Woods by John Abram

From the Arraymusic Concert Formless

Lydia Munchinsky, cello
David Schotzko, marimba

John Abram was born in England in 1959.  After composition studies at Keele University with Roger Marsh and Peter Dickinson he came to Canada in 1984 to study at the University of Victoria with Rudolf Komorous (composition) and Doug Collinge (electroacoustic music). From 1986 to 1988 he was Associate Director and Conductor of the Open Space New Music Series at the Open Space Gallery in Victoria.

Living in Toronto from 1989 to 1994, he co-founded The Drystone Orchestra and was a member of Allison Cameron’s ARCANA, also performing with ARRAYMUSIC, Strange Companions and others. From 1994 to 2008 he lived in Calgary and was active as a recording engineer and producer, also teaching at Mount Royal Conservatory.

While living in Nova Scotia between 2008 and 2011, John founded the Dartmouth Experimental Music Group, worked on numerous concert and film scores and performed new music on the Harbour Ferry. Since returning to Calgary in 2011, he organised the New Music Initiative at Mount Royal University Conservatory’s Advanced Performance Programme, formed the rock band grooveiron, and continues to compose, perform, teach and record.

John’s music has been heard around the world, performed by Guido Arbonelli, Arcana, Arraymusic, Bergmann Duo, Brandon Chamber Players, The Burdocks, Calgary Youth Orchestra, Concentus Corvinus, Continuum, Les Coucous Bénévoles, The Drystone Orchestra, Eve Egoyan, Electra, Interensemble, Rosa Selvatica, George W. Welch, Windsor Symphony Orchestra and others.


Woods was composed in 2013 for cellist Beth Root Sandvoss and marimbist Eric Bumstead, and was first performed by them in Calgary in 2014. The piece consists of four movements and two interludes, organized in sets of three:

1st movement, 1st interlude, 2nd movement

3rd movement, 2nd interlude, 4th movement

I was keen to explore the similarities and differences of these two noble instruments – their beautiful timbres and methods of sound production, their almost identical range and their expressive capabilities. The first movement is a tumbling strain exploiting the full pitch and dynamic ranges of the instruments. The following cello interlude is made of delicate harmonics. The second movement has the two instruments mimic each other sonically and rhythmically until the cello blossoms into a long melody. The 3rd movement explores stasis and motion, leading directly into the second interlude for soft low marimba. Finally, the instruments are asked once again to resemble each other more closely by use of bows on the marimba.

I am deeply grateful to the Canada Council for the Arts for providing commission funds for this project. – J.A.

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