Composer’s Notes on the creation of "Concerto of Deliverance"
The following is a compilation from notes written by the composer,
originally intended for inclusion in the album booklet.
Concerto of Deliverance is a gift to me from a serious thinker and great lover
of music, Monart Pon. Without him and a passage from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged I
would not have created this piece. We spent many hours in discussion, sharing
thoughts and interests on the phone, via email, and one most memorable occasion
in person, in Goldstream Park near Victoria, BC. It was a project Mr. Pon had
contemplated for some time. I am privileged and honoured that he chose me to
fulfill his dream of hearing the Concerto of Deliverance as described in Rand’s
I wished to create a piece that expressed the ebullience and joy of Dagny's
vision in Atlas Shrugged. In the context of the novel it is a reverie, a vision
of triumph and light; the Concerto is a symbol of hope. I saw my job as 'modern
musician' to reveal the vision in contemporary terms.
The form of the ‘Concerto’, together with the titles and lyrics form a sort of
poetic construct that has some narrative qualities, although it is not strictly
a ‘story’, but just the suggestion of various possible stories. This appeals to
me because it leaves the listener to create particular ones. This is one of the
powers of music. It stimulates and supports the power of the listener’s
imagination. Originally I conceived of seven movements that suggested a mythical
journey: Cosmos, Individuation, Confrontation, Meditation, Transformation,
Celebration, and Reunion. Prelude came about because Monart convinced me that it
needed an ‘invitation’, as he called it, to ease the listener into the world of
the Concerto. Starting with a statement of the very last theme (in Reunion), the
Prelude establishes the musical ‘environment’ of the Concerto.
Musical forms are ever in flux. My piece might be a concerto, somewhat similar
to the baroque concerto grosso, in the sense that it consists of a series of soloistic, perhaps virtuosic passages set against an 'orchestral' accompaniment;
various instrumental groups and soloists, presented antiphonally with the
orchestra as a whole, not unlike Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra in this
respect. In my case the orchestra is electronic, so it could take whatever
configuration needed. This is in keeping with a dominant theme of shapeshifting
or transfiguration. Then I incorporated text through the addition of singing.
This is not uncommon in modern symphonic music (Gorecki, Mahler, Beethoven),
although I shall not indulge in such self-flattering comparisons. I am one
little voice from the late 20th century, trying to make sense of the 21st.
Moreover, "Concerto of Deliverance" is a literary reference. It was possible,
in the first movement, to conform with the modified sonata form of first movements
in many classical and romantic concerti, but this did not suit my materials nor
purpose as much as the freer expression I had in mind.
Initially my method was primarily improvisational. I had just acquired a new
keyboard instrument: Korg's revolutionary Karma, with Yamaha's DSP digital
modeling card. I was enamored of its qualities and went ahead, just had fun with
it. It has some remarkable capabilities, including lovely and not so lovely
sounds. Many other sound sources were brought into service as well, but this was
my kickstart. Another important influence was Ayn Rand's We The Living, which
renewed in me a feeling of youthful rebellion which was perhaps necessary to
break out of some of my own set ways of doing things (a prerequisite for new
For a period of almost six months, I concentrated on the logic and illogic of
the free-flowing melodies and rhythms that came through me, through my fingers,
through my heart, into the world. I wanted them to remain fresh, not necessarily
molded to predetermined models. Gathering together these themes, motifs, and
rhythms, I then imposed an elaborate routine of editing, cutting, development,
and re-orchestration. I wished that, as we listen, we take a journey, perhaps
not knowing where it will end, but when it does, it is with some sense of
As well as the givens of title and Dagny's vision, was Monart’s belief that I
could bring certain qualities to the project: a deep love of melody, a
coloristic versatility through the miracle (curse some might say) of electronic
music, and, I believe, a diverse, eclectic range of musical tastes that meshed
with his own. This was an opportunity to compose a serious piece commissioned by
a man with serious intentions, whose favourite music included Rachmaninov’s
Piano Concertos, Elvis Presley Songs, Dvorak Symphonies, and old Mario Lanza
recordings. It was fascinating and I wanted to take the whole spectrum into
account. Unavoidably I would reveal my own influences, which are many indeed:
Debussy, Miles Davis, J.S. Bach, Ali Farka Toure, Ellington, Weill, Stockhausen,
and John Cage heading the list, which, admittedly, changes almost daily. Folk
music of all kinds is essential.
The use of electronic technology in the production of sound for music-making has
been my passion since age 15 when I first heard Hugh LeCaine's Dripsody as part
of the Sir Henry Woods Promenade Concerts in London. It was sheer luck, but when
I returned to Canada that was where I wanted to go in my musical development.
Two years later I was introduced to Dr. Myron Shaeffer's electronic music lab.
It was in an old house on Huron St. in Toronto, with bits of magnetic tape
dripping from faded wallpaper walls, and I was galvanized. The tools and
techniques of electronic music creation have changed utterly since then, and it
is now a vast field, omnipresent in modern media and culture, but the goals and
motives of creators are pretty much the same as they have always been.
Ever since, I have been interested in the live performance of electronic music,
which consisted of tunes, rhythms, and improvisations created cooperatively (Intersystems,
Hydro Electric Streetcar, Kensington Market, Syrinx). In addition to tracking
developments in North American and European experimental music, we searched for
every available recording of music from other cultures: Balinese, Haitian,
Punjabi, Central African, Romanian, you name it. Simultaneously, I was being
commissioned to create works in more conventional formats: high school band,
string orchestra with synthesizers and other amplified instrument ("Stringspace",
commissioned by Milton Barnes).
Mostly, however, I have been engaged to compose music for film, dance, radio,
television, theatre, but seldom as 'personal statement', most often in the
service of other artists' expression. When I received this commission, I
determined to revisit my roots, the various strands of personal history, and to
draw on the entire breadth of my musical experience: from rock to raga to
I have always been attracted to the idea of combining electronic,
electro-acoustic, and conventional acoustical instruments. It provides a vast
range of sonorities, the emotive nuance of individual expression, and
socio-cultural associations. Electronic music can have purity and freshness, but
nothing replaces the scrape and squawk on the edges of beauty intrinsic to the
playing of a musician on strings, on tautened skin, through a hollow tube. There
is no substitute for the emotive power of familiar sounding melodies and
As I was beginning work on the Concerto, I was introduced to two accomplished
and sensitive virtuosi, Sharon Stanis and Patricia Kostek. Both have performed
as guest artists for audiences around the world. It is a great privilege to have
them perform this music. The ultimate instrument is the human voice. Then verbal
meaning as well as musical, is inherent. Leora Cashe performed with me
previously on a piece by the Concerto's lyricist Blake Parker, "Stella: Black &
White", at the Vancouver International Writers' Festival. I am delighted to have
been able once again to work with her -- for the clarity, range, and emotional
power of her singing, as well as her spiritual understanding of Blake's words.
Once I had the text I was convinced that children's voices would be the perfect
vehicle for the spells and parables I wished to incorporate. I believed that the
sometimes harsh potency of the lyrics would be put in sharp relief and made
poignant by the children's seeming innocence. It also served Mr. Parker’s keen
interest in fairy tales which are an essential expressive component of the work.
Thus, meeting with Thea Stavroff was especially fortunate. I had heard her
perform in Sondheim's Company and seen her work as director of children’s
theatre. Ms. Stavroff was an obvious choice to assemble a group of young people
to work on the piece. It took great resourcefulness on her part as well as the
talents and dedication of each of the choir members.
Finally, the recording could not have been possible without the extraordinary
skills of Mark Franklin who engineered everything requiring a microphone in the
various locations. Additionally, he enabled the results to be blended with the
music I created in my studio, and advised me about many artistic and audio
matters, especially the crucial mastering of the final mix. Hooray!
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