For Celine

For Celine (1995) was composed on the occasion of the birth of my brother’s first child, for whom the piece was named. It’s special in another way as well. It’s probably the first composition that is consistent with the general body of my work, though not necessarily an Opus 1.

My focus as a musician up to this point had been as a leftfield singer-songwriter, freelance player, experimentalist and composer for dance and theatre. Celine pointed the way to what would follow that early period, which is working primarily with notated composition and diatonic material. Almost everything that came before it was non-notated and/or created for a specific recording situation rather than live performance. It offers the earliest clear line of sight to what I’ve composed in recent years.

The slow opening section is based on a rising and falling figure in stacked fifths, layered in parallel sixths, and layered again in close canon with the second part a dotted quarter behind the first. Zigzag bass notes in this section return at the end.

The fast middle section presents a rhythmic variation of the stacked-fifth figure again in canon, this time with the second part two quarter notes behind the first, in a sequence that moves around the circle of fifths in A-flat major. The final section includes short variations on the earlier material. The bassline of the fast section returns as a right-hand melodic pattern on top of the zigzag bassline from the beginning.

Shortly after finishing For Celine I recorded a demo, but was left unexpectedly at the end of a one-off session with half the reel-to-reel tape I needed. I had to attempt several passes, removing measures each time until I could finish (with a fade out) before the tape flew off the reel. (Tape was expensive and usually in short supply, and digital recording not yet always available.) I presented the resulting short version of the piece along with a corresponding one-page manuscript to my brother’s family, while I performed the long version several times. This is the first recording of the complete piece.

Composed December 1995
Recorded January 2021, single unedited take on Roland digital piano

Photo: niece and uncle, 2002

Music and composer’s notes copyright Bruce A. Russell 2021

By elmahboob

Bruce A. Russell aka Ibrahim El Mahboob (b. Kingston, ON, 1968) is a composer and self-taught pianist living and working in Toronto (Tkarón:to, the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat). He studied at York University with James Tenney and Phillip Werren. He has composed music for the Madawaska String Quartet, Modern Times Stage Company, McMaster Dancers and choreographers Pam Johnson and Tracy Renee Stafford. Interest in his work increased in 2020, with performances by Arraymusic, Prism Percussion, Second Note Duo, San Juan Symphony and Idaho Falls Symphony. He was host of Radio Music Gallery, and has written for Musicworks and I Care if You Listen. His interests are in 20th and 21st century concert music especially postminimalism, and music of the African diaspora including notated and non-notated forms. He is a parent of three and is employed in the financial sector.

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