Yellowknife composer Carmen Braden keeps reaching new heights and reaching across Canada with her work.

Most recently, her composition Blood Echo was performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra Oct. 7. Braden was one of 40 composers who created a piece for the TSO in a project marking Canada’s sesquicentennial. Yellowknifers will get a chance to hear Blood Echo played by the Table for Five ensemble with guests Nov. 3 and 4 at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre.

Braden sat down with Yellowknifer to speak about her latest composition and the many other projects keeping her busy and inspired.

The interview has been edited for brevity.

Q: Tell me a little bit more about Blood Echo

CB: I use a lot of text when I write music, even if it’s not anything sung or spoken. So in my sketches I have these phrases that anchor the intent of what I’m doing. Very text-based.

When I was writing it I was thinking at the time a fair amount about generations before and the generations to come after, and how all we can control and all we have is the present. And so the closest thing that I can come to the physical connection of parents, grandparents and then children, great grandchildren, all this connection is where you are right now and the blood that’s in your heart that’s connecting them. So the piece has a heartbeat drum sound in it – kind of this boom boom, boom, boom – and it gets faster and faster as the piece gets on.

So what I did for this kind of meeting of past and future, musically, was I had these little melodic ideas that would transform and be repeated over time. But the transformation is the important thing. The idea was that things that happened in the past can reoccur in the future with a newness, an echo of a past that can come back, sometimes even stronger, but be changed.

Q: What was it like to have the TSO perform your work?

CB: It felt amazing. It’s a professional orchestra, one of the few in Canada, and they’ve been here for a long time. In some ways I get a different satisfaction playing with say the community group that’s playing here. There was very little personal connection with the players or the conductor, it was very businessy.

So I think its a balance that keeps me humble and keeps me professional, that I have to be able to play and write and talk and comport myself to be able to work with a group like an internationally recognized orchestra and then not so high and mighty that I can’t sit down on the floor and write a rap with some kids.

Q: You’ve also been working with youth as a composer in residence at St. Mary’s Wellness and Education Centre in Saskatoon. What’s it been like working with youth in the classroom?

CB: They come up with things that are so unexpected and sometimes so powerful. Adult brains tend to over think things and try to make things complicated or unique and challenging and groundbreaking. And young people have just a very fresh way of seeing the world because a lot of the experiences they have as youth is sometimes the first time they will experience something. Whether it’s falling in love or seeing something in the world that they’ve never seen before.

Q: So what’s next?

CB: I’m writing a piece for a little chamber ensemble in Whitehorse, so right now I’m finishing that score. I’m going to go play in Vancouver at the end of this month, with a group called the New North Collective, so I have some performance coming up. I have to start three other major compositions, one’s for choir and one is for solo string, a violin, and one for a wind quintet in Montreal.

WAMP got Canada 150 money to do these really interesting 360 video projects featuring artists. They haven’t started yet, it’ll be going through the winter and next summer. My project is going to be some more ice exploration because ice is my jam, the icy jam.

Q: You’re doing and creating a lot. What is it that keeps you interested?

CB: It’s probably that all of these projects are with different people. I have a different relationship with every group of people and a different relationship with every piece. So this idea of freshness and newness, it’s every time I start a new piece it’s like I get to create my own brand new universe. That feeling is a bit intoxicating.

Q: You’re still inspired by the ice, this is still your jam?

CB: Oh yeah, because it’s different every year too. Every first snowfall is always a little different, so if you can just keep seeing it fresh and be open to learning something new or just appreciating something you hadn’t seen before.

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