Composition, Research

My Love Has Many Apples

Michael Thibodeau performing My Love Has Many Apples in the Norwegian Church, Lachine


I’ll give my love an apple without e’er a core
I’ll give my love a dwelling without e’er a door,
I’ll give my love a palace wherein she may be,
But she may unlock it without any key.

Nova Scotia Folk Song
Michael Thibodeau, Toronto-based pianist

When Toronto pianist Michael Thibodeau spoke to me about writing a solo work for piano over a year ago, he specifically requested that it contain a maritime element, ideally from his native Nova Scotia. The piece I chose, which originally came to Nova Scotia by way of Great Britain, was called “I Will Give My Love an Apple”. (see The Canadian Encyclopedia)

The resulting piece, part neo-Romantic, part computer assisted composition, is a 10-minute work virtuosic work incorporating elements of the original melody into different textures, and then using algorithms to develop these textures further. At times gentle and tender, and at others aggressive and lively, the piece tries to capture the emotions brought on by the nature of the Eastern seaboard.

A screenshot from OpenMusic, a software used to design much of the C sections of the piece using intricate combinations of algorithms.

This piece was to be performed at a concert in June 2019, which was unfortunately cancelled due to an injury. Instead, we made a recording of the work using the Yamaha grand at the Norwegian Church of Montreal.

A brief analysis

For those who are interested, the piece divides roughly into 7 sections, symmetrically structured as follows:

  • A: Dramatic chords, representing the start of the melody, interspersed with nuanced roamings in the upper register. (0’0″)
    • B: A neo-Romantic accompaniment to the original melody, slowly proceeding over a wash of harmonies. (1’0″)
      • C: A slow, seemingly random progression downwards with rhythms drifting in and out of phase. (2’48”)
        • D: A scherzo-gig section, inspired by the fiddle music and oceans of Nova Scotia. (4’05”)
      • C: A slow, seemingly random progression upwards. (5’53”)
    • B: The melody, again accompanied by a neo-Romantic wash of harmonies. (7’08”)
  • A: Dramatic chords, interspersed with roamings in the upper register. (9’07”)
  • Coda (9’50”)

Research, Uncategorized

Doctoral Defence

December 21, 2017, I passed my doctoral defence at Université de Montréal on the topic “Negotiating the frontier between Computer-assisted composition and traditional writing: The utility of each and their effective cross-integration”. The thesis was completed under the direction of Alan Belkin (website) and Pierre Michaud (website), and was graded exceptional (the highest grade).

The jury and I (L-R): François-Hugues Leclair, Jean Piché, Pierre Michaud, me, Alan Belkin (not pictured: Örjan Sandred, external examiner)

The presentation combined explanations of my use of computer-assisted composition with my philosophical approach to the domain, tied together with score samples and audio files of my compositions, and more in-depth looks at some of my software.

The final thesis has been submitted and will soon be available on the web from the Université de Montréal library, at which point a link will be posted here.

Soutenance Presentation New.001
A slide from the doctoral defence presentation, discussing Mutations II for organ.