Array Music Young Composers Workshop

Me with redComposer Karen Power reports from Toronto, Canada, where she is participating in a month-long workshop with the Arraymusic Ensemble.

15 May 2012

I am exactly two weeks into my four-week workshop program in Toronto, Canada, with Array Music ( The sun is shining, the music is diverse, and the creative energy is palpable!

This programme is actually much more like a ‘residency with benefits program’. The ‘benefits’ being that you have access to four professional musicians twice a week in an open, professional, informal and experimental setting. Upon arrival here on 1 May I, along with three other composers, have been offered facilities to explore, experiment and create a new work, which will be performed by Array Music Ensemble on 26 May at Gallery 345, Toronto.

Over the last few years I have completed a number of residencies, courses, festival fellowships – all of which have been wonderful and offered unique experiences, and this one is no exception. What drew me to this opportunity was the openness of the programme’s format, which places emphasis on the creative processes happening throughout a compositional journey, rather than simply seeking or demanding a finished work.

In the last number of years I have become more interested in taking time to explore musical ideas with musicians and create sounds in a more ‘hands-on’ way. I have thus-far had two of my four meetings and we have yet to turn to a score! In both workshops I was able to direct the ensemble using words, gestures, pictures and shapes to explore new ways of deriving and realizing materials. For example, our first session was all about setting extreme limitations and focusing on tiny gestures, which helped me to get to know the ensemble and how they communicate with one another. For me, acclimatizing oneself with the musicians and appreciating what they bring to any piece of music is a core part of any musical process, one which we rarely have time to explore. Such methods of working encourages communication, reaction and collaboration between all parties, and ensures that each member’s skills are being fully utilized. These workshops and the professionalism of the musicians are opening up musical avenues that I have been searching for for a long time. The resulting piece, as it gradually unfolds, seems like the music that I’ve wanted to write before, but just didn’t have the means. This feels like the most alive music I’ve ever ‘written’!

I applied for this annual opportunity back in February 2012, and received funding from The Arts Council (under travel and training) to cover some of my costs, for which I am grateful. I have sub-letted an apartment in a beautiful part of town and work from there most days when not rehearsing.

Some of you reading this may know of my parallel passion in electroacoustic music and specifically making field recordings. I have been spending much of my time here making recordings of Toronto and am attaching a very brief recording of Niagara Falls  and of a Thunder Storm, which I experienced on day two. I do hope that these give you a wet sense of what I am experiencing here.

The next two weeks will be filled with preparing for the concert on the 26th, while also finding some time to spend in the sun!

A bit about Toronto’s music scene
Array Music is an organization which has supported composers and musicians in many different ways for over 40 years in Toronto. Rick Sacks is the artistic director (and also a very fine percussionist) and he offered me a small sense of the creative scene here. In Toronto, there are several lively and fresh music scenes – much jazz or jazz-influenced music, and a lot of experimental music.

There is also a wonderful sense of collaboration between all of the city’s new music ensembles and organisations. They meet annually to discuss future programs and commissions so that there is an equal spread and variety in programming and opportunities. What a wonderful idea! So simple.

I would encourage other Irish composers to apply for this opportunity next year. Array Music is a wonderful organisation and Toronto is a vibrant and yet calming city.

Audio field recordings

Niagara Falls

download the uncompressed audio

Thunder Storm

download the uncompressed audio

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