works for orchestra
- Mundus Novus (2016)
This piece was one of five works commissioned by Orchestre Métropolitain for their show "Les beautés de la nature". This collective work was imagined as a five-movement symphony, with each movement being inspired by a different area of Canada. My contribution was the opening movement, which was to represent Atlantic Canada.
The piece incorporates elements from various tunes, including The Foggy Dew, Òran do Cheap Breatainn, The Ode to Newfoundland, and the opening of O Canada. I also sought to capture the beauty and captivating imagery of the east coast, as well as life in and around the ocean. The piece also features whale songs sung by instruments of the orchestra. This is a recent fascination of mine, and I am continuing to find the perfect combination of instruments for this unique colour.
This work, along with the four others, were received by a very enthusiastic and appreciative audience in Montreal. I would like the thank all the of members involved with Orchestre Métropolitain for giving me the opportunity to participate in this amazing project (especially Jean-François Rivest who brought this piece alive through his artistic insight and brilliant conducting). Unfortunately I do not have a recording to share, but hopefully in the future I will be able to post one.
I will include an excerpt from the concerts booklet which describes this piece:
"The introduction suggests the landscape of the Maritimes through mist and fog. It is the mystery of a New World to discover. The movement's composer, Labrador native Aiden Hartery, has created music of great delicacy with entrancing, impressionistic touches full of imagery."
- Images for Orchestra (2014)
This work was created at the end of my Masters at the University of Toronto. I wanted to write a piece for full orchestra that was inspired by Newfoundland and Labrador. I decided to commission two visual artist friends to create a work that would represent the mainland of Labrador (Meg Simmons) and the island of Newfoundland (Maria Mercer). I would then use those images as inspiration to create the music.
Meg Simmons - Snow, Land, and Sea (2014) 8.5" x 24" Digital paint on acid free paper
Artist Statement: "We, as Labradorians’, have developed our unique culture and heritage from three very different tribes.The differences from one end of Labrador to the other are so grand it’s difficult to find a common unity between not only our cultures, but also our varying land.Yet, distinctly, we are Labradoreans, from the mines of Labrador West, to the reserves along the coast, we embrace our uniqueness and our differences to come together as one. To find this encompassing theme across such a immense landscape wasn’t as difficult as I had expected. We all share the same flag of snow, land and water, though being unofficial, not many realize that this flag flies throughout Labrador proudly at our town halls and fire stations and is hung even in my own apartment [and the composer's]. In the end we all share the same land. This land has gone through many hardships of fires, declining wildlife and bitter winters, yet the people of Labrador have thrived and our struggles have only strengthened our bound with the land.
With my piece, I sought to encompass the sheer vastness of Labrador ranging from left to right, west to east, through the winding wooded hills to reach the ocean. Labrador is not just one landscape; it’s a constant panorama of our heritage from east to west and north to south. Each section of this painting has elements of not just landscapes of Labrador, but my own memories, and the memories of others.The history of our people and the land are so entwined it would be impossible to not embrace them both. It’s this embrace of differences that we find our unity, our unity within Labrador."
Musical Elements: This piece is a panorama of the Labrador landscape. Looking from the left to the right side, the images are stitches of scenery from Labrador West (where the two of us are from) to the central region (the middle) and finally the south east coast (the right). With this image, I immediately wanted to take the listener on a trip using these visuals. As a Labradorian, I can say that when I think of the most striking/impacting aspect of the Labrador landscape it is the vastness of it all. Its larger-than-life character makes you feel both small and free (Labrador is also called "The Big Land"). I wanted to create what I called the 'Labrador Sound'. It essentially is a wide open sonority played by most of the orchestra. The sound is meant to capture the openness of the landscape. In addition to the artwork, I also wanted to incorporate the Ode to Labrador in some way. For those who don't know, the Ode is set the the tune of O Tannenbaum. As a recognizable melody, I needed to hide it/ use it in a very subtle way. If not, the audience would only hear Oh Christmas Tree. The Ode is used as a passacaglia (a repeated motive in the bass) and only the first four notes are ever used (towards the end of the piece I complete the first phrase). Beyond the 'Labrador sound', I move the music through the various seasons/landscapes from left to right: the winter scene is depicted with harsh, cold textures; the spring scene with more lively and energetic motion; the mountainous region with a broad and arching bass movement; and the coast with an arrangement of a Moravian choral written by Natanael Illiniartitsijok.
Maria Mercer - Our Collaborative Nature (2013) 16" x 24" Graphite on paper, embroidery thread, wool
Artist Statement: "Newfoundland’s culture originates from the richness of the landscapes that have merged and shaped the island. For generations, our existence has been defined by the abundant masses of land and water that surround and influence us. We exist as a collaboration of human and nature that results in a delightfully crafted environment saturated with rich history, tradition and culture.
I’ve used a highly-detailed rendering of imagery as a visual description of the richness possessed by Newfoundland’s landscape. I’ve also incorporated embroidery into the image as a reference to the withstanding tradition of craft in Newfoundland. The thread is intertwined within the shapes of the landscape to represent our inherent connection and creative relationship with the bodies of land upon which we’ve founded our existence."
Musical Elements: This work offers very different visuals from Meg's. As such, I could create something completely different to offer a contrast to the first piece. The art presents two prominent images: the ocean and the land. Two of the most important physical elements that represent Newfoundland, in my opinion. The people have lived on the land and lived off the sea with the ocean sculpting and shaping who Newfoundlanders are. This image lead me to create textures to depict each element: the ocean with an unpredictable, improvisatory characteristic with flowing lines and a more solid, and blocky and more defined/stable material for the rocks. Maria threaded wool along the outlines of the waves and stone and I tried to capture this element in the form of soloistic lines which weave in and out of both textures. Like the previous piece, I drew on the Ode to Newfoundland for the musical material. As this ode has its own original melody, I was more deliberate in my presentation of it.
This entire experience - from commissioning my artist colleagues to writing the piece, to hearing it premiered by the NSO - was an incredible journey both artistically and personally. As someone who respects and admires my provincial heritage, creating something so deeply rooted in its culture was a very fulfilling and meaningful project.
Please have a listen to this work in its entirety. Here is the premiere performance by the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of the talented Marc David.
works for wind ensemble
- Calling (2014) - wind ensemble with additional bugles
This work was commissioned by The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada Band and was premiered on Sunday, October 26, 2014 at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto, ON. It was a part of The Twenty-Fifth Annual Massed Military Band Spectacular. The piece uses bugle calls of The QOR of C throughout the piece.
- An Unlikely Adventure (2011)
Premiered by the Festival Wind Orchestra, this was my first professional commission outside my duties as an undergraduate student composer. This work is a challenging piece for an upper highschool or university ensemble. Recording available through request.
- Lukey's Lullaby (2011)
Originally a piece for trombone quartet, I later arranged this work for full wind ensemble. The piece was dedicated to my undergraduate trombone teacher who had just had a boy named Luke (the music is inspired by the Newfoundland folk song Lukey's Boat). Recording available through request.
- Cape St. Mary's (2012)
Another arrangement of a Newfoundland folk song. This piece, along with Lukey's Lullaby, are fun and entertaining piece for bands looking for a twist on popular folk songs. Recording available through request.
- and then they journeyed (2016) - piano trio
This piece was brought to the Tuckamore Festival 2016. The festival fosters a great partnership between composer and performers as they work together through workshops, masterclasses, and rehearsals. Held every summer in St. John's, Newfoundland, I cannot recommend this program enough for both composers and performers (piano and strings). Please check out more about it here.
- Whisperings (2016) - violin and piano
Written during my time at Tuckamore, this piece was the result of composition workshops with Dr. Andrew Staniland and the other student composers. Essentially, on day 1 we wrote a number of micro-phrases to bring in class the next day. During that second class, through feedback from Andrew and the rest, I chose one of those small excerpts to then develop into a full composition with my remaining 4 days at the festival. That piece was then read by the incomparable Duo Concertante.
- Sunrise to Sunset (2015) - tenor (voice) and piano
This piece is the beginning of a song cycle using poems by E.J. Pratt. With each poem, the titles reflect the passing of time throughout a single day: dawn, morning, evening, and dreams. The poems themselves do not relate to one another, nor do they form a linear story; what is interesting is the colourful and descriptive language used in each poem. Dawn is a playful declaration of a beautiful day; morning is a sombre piece in which the reader is mourning the loss of a loved one; evening is more vague in meaning, but it is mostly a declaration of ones love to ones self and God; and dreams puts you in the perspective of an older person reflecting on younger times. So far, only Dawn and Evening have been written.
- Amalgamation (2015) - brass quintet (Commissioned by Reverb Brass)
This work explores non-standard tuning and pushing lines throughout the ensemble. The work is challenging for both the performer and the listener, but there are hints of beauty throughout the music. The work was premiered by Reverb at Array Space in Toronto, as well as at Western University.
The Dialogue Series:
- Dialogues I: for violing and alto saxophone (2014/15)
I wrote this piece for my time with the Montreal Contemporary Music Lab during the summer of 2014. I wanted both instruments to participate in a conversation with one another. This work would become the first in a series of works called "The Dialogue Series".
- Dialogues II: for tuba and moog synthesizer (2014)
This piece was written for a course requirement while at Western University. Additionally, I also wrote it for Dr. Karen Bulmer, who requested I write her a tuba piece. We premiered this piece together at the 2015 Newfound Music Festival in St. John's, NL. This piece is interesting in that the moog becomes quite similar in timbre to the tuba, so it becomes a conversation between a regular tuba and a sci-fi version of itself.
- Dialogues III: for two guitars (2016)
This piece was written during my studies at Western University for the annual composer/chamber group collaboration. I was partnered with two guitarists (Becky Shaw and Mike Pare) and this piece was written for them to rehearse and perform.
- Perched on the brink; we call out (2014) - mixed ensemble
This piece was written for Sound Symposium XVII in St. John's, NL. It was in a program presented by Redshift Music and The MUN Wind Ensemble and performed in The Rooms. Each instrument/performer was placed in a different area of the massively open space to create a wash of sound to envelope the audience from every angle. I used the image of seabirds lining the cliffs as a visual inspiration when writing this, and once again called on the enormous talents of Meg Simmons to help me with this.
- Divertimento (2013) - violin, clarinet, trombone, percussion (Commissioned by the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra)
Transforming the folk song "The Ryan's and the Pittman's", this piece is quirky, light, and an all around good time. The NSO created a quartet that toured Newfoundland and Labrador, bringing new and old music throughout the province to communities and schools. I was asked to write a short work for this ensemble, and I thought that a work which transforms a very popular folk tune would be an excellent way to relate contemporary music with a fresh audience.
This piece has been performed in places such as Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, and as far away as Trinidad and Tobago.
- strange soft gleam (2013) - piccolo and marimba (Commissioned by Gillian Sheppard
This piece depicts the northern lights, or the Aurora Borealis, which is a light display usually found in the skies in high latitude regions around the world. It is caused by a collision of charged particles (such as solar wind), which are then guided by the Earth's magnetic field into the atmosphere. The name Aurora Borealis originates from the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas. There are perhaps many different interpretations of this phenomenon from various cultures, each with their own meanings or beliefs: for example, the Cree call it the "Dance of the Spirits". Typically the colouration of the northern lights is green, but can have hints of other colours such as red or purple.
Personally, I have observed the northern lights numerous times throughout my life. A local tradition from the region I grew up in would be to whistle or sing at the lights to coax them to dance or move in the sky. The lights were almost always green, which made seeing the other colours a very rare sight.
For this composition, I wanted to influence as much of the beliefs of the northern lights as possible, both historical and personal. I aimed to create a 'dawning' atmosphere by starting with a little material and gradually blooming into something more full and bright. I also wished to depict a windiness in the music, using long sustained notes as well as quick flourishes. I also wanted to incorporate some of the folk traditions with the lights, such as the dancing and whistling elements.
Another element in my inspiration for this piece was referencing a poem by Dinah Craik called "An Aurora Borealis". In this poem, Craik creates a wonderful mental picture of the northern lights and I chose four lines from the poems beginning which I felt would serve as a great form for the piece:
Strange soft gleam...
O ghostly dawn...
That never brightens onto day...
Let us look out beyond the grey
I thought that these words evoked an excellent reference to the northern lights and that many musical elements could be derived from them. There are sections in the piece which effectively represent each line and are presented in a logical and audible order. There is, however, room for interpretation for where exactly each section may begin or end. One person may hear one section ending and another starting and someone else may think otherwise. This, hopefully, effectively establishes the fact that each person interprets the sight of the northern lights in their own unique way. The piece's 'tonality' attempts to imitate the northern lights as well. Since, in my experience, the lights remain a constant colour (green) the 'key centre' roughly remains the same. Sudden surprises and dramatic changes to this key centre aims to portray those rare sparkles of different colours.
- Suite for Trombone Quartet (2011)
During my undergraduate degrees, I was a member of the Paddywagon Trombone Quartet. This group was a big part of my time at Memorial University, and I'm very glad to say that it is still in existence today! Most chamber groups last only as long as the members are in school together, but this ensemble has seen many 'generations' of trombonists going through their time at MUN. There is also a reunion concert coming this fall to celebrate Paddywagon's tenth season (stay tuned for information on that). I wrote this for Paddywagon. It's an early work of mine, but there are moments in this that I still like. The recording will also have the Lukey's Lullaby version for trb quartet as well.
- Our Country's Debt (2014) - ttbb choir w/ solo flugelhorn (Commissioned by Newman Sound Men's Choir)
This work was written for Newman Sound's annual remembrance concert. The text that I chose for this piece was written by my cousin Leo Hartery when he was a young teenager. The language, which is clear and evocative, is given tension by the music with harsh dissonances and uneasy melodic lines. There is beauty within this music, but it is also presented with pain and grief. The flugelhorn mostly acts independently from the choir, but at times participates as if it were another voice among the others.
- Süßer Friede (2013) - satb choir (awarded an honourable mention at the UofT Choral Competition 2013)
- Duel Posaune: for a solo trombonist with a dual persona (2013) (Commissioned by Stephen Ivany)
This piece is inspired by the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The performer is to read off of two stands and to move between each one as the music shifts between each character. The performer is encouraged to take the concept and characterization as far as possible to turn this into as much of a theatrical show as possible. Once again, Meg Simmons was brought on to create the cover art for this piece.