SIDE WITH ENTROPY
was commissioned by the Vancouver Symphony with the assistance of the Canada Council in 2004. side with entropy is the second work I‘ve written that brings together the worlds of orchestra and live electronic music, the first being wow um really. It seems to me that the history of the orchestra is about a constant evolution in terms of instruments - as new instruments are invented and developed, the orchestra metamorphoses to incorporate the new. Including electronics as part of orchestral sound simply continues that tradition. The last section of the piece features a ‘virtual song’ . As I was writing this, I was also writing a set of songs for Christine Duncan with electronics and drums, with texts made from the 100 most common words in English, with some modern science words thrown in for spice. This is an expanded, orchestral version of one of those songs. The sampled voice you hear is Christine. The premiere performance in March 2005 provoked a raucus reception from the audience- both for and against. This provoked the following article by David Pay in the Vancouver Review.
There was also a review from Reviewvancouver.
side with entropy
(this is an archival recording of the premiere performance with the Vancouver Symphony conducted by Bramwell Tovey)
(this is a "virtual" orchestral performance)
WOW UM REALLY
wow, um really was commissioned by the CBC for MIDI soloist and the CBC Vancouver Orchestra. Because of the nature of modern music technology, the solo part could be played on a number of other MIDI controllers; wind, percussion, or guitar, for example, as could the orchestra part...I like playing with loops or grooves- this piece is partly about the soloist and orchestra trading loops each in their own style. I also like being able to find the poetry in everyday speech transformed through new electronic musical methods. (I happened to have , on some outtake from something else, a recording of the singer Christine Duncan saying, in beautiful Canadian, ‘wow, um, really’) . I also like the fact that , with the new music technology, extravagant musical gestures can happen at the touch of a button, or key or...
wow um really
(recording of the premiere performance March 27 2001, with Bramwell Tovey conducting the CBC Vancouver Orchestra, and MIDI soloist Marguerite Witvoet
TRINKETS OF LITTLE VALUE
- Assomaha: Honnesca
- Canada Undagneny
Commissioned by the Winnipeg Symphony for orchestra and solo singer. Premiere January 1991, with conductor Bramwell Tovey and Karen Jensen as soloist. The texts for these songs are taken from a ‘dictionary’ of about 200 native words found at the end of Jacques Cartier‘s account of his second voyage to Canada in 1535 ‚ the language of the newly ‘discovered’ land. The words are not arranged alphabetically, but rather by association or subject. I have preserved the associations in these songs ‚ sometimes even the order of the word lists.The title refers to Cartier‘s own description of the currency he used to win over the people of this new land. As he described in the ‘Voyages’ , gifts of these trinkets provoked ecstatic singing and dancing among the ‘savages’. ‘We gave them knives, glass beads, combs, and other articles of little value, which pleased them greatly: they lifted their hands to heaven as they sang and danced in their canoes’.
‘Peter Hannan: Trinkets of Little Value As you hear this piece, the title takes on a wonderful irony because the value of the work is anything but little. It may be the best Canadian work of the festival. The first section, bright, sprightly and strange, was one of the event''s most successful faster sections. The second section was pungent and the final movement has the best words--but, alas, not the best music. It seemed more cluttered than necessary. ‘Border Crossings spring 1992
Trinkets of little value
(recording from WSOCD 9401 Collage Winnipeg Symphony conducted by Bramwell Tovey with Karen Jensen vocal soloist)
NOT A SINGLE STONE
For string orchestra. Premiere February 1998 in Vancouver. not a single stone resulted from being asked by Marc Destrube, leader of Pacific Baroque Orchestra to write a companion piece for the Vivaldi Four Seasons. Writing a piece like this for a period instrument ensemble, in the midst of a program of 18th century music is something like doing architecture in the midst of an ancient city. The question is, do you make something that stands out as having no relation to its surroundings in any dimension, or do you make something that is totally modern, but somehow retains the size and shape of its neighbors? I‘ve always been very attracted to haiku- the concreteness, the conciseness, the lack of sentimentality. I realised during the process of writing this piece that the life and work of Basho, considered to be the first great haiku poet is almost contemporaneous with that of Vivaldi, and since haiku almost always contain some reference to one or other of the four seasons, the connection seemed very interesting. Each of the five movements is inspired by a particular haiku, although the connections are not literal.
‘Pacific Baroque Orchestra Directed by Marc Destrube At the conclusion of this penultimate concert in Early Music Vancouver''s summer festival, I boldly stepped forward to congratulate Vancouver- based instrumentalist and composer Peter Hannan for his Not a Single Stone, a work for baroque orchestra and actor that had come off as a delightful surprise. "0h," he said as I shook his hesitant but outstretched hand and introduced myself. "I heard you would be here tonight. But you''re not supposed to talk to me, are you?’ Hannan had a point, of course, for it is all but writ in stone that no reviewer or critic of classical music events must converse or otherwise associate with those musicians whose work he is called upon to judge. So I was guilty of a blunder. Well. phooey to that. I don''t care. So seldom do I encounter a piece of contemporary classical music interesting enough to capture my attention from start to finish that I felt moved to approach Hannan with no thought in mind of concert-hall protocol. What pleased me most about Not a Single Stone was that it turned out to be all that the composer, in his program notes, promised it would be: a kind of 20th-century take on Antonio Vivaldi''s overexposed Four Seasons, yet with enough of Vivaldi in it to suggest that Hannan has a deep respect for the music of the past. That respect was evident, too, in his inclusion in the piece of a few lines of haiku, those brief and tantalizing 17-syllable commentaries on life, nature, and the seasons-the Vivaldi connection-that the Japanese have been fiddling around with since the 17th century. Hannan''s work was given a splendid performance, with the members of Marc Destrube''s Pacific Baroque Orchestra soaring brilliantly through the composer''s clever and whirling score, and with the Tokyo-born and now Vancouver-based actor Hiromoto Ida giving mellifluous voice in Japanese to the haiku. ‘Georgia Straight Aug. 6 1998
Not a Single Stone
(Pacific Baroque Orchestra with Hiromoto Ida. Recorded July 1998)
TRFK was commissioned by Icebreaker. Premiere at the Sonorities Festival, Belfast, May 2001.This piece plays on the intersection between acoustic and electronic. Some of the electronic material comes from environmental sound recorded in my neighborhood, a high traffic area in all modern senses of the word; some of it is straight from the studio- the perceptive copyright lawyer might untangle , from the morphed sounds, things from the artist formerly known as, from Ligeti, and from Inuit throat singing.
(recording of premiere performance at Sonorities Festival, Belfast, May 2001)
Commissioned by the Hardrubber Orchestra 2003. Premiere in Vancouver March 2003.Snap Trap is a kind of human vs machine piece. There are 2 simultaneous compositions going on- one played by the live band, the other electronic, performed by the keyboard player. Sometimes the two worlds connect, but just as often they go their own ways. The electronic samples come entirely from two of my favorite pieces from the ‘big band’ era, (almost) completely transformed in a way that is only possible in our own ‘big noise’ era.
(premiere performance March 2003, Vancouver)
Commissioned by Hemispheres , the Toronto improvising new music ensemble in 1990. WAM is a work in 44 small musical units for large ensemble of unspecified instruments, although 2 drummers are required. The form loosely follows the format of the Mozart game of musical dice - performers should find a way of choosing the sequence of musical units so that performers will not know what is coming next until they are about to play. The work starts with pure drumming and ends with musical material derived from the Mozart ‘Gran Partita’ for 13 winds.
"Peter Hannan‘s WAM signaled an early entry in the Mozart Memorial Sweepstakes, coming up in full force in the New Year. With one eye on the approaching bicentenary of Mozart‘s death, Hannan has fabricated a computer-driven video game based on the great man‘s suggestion that waltzes might be written with the aid of dice. Harshly percussive at first, the piece gradually yielded space for fleeting images of Mozart‘s harmonic writing. The peak moment came as a lickety-split solo by Bob Stevenson careered all over a vamp lifted from the Serenade for Winds K.361’’ Globe and Mail (Toronto) November 1990
(from HEMISPHERES ART-008 CD)
Commissioned by Icebreaker in 1995. Premiere with Icebreaker and Melanie Pappenheim in London, July 1996. Coyote's exploits are well known in west and south-west North America. In this installment 1) Coyote introduces himself, 2) places the stars ... finds it too boring ... scatters them, 3) eats grasshoppers, 4) turns himself into a stick ... two girls play with him, 5) gets eaten by flies, 6) wants to suck himself, 7) invents death, 8) while wandering in the desert finds himself at Trinity, site of the first nuclear explosion, 9) is vaporised in the explosion, 10) floats as a radioactivecloud, 11) 2 weeks later encounters Enola Gay in the sky over the Pacific, 12) gets sucked into the blast of the Hiroshima explosion, 13) falls as black rain on the city of rubble, 14) evaporates ...cloud again ... waiting to rain on the desert, 15) back in coyote heaven ... looking for happymeals.
(archival recording from the board of premiere performance, London, 1996, with Icebreaker and Melanie Pappenheim.)