Known for his radiant orchestrations, his dramatic structures and his innovative guitar work, Tim Brady is a composer and guitarist who has created music in a wide range of genres ranging from chamber and orchestral music to electroacoustic works, chamber opera, contemporary dance scores, jazz and free improvisation. He has been commissioned and performed by numerous ensembles and orchestras in North America and Europe including the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, New Music Concerts, Ina-GRM (Radio-France), the English Guitar Quartet, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Esprit Orchestra (CBC), the Philadelphia-based Relâche ensemble, the Australian group Topology, and the British string ensemble The Smith Quartet.
Since 1988 he has released 14 CDs as both a composer and a performer on Justin Time Records and, more recently, on Ambiances Magnétiques.
Brady regularly tours North America, Europe, Asia and Australia as an electric guitar soloist, performing his own music as well as new works which he commissions from other composers in his effort to create a new voice for the electric guitar. He has performed at many leading venues including The South Bank Centre and the ICA (London), The Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK), The Darwin International Guitar Fewstival (Australia), the Bang on a Can Festival (NY), De Ijsbreker (Amsterdam), Radio-France (Paris), the Barcelona Contemporary Music Festival and BKA (Berlin). He has recorded extensively for Radio-Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Netherlands Public Radio, Radio-France, Spanish National Radio and National Public Radio in the USA.
His new music ensemble Bradyworks has toured Canada, performed in the United States, and records regularly for both the CBC and Radio-Canada. The ensemble released its first CD in 1991, entitled Inventions, and released its second recording, Revolutionary Songs, in 1996 to coincide with its performance at the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville. In the autumn of 2003 the group released its third CD, entitled Unison Rituals, and presented its first European tour, including a radio performance for the BBC Radio 3 programme “Hear and Now”, along with concerts in Aberdeen, Dublin and Cork. The ensemble recently presented Brady’s two chamber operas in highly successful productions: Three Cities in the Life of Dr. Norman Bethune (Montréal, 2003 / Toronto, 2005), and The Salome Dancer (Kitchener, 2005). In May 2008 it presented 5 performances of the multi-media work My 20th Century in a tour across Québec, including a performance at the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville.
In January 2004 he was awarded the Prix Opus for “Composer of the Year” by the Conseil québécois de la musique, for the outstanding quality of his work as a creative artist. From 2008 to 2010 he will be serving as the “composer in residence” with the Orchestre symphonique de Laval, working with music director Alain Trudel to build a creative music presence in the orchestra and in the city of Laval.
In addition to his work as a composer and guitarist, from 1994 to 2004 he served as the Artisitc Director of Innovations en concert, a company which he founded. It is one of Montréal’s main new music producers, and during his tenure as director he produced over 100 concerts of contemporary music from across Canada and around the world. He also writes frequently for Musicworks Magazine, and has served on the boards of Codes d’accès, The Canadian League of Composers and the Music Gallery.
Montréal (Québec), 1956
Residence: Montréal (Québec)
- Performer (electric guitar)
On the web
empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 12119, IMED 12119_NUM / 2012
J&W / JETW 931 / 1992
Société nouvelle d’enregistrement / SNE 542 / 1988
Sophie Galaise, ed.
Circuit, musiques contemporaines / CIRC 10_1 / 1999
In the press
Réjean Beaucage, Voir, September 23, 2010
Réjean Beaucage, Voir, September 11, 2008On savait Tim Brady éclectique, mais là, il frappe fort!
Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, June 20, 2008
John Kelman, All About Jazz, May 22, 2008But his incorporation of a very electric guitar has created his own space, one that continues to evolve…
Tim Brady compose une œuvre sur des paroles de Michel Rivard pour le 25e anniversaire de l’Orchestre symphonique de Laval. Wow!
Le directeur musical de l’Orchestre symphonique de Laval (OSL), Alain Trudel, a préparé un programme si alléchant pour l’ouverture de la saison qu’on a dû prévoir un spectacle supplémentaire! Il y aura l’ouverture-fantaisie Roméo et Juliette, de Tchaïkovski, mais surtout, il y aura Alain Lefèvre et le Concerto no 4 d’André Mathieu (faut-il rappeler que les concerts de l’OSL se donnent à la salle André-Mathieu?). Mais ce n’est pas tout! L’OSL a aussi commandé une œuvre à son compositeur en résidence, Tim Brady, et ce dernier a obtenu la collaboration de l’auteur Michel Rivard, qui a écrit un texte que chantera le baryton Michael Donovan.
Le tandem Rivard/Brady est relativement surprenant, l’auteur-compositeur-interprète et le guitariste éclectique n’évoluant guère dans le même registre. Brady explique: «En avril 2007, je participais à un projet du CBC Orchestra, le Canadian Songbook [et rappelons que c’est Alain Trudel qui le dirigeait jusqu’à son démantèlement en 2008]. J’avais été engagé pour faire des arrangements de pièces des Guess Who. C’est là que j’ai rencontré Michel Rivard et que nous avons découvert que nous avions beaucoup de choses en commun; nous avons parlé aussi bien de Varèse et Messiaen que de Zappa! C’était juste avant que je commence mon poste à l’OSL. J’avais déjà le projet d’une grande œuvre vocale, mais je n’avais pas de texte…»
Cherchant un texte original en français, Brady s’est rapidement rendu compte qu’il venait de se faire un ami possédant une certaine expérience dans le domaine! «Quand je lui ai proposé de le faire, explique Brady, il a immédiatement accepté, en me disant qu’il cherchait précisément un projet pouvant le sortir de sa zone de confort.» Il ne pouvait pas vraiment en sortir davantage qu’en collaborant à la création d’une œuvre symphonique contemporaine! «Dès que j’ai lu sa première page de texte, poursuit Brady, la musique était déjà dans ma tête.» En amour, en hiver, de Tim Brady et Michel Rivard: à découvrir!
À découvrir également: 24 Frames, une nouvelle collaboration entre Brady (à la guitare électrique) et le vidéaste Martin Messier. Ils ont présenté l’œuvre au festival Bang on a Can à New York, avec beaucoup de succès, et le referont le 4 octobre à la Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur.
Le compositeur Tim Brady est en résidence à l’Orchestre symphonique de Laval, qui nous présente sa plus récente œuvre entre deux symphonies de Beethoven. Pas mal!
Lundi dernier, il était à la Sala Rossa pour improviser avec, entre autres, le contrebassiste Barry Guy et la clarinettiste Lori Freedman; mercredi, il transportait ses guitares électriques à la salle Claude-Champagne pour participer au concert d’ouverture de la saison du Nouvel Ensemble Moderne en jouant dans une œuvre du très actuel compositeur allemand Heiner Goebbels; voici maintenant l’Orchestre symphonique de Laval qui nous présente sa musique orchestrale, et le directeur musical de l’OSL, Alain Trudel, la programme entre deux symphonies de Beethoven! On savait Tim Brady éclectique, mais là, il frappe fort! Et ce n’est pas tout: la pièce qui sera créée, Running, est inspirée de Runnin’ Back To Saskatoon, des Guess Who… «Ce n’est pas l’une de leurs meilleures tounes, explique Brady, mais on m’a demandé d’en faire un arrangement pour le CBC Radio Orchestra, à Vancouver, dont le chef est aussi Alain Trudel, et ça a très bien marché. En fait, j’ai presque fait une réécriture de la pièce, un truc qui dure 11 minutes, dans lequel près de la moitié avait très peu à voir avec la pièce originale. J’en étais assez content et j’ai suggéré à Alain de développer certaines de ces sections pour en faire une nouvelle œuvre, qui est devenue Running.»
Le titre de l’œuvre rappelle évidemment l’originale, et les aficionados des Guess Who (?) en verront peut-être passer l’ombre, mais il signale aussi un scherzo d’enfer. «Ça n’arrête jamais!» prévient le compositeur, «enfin, il y a bien une ou deux mesures de relâche, mais pas plus.» Présentée après la Cinquième de Beethoven et avant la Sixième, surnommée Pastorale, du même compositeur, l’œuvre risque d’avoir un certain effet! S’il est compositeur en résidence à l’OSL, c’est pourtant la seule œuvre de Tim Brady que nous entendrons l’orchestre jouer cette saison; «oh! mais je vais aussi beaucoup travailler dans les écoles de Laval, auprès des étudiants en concentration musique, particulièrement, où l’on présentera des ateliers de composition, un peu pour montrer ce que c’est qu’un compositeur. Je vais aussi travailler aux arrangements pour le concert symphonique de Dan Bigras que l’OSL présentera en janvier.» Brady travaille aussi avec Alain Trudel et le directeur général, Alain Demers, à l’élaboration d’un événement autour de la création, avec concert (incluant une grande œuvre de Brady), des conférences, etc. À suivre!
Tim Brady est aussi président du Réseau canadien des musiques nouvelles, un organisme de réseautage qui vise à stimuler la communication entre les divers intervenants de la communauté des compositeurs et interprètes des musiques d’aujourd’hui. L’organisme prépare un colloque qui se tiendra à Montréal, en février 2009, durant le festival MNM. À propos des récentes actions de notre bon gouvernement conservateur dans le domaine des arts, Brady commente: «Ça manque tellement de vision… C’est triste de voir des gens qui comprennent tellement mal ce qui se passe dans le monde.» Il commente beaucoup plus que ça, en fait, et assez pour nous donner envie de courir vers l’isoloir le plus proche!
The second day began with Montréal-based guitarist and composer Tim Brady with the video artist Martin Messier and the Bradyworks ensemble. Brady opened with a piece for solo guitar with video. The guitar part was a Frippish quick-strumming work with a video of orange clouds and lines of words at the bottom of the screen. Interesting, it reminded me of some early space-rock. The second piece was called Switch and was in five parts. Some sections reminded me of Nick Didkovsky’s prog/rock guitar sound with some slowed down bent-string weirdness elsewhere. 57 Ways of Playing Guitar displayed some constantly shifting ways to play the guitar with electronic sounds and beats inserted at certain points. The best piece was last, a Shoshtakovich tribute with (a sort-of) double quartet featuring guitar, piano, sax, percussion and a sampled string quartet. The writing recalled some Zappa-like complexities and layers of images of old St. Petersberg with current images of the same city worked very well with the music. […]
Tim Brady has led a dual career, not unlike Norway’s Terje Rypdal. A fine guitarist, Brady has released a series of albums that focus more on a unique approach to playing that’s a stylistic mélange of Robert Fripp’s circuity and Fred Frith’s angularity, amongst others. Compositionally, he’s moved the electric guitar, with all its broad sonic possibilities, into the realm of contemporary composition on albums including 10 Collaborations (Justin Time, 2000) and GO (Ambiances Magnétiques, 2006). Brady’s music can be rigorous and complex, but he’s also an improvising musician, sometimes blurring the line between form and freedom.
For his 1:00 PM show at Cinema Laurier, Brady collaborated with video artist Martin Messier for a series of pieces where sound and image integrated seamlessly. Unlike keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft’s multi-media performance at the recent JazzNorway in a Nutshell however, the visuals are not an automated response to the music, but a constructed set of images that bring Brady’s already highly pictorial music to a more discrete light.
Technically staggering, Brady’s control of a wealth of sound-processing devices allows him to expand the sound of one guitar into a very large soundscape. His layering of delay and oscillation, during the first composition of the performance, allowed what was initially a very small group of notes played with a relentlessly rapid tremolo (up-and-down picking) to evolve almost imperceptibly. Effects that generated no small amount of noise made the piece more about texture than tonality, even as he expanded the piece away from those initial few notes.
Other pieces occupied more traditional spaces of melody, rhythm and harmony, despite there being little of the conventional in Brady’s writing. Blending richly arpeggiated chords with jagged punctuations, Brady at times favored knotty, long-form themes that would, no doubt, yield far more on repeated listens but, even with this one exposure, created lengthy and intriguing narratives.
Brady’s writing ranged from the brief miniatures of Switch, titled for his use of the five-way switch on his electric guitar, to the more expansive 57 Ways of Playing Guitar, which incorporated the use of preprogrammed material and additional guitar tracks (“I’m a great guitarist”, Brady said while introducing the piece, but not that great). But it was his Double Quartet (Hommage à Chostakovitch), on which Brady was joined by his Bradyworks group—saxophonist André Leroux, percussionist Catherine Meunier, sampler David Kronkite and Brigitte Poulin — that was both the performance’s longest piece and its highlight.
Using images from St. Petersburg and revolving around a four-note motif that Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) often used — D, Eb, C, B, which represented his first name — Brady’s piece began in new music territory, but with his effected guitar (in particular an overdriven tone almost never heard in classical music, with the exception, again, of Terje Rypdal) often a sharp contrast to the organic sounds of piano, tuned percussion and saxophone, it ultimately paid homage to one of Shostakovich’s primary influences, Baroque composer JS Bach. Angular melodies, sharp dynamic juxtapositions and oblique passages were replaced with melodies approaching beauty, but from a unique perspective filtered through Brady’s personal lens.
With Brady, Meunier, Poulin and Leroux forming the first of the composition’s titular groups, it was the three hours of string quartet music Brady had sampled for use by Kronkite that formed the second quartet. Perhaps a nod to the economic realities of touring with a larger ensemble, the resourceful addition also created a more modernistic sound and allowed Brady to shape the music and sonic landscape in ways that might not have been possible with two full quartets onstage.
As a composer, Brady fits in alongside contemporaries including Evan Ziporyn, David Lang and Martin Bresnick. As a player, with and without Bradyworks, he shares a modernity of approach with Bang on a Can, So Percussion and Alarm Will Sound. But his incorporation of a very electric guitar has created his own space, one that continues to evolve and whose many facets were demonstrated at his FIMAV 2008 performance.
Tim Brady, Musicworks, no. 73, March 1, 1999… a remarkable creative leap…
The contrast is remarkable and the results utterly convincing: take late twentieth-century digital multi-track-recording and sound-processing technology, apply it to an instrument that had its heyday 350 years ago, and produce a program of thirteen highly original works by composers from Canada, the United Kingdom, France, and Greece. What you get is a brilliant double CD by Canada’s leading new-music harpsichordist vivie’ vinçent.
Next to the invention of music notation around 1100, the invention of sound-recording seems to me to be the most fundamental technological shift in the history of music. In many ways it has had an even more profound effect on music because it is an “open” technology, not based on a specific artistic content (Western music is so intimately bound to its notation that it is at times hard to distinguish between the two), but rather on the basic material of music – sound and silence. The elaboration of sound recording into multi-track studio technique by electric guitarist Les Paul in the late 1940’s, followed by recent developments in computer hard-disc recording, have created a new “virtual” instrument, capable of transforming any musical performance or sonic event into a sequence of sounds that is totally convincing as a musical gesture, yet bears only a tangential relationship to the original source. In short, silence has become a blank canvas on which to paint sounds, unfettered by the technical weakness (or brilliance) of musicians.
With the notable exception of electroacousticians, new music performers and composers have only slowly warmed to the enormous artistic potential of the recording studio – in contrast to the rock world, which would literally be unimaginable without t he multi-track studio. Harpsichordist Vinçent, whose work is deeply indebted to Glenn Gould’s studio work of the 60’s and 70’s, shows remarkable vision in her approach to the studio, and in her recorded interpretations of the thirteen works on the CD. Rather than using the studio to essentially record live performances, editing to get rid of those pesky mistakes that we humans are prone to, she conceives each work as a distinct sonic entity, designed to be realized in the studio and to be listened to in one’s home. Editing and mixing become an inherent part of the performance, rather than just a way of correcting errors. This is a remarkable creative leap for a performer to make, especially one whose instrument has been ignored by the musical mainstream for almost three centuries.
But I think the harpsichord’s peculiar historical and technical limitations are the strength of this record. The instrument is largely free of the tyranny of the mainstream repertoire that a pianist or a violinist have to contend with – no Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, or Schönberg here. And the limited dynamic range of the instrument, along with its rich palette of timbral variations, make it ideal for electronic treatment, with the studio used to enhance t he performance with elements other wise unattainable.
The most obvious examples of this approach are the three pieces on the CD on which three separate pairs of stereo microphones are used to capture the sound of the instrument from three different acoustic perspectives, the focus then moved back and forth among them to emphasize the works’ structures and create timbral variation – a technique used by electric guitarists for decades, and one that brings new life to the harpsichord.
The most successful of these pieces is à perte d’espace by François Rose. The work uses highly effective 9th and 11th chord voicings and strong rhythmic gestures to create an almost jazzy sense of energy and forward momentum. The musical space alternates between distance and extreme close-up several times during the work, always in order to underline the inherent musical structure of the piece, never just to create gratuitous sonic effect. This type of imaginative composition, combined with Vinçent’s spirited and creative performance, will win new listeners for the harpsichord.
Brian Cherney’s déploration sets up an intriguing compositiona l and recording process, evolving via rapid-fire cross-cuts (both in the writing and the recording) between dense, virtuosic clusters and atonal passages – played with much bravura by Vinçent – and more tranquil, tonal music taken from a motet by Josquin des Près. Vinçent’s use of a dynamic mix, with the acoustic space constantly evolving, rather then being fixed at a single, static point of view, is brilliantly suited to this work – it would be hard to achieve such a convincing performance in a live setting. Though the piece is overly long (once the process is set in motion, we know where it is going, and there are no surprises), it shows how Vinçent’s concept of the studio can add another dimension to a composer’s work. And the final minute of the work is an inspired use of technology: using a studio fade-out (no, not a diminuendo; remember a harpsichord can’t do that) to achieve the sense of the music disappearing into silence – which is clearly Cherney’s intention, but which would be unrealizable (given the harpsichord’s limitations) without the intervening recording process. This is technology in the service of art.
Of somewhat less interest is Rodney Sharman’s five-minute miniature, kore. The work revolves around a series of pleasant harmonies and arpeggios, but seems to lack any fundamental direction, any musical argument. The subtle use of microphony helps create a sense of some movement in the performance, but cannot overcome the overall static nature of the composition.
With Simon Emmerson’s points of departure, we are shown another side of the harpsichord. The lack of acoustic volume and resonance of the instrument, as compared to the piano, has always been viewed as a weakness, but Emmerson takes a different perspective. By using live electronics to enhance and manipulate the harpsichord’s limited resonant capabilities, he creates a fascinating sense of dialogue between the acoustic sound and the electronic artefacts, which would be very difficult to handle in a work for piano and electronics. Delays, flangers, phasers, chorus, and reverb move in and out of the harpsichord sound as Vinçent plays Emmerson’s essential linear musical argument at full tilt. This piece opens the door on a Pandor’s box of musical possibilities for harpsichord and live electronics and, given the success of this piece, I would love to hear more of this type of work from Vinçent and her composer collaborators in the future.
The curious (to modern ears) timbre of the harpsichord at times makes me think of its roots in a distant European past, when the musical hegemony of Western classical music had not yet been canonized by royalties, publishers, academics, and record companies, and the sense of tone colour, attack, and tuning was more open and flexible – perhaps somewhat closer to the folk music that surrounded it. To my ears, the sound often evokes elements of African or Asian music. Muted notes, micro-intervals, and percussive effects make me think of the cora, the kalimba, the koto, or the pipa, in a way no other modern Western musical instrument could.
Vinçent explores this part of the instrument’s nature with several fascinating works involving alternate tunings, either in quarter-tones or in the “agricola” tuning – a microtonal tuning, named for German musician Martin Agricola (1545) that uses a series of asymmetrical pitch adjustments (ranging from +20 cents to –17 cents), based around the note A (440). Bruce Mather’s saumur at times sounds more Byzantine than contemporary, with its highly seductive quarter-tone melismas and evocative use of microtonal harmony. The alternate tuning is used here as a fundamental part of the work’s architecture, not just as a colouristic effect, to create a work of striking beauty. John Beckwith’s on the other hand is somewhat more conventional. He uses the quarter-tones playfully at times, but never really gives himself over to the tuning, always placing the quarter-tones in reference to our modern intonation system. Calliope Tsoupaki’s piece, common passion, is performed in the agricola tuning. Though at times a bit over-long in its thematic elaborations, it is impressively performed by Vinçent. Also, the piece emphasizes the subtlety of intonation the harpsichord can achieve and the expressive capabilities of the instrument.
The remaining works on these two CD’s fall more squarely into the modernist camp, while still exploring the instrument’s potential. Wendy Prezament’s 2 pieces for harpsichord and David Eagle’s toccare share a common concern for timbral variation, using the harpsichord’s multiple stops and muting possibilities to create kaleidoscopic textures, which brings forth dramatic performances from Vinçent. The opening work on the CD, Barbara Pentland’s ostinato and dance, suffers from the composer’s somewhat academic approach to the instrument, leaving one wishing that she had really let loose and given the performer something to dance about!
Pierre Schaeffer’s two-and-a-half-minute miniature, bilude (for harpsichord and tape), does give us something to dance about - specifically, the second Prelude from Bach’s fifth French Suite. A dialogue between the harpsichord (playing the Bach score) and tape (starting out with a piano rendition of the Bach, but evolving into solos for car horns and scissors), the work has a relentless drive and a sophisticated sense of the absurd that makes it truly one of the outstanding moments on this recording. Pierre Desrocher’s eudoxia exhibits a similar sense of drive, using repeated arpeggios and cascading harmonies to create an exhuberant tour de force, which Vinçent performs with the kind of carefully considered reckless abandon that the work requires.
The final seven minutes of the record are given over to a conceptual work entitled …the idea of silence…, the title clearly paying homage to Glenn Gould’s radio work The Idea of North. Consisting largely of recorded silence, with very few quiet noises in the middle, the piece follows directly after the fade-out of the Cherney work, acting as an extended coda to the disc, giving the listener time to consider what she: has just listened to. Like most purely conceptual works, the practical realization is imperfect (my normally very quiet NAD CD player was cranked so high to hear the sounds on the record that the most noticeable noise was the electronic pre-amp noise…), but then, I guess, that isn’t the point.
But my point is this: vivie’ vinçent has created a very ambitious and very powerful double CD that convinces us not only of her considerable talents as a harpsichordist, but of her new and original vision of the instrument and its relationship with contemporary technology.
Tim Brady and Marjan Mozetich won the Jan V Matejcek Prize for concert music, awarded by SOCAN on November 21 and 22, 2006.…Thursday, November 23, 2006 / General