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ALONG THE GRAIN: THE MUSIC OF CASSANDRA MILLER

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Abstract

This article is an analytical study of the music of, and an interview with, the Canadian composer Cassandra Miller. Her use of recordings as starting-points for several of her compositions is explored, as is her fondness for loop-based structures, which are sometimes inspired by analogous processes in the world of film. A brief overview of Miller's work to date is complemented by a close examination of several scores, notably Bel Canto, “O Zomer!” and Philip the wanderer. The concluding interview with the composer presents Miller's present musical and artistic concerns in her own words.

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1 Scores and recordings of this and other works discussed in this article may be found at www.cassandramiller.wordpress.com (accessed 4 February 2014).

2 Bernhard Lang, ‘Cuts ‘n Beats: a Lensmans View: Notes on the Movies of Martin Arnold’, 2006, http://members.chello.at/bernhard.lang/publikationen/CutsAndBeatsNotesonMartinArnold.pdf (accessed 4 February 2014), p. 1.

3 Lang, ‘Cuts ‘n Beats’, p. 4.

4 Komorous's influence on two generations of Canadian composers has been profound. His pupils and grand-pupils include Butterfield, Miller, Linda Caitlin Smith, Martin Arnold (the composer, not the filmmaker), Rodney Sharman, eldritch Priest, Christopher Reiche and a great many others.

5 Komorous, quoted in Arnold Martin, ‘listening on the edge’, Musicworks, 88 (Spring 2004), p. 19.

6 Thus the estetiku divnosti appears to be a cousin both of Viktor Shlovsky's concept of ostranenie (defamiliarisation) and of Dada. Arnold argues against equating divnost with Breton's concept of Surrealism as articulated in the First Surrealist Manifesto, remarking that ‘Breton's ascribing beauty to the marvellous, the bizarre – that is, to divnost – implies traditional aesthetics: aesthetics as evaluation, as an appreciation of beauty; aesthetics as a judgement. It seems to me that the estetiku divnosti … is pointing towards another kind of activity … The estetiku divnosti embraces not-distinguishing, not-recognising, the mystifying, and paradox, not merely to celebrate those conditions, but rather to break down that prevalent economy which limits the experience of art to an appreciation of its effects and affects – “do I like it?”; “is it good?”’ (‘listening on the edge’, pp. 19–20).

7 Tellegen Toon, “O Zomer!”, Gedichten 1977–99 (Amsterdam: Querido, 2001), translated by Judith Wilkinson (2005).

8 This and many other works of the Plainsound group can be found at www.plainsound.org (accessed 4 February 2014).

9 For example, Coates's String Quartet no. 5 and Mažulis's ajapajapam.

10 James Weeks, interview with Cassandra Miller, conducted by email between 26 January and 4 February 2014.

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Tempo
  • ISSN: 0040-2982
  • EISSN: 1478-2286
  • URL: /core/journals/tempo
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