Music

I have sometimes been accused of (or praised for) being an untrained musician. But the truth is more complicated. I have some training.

I began by taking piano lessons when I was about 7. I made it to the start of "John Thompson's Modern Graded Course for the Piano - The Third Grade Book" (which I still possess) and stopped taking lessons from one Mr. Jones (seriously) immediately after playing in the annual recital. Performance anxiety hit hard, and I swore I would never play in another recital, and I never did.

About a year later, I received from my uncle a child-sized accordion, which I still own, and took lessons on it for nearly two years. I was also inducted into the church choir, where I was taught to read and sing Gregorian Chant, and later accepted into Toronto's St. Michael's Boy's Choir (which I was too timid to attend, as it meant boarding school).

When I entered high school, I was assigned the baritone horn, and played it all through high school. I played in a couple of the concert bands at the school through those years. I have not played a baritone horn since leaving high school, which in many ways, I regret. I also participated in musical theater in high school and had singing roles in both "Guys and Dolls" and "Man of La Mancha".

When I was thirteen, I took up piano again, and practiced on my own. I learned all the chord forms and could play well in most keys by the time I was eighteen.

I started writing/composing songs when I was about 15. I wrote close to 100 songs, some with my brother, when I was about 22, and practiced for up to 8 hours a day. I purchased a Fender Rhodes electric piano and Arp Odyssey synthesizer at that time, too (1975), both of which I still have, and which are both in excellent condition.

I worked extensively with electronic music (synthesizers and tape recorders) between 1975 and 1980. I was inspired by Iannis Xenakis, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Morton Subotnick, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (Dr. Who theme music), Pierre Boulez, and others - including, of course, Wendy Carlos. (I can date my interest in electronic music to a music class led by a teaching sub, who played the vinyl recording of Gershon Kingsley's "Popcorn". That would have been about 1970.) Around that same time (1975/76), I sat the Royal Conservatory of Music (Toronto) exam for Gr. 2 theory (which I passed) and Gr 3 harmony (which I did not - self-teaching sometimes has it's limits) and Gr 3 history (which I passed). I also took a few private lessons, and learned a couple of classical music pieces.

My interests were more in the compositional than performance area at that time.

In 1975, I began working on a compositional system I called Quantum Music, for scoring electronic music based on spectral frequencies. That system gave way to Unified Tonality, which generalized the artificiality of the selection of a spectral frequency into simply graphing a wave form and building a composition on a set of notes selected and manipulated that fell on the curve. By 1977 I fairly abandoned both systems altogether.

I continued with the piano until I was about 28, and played mostly blues, jazz and jazz-rock music. I played a couple of gigs, but gave it up when I returned to university. In university, I took music history courses each year (and did quite well).

After that, I took a long break from music, until 1998, when my wife bought me a Kawai CP170 Concert Performer digital piano. I wrote several pieces on it.

Since 2004, I have been choir director of the Cornerstone Choir at Sacred Heart Parish Church in Ladner, and sing and play most weeks at least at one Mass. I have also filled in as organ accompanist for the St. Augustine Choir at that church, and filled in as accompanist for the ElderCollege Singers in Delta in February and March of 2011. I also occasionally provide canting and music at wedding ceremonies.

Below are some samples of music I have done somewhat recently. Most were done on the Kawai digital piano as "live", unedited performances.


Trio No. 1 for Flute, Violin and Cello

I wrote this Trio originally as a Duet for Flute and Harpsichord, somewhere between 1999 and 2001, in a style emulating late 18th and early 19th century German and Austrian classical music (think Mozart and Beethoven), but I think it works better as a trio. I can't play this piece at all. I scored it using Noteworthy Composer music composition software. I exported the MIDI file, and loaded that into my Kawai CP170, and recorded it from there.



Escapade

I wrote Escapade in 1992 on the guitar, as a bed-time ditty for my son, which probably had no effect on his sleep at all. (I would usually play "Greensleeves" and "Escapade" on the guitar as part of the nightly routine.) I scored it in Noteworthy in 2000, and that's the version here.



Maranatha

This is my arrangement of Maranatha, by Gerard Chiusano. I recorded this in December, 2004.


Ode to a Ghost

This piece was an improvisation I did around 2006, for the soundtrack for a horror film my son was doing for a Gr. 12 TV and Film course.



Rain No. 1

This piece was improvised around the same time, and combines improvised performance along with multi-tracked sound-effects also done on the Kawai. The thunder (starting at about the four minute mark) makes my dog run and hide (she's afraid of real thunder, too).



Ode to My Mother

This piece was a multi-track improvisation I did in December 1998, not too many months following my mother's passing. Again, done completely on the Kawai.



Home To You

I wrote "Home To You" in 1998 or 1999, working out the tune on the piano, then improvising all additional tracks in accompaniment to it. You get slight imperfections in tempo and melody doing things this way, but the general effect is not bad, I think.



Theme and Variations

"Theme and Variations" was the first work I did on the Kawai CP170, shortly after taking delivery of it, in June 1998. I was experimenting with the instrumentation and multi-tracking capabilities of the piano. I later used the underlying melody as the basis for a gospel acclamation "Alleluia" which my choir uses periodically.