New Idea! – Site specific layered compositions

We are very excited about a new approach to composing and arranging that has been evolving in our creative practice. 

Our most recent arrangements have been deconstructing  and recombining various melodies based on a common thread. 

  • In Red River Dances, we went back to the old French, Scots, and Indigenous music and recombined those elements to merge into a traditional Métis fiddle tune. 
  • In l’Homme Armé,  we took the medieval French song “beware the armed man” and used it as a cantus firmus to create a piece that reflected the modern fears of armed conflict and solitary shooters that pervade the media. 
  • In English Songbirds, we take the 17th C  “English Nightingale” and connect it to Paul McCartney’s “Blackbird”
  • In Butter Chicken Poutine, a fast food menu item inspired a combination of Quebecois fiddle tunes played with the accompaniment of tanpura and tabla. 

Our work in historical performance practice has led us to an “archeaological” approach, where the ancient sources of a melody are drawn in as layers to accompany our selected tune. Historical performance practice is usually centred on European music. We started wondering if we could take the same approach to music as it was played in North America  at the same time (c. 1500 – 1700). This led us into research on early colonial music and its interaction with Indigenous traditions. 

We also became intrigued by the work of Pauline Oliveros and other contemporary composers who incorporate aleatoric and improvisational elements plus the sounds already present in the environment as part of the performance of a work. 

So our latest idea is to create site-specific compositions, that begin with the natural sounds already present in the environment and then add subsequent layers of sound and music representing the history of human activity in that area. 

We were also reading Eric Booth on interactive performances, and realized that we could take our years of experience doing composition workshops with students as part of the Artist in Schools Residency program, and use a similar approach to generate input from local residents in a site specific composition project. 

We are making plans to experiment with this idea in some areas in and around where we live. But we also think that this would be a great project for a community residency, so we are open to suggestions on possible locations and sponsors.  

UPDATE: JULY 11, 2017

We just received a grant from the Edmonton Heritage Council to create a piece that uses these ideas! It will reflect the history of the  River Crossings / Rossdale area of Edmonton.  Grateful to the EHC for using public art funding for a performance project. This is going to be a big project with lots of layers of community involvement, so we have created a separate page to chronicle the process. [Read more….]

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