This Saturday, November 2, at the Dunfield Theatre in Cambridge, Ontario the Cambridge Concert Band directed by Brent Rowan will be premiering my new piece Convergence. It was written especially for the band and is in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the creation of the City of Cambridge.
Celebrations and other commemorative events have been quite muted. Granted, a fortieth anniversary is not as big a deal as a fiftieth or hundredth but it is usually marked as a special event. The reason for the lacklustre response to the occasion, in my opinion, is that the amalgamation was a shotgun wedding. In 1973 the communities of the Village of Hespeler, Town of Preston and City of Galt along with the tiny village of Blair were forced by the Province of Ontario to amalgamate. There are still very bitter divides. Long-time residents still hang on to the old jurisdictions and newcomers, like myself, learn very fast in which one they live. The city bureaucrats try their best to assuage the residents. This city of around 100,000 people has three downtowns, two Santa Clause parades and two hockey associations all set up on the old geographic boundaries. How do you acknowledge this while celebrating an important historical event?
For Convergence, I have used a form that has become almost my default. It is a South Indian reductive form that alternates thematic material in a mathematical way. While I use it in a Western European context and not in its pure Indian one, the spirit and recognisability of the form is there. Convergence has three themes, each to ostensibly represent the three main municipalities. One is a melodic event, one a mostly rhythmic one and the other a large choral sound. These themes are tossed around each other almost never occurring at the same time. As the piece progresses, each reiteration of the themes becomes shorter until they collide into what I referred to at a rehearsal as a “soup”. When the mora (A term for part of the form. It is analogous to a final cadence or coda but not truly so.) arrives the themes have sorted themselves out of the “soup”. They are sounding clearly together but still are distinct. I liken it to the wampum belts used at early treaties. Two peoples travelling side by side but in each of their own canoes. I never mention which theme is Galt, which is Preston, or which is Hespeler because I never decided for myself and I think it is best that way. I also like to think that the piece can travel beyond this specific idea of locality and be a convergence of many other things; even just a convergence of musical ideas.
This piece is the most programmatic I have written in a very long time and that includes my stage works like Variations on Gestalt and Tilt! I learned early on in my career how a programme can severely overshadow the music. That being said, this programme and the form and occasion have come together nicely to give me this opportunity to create something; my comment on coming together.
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