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Q&A with 2016 TD SoundMakers Composer in Residence Emilie LeBel

Canadian composer Emilie LeBel is a frequent collaborator with Soundstreams, and we are excited to announce that she is our 2016 TD SoundMakers Composer in Residence! In her new role with us, Emilie will be composing a work for community choirs in collaboration with Jumblies Theatre

Emilie is active in the music community in various capacities: composing, teaching, curating, and organizing. She composes for acoustic instruments and electronic media to create both discrete and mixed compositions and creates intermedia projects that incorporate electronics, video, photography, and acoustic instruments. Emilie was the 2015 RBC Emerging Composer in Residence for the National Youth Orchestra of Canada, is an Associate Composer at the Canadian Music Centre, and is a member of the Blue Moss Ensemble with composers Anna Höstman and Mitch Renaud. She splits her time between Toronto and Missoula, MT, where she currently teaches composition and music technology at the School of Music, University of Montana.

During her time as TD SoundMakers Composer in Residence, Emilie will be posting monthly blogs on SoundMakers, as well as responding to questions. We caught up with Emilie to discuss her new role at Soundstreams, and her collaboration with Jumblies Theatre, as well as how she became a composer.

Soundstreams: How and when did you decide to become a composer?
Emilie LeBel:
I didn’t really seek out composition – it eventually found me. I was active in music as a trumpet player, and I also studied audio engineering and music production in school. However, it wasn’t until I was 25 that I started composing, and I don’t think that I ever decided in any sort of concrete manner that I was going to become a composer. Every day when I sit down to work, I simply make the decision to continue being a composer.

SS: What impact did your participation in our 2013 Emerging Composer Workshop have on your career?
EL: I first worked with Soundstreams in January 2009 as part of your “Young Artist Overture” series, and then again in 2013 as part of the Emerging Composer Workshop. I value having a relationship with Soundstreams, because it’s an arts organization that builds enduring connections with artists, and invests in their artistic development over the long term. The Emerging Composer Workshop was a wonderful experience, as I learned a great deal from the workshop participants, and from our mentors, Juliet Palmer, R. Murray Schafer, and the Gryphon Trio. Everyone involved in the workshop was supportive and inspiring, and I felt encouraged to continue on my artistic path because of the time spent with these individuals.

SS: Tell us what it means to be the TD SoundMakers Composer in Residence.
EL: I am excited to continue working with Soundstreams in this new capacity. It’s a unique opportunity to share my creative process with the public, and to document the collaborative process between all the parties involved in this special project.

SS: You will also be collaborating with Jumblies Theatre as part of this role. Why is it important to work with interdisciplinary organizations like Jumblies Theatre?
EL: Jumblies Theatre does amazing work in Toronto, bringing a platform for creativity to members of the local communities where they work. They have done an incredible job of putting their mandate into action – encouraging all voices to be heard and thrive artistically. I feel very blessed to have this opportunity to work with, and learn from, the remarkable people in this organization, and the local community member participants. There is such value in the opportunity to learn from other artistic disciplines, through working in collaborative and interdisciplinary environments. Everyone has the opportunity to push their boundaries, and to be exposed to new ways of seeing, hearing, thinking, and doing.

SS: For this project, you will be composing with feedback from both Soundstreams and Jumblies Theatre. Is this different from how you normally work? How do you think this process will affect your work?
EL: Many of my recent creative projects have involved working in close collaboration with performers. I have found working this way to be beneficial to the creative practice by challenging all of the artists involved to negotiate their personal artistic practice, share praxis and production information, all while being equally invested in the creation and performance of the work. I imagine that this project will benefit from the collaborative process in similar ways.

SS: What does it feel like to hear one of your pieces being performed for the first time?
EL: I find it thrilling – hearing my musical imagination unite with the performers’ artistry, and how this combines with the energy of the audience. The sum is greater than all of the parts, and that is always magical.

SS: You split your time between Toronto and Missoula, MT, where you currently teach composition and music technology at the School of Music, University of Montana. What’s your favourite thing about each city?
EL: Favourite thing about Toronto: the vibrant and diverse arts community. Favourite thing about Missoula: the mountains and fresh air.

LIGHTNING ROUND
Favourite city: Toronto
Worst airport: Denver
Guilty pleasure song: Anything by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
Best concert hall: Koerner Hall
Favourite restaurant: Almond Butterfly Bakery, in Toronto

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