New Associates: Tyler Versluis

September 26, 2016

This week we catch up with new Associate Composer, Tyler Versluis. Tyler grew up in St. Catharines Ontario, and is now studying and working in Toronto. Tyler always struck me as the kind of person who is unwilling to take the spotlight unless he is standing in it with several other people. Currently embroiled in the drama of setting up his DMA recital (which is happening on October 30, by the way), he offered some insights into his history and outlook.

CMC: What got you excited about music at a young age?

Tyler Versluis: In the very beginning, it was a desire to imitate the creations and masterworks that I was appreciating at a young age. Creating “pieces” was just an exciting process—whether they were pieces of writing, sketches, musical ideas. In the end I chose classical composition because it seemed to fit my personality the best—that, and writing, which I am still actively engaged in. My parents weren’t that musical, but my grandfather was an organist. We listened to plenty of records together—mainly Beethoven, Vivaldi and Haydn, but for my grandfather, Bach was the ruler of them all. He stressed the point of Bach’s total musicianship, and most importantly, that his music, astounding as it is, was simply the product of a lifetime of devotion and humility to a greater cause. This total application of artistic will, into even the most practical areas of social duties, is an exciting concept for me.

CMC: What was the most important music concert/event you attended?

TV: Continuum Music’s 2013 concert presentation of Anna Höstman’s Nuyamł-ił Kulhulmx (Singing the Earth): 11 Pieces about a Place. I was also very moved by Peter Sellars’ production of Tristan und Isolde, which the Canadian Opera Company produced in 2013.

CMC: What is on your personal playlist?

TV: Right now it’s full of French cold-wave and Italian ritual-ambient, mainly from the 80’s. I’m also listening to a lot of piano music by the suppressed Soviet avant-garde, and forgotten recordings of Henryk Górecki’s music. I also listen to tons of organ music and early vocal music (groups like Cantica Symphonia, Hilliard Ensemble, Graindelavoix).

CMC: How is the field of composition changing, and (how) do you fit in?

TV: Classical music in North America is undergoing a serious self-esteem crisis. In many ways, new classical music has the upper hand in this situation since we can wholly re-invent ourselves, while traditional classical music can only tweak superficial elements regarding its practice (concert etiquette, image, visual presentation). Sadly, this crisis has forced many composers to align their craft with the recreation and leisure industry, resulting in compromised works that have no historical foundation or profound meaning. They can only appeal to a shallow representation of the “present”. I have respect for artists who oppose these temptations, I think it is quite radical to do so nowadays. By radical, I am referring to the original Latin root meaning of the word, radicalis, which means “having roots”!

CMC: Is there a piece of yours that you can share with us that you are particularly proud of?

TV: I recently completed a song cycle that included collaboration with a poet (who wrote the text) and a painter, who created works based on the text. It was the most demanding project that I’ve worked on yet, but I am proud of the results. A page with all the text, artwork and music can be found here.

Check the CMC community page regularly for more composer profiles! You can visit Tyler’s personal page for additional information about his career.