After two weeks of dedicated time to focus on writing music at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, I am feeling creatively energized to the maximum degree. While there, I composed 14 songs. Most of these tunes will be featured on an album that I’ll record with Drew Jurecka and a 8 piece ensemble.
Cabin in the woods
Since the Banff Centre takes care of all the day-to-day living activities that may interrupt one’s time or flow, the entire day was free for artistic pursuits. Meals are provided with the artist meal card, there’s a gym with yoga classes on campus, a music library with CD’s and vinyl and house plants. Oh, and dozens of nearby trails with stunning mountain views.
They give artists professional work-spaces – mine was Cabin #24, about 5 minutes from where I was staying. The cabin was equipped with a small recording console, guitar amp and grand piano. To my surprise, it took a while to get into the groove of composing because I have never had this kind of dedicated, focused time and space to work on music.
I learned a great deal about my own creative processes. Each day, I started by listening to 25 minutes of music before setting out to compose music in a similar vein to what I listened to. Sometimes this process worked and I would jump on a train of inspiration that led to music I’m really happy with. Other times, I wasn’t happy with what I was writing and I would repeat the process. The most important thing was to not force the work. If the ideas weren’t happening, I would check out the music library, visit another artist’s cabin or change my surrounding and go for a walk.
On a few occasions, the wildlife came right up to the window of my cabin:
It was fantastic to have around 20 other international musicians in residence from various disciplines who were open to sharing about their own projects. These musicians were extremely talented and it was great to hear about their respective projects and in a few cases collaborate with them! I was delighted that Emily Granger (a harpist from Australia/USA) was open to playing some harp on a piece I wrote. Tal Walker (pianist Belgium/Israel) taught me about some of the harmonies Ravel and Debussy were employing in 1905. Andrew Blanch (classical guitarist from Australia) introduced me to Garato and shared about ‘mindful practice’. Brenda Earl (singer piano from Canada/NYC) gave me a vocal lesson. Julian Muro (Argentina/Germany) taught me some clave patterns and about the history of tango and other types of Latin music. Montrealer Cam MacLean and I talked shop about songwriting and roots music. I had inspiring conversations with EVERY musician at this residency to the point where I can’t imagine having done a truly ‘self-directed’ residency. Sharing meals, coffees, beers and conversations with these folks often led to a new form of inspiration (or at least different from the type of inspiration I was getting my listening to recordings). Special shout-outs to Aviva, Tom, Chyna, Cheryl, Emilie, Lindsay, Gabriel, Laura, Laura, Adrian, Caylie, Eric, Jon, and Katie! Also, shoutout to the artists in residence Jerry, Chris, Michael and Peggy… and the staff: Meghan, Rebecca, Kyle, Jess.
See you soon, Banff!
The theme of my composing and lyric writing on this residency was “Seeking Home”. Interestingly, I felt a strange but real sense of home at the Banff Centre. I grew up in Guelph, Ontario – not far from a few of the Great Lakes. On this trip, I developed a relationship and comfort with the mountains. I am hoping that I’ll be back at the Banff Centre for another creative project, and certain that if and when I do, the mountains will greet me with the same majestic inspiration that hit me so profoundly on this trip.
Thanks to the Leo Brouwer Endowment for the financial aid that made this residency possible. Juan Leovigildo Brouwer Mezquida (born March 1, 1939) is a Cuban composer, conductor, and classical guitarist.
Thanks to The Canada Council for the Arts for helping support the album that will come as a result of the music I composed during this residency.