Filtering by Tag: chamber

Canadian Train Ride (2014)

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!

5 Pieces for String Quartet and Guitar (2013)

5 Pieces (2013)
for String Quartet and Guitar
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:

  1. Cello Solo
  2. String Quartet
  3. Viola Solo
  4. 2 Violins and Guitar
  5. String Quartet and Guitar
PDF and Recordings will be made available after the premiere.

Moonless Night (2012)

Moonless Night


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.

Compassion & Sacrifice (2012)

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.

Diabetes: Question Time (2011)

Diabetes: Question Time (2011)

chamber opera for six voices and piano

Commissioned by The University of Manitoba’s Contemporary Opera Lab, under the direction of Mel Braun, this 20-minute chamber opera explores internal conflicts and concerns relating to type-one diabetes.

Following the success of the COL commission, Diagnosis: Diabetes will be developed into a one-act opera which will serve as Michael’s doctoral thesis.  More information about that project can be found here.

Click here for a PDF of the Score.

Gramps Ain't No Namby-Pamby (2010)

Gramps Ain't No Namby-Pamby (2010)

for Bassoon and Baritone


Using text written by the composer, this piece is a dialogue between a grandfather and grandson where the audience only ever hears half of the conversation.  By having the bassoonist perform their role, playing the rhythm and contour of the (un)spoken text, this piece explores the power of music to create syntactical meaning through the association of speech and musical gesture.

Commissioned by bassoonist, Susan Durnin, Gramps Ain’t No Namby-Pamby has also been performed by bassoonists Margaret Fay, and award winning soloist, Allen Harrington.


Click here for a PDF of the Score.