All of Us (aka The Heart of Things)

2/28/20191 min read

Last July, just as I was completing the first draft of my Three Echoes of the Odyssey, playwright Wanda Graham sent me a play she had just completed, conceived as a 'music drama,' and dealing with a tormented family of fishers on an island off the coast of Nova Scotia. I found her concept so compelling, so original and so musically suggestive that I engaged with it immediately. As I wrote to Arts Nova Scotia in applying (successfully!) for a grant to work on this project: 'It deals with the ecological and economic realities of the fisher's life, the struggle for gender equality, sexual identity, suicide, sexual abuse, generational tensions, the intricate web of family relationships. It manages to do this without preaching, by creating indelible, moving characters and thrusting us into their very particular world.'

Just as with I will fly like a bird (my setting of Andrew Wainwright's tribute to Robert Dziekanski), this powerful, eloquent text is taking me in directions I never would have foreseen. Unlike I will fly like a bird, All of Us will not be an opera, though the work is of operatic proportions and intensity. As in opera, the music will carry the emotional thrust and sweep of the drama, creating a situation in which the actors are an integral part of the musical tapestry.

I will be exploring various styles of vocal delivery and implementing new 'user-friendly' notations for them; in this respect I will be developing and expanding terrain I first began to investigate almost half a century ago, in the scores I composed for the dance troupe Le Groupe de la Place Royale.

I will be venturing into realms which are new to me: mastering Logic Pro X, QLab, and other software, exploring electronically generated sounds, musique concrète, sounds recorded from nature or sampled from my growing collection of percussion instruments, and integrating them into a substantial virtual orchestra.

I cannot overemphasize my gratitude to Wanda for sending me her profound, moving and ground-breaking drama, and inviting me to join her in this inspiring collaboration.