Composer for December…Dr. John Burge!
Dr. John Burge is an Juno award-winning Canadian composer, born in Ontario. He holds three degrees in composition and theory, and is a full-time professor and Director of the School of Music at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. Dr. Burge writes choral music, orchestral music (he won a Juno for best Canadian Classical composition) and of course, piano music. His piano compositions can be found in the syllabi of the Royal Conservatory of Music, Conservatory Canada, and the Canadian National Conservatory of Music. I met Dr. Burge several times since moving to Toronto. I first met him at the 2014 ORMTA summer conference, where he was one of the adjudicators for the provincial competition. The next year, he was one of the many composers at Summer Sizzle in 2015. In the featured photo, you can see him performing one of his preludes* on prepared piano (creating sounds on the physical parts of the piano other than the keys (this is why the piano is exposed). He was the clinician at a composition masterclass in Nov. 2016. One of my students attended this class, and enjoyed learning more about composition and trying some of his suggestions to improve her composition. When asked about what inspired him, he refused to give a definite answer, only stating that it was a matter of just sitting down and just DOING IT. Each morning, he spends time composing. This was a great reminder to all of the students and teachers of the importance of discipline and diligence when working to achieve a goal.
Since this is a piano website, I will focus on his piano compositions. However, you can check out his list of compositions on his website here.
Level 6: Dancing Scales
Although this piece starts out “easy”, he explores different scales, and starts on different scale degrees. This piece requires a precise and accurate touch, with each staccato sounding crisp and clean.
Level 8: Cluster Blues
I couldn’t find a video of this piece being performed, so here is a sample page of the beginning of the piece. Both “Dancing Scales” and “Cluster Blues” can be found in Dr. Burge’s “Parking an Octatonic Truck” for solo piano. Notice the syncopated rhythm and chord clusters in the right hand.
*Below is a video of a performance of all 24 Preludes for solo piano:
I’ll leave you with Dr. Burge himself performing “Oscillations” in recognition of Dr. Arthur McDonald’s 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics.