I am so happy to be starting my dream job as Athenaeum Research Fellow at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, in Glasgow. I’ll be doing a mix of research, composition, and a little bit of teaching. Upcoming projects here include interdisciplinary research on seal vocalizations with Prof. Vincent Janik at St Andrews University and writing a piece based on my research to be performed by the St Andrews New Music Ensemble conducted by Bede Williams, a new piece for the Fair Trade String Trio, and a set of spring wassailing songs with newly written poetry by American composer and poet Forrest Pierce.
I wrote Seven Duos for Birds and Strings in 2011-2012, when I was composer-in-residence at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany. The piece explores the ways different species of birds might sing their songs together, ranging from unintended overlapping to hocketing so tight that it sounds like only one bird singing.
Seven Duos was commissioned by the Canada Council for the Arts for violinist Annette-Barbara Vogel and violist Dan Sweaney. For a variety of reasons, the piece did not receive its premiere until November 28, 2014, when Annette-Barbara and Dan performed it at the International Viola Congress. I’m glad they waited, because this year the Congress was in Porto, Portugal, and I was able to attend! They gave a fantastic performance, and I had a great time visiting Porto as well.
For the past several years, I’ve been researching the song of the hermit thrush together with Bruno Gingras, Dominik Endres, and Tecumseh Fitch. We found that its songs follow the overtone series! Our resulting paper was published in the Procedings of the National Acadamy of Sciences on November 18. Some good press coverage of our research can be found in Smithsonian Magazine and Huffington Post, and on CBC’s Quirks and Quarks.