Monday, 2 November 2015

Timepont Ensemble and an idea I am tossing around

First I want to actively shout out to a new ensemble I helped found in Calgary called Timepoint Ensemble, we are going to be performing tons and tons of stuff, music of the late 20th and 21st century focusing on live composers. So keep an ear for that and send your eyes to follow us on facebook and twitter. @Enstimepoint and

Second I am excited that I have received the first version of the work being composed for me by Pierre-Henri Wicomb, so I can guarantee there will be some posts in regards to techniques coming from that. Sorry again for the lack of posts but, got this Saskatoon Symphony gig, Timepoint ensemble, teaching, and more. So time is valuable and just not ample. I will be throwing up a few exercises in the next weeks as well.

Hit that +1, drop a comment.

Talk soon.

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Some big news

So the Blog has been dormant and I apologize, but that is because there is some big news to share.

I am excited to announce the launch of Calgary's newest New Music Ensemble, we are flying under the name "Timepoint ensemble" (one of everyone's favorite max objects.) Our first concert is this month! October 27th at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer, 7:30PM, $10 at the door. So check it out, also slap a like on our facebook page.

Thursday, 1 October 2015


Hey everyone

So briefly since I have been absent so long I recently won a job with the Saskatoon Symphony and moved back to Calgary. In addition I am currently working with some great people and founding a new ensemble in Calgary, so time has been sparse for writing with time spent teaching, working, and planning.

I am back though, not sure how heavily I will post and to what end. Watch for a post in the coming weeks until then. Play some scales and make some strange sounds.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Dear blog world

Hello blog world.

Life happens, and it happens fast. Major changes have been happening which led to my lengthy time away from writing here. I will be back in September. Until then thanks for your patience and I will be back soon.


Friday, 12 June 2015

Things in the works!

Exciting things coming up, I am currently working on the Pendercki Sextet, this should be a blast. Collaborating with players I worked with recently on the Koetsier piece for Wagner tuba and string quartet, check out a recording of that performance here.

As well I am super excited to be performing Terry Riley's "in C" with Third Coast Percussion in Chicago at Millennium Park, details on that can be found here.

Aside from that have some writing coming out soon.

Check out my recent recordings @ Soundcloud and Youtube.

Chat again soon!

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

New Video Up

Hey again,

So today I am super super excited to announce the release of the premiere performance of "a cold surrogate, a penance play" by Jordan Kusel. This was a wild work to learn, took a great amount of time and willingness to learn this piece. Pieces like this that circumvent the traditions have always fascinated me. More on that later, here is the video.

Yup that's what I got to say today, if you watch this and it makes you feel things, good, bad, strange, scary, uncomfortable, whatever let me know drop a comment.

Check out this related posts:

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

New recordings

Hello loyal readers

I am going to be uploading recordings over the next month or so from this year. I will post them all here, and on other social media outlets. Here is the first!

This was a great piece to get to work on and perform, Leilei Tian's music is super interesting I could go on about it but, hey, let's let it speak for itself.

Leave a comment, hit the +1, subscribe,

Let me know you are out there.

Happy sound making!

Check out some related posts!

Monday, 25 May 2015

Addendum to article in the horn call

Hello faithful readers... reader...silence?

If you may have noticed I had an article appear in the Horn Call, the journal of the international horn society. There is mention of some "examples" that seem to not be in the printed publication so, I submit for the approval of the midnight society, those said examples.

I should also be releasing soon a recording of the premiere performance of the work by Jordan Kusel that is spoken about in the article soon.

Example 1

Example 2

So.. there ya go. if you have any questions fire them off, I had even more hours to stare at the score and come up with ideas for this particular work. So ask away, hit the +1, throw a share.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Thoughts on curating a performance

Back when I started this blog, one of the first posts I wrote about was in regards to my thoughts surrounding the programming of new music. You can fine those by following the links below.

What is in a performance Part 1

What is in a performance Part 2

So I went back and read these, one thing I have expressed in the past, and have impressed upon me heavily by one of mentors and a conductor I am fortunate to work with Michael Lewanski is this concept that as artists we form opinions, these are opinions we feel strong about and try to express them in our art. Those opinions should continue to change and evolve even if it means changing your mind. So in that spirit I am going to pull a few key points from the earlier posts and highlight them here, though if you have time, have a read and build an opinion, especially if it is contradictory, then we can talk about that.
  1. I always strive to have some kind of internal consistency that help pull things together, OR helps progress the concert from work to work in a way that you can go from Gabrieli to Globokar.
  2. The more radical a program becomes the more I am aware of this since people (me included) can only take so much.
  3. I try to avoid programming works that are very similar, if I do I need to find a way to give the listener time to digest things
  4. The Audience is the king, they buy tickets, they tell their friends, they literally feed us, both in food and in the ability to acquire more food. That being said, Everything starts from what WE want to present. We then find a way to balance things so that the audience walks away and remembers what they say.
We will stick to these four points.

It's funny remember when I said we can change our minds, wow do I ever feel that way. That is a big reason I decided to come back to this idea. So before we dig into past Mat's mind I want to start with a few key thoughts. These thoughts stretch beyond new music in my mind and are just things that I feel are important.

First and this is something I have really been thinking about these past few months is the difference between programming a concert, and curating a performance. I think these are very different processes that have a big impact on what we present and how an audience responds to them. First though let's set some terms straight here.  

Below are three definitions of curating from the Institute of Cultural Practices:
Definition 1“Curating is the process by which a physical or virtual space is designed and formulated to include a collated, selected, interpreted and intended concept, which can be articulated through a variety of media” 
Definition 2“The organisation, discussion and presentation of information including objects, facts and opinions, in order to create value and meaning to be understood by the public” 
Definition 3“Curating is examining, researching and documenting a collection with the aim of making it accessible to the public. This is done through careful interpretation of the objects, space and text to curate an informative exhibition”

So first of all we see that this idea of curating is more complex then Merriam-Webster would have one believe. 
Where does this leave us in regards to programming vs curating? Here is a scenario for you, our example performer really enjoys playing Strauss and has been waiting to tackle the Second horn Concerto. They also need an unaccompanied work so they stick with a well known work like the Malcolm Arnold fantasy. They also program the Mozart horn quintet and the Gliere Valse Triste as they are both really nice works they enjoy that they want to perform.
The above is how "programming" tends to happen, at least in my experience. For the sake of today we are talking solo recital. Curating a concert around Strauss' second Horn Concerto would be a very different process. For me it would begin with asking a series of questions to myself. 

1. What other pieces would I like to perform (this is the same as above except we are going deeper)
2. Do the pieces work together. The answer to this is not a simple yes or no, we have to consider many different variables.
3. Why do these pieces matter, and why would the audience care. Pieces may matter in other situations, but not when in a set.
4. If the pieces do in fact work together what is the element that connects them. There is a good chance that it is something you never considered. It could be a formal consistency, or formal inconsistency, how we listen, etc. There needs to be, in my opinion some kind of connection.
5. Start looking for new pieces, since your greatest hits won't work. So this step is here since the hard reality that a program comprised of our favourites is very much a mix-tape made for yourself. It can be cold, impersonal, and very disconnected as many recitals tend to be. Think about when you made a mix tape back in the 90s for someone, you slaved for hours to make it perfect, to let songs flow into one-another or clash in conflict. That is the kind of thing we are after, we understand that for there to be meaning to others it takes a complicated effort.
6. Keep repeating steps 2 - 5 until you have a program with a purpose, something unique we cant just stream online.

So that is my process now. It has evolved from where I was before. So let us go back to those 4 points and pull them apart for the present.

  • I always strive to have some kind of internal consistency that help pull things together, OR helps progress the concert from work to work in a way that you can go from Gabrieli to Globokar.

On the surface this is something I still believe in. I would probably never write the sentance that way now, but that is another thing. This idea really relates back to my curating process, but it was still in it's infancy and lacked complexity and depth.

  • The more radical a program becomes the more I am aware of this since people (me included) can only take so much.

Well I can put this one out to pasture as I don't really believe in it anymore. In some way I think this idea existed because of a lack of the third point in my curating process. Which is to say I was still making a mix-tape for myself. The next two points are in ways byproducts of this idea, so I will save the big finish until the end.

  • I try to avoid programming works that are very similar, if I do I need to find a way to give the listener time to digest things
If an audience needs time to "digest things" you, or me, as a curator have not done your job. It i one thing to feel overwhelmed as a listener but to require time is the byproduct of our good old fashioned mix-tape. There obviously are exceptions, if you have never heard an electronic piece before and the first thing you hear is something incredibly dense and complex you may blow your mental CPU, but that is the listeners job to address. We, as serious performers have no job pandering to the listener, or to underestimate the intelligence of them.
  • The Audience is the king, they buy tickets, they tell their friends, they literally feed us, both in food and in the ability to acquire more food. That being said, Everything starts from what WE want to present. We then find a way to balance things so that the audience walks away and remembers what they say.
The audience is NOT in charge. End of story, it is the performer, the composer, the conflict between the live performer interpreting ink that is important and relationships that exist. I programmed a recital this year I was REALLY worried may have been "too far" for the circumstances. It turns out the time spent painstakingly curating the program paid off. I performed 5 works, and in the process explored the possibilities of 14 total works, some are on a list to be played later, some I moved on from. What I have learned, which Tom Varner express in a great way is that:

Your audience is usually happy to go on a ride that they 
have not been on before. 

In the end I believe we owe it to our audience to treat them intelligently, yes they are there to support us, or music, but they can also be looking for something new, something they never thought of.

Just a thought.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Busy, not gone

So I realized how long it has been since my last post. I thought it could be advantageous to check in with a few things. First, on the 7th of April I excitedly got to give the American premiere to Leilia Tian's Om for horn and electronics, as well as the world premiere of Jordan Kusel's "a cold surrogate, a penance play" for amplified horn, max/msp, electronics, and video. ON THE SAME PROGRAM! Which was a great experience all in all. Those pieces shared the bill with Jan Koetsier's Skurrile Elgie for R. Wagner for Wagner Tuba and string quartet, Madelien Isakkson's Tjarnoga - O Bla, and Serge Acuri's Lueres for horn, percussion, and tape. Was a good night recordings will come soon.

In addition I am starting to use my youtube channel again, check that out here: My Channel 

I am currently working on a set of etudes (composing that is) for horn and electronics. They will explore various aspects of working with electronics, yet will be accessible and hopefully help facilitate strategies that can be applied to larger more complex works. So if you want to be a guinea pig, let me know in the comments below! Would love some feedback etc.

Hit that +1, share. Drop a line below! More details, recordings, etc. coming soon.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

The art of "practising" extended techniques

So this post is to address a question I have had asked to me several times in the past weeks in regards to working on extended technique. I thought this would be a useful post to write since for me, it is not cut and dry. I think there is this idea out there that people who are involved in new music spend all our time in our dark dusty corners, surrounded by electronics, and bizarre contraptions always in search of new ways to make sounds. Obviously I can only answer for myself, but this is pretty far from the truth. What I have found with those who perform lots of new music, and myself would be included in this group, is that there tends to be a great deal of time spent on the fundamentals of sound production, articulation, flexibility... you know the meat an potatoes of playing. The more time I have spent with new music the more focused my basic work becomes.


I think that this is a necessary reality when we are dealing with lots of extended technique, we need to invest a great deal of time and energy to our simplest aspects of playing, since there is a good chance you may not make a conventional sound, in a conventional way in your two hours of rehearsal today. As well, having wicked technique and flexibility is a must for new music, or at least it is the pipe dream.

But all those sounds... how?

There it is, the elephant in the room, and that is we need to be able to meet the demands of the music when it comes to extended technique. There are two groups I lump things into.

1. "Normal" extended technique.

2. Unorthodox technique.

In group 1, this is where I put things like, flutter tongue, growling, multiphonics, stopped and echo horn, microtones, etc. Things you encounter all the time and are drawn on constantly. Some people may not include stopped horn in here, but one thing I have learned is that you need a killer right hand for new music, fast, nimble, and accurate.

So with all of the things listed in group 1, the only thing I routinely do in my practising is flutter tongue and stopped horn work. These are worked on for other reasons, flutter scales for air, stopped horn for.. well... being able to do it well.

Group 2 has techniques like, slap tonguing, hammer tonguing, different air sounds, multiphonics in contrary motion (this is, for me at least, an INSANELY hard thing to do, kind of works against how my brain works), combining flutter and growl together, and the list goes on. These are things that you encounter less often, or are unique to a singular work.

If you are still here we have arrived to the part about working on these techniques... so set phasers to fun! So the two groups we are important to this next part. When something falls into group 1, our "normal" group, these are things that are a byproduct of good base technique and mechanics. So if your nuts and bolts are in the right place they tend to just happen. For microtones, if you understand how they work, can hear them, and have a fingering for them they pop out since that is the harmonic series at play. Flutter tongue of course some of us have to learn to do it, I was one of those individuals that can't, and still can not, roll my R's. Had to learn to flutter, but now it works. So again group 1 is all about just being able to play horn in general.

Group 2, now here is the trickier part. There is always a trade off when learning these things, some people are unwilling to, complain it's "not idiomatic" and write it off. Others sit down and figure it out. That is what I'm going to talk about, my process of figuring it out. The best thing you can do is shop-talk with someone who knows the drill, assuming you don't have this luxury here is what I would do, even if you do have someone to shop-talk with, you still need to do the work... sorry?

First: Make a decision about what the technique is, what sound EXACTLY are you going to make. With no decision, you cant conceptualize how to make it work.

Second: Experiment, this is the big steps, start trying things, it could be vowel shapes for air sound, tongue positioning, anything. Leave no stone un-turned.

Third: Deconstruct it to it's elements and master them individually, then put them back together.

Fourth: Implement it back into the piece. Though, do so with no tempo, rhythm, dynamics, etc... The gaol is to place it around the other sounds and start to make sense of it sonically, and structurally. The same way we workout tricky licks in any kind of music, we are building relationships now.

Fifth: Add either the rhythm, or the dynamics, not both. I do this because I am trying to not overload the system. We are close to getting what we want, not just "something".

Sixth - infinity: Add the remaining elements one at a time. So depending on what we are dealing with it could be range, tempo, dynamics, etc. Keep this slow approach going, again we want to get what we conceptualized.

So the above method is slow... and can be tedious depending on who you are, and how you like to get your work done, but, it works. Remember we are not faking it. We need to figure these things out or what is the point. The take away here is that one needs to be really focused on their basic elements of playing to make things work, The more unorthodox a technique is, the more focused time we need to put into it to make it work, since in the end we don't want to get in the way of what we do naturally. I'm not a supporter of sitting down and working on my microscales daily, or anything like that, BUT when these techniques are called on I work them out AWAY from my "morning routine". Good habits, and a strong base will get anything to work.

Be sure to check out the download section for ideas and exercises

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The importance of the phrase in complex music.

So I keep kicking the can down the street here holding off on a video post about the new piece I am working on. SO! On with another kick, on the plus this punt was in fact inspired by the new work.

So, imagine if you would getting a new shiny piece of music, something with no recording so there you are finding things outs from the beginning. This just happens to be one of my favorite situations, it's a rare treat to find, or get a piece that you have no preconceived idea of how it is going to go. This could be Mozart, Bach, or anything, face it, it's exciting and a chance to really flex those interpertational muscles. I think this is something I have written about before... maybe... if not here is my quick 101.

  • Everything you know is contextual. That being said if you are looking at Beethoven 3 you should come at it from his earlier string and piano music, and his first two symphonies. This is something I believe, we have performance tradition, and performance practices and they are different things. The best performances capture the composer not the period, what I mean by that is when we look at Mozart we tend to do so as a figure in time that somehow transcends an era of music and not the actual linear output of his work. 

  • Make decisions, and know why. For me saying well so and so does it this way so I am, is not a real answer, it's uninformed and parroting. If you like something someone does and you can dissect and understand why they made that decision and in turn you yourself agree with that, then power to you.

  • Always think big picture, and try to figure out how everything relates, Find internal consistencies. Internal consistencies is a phrase I use a great deal, because I think it is a big thing, especially with music from the new complexity and things that are not as intuitive to the western ear of music. 

  • If you don't understand it, the audience never will. This is another big things that I learned, it was focused on form for me. The lesson was if you play a Sonata, or a piece in any form. If you have not made the formal decisions and taken time to understand it there will be no way to convey it. 
I realize these are not "unique" to new music, and for all purposes for myself I found these strategies in music from the standard canon. The challenge that appears in more complex music, especially for music that falls further outside the standard canon is that we get can get in a highly technical mindset and need to actively step back and see the big picture beyond the technical demands.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

A lesson learned from none standard notation.

Whenever I get a piece of new music there is always the initial "shock" of notation. Over the years I have become less phased by it but there is always a period where you have to sit down and really look over the part and digest what is going on. What are the techniques, what are the effects/affects, where are the internal consistencies, etc. At the same time there is this instant focus to what is the architecture of the piece, or my part with in the score (which I want to get ASAP, to see how I interact). With the score we are looking at pitch relationships (microtonal etc, should that be unison?) am I emulating other instrumental effects (remember that internal consistency I just mentioned) for example am I trying to create the illusion of over-pressured bowing on the horn, or should it sound different. With new music these are decisions we have to make really quick since if we don't we will never get past step one of the process.

This leads me back to my post title, a lesson learned. Is this kind of process something I undertake when I receive any other more "conventional" or "idiomatic" piece. Should I? Should I do it more? All of those are questions I am reevaluating, I have my process when I get a new work, get a score, get the part, etc. But maybe I have been missing an opportunity to dig deeper into it,

Friday, 30 January 2015

Meeting the demands

So some quick housekeeping. I have started working on Jordan's piece for horn, electronics and video and it is going to be a wild ride. So watch for posts, and video entries about that.


I was inspired to write this post in light of a conversation I saw on the facebook horn page about playing new music, and how it can be "damaging" to our chops. This is a multifaceted thing that I could pull apart but am really going to focus on one thing which was a great piece of advice I have had passed to me by two fantastic teachers, and that is about meeting the physical demands of music. This seems to be a topic that is always hammered (unfairly) onto new music but trust me it applies everywhere. So I want to break it down into a few parts, some new music specific, and the others just a nice warm blanket of good advice I received. We will start with that.

1) You need to adjust in the large scale to the playing demands you face.

Okay, sounds obvious but in practice it is overlooked a lot. Example, we get a piece maybe some wild new composition or a really delicate Mozart octet that hammers at your upper range leaving you to exist in a fourth for 30 minutes. You need to adapt your big picture to meet those demands. In this instance I would be spending more time daily addressing my low range and other playing that just isn't being met in the rest of the day. I like to think I have a pretty heavy morning of playing where I grind away at my fundamentals, knowing that there are days you just need to mix it up to allow yourself to make it to Sunday and a whole new week of challenges. 

2) Get past the technique and see the big picture

My teacher said a great thing to me (of many great things). "Sometimes you need to take a step back to see the blue sky". So in this context this idea applies to "getting stuck" technically. It could be a fluttertongue, some rapid hammertongue stuff, a complex string of timberal changes, microtonal melodies etc. Whatever it is the more you get on the phrase, or the big idea the more the positive physical and mental habits we build daily take over. If you get to "THE PAGE" and are like.. okay... only 36 high Ds left and a whole bunch of fluttered stopped pedal Es, You are about to have a really long day.
Also, at least this is something I always tell myself is that these challenges, things that seem illogical or dare I say unidiomatic (which I think is an synonym for awesome) are what keep audiences, and performers thinking. Also, I have never met a successful person who hates a challenge.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Looking back

So a little over a year ago I started this blog. My plans were to keep track of my ideas and kind of talk things out, but since it would be public I would have to hold myself to a high standard and justify my thoughts, as well. It as to help me highlight my process on working on modern works and leaving a paper trail to look back on. So I thought.. hey, I have been away, not from practising... no rest for the wicked over there. But haven't had time to keep my regular posting up so here is a look back at the most viewed posts, and my favorite ones as well.

So first up. The 5 most viewed

Two posts I am proud of come from work I did in my masters degree.

The first is "The horn in the mix of the new world" (linked above)
Second is "That's irritating" a post on contact dermatitis and brass playing.

There is also the post in regards to a few surveys I conducted that I am turning into a full article. This link,

These are links to much longer articles but, they are interesting, in my opinion at least.

Finally here are my top 3 that didn't make the top 5 most viewed.

So that's it, there could have been more. BUT! That's is for you to decide, I guess. I have some posts coming that are sitting around since I am trying to figure out my opinion still on them so, until then, go forth and harmonize.