a reimagining of J.S. Bach's Ich habe genug
for Soprano, Mezzo, Tenor, Bass, piano, clarinet, violin, cello
a reimagining of J.S. Bach's Ich habe genug
for solo speaking pianist
Open Instrumentation (3 parts)
Text from Vancouver Civic Theatre's website
A site-specific piece for written for Redshift Music Society and Ecstatic Waves's "Still Life With Echo" concert in the lobby of Vancouver's Orpheum Theatre. The piece integrates the Orpheum's 15-minute intermission recording, which plays chimes and reminders 5, 3, and 1 minute before the performance recommences. The piece creates the ambience of intermission chatter and the the sonic environment leading up to a performance.
The Knitting Club (2017)
a short scene
with text by Michael Park and Sue Hughson
duration: 10 minutes
written for Vancouver's Erato Ensemble:
4 singers (Soprano, Mezzo-Soprano, Tenor, Baritone) and chamber ensemble (Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Tenor Saxophone, Violin, Cello, Guitar, Piano)
As a long-standing member of Vancouver's Erato Ensemble, I wrote this piece specifically for their 10-year anniversary. Essentially a short scene from a not-yet-written opera, the piece puts every singer and instrumentalist in the role of knitting club member. Musicians use knitting needles and speech to set the scene, in which the piece explores many quotations and themes around the darker (and lighter) sides of knitting groups.
It's rare to have an Erato Ensemble rehearsal where someone isn't knitting something during their downtime. Composer Michael Park (avid knitter and ensemble pianist) took it as a personal challenge to create a work that explores the tradition of knitting groups that is equal parts: fun, evocative, and ridiculous.
The audience is invited to knit along with the piece, or just click their needles along with the ensemble. At this knitting club, everyone's invited!
for mezzo and piano
text by Kate McKabe
An art song exploring one woman's experience undergoing radiation therapy cancer treatment.
for SATB choir and alto flute
commissioned by Cor Flammae
text by Ray Hsu
When Cor Flammae commissioned me to write something for the 2016 theme of Refuge, it made me think of an experience many of my friends have experienced - applying for permanent residency in Canada. The piece embraces common sentiments shared by anyone who has immigrated (leaving a life behind, building a new life, risking everything in spite of crippling uncertainty), as well as tackles instances of institutional racism experienced by immigrants of colour. Through an interview with an immigrant from Mexico, Ray Hsu brings out the emotions, the frustration, and the beauty that are part of the process.
Writing for choir was the perfect medium for these themes. At times the choir assumes a mob mentality, shouting accusations; at other times the choir harmonizes, or brings all the voices together to colour the emotion of the text. The alto flute plays almost exclusively, fragments of the Canadian and Mexican national anthems, providing an ironic counterpoint to the sung text. I was thrilled at how Cor Flammae embraced my aesthetic; each singer taking their own emotional path through the piece, using my notes to truly connect with the text.
The following recording is from the world premiere performance of Cor Flammae and Mark McGregor (alto flute), conducted by Mark Reid.
for soprano and piano
text by Sajia Sultana
written for Art Song Lab 2016
The 6th instalment of Art Song Lab was a collaboration with Vancouver's Queer Arts Festival. Just weeks after the shootings in Orlando, it became evident during the week just how pertinent some of the pieces were to the queer community, especially those queer people of colour involved.
The text I worked with was by Sajia Sultana, exploring the process of coming out to Indian parents. While Canada is regarded as progressive country, queer people of colour often fear the loss of culture and community in addition to family concerns that are universal in the coming-out process.
One of the experiences Sajia and I shared was a sense of not being really heard within certain family dynamics, and so, miscommunication became a starting point for our collaboration.
Unicorn (2016) for solo speaking cellist
written for Marina Hasselberg
As the first piece I'd written after completing my doctorate, this fulfilled my need to write something lighthearted and quirky, to contrast the rigour of academia and the seriousness of writing an opera about diabetes.
When I spent Christmas 2015 in Mexico city, I visited a number of museums and had the pleasure of seeing a number of works of art I recognized as definitive works from art history books. On of those works was Dali's Unicorn. I was inspired by the piece itself, but also the way myself and other visitors engaged with sculptures: hands off, yet oh, so close! The three dimensionality of the experience made me want to musically explore a community sense of the experience, and I also saw a parallel between the wall mounted descriptions and program notes we use in the classical music world.
Diagnosis: Diabetes (2015)
An Interactive Chamber Opera in One Act
duration: 60 minutes, 7 scenes
for 5 singers (Soprano, 2 Mezzo-Sopranos, Tenor, Baritone) and small ensemble (Flute doubling alto, Clarinet doubling Bass, Violin, Cello, Piano)
After the idea for an interactive opera about diabetes was workshopped in 2011, the one-act opera later became my doctoral thesis project, completed in Spring of 2015. In Fall of 2015, the piece was premiered as an un-staged workshop performance by Vancouver's Erato Ensemble.
Much more information is available on the dedicated Diagnosis: Diabetes page.
This is the story of Charlie, a boy like any other. But this story is not an opera like any other.
As Charlie goes through life with diabetes, you too will experience the onslaught of information that comes with diagnosis, the sensation of low blood-sugar, facing your own mortality...
But don't worry. This is a fun opera. And you just might learn something too!
Short Dance Film
in collaboration with director, Andrew Milne and dancer, Tanja Woloshen
supported by National Film Board, Manitoba Film & Sound Development Corp., Film Training Manitoba, and Winnipeg Film Group
In my final years living in Winnipeg, I connected with the Young Lungs Dance Collective for multidisciplinary improvisation. I met Andrew through those events and the music I recorded myself playing for this film were inspired by those sessions.
collaboration for Spoken Word Artist and Pianist
text by Warren Arcand & Michael Park
commissioned by Russell Wallace for Neo-Nativism vs. New Music
The collaboration really allowed me to explore my creative role as a composer-pianist in collaboration with a truly gifted performance artist. The text Warren sent me was an exploration of the word, and idea of, red, with a well positioned tangent version of "a man walked into a bar...".
In response, I thought about what red would be in terms of musical nomenclature. We have letter names for A-through-G, but what about the rest of the alphabet. I composed a companion text about the spelling of red and composed a framework for a 1940's pub style improvisation.
How the texts and the music fit together was a function of the live performance, trusting the timing and intuition of both performance artists. I couldn't be happier with the resulting performance and hope that a recording will be available soon.
The Grateful Challenge (2014)
in collaboration with director, Allison Beda
commissioned by INTERSECTIONS*
I met director Allison Beda a week into September. We had been paired together to create a new, collaborative film which would be premiered on October 16th. It didn't take much conversation for us to settle on exploring the idea of Gratitude. We wrote a quick script, gathered some amazing crew, and interviewed some friends.
For this work, we considered my role to be sound director. Instead of composing background for a stand-and-shoot documentary, I used the interviews as source materials for soundscapes of gratitude.
Here are the film's tagline and synopsis:
Brad is brewing tea and gratitude, but is thirty days long enough to steep?
As part of the #30DayGratitude Challenge, Brad is taking the time ot be #grateful each day. With a camera crew as a not-so-subtle reminder, it begs the question "Am I grateful?"
I'll post the film here when it's released online, but in the meantime, click here to see full details and specs from the film.
i wana cry with u (2014)
i wana cry with u
but we cant
because if we were together we
wouldn't be sad
Initially, I interpreted the poem through the lens of queer love. While that worked well enough, it soon became clear that the scope of this poem's meaning couldn't be limited by one narrative. I opted for a format that allows each singer to discover their own interpretation as part of singing the piece.
Canadian Train Ride (2014)
for Concert Band (Fl/Cl/Alto Sax/Tpt/Tbn/4Perc)
commissioned by Alan Danahy
Written for Alan Danahy and the C.C. Pinckney Elementary School Band in Columbia, South Carolina, this piece presented me with the challenge of creating age-appropriate music for a non-standard collection of instruments.
The request was for a crowd-pleaser with the potential for integrated arts education. Canadian Train Ride references Canadian geography and quotes national tunes Land of the Silver Birch and O Canada - plenty of fodder for young inquiring minds.
In a few senses, the players actually get to drive the train. Rich with driving rhythmic forces, players are definitely taken on a ride. And taking full advantage of Michael's skill with interactive music, the piece begins with the band (and the audience) chanting "chooga-chugga," speeding up the train as it heads off across Canada!
A Spirit Alive in a Ready Body (2013)
text by Ray Hsu
commissioned by Lynne McMurtry and Alison d'Amato
5 Pieces (2013)
Written for the Lungs and Limbs ensemble
Based on water-focused photos by local Vancouver photographer, Sarah (last name coming soon...), these pieces presented me with a real challenge: working with visual elements. Going beyond the toddler-style of my drawings, visual details have a very weak hold in my brain. Even with the aid of a police sketch artist, I fear that those closest to me would appear like complete strangers, based on my descriptions!
Anecdotes aside, working from an image is not my comfort zone, and wouldn't be the first place I'd go for inspiration. With that said, I took on the challenge and came up with some new ways of thinking. In one piece, I based the shape of the musical gesture on the patten formed by rocks in a pond. Another picture reminded me of a rollicking tide... a perfect excuse to write a sea chanty. Because the whole approach reminded me of some issues I worked though in a recent Composer/Choreographer collaboration, I was even moved to include a theme I wrote during that workshop!
The whole project was organized by Chantal Lemire, violist and music theorist extraordinaire! She asked seven composers to write five one-minute pieces, each based on one of the five photos. In concert, the photos will be presented via video. We were encouraged to write for any subset of the whole ensemble, and I certainly did:
- Cello Solo
- String Quartet
- Viola Solo
- 2 Violins and Guitar
- String Quartet and Guitar
book submission for:
How I Breathed Today
edited by Ray Hsu and Celine Song
When I was asked to submit something for a multidisciplinary book project, I said, 'YES!!!'
Then I thought, 'what kind of book submission can a composer create that honours his craft while acknowledging the shift from audience to reader?'
That question / task led me on a journey that became my submission. View high-quality images of all the submissions here. If you like it a lot, buy a hard (or soft) copy of the book through the link below the picture.
for Erhu and Piano
Written for Corey Hamm and Nicole Ge Li.
Pianist Corey Hamm has joined forces with Erhuist, Nicole Ge Li in an exciting project that will see the premiere of twenty new pieces by January 2014. Those pieces will then be recorded and toured across Canada and China in Spring of 2014. I was thrilled to be one of the first composers Corey asked to join this project. Moonless Night was an amazing project to work on, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to work so closely with Nicole. The erhu is a gorgeous instrument, and not one that western classical composers often get to write for.
When I showed a draft of the piece to Nicole and described the opening section as a sleepless night, she shared with me the importance of the moon in Chinese culture, and a title was born. Reflecting on moon imagery in erhu repertoire, the move to include quotations from Liú Tiānhuá's Moon Night was a welcomed addition.
Here is the program note for the world premiere:
The sun sustains us through the evening, and long after its last rays have dissipated. It keeps us moving forward, looking forward.
In the hours before slumber, the moon slows our forward momentum. Dulling the stresses of waking hours, the cool light reflects on the day from a different angle.
But what happens when we go right from daylight to sleep, without the moon's repose.
Lying in bed, tormented by restless ruminations, there is no sleep on a moonless night.
Art Song Lib
for Singer, Pianist, and Scribe
text by Ray Hsu
Written for and performed by Phoebe MacRae and Rachel Iwaasa as part of VISI Art Song Lab 2012.
I have collaborated with Ray Hsu on a number of projects, including the founding of Art Song Lab, an innovative program that teams composers with poets as part of the Vancouver International Song Institute's SONGFIRE festival in partnership with the Canadian Music Centre.
For those of you who don't know our work, it is an understatement to say that we skirt the status quo... We started this project in a café, Ray asking, 'what can we do that would be awesome?' Knowing that we were writing for soprano Phoebe MacRae (a goddess of musical comedy) and pianist Rachel Iwaasa (who can rise to any challenge), our answer was to turn the entire experience of a madlib into an art song. Integrating audience suggestions into the song, no two performances will be the same!
Click here for a PDF of the Score.
Compassion & Sacrifice (2012)
for Speaking Violist and Speaking Pianist
Premiered by Chantal Lemire, viola; and Michael Park, piano
Click here for a PDF of the Score.
Compassion & Sacrifice is many things to many people.
For the composer, it is a speaking duo for viola and piano. For the performers, it is the unique challenge of having to speak while playing their instruments. For arts lovers, it is a critique of how arts funding is portrayed in the right-wing media.
Compassion & Sacrifice is the latest creation from one of Vancouver's most vibrant collaborative teams: Michael Park and Ray Hsu.
In response to the jaw-dropping Sun News Media interview between Krista Erickson and iconic dancer, Margie Gillis, Michael and Ray discussed the interview at length, becoming obsessed with the ideas of media analysis, copyright, and fair dealing. Using those discussions as the basis, Ray sculpted a dialogue between musicians nested with quotations from the interview. By musicalizing that dialogue, Michael has ensured that it's not one you'll soon forget.
In his rather puckish way, Ray Hsu live tweeted from the world premiere that, "The concert ranged from the beautiful, the weird, and the feel good. I think mine was the weird one."
The original video that started it all is available online at the Sun News Network's website, original aired June 1, 2011. It features Krista Erickson interviewing iconic dancer, Margie Gillis.