winter is when snakes
turn into garter belts and greater & greater wind
welts up in us in
creases of white
needles of ice seed in our eyes
sift ether into ditches
thats when air hardens
to whale bone wraps us up
in girdles and the sky rings
our lives in pewter & silver
plate irons our days smooth as Dresden
the blue-in-June lakes are eyes lidded shut
with silver coins or the czarina’s jewel
boxes clasped in the knuckle
popping cold of the winter
palace and its glass eyes
dangle from ivory lace
& the air tinkles like cut glass
The first draft of Into Its Own Shadow was written during February and March of 2008, when I was an invited artist at the Centro Mexicano para la Música y las Artes Sonoras in Morelia. The work was completed in Canada in May, and revised slightly in 2010. The title of the work comes from a poem by Theodor Roethke, The Far Field:
The river turns on itself,
The tree retreats into its own shadow.
I feel a weightless change, a moving forward
Into Its Own Shadow is dedicated to Ensamble 3:
Salvador Torre, Fernando Dominguez and Mauricio Nader.
Commissioned by the Mexican Center for Music and Sonic
Arts for Ensamble 3.
First performance: June 29, 2012,
when you leave me
where you bend
will you, then
under my breath
your breath )
carbon dioxide has
bloomed & died in
under my breath
back into when
you love me
& when you leave
will you still leave me
breathing will you
take my breath away
Movement 1 excerpt. Alejandro Escuer, Flute; Orquestra Sinfónica Nacionial, José Luis Castillo, conductor
Movement 2 excerpt. Alejandro Escuer, Flute; Orquestra Sinfónica Nacionial, José Luis Castillo, conductor
Commissioned by the San Luis Potosi Symphony Orchestra for flautist Alejandro Escuer, with funds from the Manitoba Arts Council. First performance: May 30, 2010, Mexico City, Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional, José Luis Castillo, conductor, Alejandro Escuer, soloist.
This work was commissioned by the the Agassiz Summer Chamber Music Festival for their 10th Anniversary Season. The world premiere performance took place on June 12, 2009, at Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall in Winnipeg; the performers were:
Scott St. John and Laurence Kayeleh, violins
Aaron Au, viola
Paul Marleyn, cello
Katherine Chi, piano
Bartók, Matthews steal the show
Written by Holly Harris from The Winnipeg Free Press on June 14, 2009
Agassiz International Music Festival is throwing itself a party all this week, celebrating not just its 10th year of music making but also the 200th anniversary of German composer Felix Mendelssohn’s birth. A series of ten concerts are showcasing the 19th century master’s chamber music between June 10-20, performed by a crackerjack ensemble of musicians assembled by the annual festival’s Ottawa-based founding artistic director/cellist Paul Marleyn.
Ironically, it wasn’t birthday boy Mendelssohn who stole the show, but Hungarian interloper Béla Bartók. The 20th century composer’s jazzy Contrasts for clarinet, violin and piano (1938) is a thrilling piece not often heard, remarkably co-commissioned by the King of Swing himself, Benny Goodman.
Clarinetist Fan Lei, violinist Scott St. John, and pianist Katherine Chi’s flawless delivery exhibited bravura technique and ironclad conviction, with St. John so physically engaged with his instrument he fairly leapt out of his chair. Chi — notably, the first prizewinner of the prestigious 2000 Honens International Piano Competition — also added strong backbone to the ensemble while Lei easily handled the virtuosic demands of the
compelling, thoroughly modernistic piece.
The program opened with Serge Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes for clarinet, piano and string quartet, Op. 34 (1919) as an apparent nod to Mendelssohn’s Jewish roots. It’s impossible not to like this captivating work with its buoyant lilt and slinky themes, intently performed by Lei, Chi, St. John, Aaron Au (violin), Sharon Wei (viola) and Marleyn, whose insistent pizzicatos grounded the piece’s rhythmic thrust.
Don’t let a name fool you. Winnipeg-based composer Michael Matthews’ simply titled Piano Quintet began its creative life approximately 12 years ago as a ballet-sketch, Cupid and Psyche, resurrected as two highly contrasting movements: “Mysteriously” and “Agitato.”
The 16-minute world première opened atmospherically, with Matthews’ sensitive ear creating a sonic world of brooding introspection filled with glassy harmonics and sinking low registers. As if a flip side, the work’s second movement teemed with jagged syncopations and rapidly shifting meters, paying tribute to Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich while pitting its players (including added violinist Laurence Kayaleh) against each other with scarcely a few moments’ repose.After hearing a diverse program of (relatively) modern music, Mendelssohn’s Cello and Piano Sonata No. 2 in D, Op. 58 felt like an old romantic warhorse. Nevertheless,
Marleyn and Chi’s brought vibrancy to this classic.
Night Music was composed in Winnipeg between November 2006 and January 2007. The piece was extensively revised in the summer of 2009. The first performance was given in Winnipeg on January 27, 2007, at the Winnipeg Art Gallery. The performers were John Racaru, violin and Carole Pollard, piano.
The work is approximately nine minute in duration, in a single movement. It begins very softly, with a simple neighboring tone motive in harmonics in the violin, answered by a fleeting and somewhat widely-spaced low register gesture in the piano. These two musical ideas are the kernels from which much of the material in the piece is derived. The music leads to a large climax shortly beyond the halfway point in the piece, and ends with a quiet, lyrical section that is built on a simple three-note motive in the piano.
January 27, 2007, Winnipeg
John Racaru, vn, Carole Pollard, pf