“Chaos, Part II” was recorded through the condenser mic on a boom box in my family’s living room, thus the wildly uneven volume of the opening. It’s a barely finished sketch meant to be part of a suite on an impromptu, DIY, “pause-record” cassette album; by default, juvenilia. This was my musical childhood. I was already 18, but had only been playing and teaching myself music in earnest for 2-3 years.

If there were unconscious influences from English church music and stage musicals, both of which were part of my community involvement, it was the sounds of 70s prog and adult contemporary, both just a few years old by this point, that dominated my interests. I was beginning to pick up on minimalism, though I knew little of it at that point. Typically, this was one of several pieces improvised and captured in a day (without using notation at any point), and never played again.

My thin, yelping vocal and extremely reductive lyric “K, O Chaos” reflected the high school punk/new band wave nights I participated in, as well as the aforementioned prog. The voice was meant to stand in for a distant chorus, though the condenser mic exaggerates its presence. There’s an echo of the banality of my life at the time, secure but longing for something else, wandering in a personal mystery. Six months later I’d move to Toronto to begin studying music at York University, and childish things would gradually be left behind — though not entirely.

Composed and recorded March 1986

unremastered cassette recording, digitized 2003
Photo: Nora Lusterio, December 1987

Music and composer’s notes copyright Bruce A. Russell 2022

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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