Kenley Kristofferson

Composer.

Tag: winnipeg

Morgun – *WORLD PREMIERE!*

I am so excited to announce, in conjunction with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba the WORLD PREMIERE of my work for Symphony Orchestra, Morgun.

It premieres on October 31st, 2014 at 8:00pm at the Winnipeg Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

photo (15)

(that’s not me, we just look weirdly alike)

“Morgun” is Icelandic for “morning” and, when I was approached to write a piece as part of the 125th anniversary of the Icelandic Festival, I knew that its heart would be morning.  Perhaps the first morning after the settlers arrived, perhaps “morning” as a metaphor for the start of something new.  At its heart, it was the start of something new.

Growing up in Gimli, MB (the home of the festival) and being Icelandic, the story of the settlers coming over from Iceland in the mid-1800s has always been a part of my being.  Both sets of grandparents spoke Icelandic fluently and I grew up hearing it.; at Christmas, there was never a shortage of pönnukökur or vinatarta, and we were always in town for the festival (but usually working for most of it, being a local and all).

When I was approached by Janice Arnason to compose a piece for the 125th, I was elated.  Janice was last year’s president of the festival as well as my elementary music teacher, piano teacher, and Grade 6 LA/SS teacher – this is how small towns work 🙂 Anyway, I feel immense gratitude that she would ask me to commit something so important and meaningful to the culture of our town.  Even though I’ve worked games for some pretty big franchises, I only have three things published for actual ensembles of live human beings, so I’m still a bit green to professional writing, if you look at it objectively.

But that’s part of growth: If you work really hard, do good work, and are an easy person to work with, people you respect will take risks on you.  This is how it works – someone needs to take a risk on you, and the beauty of a small town is that it’s easy to take a calculated risk because the people you respect have known you your entire life.

In short, I am grateful.  To some degree, I am also lucky, but working hard can help you load the dice.  Like measured risk, it’s measured luck, but I am always grateful when it actually works out 🙂

I’ll post more about the process later on!

Kenley

Music Ed Monday – Good News Calls

 But the most important lesson to be learned about calling parents at home to praise the achievements of their children is that those calls are actually more effective.  The student comes into class the next day with a lighter step, a brighter smile, and usually more of the same wonderfulness that prompted me to call home the night before.

– Taylor Mali
“What Teachers Make”

Taylor Mali is my favourite poet, not because he writes about teaching and I’m a teacher, but because his way with words really works the fine balance between economy, eloquence, and kicking your butt with very precise text.  I’ve been reading many of his books at the same time (The Last Time As We Are, What Learners Leave, and What Teachers Make), which may not be the best idea in terms of continuity, but I really do love his writing.

The interesting thing about What Teachers Make is that it’s mostly prose and not poetry.   The book discusses teaching in general and his relation to it (personal experience, anecdotal stories, etc.), but also deconstructs his poem of the same name.  You can hear him read it below…

There’s this line about “calling home around dinnertime” and he’s talking about the “good news” calls.  It’s when you call home for a good reason, usually to celebrate something that the student (the parents’ child) did in class that day.

But we’ve really stigmatized calling home, haven’t we?

When I think of calling home, it’s usually to discuss the negative things… and that’s what the parents think too.  It’s always nice to hear the shock in a parent’s reaction to hear how well their child is doing (especially if their kid gets called often for the negative reason).

After reading that passage in the book, I decided to make some good news calls of my own – sometimes I do, but not nearly enough.

It was so refreshing for both myself and the parent that I decided to do it again… and again… and again.

All of a sudden, you think yourself: “Wow, I’ve got some really great kids.”

And you do 🙂 Sometimes we spend so much time greasing the squeeky wheel that we don’t see that silent majority that are absolutely fabulous, especially those in the academic “middle.”  We really do spend a lot of time on the extremes of the spectrum, don’t we?

So, here’s your  homework: Make one good news phone call this week and share it in the comments.  You won’t regret it!

Have a great week,
Kenley

VGM Wednesdays – “The Light”

“The Light” from Bit Blot’s Aquaria, released in 2007.

It is very rare in one’s life that they meet someone as creative and passionate about their art as Alec Holowka, one of the co-creators of Aquaria and head of the indie games studio, Infinite Ammo.  To meet someone who devotes every spare minute to art is really inspiring and he’s one of the two people that I know who can do that (the most-excellent Parker Campbell is the other).  I had the chance to have him on my show a few years back and the episode can be heard here.

Aquaria came out in 2007 as an indie game and was evolved by Alec Holowka and Derek Yu.  In a time where massive studios are using their armies of programmers and graphic artists to release larger-than-life games, it gives me profound happiness that two passionate human beings can make a game with the intent of telling a story and speaking to their audience and still be quite successful.

The game tells the story of Naija, a girl who is alone in a vast sea who seeks to uncover her past and explore the world beyond her home.  The game’s lush graphics, lovely voice acting, intuitive gameplay and evocative music make Aquaria more of an experience than the Metroidvania-style that sometimes gets lumped into.

“The Light” plays near the beginning of the game and really sets the tone: Polychordal ostinati, washes of strings on beautifully dissonant chords (both doubled in synth), pensive woodwind melodies (usually flute),  and a sort of pop chord progression and drumbeat that makes the whole seemingly orchestral setup very accessible to the player.

Buy this game and buy this soundtrack, please.  Your money will not be going to a relentless multi-national; but rather, two people who devote their lives to the medium and the art.

Greg MacThursdays – November 10, 2011

“there’s something dead out in the field behind our house

the wind’s changing direction
I seen the local man dressing up in the latest style
he says, “It’s only natural selection…”

good times coming back again.”

– “Good Times”
from ‘Good Times Coming Back Again’

I read this as the old turning into the new, but the song is SO dark and gritty that it’s really throwing it back in the face of progress.

Here’s the tune from his show in Trois-Rivieres, QC:

(point of fact: I student-taught his drummer and bass player, amazing musicians)

Thanks,
Kenley

Greg MacThursdays – November 3, 2011

“Our anger built and tightly wound
We walked the coal road through the town
“The store,” I yelled, “We’ll burn it down, Burn it to a cynder!”
As I spoke these words before my eyes
Their doors and windows opened wide
And 10 more miners joined my side
Beaten, starved and angered
We were beaten, starved and angered”

– “Company Store”
from ‘Maintenance’

One of my favourite examples of the narrative song, a story of a disenfranchised people who finally fight back against the “company store,” totally bad news.  Here’s the tune performed live:

Greg MacThursdays – October 27, 2011

Greg MacPherson is a Winnipeg-based musician that has resonated with me since I was a teenager and still does.  His music is a tie between grittiness and passion; between being raw and being honest.

Every Thursday, I’ll post some lyrics of his that I really dig and are often great commentary on our lives and us as human beings.

I cannot recommend his music enough – please buy it and support him as an artist!

“If you really want to be somewhere else I guess you gotta go
but don’t pretend the people that you meet are any better than the people that you know.”

“Buy a Ticket”
from ‘Balanced on a Pin.’

Buy his music from gregmacpherson.com

Thanks and stay tuned!
Kenley