On Notes to Selves

Program note

On notes to selves is a piece about the process of self-documentation, of note-taking, journal-keeping, and capturing fragments of our environment as a part of building personal narrative. The work was commissioned by the Thin Edge New Music Collective for a cross-Canadian tour, with most of the performances in cities where I have lived or to which I have significant personal connection.

The idea of 'home' and its relationship with personal identity is complex for many people, and while the notion of linking temporal 'chapters' of one's life with geography is an intuitive way of developing a narrative of self, it can lead to uncomfortable cognitive dissonance when one travels: the feeling of anachronism when returning to a past home, or a nomadic experience through a multiplicity of homes.

On notes to selves features field recordings from its ‘homes’ - the cities where it is performed on its premiering tour: Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Montréal. The recordings were used to generate musical material; both through an attempt to transcribe these sounds for the ensemble (the reduction of space and self to notation), and through playback of the original sounds through portable recording devices (reproduction of space and self). The work also features live recording and playback during the performance of the work, treating the performance as a documentation in real-time, integrating the recordings as part of the work as ‘memories’ that unfold and return over course of the work.

- James O'Callaghan


Year of composition

Last performances