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Artists Tim Brady

Known for his radiant orchestrations, his dramatic structures and his innovative guitar work, Tim Brady is a composer and guitarist who has created music in a wide range of genres ranging from chamber and orchestral music to electroacoustic works, chamber opera, contemporary dance scores, jazz and free improvisation. He has been commissioned and performed by numerous ensembles and orchestras in North America and Europe including the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, New Music Concerts, INA-GRM (Radio-France), the English Guitar Quartet, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Esprit Orchestra (CBC), the Philadelphia-based Relâche ensemble, the Australian group Topology, and the British string ensemble The Smith Quartet.

Since 1988 he has released 14 CDs as both a composer and a performer on Justin Time Records and, more recently, on Ambiances Magnétiques.

Brady regularly tours North America, Europe, Asia and Australia as an electric guitar soloist, performing his own music as well as new works which he commissions from other composers in his effort to create a new voice for the electric guitar. He has performed at many leading venues including The South Bank Centre and the ICA (London), The Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK), The Darwin International Guitar Fewstival (Australia), the Bang on a Can Festival (NY), De Ijsbreker (Amsterdam), Radio-France (Paris), the Barcelona Contemporary Music Festival and BKA (Berlin). He has recorded extensively for Radio-Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Netherlands Public Radio, Radio-France, Spanish National Radio and National Public Radio in the USA.

His new music ensemble Bradyworks has toured Canada, performed in the United States, and records regularly for both the CBC and Radio-Canada. The ensemble released its first CD in 1991, entitled Inventions, and released its second recording, Revolutionary Songs, in 1996 to coincide with its performance at the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville. In the autumn of 2003 the group released its third CD, entitled Unison Rituals, and presented its first European tour, including a radio performance for the BBC Radio 3 programme “Hear and Now”, along with concerts in Aberdeen, Dublin and Cork. The ensemble recently presented Brady’s two chamber operas in highly successful productions: Three Cities in the Life of Dr. Norman Bethune (Montréal, 2003 / Toronto, 2005), and The Salome Dancer (Kitchener, 2005). In May 2008 it presented 5 performances of the multi-media work My 20th Century in a tour across Québec, including a performance at the Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville.

In January 2004 he was awarded the Prix Opus for “Composer of the Year” by the Conseil québécois de la musique, for the outstanding quality of his work as a creative artist. From 2008 to 2010 he will be serving as the “composer in residence” with the Orchestre symphonique de Laval, working with music director Alain Trudel to build a creative music presence in the orchestra and in the city of Laval.

In addition to his work as a composer and guitarist, from 1994 to 2004 he served as the Artisitc Director of Innovations en concert, a company which he founded. It is one of Montréal’s main new music producers, and during his tenure as director he produced over 100 concerts of contemporary music from across Canada and around the world. He also writes frequently for Musicworks Magazine, and has served on the boards of Codes d’accès, The Canadian League of Composers and the Music Gallery.

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Tim Brady

Montréal (Québec), 1956

Residence: Montréal (Québec)

  • Composer
  • Performer (electric guitar)
  • Journalist

On the Web

Tim Brady, photo: Laurence Labat

Selected Works

Main Releases

empreintes DIGITALes / IMED 12119 / 2012

Appearances

J&W / JETW 931 / 1992

In the Press

De Tchaïkovski à Rivard

Réjean Beaucage, Voir, Thursday, September 23, 2010

Tim Brady compose une œuvre sur des paroles de Michel Rivard pour le 25e anniversaire de l’Orchestre symphonique de Laval. Wow!

Le directeur musical de l’Orchestre symphonique de Laval (OSL), Alain Trudel, a préparé un programme si alléchant pour l’ouverture de la saison qu’on a dû prévoir un spectacle supplémentaire! Il y aura l’ouverture-fantaisie Roméo et Juliette, de Tchaïkovski, mais surtout, il y aura Alain Lefèvre et le Concerto no 4 d’André Mathieu (faut-il rappeler que les concerts de l’OSL se donnent à la salle André-Mathieu?). Mais ce n’est pas tout! L’OSL a aussi commandé une œuvre à son compositeur en résidence, Tim Brady, et ce dernier a obtenu la collaboration de l’auteur Michel Rivard, qui a écrit un texte que chantera le baryton Michael Donovan.

Le tandem Rivard/Brady est relativement surprenant, l’auteur-compositeur-interprète et le guitariste éclectique n’évoluant guère dans le même registre. Brady explique: «En avril 2007, je participais à un projet du CBC Orchestra, le Canadian Songbook [et rappelons que c’est Alain Trudel qui le dirigeait jusqu’à son démantèlement en 2008]. J’avais été engagé pour faire des arrangements de pièces des Guess Who. C’est là que j’ai rencontré Michel Rivard et que nous avons découvert que nous avions beaucoup de choses en commun; nous avons parlé aussi bien de Varèse et Messiaen que de Zappa! C’était juste avant que je commence mon poste à l’OSL. J’avais déjà le projet d’une grande œuvre vocale, mais je n’avais pas de texte…»

Cherchant un texte original en français, Brady s’est rapidement rendu compte qu’il venait de se faire un ami possédant une certaine expérience dans le domaine! «Quand je lui ai proposé de le faire, explique Brady, il a immédiatement accepté, en me disant qu’il cherchait précisément un projet pouvant le sortir de sa zone de confort.» Il ne pouvait pas vraiment en sortir davantage qu’en collaborant à la création d’une œuvre symphonique contemporaine! «Dès que j’ai lu sa première page de texte, poursuit Brady, la musique était déjà dans ma tête.» En amour, en hiver, de Tim Brady et Michel Rivard: à découvrir!

À découvrir également: 24 Frames, une nouvelle collaboration entre Brady (à la guitare électrique) et le vidéaste Martin Messier. Ils ont présenté l’œuvre au festival Bang on a Can à New York, avec beaucoup de succès, et le referont le 4 octobre à la Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur.

À découvrir également: 24 Frames, une nouvelle collaboration entre Brady (à la guitare électrique) et le vidéaste Martin Messier.

Courir!

Réjean Beaucage, Voir, Thursday, September 11, 2008

Le compositeur Tim Brady est en résidence à l’Orchestre symphonique de Laval, qui nous présente sa plus récente œuvre entre deux symphonies de Beethoven. Pas mal!

Lundi dernier, il était à la Sala Rossa pour improviser avec, entre autres, le contrebassiste Barry Guy et la clarinettiste Lori Freedman; mercredi, il transportait ses guitares électriques à la salle Claude-Champagne pour participer au concert d’ouverture de la saison du Nouvel Ensemble Moderne en jouant dans une œuvre du très actuel compositeur allemand Heiner Goebbels; voici maintenant l’Orchestre symphonique de Laval qui nous présente sa musique orchestrale, et le directeur musical de l’OSL, Alain Trudel, la programme entre deux symphonies de Beethoven! On savait Tim Brady éclectique, mais là, il frappe fort! Et ce n’est pas tout: la pièce qui sera créée, Running, est inspirée de Runnin’ Back To Saskatoon, des Guess Who«Ce n’est pas l’une de leurs meilleures tounes, explique Brady, mais on m’a demandé d’en faire un arrangement pour le CBC Radio Orchestra, à Vancouver, dont le chef est aussi Alain Trudel, et ça a très bien marché. En fait, j’ai presque fait une réécriture de la pièce, un truc qui dure 11 minutes, dans lequel près de la moitié avait très peu à voir avec la pièce originale. J’en étais assez content et j’ai suggéré à Alain de développer certaines de ces sections pour en faire une nouvelle œuvre, qui est devenue Running.»

Le titre de l’œuvre rappelle évidemment l’originale, et les aficionados des Guess Who (?) en verront peut-être passer l’ombre, mais il signale aussi un scherzo d’enfer. «Ça n’arrête jamais!» prévient le compositeur, «enfin, il y a bien une ou deux mesures de relâche, mais pas plus.» Présentée après la Cinquième de Beethoven et avant la Sixième, surnommée Pastorale, du même compositeur, l’œuvre risque d’avoir un certain effet! S’il est compositeur en résidence à l’OSL, c’est pourtant la seule œuvre de Tim Brady que nous entendrons l’orchestre jouer cette saison; «oh! mais je vais aussi beaucoup travailler dans les écoles de Laval, auprès des étudiants en concentration musique, particulièrement, où l’on présentera des ateliers de composition, un peu pour montrer ce que c’est qu’un compositeur. Je vais aussi travailler aux arrangements pour le concert symphonique de Dan Bigras que l’OSL présentera en janvier.» Brady travaille aussi avec Alain Trudel et le directeur général, Alain Demers, à l’élaboration d’un événement autour de la création, avec concert (incluant une grande œuvre de Brady), des conférences, etc. À suivre!

Tim Brady est aussi président du Réseau canadien des musiques nouvelles, un organisme de réseautage qui vise à stimuler la communication entre les divers intervenants de la communauté des compositeurs et interprètes des musiques d’aujourd’hui. L’organisme prépare un colloque qui se tiendra à Montréal, en février 2009, durant le festival MNM. À propos des récentes actions de notre bon gouvernement conservateur dans le domaine des arts, Brady commente: «Ça manque tellement de vision… C’est triste de voir des gens qui comprennent tellement mal ce qui se passe dans le monde.» Il commente beaucoup plus que ça, en fait, et assez pour nous donner envie de courir vers l’isoloir le plus proche!

On savait Tim Brady éclectique, mais là, il frappe fort!

Review of the 25th Annual Festival international de musique actuelle de Victoriaville

Bruce Lee Gallanter, Downtown Music Gallery, Friday, June 20, 2008

The second day began with Montréal-based guitarist and composer Tim Brady with the video artist Martin Messier and the Bradyworks ensemble. Brady opened with a piece for solo guitar with video. The guitar part was a Frippish quick-strumming work with a video of orange clouds and lines of words at the bottom of the screen. Interesting, it reminded me of some early space-rock. The second piece was called Switch and was in five parts. Some sections reminded me of Nick Didkovsky’s prog/rock guitar sound with some slowed down bent-string weirdness elsewhere. 57 Ways of Playing Guitar displayed some constantly shifting ways to play the guitar with electronic sounds and beats inserted at certain points. The best piece was last, a Shoshtakovich tribute with (a sort-of) double quartet featuring guitar, piano, sax, percussion and a sampled string quartet. The writing recalled some Zappa-like complexities and layers of images of old St. Petersberg with current images of the same city worked very well with the music. […]

Review

John Kelman, All About Jazz, Thursday, May 22, 2008

Tim Brady has led a dual career, not unlike Norway’s Terje Rypdal. A fine guitarist, Brady has released a series of albums that focus more on a unique approach to playing that’s a stylistic mélange of Robert Fripp’s circuity and Fred Frith’s angularity, amongst others. Compositionally, he’s moved the electric guitar, with all its broad sonic possibilities, into the realm of contemporary composition on albums including 10 Collaborations (Justin Time, 2000) and GO (Ambiances Magnétiques, 2006). Brady’s music can be rigorous and complex, but he’s also an improvising musician, sometimes blurring the line between form and freedom.

For his 1:00 PM show at Cinema Laurier, Brady collaborated with video artist Martin Messier for a series of pieces where sound and image integrated seamlessly. Unlike keyboardist Bugge Wesseltoft’s multi-media performance at the recent JazzNorway in a Nutshell however, the visuals are not an automated response to the music, but a constructed set of images that bring Brady’s already highly pictorial music to a more discrete light.

Technically staggering, Brady’s control of a wealth of sound-processing devices allows him to expand the sound of one guitar into a very large soundscape. His layering of delay and oscillation, during the first composition of the performance, allowed what was initially a very small group of notes played with a relentlessly rapid tremolo (up-and-down picking) to evolve almost imperceptibly. Effects that generated no small amount of noise made the piece more about texture than tonality, even as he expanded the piece away from those initial few notes.

Other pieces occupied more traditional spaces of melody, rhythm and harmony, despite there being little of the conventional in Brady’s writing. Blending richly arpeggiated chords with jagged punctuations, Brady at times favored knotty, long-form themes that would, no doubt, yield far more on repeated listens but, even with this one exposure, created lengthy and intriguing narratives.

Brady’s writing ranged from the brief miniatures of Switch, titled for his use of the five-way switch on his electric guitar, to the more expansive 57 Ways of Playing Guitar, which incorporated the use of preprogrammed material and additional guitar tracks (“I’m a great guitarist”, Brady said while introducing the piece, but not that great). But it was his Double Quartet (Hommage à Chostakovitch), on which Brady was joined by his Bradyworks group—saxophonist André Leroux, percussionist Catherine Meunier, sampler David Kronkite and Brigitte Poulin — that was both the performance’s longest piece and its highlight.

Using images from St. Petersburg and revolving around a four-note motif that Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) often used — D, Eb, C, B, which represented his first name — Brady’s piece began in new music territory, but with his effected guitar (in particular an overdriven tone almost never heard in classical music, with the exception, again, of Terje Rypdal) often a sharp contrast to the organic sounds of piano, tuned percussion and saxophone, it ultimately paid homage to one of Shostakovich’s primary influences, Baroque composer JS Bach. Angular melodies, sharp dynamic juxtapositions and oblique passages were replaced with melodies approaching beauty, but from a unique perspective filtered through Brady’s personal lens.

With Brady, Meunier, Poulin and Leroux forming the first of the composition’s titular groups, it was the three hours of string quartet music Brady had sampled for use by Kronkite that formed the second quartet. Perhaps a nod to the economic realities of touring with a larger ensemble, the resourceful addition also created a more modernistic sound and allowed Brady to shape the music and sonic landscape in ways that might not have been possible with two full quartets onstage.

As a composer, Brady fits in alongside contemporaries including Evan Ziporyn, David Lang and Martin Bresnick. As a player, with and without Bradyworks, he shares a modernity of approach with Bang on a Can, So Percussion and Alarm Will Sound. But his incorporation of a very electric guitar has created his own space, one that continues to evolve and whose many facets were demonstrated at his FIMAV 2008 performance.

But his incorporation of a very electric guitar has created his own space, one that continues to evolve…

The Eclectic World of Tim Brady

Elissa Poole, Opus, no. 30:2, Friday, June 1, 2007

Tim Brady, A Portrait

Réjean Beaucage, La Scena Musicale, no. 10:2, Friday, October 1, 2004

With two CDs to be released during the 2004-2005 season and his first opera, presented earlier this year, to be staged again, Tim Brady is certainly one of Canada’s most active musicians. But to top it all, he is also completing a second symphony and working on a second opera! Despite this whirlwind of activity he still found Time to answer La Scena Musicale’s questions.

Although Brady didn’t come to the guitar through the classical route or with an eye to concert works, he is nevertheless a recognized composer of contemporary music, and his works are performed by such prestigious groups as the English Guitar Quartet and the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne. Note that he almost exclusively plays the electric guitar, an instrument that is a virtual newcomer to the concert stage.

“It’s funny,” says Brady, “because forty years ago today [September 8,1964], the Beatles gave their famous concerts at the Montréal Forum. Clearly, like lots of baby-boomers, they are what made me want to play the electric guitar. And then of course there was rock, blues, and, when I was about eighteen, the discovery of jazz with guitarist John McLaughlin and his Mahavishnu Orchestra. My interest in McLaughlin led me to read, for example, an interview with him where he said he liked complex rhythms such as those of Bartók or Stravinsky. “Who’s he talking about?” I wondered. I did some research, and the first classical recordings I bought were The Rite of Spring and Boulez conducting Debussy’s music.”

Between the ages of eighteen and thirty Brady was leading two parallel lives: one studying jazz guitar and playing concerts in night clubs or festivals, the other as a classical composition student who won the CAPAC (now SOCAN) prize in 1981 (String Quartet No. 1), in 1983 (Piano Fantasy in Three Movements, Concertino for Orchestra), in 1985 (Lyric), and in 1987 (Variants), among others.

“In 1986 while spending thirteen months in London, I decided to try composing music that could represent the sum of my different experiences and musical influences--something that could take it all in, from the Beatles to Xanakis. It was the only thing to do, otherwise I’d have had to resign myself to a Jekyll and Hyde existence. As a result I play electric guitar (but also acoustic guitar sometimes, although I haven’t the classical technique, since it was out of the question to begin studying classical guitar at thirty). There aren’t many examples of classical-style composition using the electric guitar, but they do exist. Boulez uses one in Domaines [1968] for example. From the strictly technical standpoint, the electric guitar has a distinct advantage: it can be amplified. This is important when you’re playing with an orchestra. Unless I’m mistaken, when a classical guitar is used with orchestras today, it’s also amplified. So we’re all electric guitarists now!

“Again, in 1986, hardly any composers were working in chamber or orchestral music using the electric guitar. That’s probably what led me to become a composer. Of course, when I was younger I tended to copy the style of the greats, writing derivative Elliot Carter or playing like a counterfeit John Abercrombie. It was simpler to develop my own language in an almost virgin landscape than follow the well-trodden paths of dozens of composers. So I chose to become a genuine Tim Brady. At first I was so insistent on having my own musical language that I didn’t write a note that I couldn’t play myself. Today, let’s say, I allow myself a certain space for manoeuvring. If I want to write for the flute, for example, it’s impossible to do this adequately using a guitar. As a composer, I have to accept the fact that each instrument has a specific capacity.”

Music composed with the help of a guitar rather than a piano has a distinct difference. According to Brady, “It’s true that when I compose with the guitar, there’s far less counterpoint. The harmony is also more restrained, being limited to two, three, or four notes in a chord. However this is a stimulating restriction for a composer. Guitars also produce very rhythmic music, and their tuning allows for melodic lines that wouldn’t be natural on another instrument. Even when I compose with a keyboard I realize that I’m sometimes using intervals that belong to the guitar.”

Tim Brady’s music has been on our orchestral programs for some Time. He has been able to develop a style of writing that takes account of the special constraints of contemporary orchestras. “The Montréal Symphony Orchestra gave me forty-five minutes of rehearsal Time for Three or Four Days After the Death of Kurt Cobain in November 2002, conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos. I was being spoiled, because usually you get a lot less than that. The MSO interpreted my work superbly. You’ve got to be realistic when you work with an orchestra. Budget and union constraints are phenomenal. When you write for an orchestra you’re caught up in a huge historical and social machine. You can claim to write pure music without paying attention to the limitations of reality, but you’re asking to be disappointed if you do. I’m not talking of making compromises, of writing “simple music”, and so on, but you’ve got to know what you’re doing. Once you’ve accepted the constraints that come with an orchestra, you still have a fabulous instrument. There’s nothing like the experience of hearing ninety or a hundred musicians playing together!”

Today’s music

After a long association with Montréal’s Justin Time Records, which released eight of his recordings with various ensembles (Visions [1988], Double Variations [1990], Inventions [1991], Imaginary Guitars [1992], Scenarios [1994], Revolutionary Songs [1996], Strange Attractors [1997], and 10 Collaborations [2000]), Brady decided to move to “musique actuelle” specialist Ambiances Magnétiques. “I don’t think there’s a fundamental difference between my recordings for Justin Time and what I’m doing now, although of course my work is evolving to some degree. However, the recording market has progressed a great deal in the last twenty years. Around 2000 or 2001, on the part of both myself and Justin Time, which is run by people I admire, we felt that my music would perhaps not be well served in a catalogue that was becoming increasingly focused on jazz and mainstream. I won’t say there’s no jazz influence in my music, but all the same it wasn’t a natural association. By 1999, when I was touring to promote Strange Attractors, I also realized that everywhere I went, whether it be Australia or China, people were talking to me about Ambiances Magnétiques! I said to myself, these people know how to make music travel!”

In 2002 Ambiances Magnétiques released Brady’s Twenty Quarter Inch Jacks, featuring the work of the same title for twenty guitarists. It won the Prix Opus for composition of the year for young audiences (at the awards ceremony the Conseil québécois de la musique also awarded him the Prix Opus for composer of the year). In 2003 Unison Rituals was released, bringing together recordings of Brady’s music by the saxophone quartet Quasar, the Kappa ensemble, and his own Bradyworks. Ambiances Magnétiques’ third Brady release is Playing Guitar: Symphony No.1, recorded with Brady and the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne (see p. 20).

Are these recordings closer to contemporary music than Brady’s earlier work? He is very clear about this: “For me, Strange Attractors or Imaginary Guitars are just as much contemporary music CDs as the recent works. All this music has been written down, and I’m even selling the scores. Obviously the use of electric guitar is a problem, as usual. It used to disturb me, but now I don’t think twice about it. People in record stores have had trouble classifying me for twenty years. I think that twenty-five or fifty years from now the electric guitar won’t be associated with rock or jazz as it is today, but simply for what it is: an instrument for playing all kinds of music. Actually, I believe the fact that there’s almost no guitar used in rap will help change people’s perception of it as a typically pop music instrument. A young guitarist registered in classical composition at McGill got in touch with me because he wanted to have the electric guitar as his main instrument. He was told it wasn’t possible, as there was no repertoire for it! He asked for my help, and was able to do an audition and be admitted. It’s a big step in the right direction. Percussion instruments had the same problem in the early twentieth century.”

Brady’s most recent CD features the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne with its enviable international reputation. This too is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. He has performed Symphony No. 1 with the Lorraine Vaillancourt Ensemble in Montréal, New York, and Marseille with great success, and a tour is planned for 2006-2007. “It wasn’t done consciously, but this work is a magnificent summary of my entire vocabulary, both as a guitarist and a composer. It was composer Michel Gonneville who made me realize, right after the première, that it wasn’t simply a concerto, but rather a work embodying symphonic thinking. I ended by accepting this approach when putting the CD together, and there we have my Symphony No. 1.”

Brady has kept the symphonic ball rolling. His Symphony No. 2 Fo(u)r Saxophones will be performed by the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and Quasar. “The WSO’s composer-in-residence, Patrick Carrabré, suggested that I write a work for orchestra and sax quartet, and I immediately agreed, because I’ve been thinking of it for years. He asked me for a twenty-minute work, and I allowed myself thirty-two. I suggested playing only the second and third movements for the first performance. The whole work can be performed later.”

Brady has also been attracted in recent years by the opera repertoire. His Three Cities in the Life of Dr. Norman Bethune, first presented in 2003 at Montréal’s Chapelle historique du Bon-Pasteur, will be staged in Toronto in January 2005, again with baritone Michael Donovan. In April 2005 a new opera will be mounted in Kitchener-Waterloo--The Salome Dancer, performed by four singers and six musicians. The libretto is by John Sobol, himself a musician and poet, with whom Brady began discussing the project in 1992. “The opera is already completed,” says Brady, “and John and I are already discussing the next one. By the way, I have four more in my head, two of which use a large orchestra.”

Some of Brady’s as yet unpublished works, performed by the Australian group Topology, will be released on a forthcoming CD by Ambiances Magnétiques. There’s no doubt that the guitarist and composer has the wind in his sails and that his boat is well launched and will travel far!

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