.  The sunset is depicted by an overwhelming sense of calm and tranquility, while the sunrise bursts forth with brilliant energy.

Celestial – 2 Piano and 2 Percussion Composition (2004)

This piece illustrates the sky and outer space, especially the night sky and all it entails including the northern lights and stars. I was influenced by the music of George Crumb while writing this piece. There are moments of silence to represent the night and vastness of space, with sustain in the sounds. The high pitches represent the sparkle of the stars, and the music begins and ends contemplative. In the middle of the piece there is heightened drama to represent the explosion of stars, creation of black holes and other large events.

Release – Violin and Cello Composition (2003)

This piece was initially written for the Land’s End Ensemble’s Composer Competition in 2003. This piece was unsuccessful in this competition and was long forgotten until its premiere in 2020 by Rachel Mercer and Yehonatan Berick. At this concert Mercer and Berick performed the piece as a dialogue between the two instruments, often resulting in laughter from the audience. This performance was then played during a memorial zoom concert to honour the late Yehonatan Berick in 2021. This piece is comprised of four short movements that make extensive use of extended string technique.

Timbre – Brass Quintet Composition (2003)

The two main concepts of this piece are timbre and panning.  I tried to imitate the effect of electroacoustic music with this acoustic ensemble.  There are only two notes in the first section of this piece.  These notes are often stated in the instruments’ lowest registers.  I used mutes for change of timbre and multiphonics (singing while playing) for additional changes to the timbre.  The crescendi/decrescendi throughout the movement and the placing of the instrumentalists around the audience allow a sense of panning.  Also, the instrumentalists create a sense of panning by gradually muting and unmuting their instruments.  The second movement gradually adds more depth harmonically.  New pitches are introduced sequentially throughout this movement.  This movement also focuses on the concept of panning.  Since the performers are still situated around the audience each note will sound in a different area of the room.  The third movement brings back the main concept of timbre.  This timbre is achieved by the instrumentalists using pitch bend techniques between two pitches that are a minor second apart.  The instrumentalists alternate the durations of these two pitches resulting in timbral dissonance.  Lastly, there is a solo line that emerges in and out of the timbral texture.  Each instrument takes a turn in playing the solo line.  The piece comes to its last climax at the end of this movement.

Music for String Quartet – String Quartet Composition (2003)

The first movement of this piece depicts a desolate landscape.  The violinist acts as the lonely voice heard as if on a mountain top in the first section of this movement.  The violist then takes on this lonely character, while the other instrumentalists reenact the sounds of nature in a desolate landscape.  The violist plays this section offstage in order to depict the loneliness and isolation.  The other instruments portray the sounds of wind, icicles, and other snowy, desolate sounds.  The first movement reaches the end with the return to the violin solo and tremoli.  The second movement depicts urban life.  Each instrument carries its own personality.  The instrumentalists are given segments to play in any order, with silences in between.  Each segment has its own tempo and identity but constitutes a part of one personality.  This movement depicts urban life as it is, bustling full of people with different personalities and circumstance.  Since the instrumentalists are allowed to play their parts in any order, it provides the necessary chaos to depict urban life.  Also this chance element allows the performer to choose what happens next, just as an individual would choose the events of his/her day.

Progress – Woodwind Quintet Composition (2002)

This piece is composed of five movements, where movements I, III, and V share the same compositional elements.  Movements II and IV are contrasting movements dynamically and rhythmically.  Also, the tempi of movements II and IV contrast movements I, III, and V greatly.  Movement I is comprised of two main motivic elements.  The first of these motives is developed to a greater extent than the latter.  In the third movement, the second motive is most important and therefore, receives the most attention.  In the final movement these two motives are finally introduced simultaneously.  This movement further develops these motives and takes particular notice of the sonorities that they create when they are combined with one another.  In the second movement, the flute and horn take on soloistic roles within the polyphonic texture that the other instruments produce.  This movement makes great use of melodic lines and transposition of these lines.  The fourth movement contrasts all other movements by timbre.  In this movement the clarinet is featured as soloist and has the foreground material, while the other instruments take on a more background role.  The flute and horn pair together and develop a line that has staggered entries and held durations.  The oboe and bassoon together develop a motive that is lyrical and rhythmical.  This movement makes great use of the dynamic range of the clarinet and the agility of the instrument. 

Staggered – Brass Quintet Composition (2001)

The melody in the first section of this piece is dispersed between all of the instruments.  They all play a part in the melody and overlap each other ever so slightly in order for the music to flow with more ease.  Dynamics are extremely important in this first section in order to grip the listener’s attention.  The middle section is more homophonic in character, but it still incorporates contrapuntal lines.  These rich homophonic harmonies give the listener and performer a break from the complexity of sound that proceeds and follows this section.  The first section returns and brings the piece to a dynamic conclusion.

Idle Tears – Voice, Percussion and String Quintet Composition (2000) 

I used Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘Tears, Idle Tears’ for the text of this piece.  This composition is somewhat programmatic as the music conveys the meaning of the text.  The music has a large degree of melancholy and makes great use of syncopation to allow the music to intensify the emotion and to give the slow tempo some feeling of movement.  I used the line ‘tears, idle tears’, as a type of chorus that I came back to continuously throughout the piece.  The form was therefore fixed around this chorus/verse exchange.

Anticipate – 2 Viola Composition (2000)

Solo Unaccompanied

Over the Himalayas – Solo Viola/Violin Composition (2021)

This piece illustrates the flight of the bar-headed geese across the Himalayas which seems to be an impossible feat yet they do this journey twice a year.  Flying requires ten to twenty times more oxygen than resting and at the altitude of the Himalayas there is only half to one-third of the oxygen.  This piece musically depicts the flight of the bar-headed geese in order to inspire others of their flight.  That what seems to be impossible can be made possible through adaptation and determination.   

Over the Himalayas begins with a five-note musical motive taken from Vaughan Williams’ piece The Lark Ascending.  The notes begin to ascend as the geese migrate upwards, with musical material illustrating the accelerated heart rate and the thinning of oxygen that these geese experience.  As the geese cross over the top of the mountain range they rarely glide as they are flapping fliers.  At this point in the composition the material is melodic but also kinetic.  As the geese descend on the other side of the Himalayas the composition descends in pitch with a musical line that is retrograde from the beginning ascending material.  This composition makes use of the full range of the viola.  Trills and tremelo depict the flapping of the wings and scales illustrate the ascending and descending flight of the geese.  Since geese travel in flocks, the piece includes the use of chords throughout.  There are passages in this piece that include the bow rocking over all four strings back and forth to show the constant flapping of the wings.  Throughout the work the tonal centre shifts to show the journey of the geese over time and the time signature also shifts during the flight.  The performer is encouraged to make use of rubato throughout since the tempo of the flight is not consistent.  There are moments in the composition of fast tempi when the notes will ascend or descend rapidly and there are other moments when the tempo will slow to show the geese are conserving energy and slowing their heart rate. 

Birds: Soaring, Fluttering, and Gliding – Solo Violin Composition (2021)

This piece was commissioned by violinist Maya Rathnavalu and dedicated to novelist and friend Wendy Davis, in honour of her love of canaries. This piece illustrates the flight of a bird – the soaring flight is depicted by fast upward flourishes, while the fluttering is shown by trills, tremelo, and rapid string crossings. The Gliding moments of flight are illustrated by the moments of sustained melody.

In the Mountains – Solo Cello/Solo Violin Composition (2006)

In the Mountains was premiered by cellist Beth Root Sandvoss outside – in the mountains at Goat Pond near Canmore, Alberta on August 22, 2006.  This concert was sponsored by the Canadian Music Centre’s ‘New Music in New Places’ and produced by New Works Calgary and Open Streams.  This piece was performed in the mountains at dusk – the musical material portrays a picture of the beautiful landscape and also the arrival of night.

An Evening Song – Solo Violin Composition (2006)

This piece was written for a parkade concert at the University of Calgary in the style of John Cage’s Musicircus organized by Jean-Louis Bleau. This piece was premiered by the composer, Kristin Flores. It is a short melodic piece meant to illustrate the quiet and beauty of the evening – the time of day reserved for reflection and tranquility.

Remembrance – Solo Piano Composition (2006)

By the Lake – Solo Horn Composition (2005)

By the Lake was written for a concert entitled ‘Wilderness Songs’ which took place outdoors at Goat Pond just outside Canmore, AB.  This was a two-part concert series organized by Jean-Louis Bleau.  Most of the musicians and audience members camped nearby and attended a concert at dusk and another at dawn.  This piece was premiered by Jon Fisher as part of the program at dusk.  This event was sponsored by the Canadian Music Centre’s ‘New Music in New Places’.  I had silences throughout in hopes that the sound would echo back from the mountains and sustain in the air throughout.

Horizon – Solo Violin Composition (2004)

This piece was originally written for piano trio and was a finalist in the Land’s End Ensemble Composer’s Competition.  I have also arranged this piece for solo violin.  This work is composed of two sections, entitled Sunset and Sunrise respectively.  Horizon is a programmatic work that aims to illustrate the image of a sunrise and sunset on the horizon.  The sunset is depicted by an overwhelming sense of calm and tranquility, while the sunrise bursts forth with brilliant energy.

Violin Cells – Solo Violin Composition (2003)

Piano Cells – Solo Piano Composition (2001)

Idle Tears – Solo Violin Composition (2000)

Minuet – Solo Piano Composition (1999)

This piece was written in the form of a minuet. It is a beginner/intermediate level composition and is short in duration. It was originally composed as a solo piano piece and later transcribed for violin in order to be performed at Flores’ wedding by Elly McHan.

Minuet – Solo Violin Composition (1999)

This piece was written in the form of a minuet. It is a beginner/intermediate level composition and is short in duration. It was originally composed as a solo piano piece and later transcribed for violin in order to be performed at Flores’ wedding by Elly McHan. The violin version of this piece is on the Canadian Contemporary Showcase Festival’s Syllabus.

Electroacoustic Compositions

Violin Cells – Solo Violin with Digital Signal Processing (2003)

The digital signal processing aspect of this piece was composed using the program Max/MSP 4.1.  I prerecorded bits from Violin Cells with the violin and used segments from the piano version of this piece.  These prerecorded segments play throughout the piece along with other sound files.  All of the sound tracks have chorusing effects and delays through Max and vst instruments in Max.  Also, there is manipulation during the playback of these tracks so that they are played back slowly/reverse etc.  All entries are timed through the clocker object.  The clock conducts everything from entries to amplitude envelopes.  The live violin is recorded and played back in specific sections of the piece via the clocker object.  When played back these sounds have vst delays and are also manipulated through the groove object.  The overall shape of the piece is a quiet beginning with gradual entries leading up to the solo violin entry.  In the slow section of this piece, Max records the live violin and plays back the tracks through the groove object.  The piece reaches its climax during the last section of the solo violin part and the piece gradually fades out from this point.

Accumulation – Electroacoustic Composition (2000)

Deserted – Electroacoustic Composition (2000)