The Composers and their Music

Robert Aitken

Flutist and composer Robert Aitken (b. 1939) has been very important in the development and exposure of progressive music as co-founder and artistic director of New Music Concerts, a twenty year running performance series. As a flutist Aitken has always searched, developed and mastered non-traditional instrumental techniques, many of which he uses in Spiral, composed in 1975. This piece contains so many new sounds, both instrumental and electronic that it caused Toronto Star critic William Littler to suggest similarities between the sounds heard at the performance to the sounds heard at a zoo during feeding time. The first performance was in 1975 by the National Arts Centre Orchestra.

Photo of composer Robert Aitken

Portrait of composer Robert Aitken

Norma Beecroft

Norma Beecroft (b. 1934) has played a large role in many areas of Canadian music as a composer, largely of electronic music, and as a CBC radio broadcaster, producer and administrator. Improvvisazioni Concertanti, No. 2, composed in 1970, is from a set of three pieces with the same name. It is the first time she composed using aleatoric (chance) elements in which performers are at times left to improvise their parts under a controlled structure. The piece begins around a central pitch of C, continues to a middle improvisational section that causes textural confusion, and then returns to the beginning central pitch. Improvvisazioni Concertanti, No. 2, was first performed in 1971 by the National Arts Centre Orchestra.

Photo of composer Norma Beecroft

Portrait of composer Norma Beecroft

Michael Colgrass

Michael Colgrass (b. 1932) began his musical career in Chicago as a jazz drummer. He also studied Western composition at the University of Illinois and has spent his life living and working in both the United States and Canada. He has been placed in a movement called The New Eclecticism because of his combination of jazz with various non-traditional Western compositional techniques. In Delta, composed in 1979, Colgrass often layers these two styles so that they are being heard at the same time. The combination is a very sincere portrayal of his background and interests. Delta was first performed in by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in 1979.

Photo of composer Michael Colgrass

Portrait of composer Michael Colgrass

R. Murray Schafer

R. Murray Schafer (b. 1933) has long had a reputation of "breaking the rules" of composition and has at times done so largely for the purpose of challenging listeners and performers. Even then his creativity and compositional skill are always present. East is no exception, containing non-traditional techniques often used by Schafer such as slow harmonized glissandos and also challenging performers by asking instrumentalists to sing and hum while also playing. East was composed in 1972 and first performed in 1973 by the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Bath, England.

Photo of composer R. Murray Schafer

Portrait of composer R. Murray Schafer

John Weinzweig

John Weinzweig (1913-2006) was one of the most influential composers in Canada because of his success as a composer and because of the successes of his numerous composing students. Divertimento No. 6 was commissioned in 1972 by Paul Brody for the Third World Saxophone Congress. In this composition Weinzweig uses non-traditional techniques such as extended instrumental methods like instrument key clicking or humming through the instrument. He also displays his use of serialism for a source of melodic material shown by repeated note ordering that does not have any tonal centre. The work was first performed at the Third World Saxophone Congress in Toronto with the aid of a grant from the Canada Council.

Photo of composer John Weinzweig

Portrait of composer John Weinzweig

Credits and Copyright

  • Text Asset: Robert Aitken, Spiral
  • Image Asset: Robert Aitken
    Robert Aitken
  • Text Asset: Norma Beecroft, Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 2
    Norma Beecroft
  • Image Asset: Norma Beecroft
    Canadian Music Centre
  • Text Asset: Michael Colgrass, Delta
  • Image Asset: Michael Colgrass
    Paul Hoeffler
  • Text Asset: R. Murray Schafer, East
  • Image: R. Murray Schafer
    André Leduc
  • Text Asset: John Weinzweig, Divertimento No. 6
    John Weinzweig Estate
  • Image Asset: John Weinzweig
    John Weinzweig Estate
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