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chamber orchestra

Commission: Giorgio Magnanensi, with support from the CCA

This work was commissioned by Giorgio Magnanensi, Artistic Director of Vancouver New Music, to be paired with Edgard Varèse’s Désert. What an exquisite gift! Of all the composers of the last century, Varèse awakened me to the contemporary language as no other have; he literally transformed me overnight.

Brasier largely follows the instrumentation of Désert. The only difference is that I don’t use any electronics.

The word brasier refers to combustion, violent fire or passion, as in to ignite, to consume. The work is divided into three continuous sections expressing, as metaphorical material, three states of mind or psychological perspectives: witnessing from afar, being consumed, remembering.

These sections are defined by strict parameters controlling the orchestral palette. The first part, for percussion only, is characterized by constant activity of metallic and white flashes, thunderous crashes and a virtuoso timpani solo. In the middle section, the tutti suddenly appears. The entire action is organized in blocks of overlapping layers.

Within a well-defined, almost mathematical language (tessitura, phrasal contour, number of notes, rests, etc.), the instrumental groups create a mass of energetic sounds, a density within a strictly organized chaos. The final section is a subtle variation on the harmonic and rhythmic material of the previous sections, perceived as a mirage.

Many thanks to composer Ronald Bruce Smith for his valuable assistance in using the Max-MSP software. This work was composed in San Francisco with a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts.