John Cole began his composition studies at the University of Victoria studying under Michael Longton, John W. Mackay and Rudolf Komorous. In 1993 he completed a Masters of Fine Arts at Simon Fraser University’s School for Contemporary Arts. His interdiscipliary studies there involved the creation of music installations and music for dance culminating in a large multidisciplinary work titled Ballet. After graduating he was offered a residency at Open Space gallery in Victoria and later a Canada Council Explorations Grant to produce the sound installation Little Stars for Jacquard. He taught a course in Sound Art at the University of Victoria Faculty of Fine Arts in 1996. Since moving to Japan in 1997 he has been focusing on writing concert music. In 1999 he received a two-year Monbusho government scholarship to continue his music studies with Jo Kondo at Elizabeth University in Hiroshima. In 2001 he formed “Ensemble Sonore” a group focusing on the performance of contemporary and early music. He received a two-year Rotary scholarship to facilitate the completion of his Doctor of Music in 2006, writing his dissertation on the music of Jo Kondo. He currently teaches music history, composition and directs a class in contemporary music performance at Elisabeth University of Music in Hiroshima.
About Two Pieces After Joseph Cornell
“I composed this piece intuitively by ear, note to note without relying on any sort of pre-compositional plans. Working out the intervals took up most of the time. Harmonies and melodies were then generated and finally details of orchestration worked out. While inspired by the work of the American artist Joseph Cornell, the influence of my musical heroes can also be heard: Stravinsky’s in the wind writing, Nancarrow’s in the jagged rhythm and energy of the introduction of the second piece and Feldman’s in the harmony and rhythmic pacing of much of the music. But in the dark yearning harmonies, sinuous melodies and general atmosphere of the piece, vestiges of the work of Primo Levi, J. M. Coetzee and even David Foster Wallace, while less easy to pin down, have somehow also seeped into the crevices of this composition. After completing the piece I borrowed two of Cornell’s wonderfully enigmatic titles from two of his box construction works which seemed to me to reflect the mood and atmosphere of the music I had just composed. In the first piece Tilly-Losch the gentle atmosphere of Cornell’s work featuring a young woman suspended as if from a balloon suggested some affinity with the quiet, static music I composed. It is a calm, introspective piece in direct contrast to the more dramatic and dynamic piece Cassiopeia 1 which follows. Cornell’s images of constellations, planets, space and depth somehow suggested some connection to how I envisioned the second piece as a surreal journey through an uncharted mysterious land, with the listener reveling in constant change and transformation.”
– John Cole