Friday, Sept 27 | 2:45-4:30 pm

Community Narratives 2 | Room 210

I wrote this for you/for me/for them: a composer reflects on premieres, shared narratives, and communitas

As a composer whose academic community is committed both to the mentoring of (primarily) young musicians, and the relationship with a supporting constituency, I often write music which draws together “the three of us”. This paper will explore how the rehearsal process and premiere performance of a new work contributes to the development of communitas, a concept developed by anthropologist Victor Turner from his anthropological work with tribal rites. Along the way connections will be made with George Steiner’s ideas about presence and courtesy in a work of art: that there is a transcendent reality at the heart of, in this case, a musical work, and we encounter music not only as an aesthetic experience, but one in which the work itself makes demands on all its listeners. I will counterpoint this with my experiences writing music for specific students and performance occasions, and the relationship bonds which deepen through these shared rites. The paper will conclude with some reflections on shared narratives which arise within the larger musical community of composer, performer, and audience, as a result of experiencing new music together.


David Owen Squires is the Dean of the School of the Arts, Media + Culture at Trinity Western University. A long-time university professor and composer, he has also served as a worship pastor for several churches across Canada. He has an extensive catalogue of chamber, choral, and orchestral compositions written for professionals, students, and amateurs. Recent works include Wave After Wave, a concerto for harp and orchestra written for and premiered by Esther Cannon, senior music major, with the TWU orchestra in Langley and Abbotsford (April 2013); and Magnificat, for double choir and orchestra, premiered by the TWU Choirs at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts in Vancouver (December 2012). David holds a Ph.D. (composition) from SUNY in Buffalo, a M.Mus. (composition) from University of Toronto, and a B.Mus. (performance) from University of Western Ontario. His teaching ranges from composition to music history to interdisciplinary arts to worship theology and history; and he has a special interest in Celtic spirituality and issues around spirituality and composition.

Viewership and Communal Narrative: Visual Art as Public Confession

Western culture today differs from the Renaissance because artists no longer have a common narrative lexicon from which to draw when creating representational artworks. Painters used to be adept at using visual language to communicate stories—sometimes complex biblical narratives or Greek or Roman myths with multiple characters and scenarios. The complexity of a painting was tempered by the fact that the story was familiar to those who saw it, but today’s culture is different. Today, instead of relying on pre-existing narratives in the minds of her viewers, the artist leans on the shared experience of the human condition.

People often approach me after viewing my painting, Home is not - a painting about discomfort in familial relationships - and say things like, “That was me, “ or “That was my experience.” I am glad that people can relate so directly to my painting and that it elicits strong emotions, but how does a painting move from being a point of common experience to being a conduit for true community?

In my paper, I investigate the relationship between viewership, artistic intent, and communal narrative. Of particular interest is how visual art can serve as public confession – how it can affirm individuals’ personal narratives while simultaneously creating community. I consider my own work, the work of Tim Lowly, Jerome Witkin, theologian Walter Brueggemann, and My Name is Asher Lev, novel by Chaim Potok. Confessions are powerful because they expose something that has been hidden. The same is true of visual art. The artist has the opportunity to identify with her community and to confess--to make visible what has been unspoken; the viewer has the opportunity to bare witness--to see and acknowledge the communal confession that has been made visible. The marriage of the two requires vulnerability, and that is community.


Kari Dunham is currently a student in the Master of Fine Arts Program in Painting at Laguna College of Art + Design in Laguna Beach, California. Recent exhibits include the JUSTart CIVA Conference Juried Exhibit at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois and the MFA’13 Show at the Laguna Art Museum in Laguna Beach, California. She is a summer faculty member for the Grunewald Guild in Leavenworth, Washington where she has taught for four summers. In 2006, she earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Painting from Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, and from 2007-2011 she lived in Portland, Oregon.

Musical Narrative as a Shared Process

A piece of music has a narrative of its own, beginning with inception in the mind of the composer. This narrative develops as the piece passes from interpreters to audience members, who are creators themselves of their individual musical experiences and relationships with the piece and with each other. This relationship develops among composers, performers, and audience members, even if the composer has been dead for hundreds of years. In this way, the narrative of a piece of music may continue through generations of performances.

How does the narrative of a piece of music change over time, interacting with, shaping, and being shaped by a surrounding socio-political narrative? How does music itself play with the identities of those with whom it interacts?

This presentation with live music performance will explore the ways that musical narrative touches on the narratives and identities of performers/interpreters and audience members within a changing socio-political context. Three pieces of music will illustrate different ways musical narrative passes from composer to audience: a traditional Afrikaans song, entrenched in the language of oppression during Apartheid while being an important part of cultural identity for native Afrikaans-speaking South Africans of different races; a piece of music by American composer John Cage, a composer whose music allows performers a great deal of freedom in creating new sound experiences and through this, re-shaping the musical narrative of a piece; and a traditional lullaby, a piece of music whose narrative is inextricably tied to the identities of those who grew up hearing it at bedtime, but whose relationship to it changes over the narrative of a lifetime.


Erin Heisel’s performances have been described as “brave, vivid” (The New York Times) and “clear, flute-like…beautiful” (Daily Hampshire Gazette, MA). Notable performances include with the Brooklyn Philharmonic and the Eavesdropping Concerts in NYC and internationally in Bolivia, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and most recently at venues around South Africa. Heisel holds a Ph.D. in Music Performance from New York University. Her research interests include Play Theory and the work of Johan Huizinga, German Expressionism, physical theatre, and new trends in experimental music and performance practices.

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