Earmark with August Murphy-King

February 21, 2017

For this week’s Earmark, we catch up with CMC Associate Composer August Murphy-King. As August addresses below, Toronto is very much his home base. Apart from noticing his deep involvement as a creator and organizer in the local chamber scene, I have also enjoyed his ongoing commentary on municipal politics, transit infrastructure, and the city’s geologic history—connect with August for detailed topographical features of ancient lakes. His comments here help to illuminate some of his listening habits, and musical history, while also reflecting on recent collaborative undertakings.

Canadian Music Centre: What got you excited about music at a young age?

August Murphy-King: My dad was a total classical music freak. He couldn’t play an instrument or carry a tune, but he had an enormous CD/vinyl collection, including a CD containing Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf and Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals. I was completely and totally obsessed with this CD, to the point of turning my potty training aide into a drum and proceeding to march around the apartment as if I was playing along with the recording. From that point I was pretty hooked on the idea of making noise.

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

AMK: The time I saw Keith Jarrett with his Standards Trio at the Four Seasons Centre was pretty special. Aside from being tremendous players themselves, the level of connection between those three musicians —Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette—and their dedication to one another was incredibly inspiring to listen to, let alone watch. On a more personal note, the first time I saw a Toy Piano Composers concert was an important moment for me, if for no other reason than it served as my first real evidence – in Toronto, at least – that yes, it was possible for younger composers to organize their own shows, present their own music, and boldly take ownership of their own artistic direction. Perhaps it was the particular time in my life that I attended, but it was an incredibly important inspiration.

CMC: What is on your personal playlist?

AMK: I’ve always been a huge hip-hop fan, so that often comprises the bulk of my listening. Right now I’ve been getting into some of the new stuff coming out of the south – somewhat pejoratively called ‘mumble’ rap: Migos, Young Thug, Travis Scott – that sort of thing. This particular genre tends to get derided as simplistic pop music, but I think it’s actually pretty daring and experimental – definitely more parallels with ‘art’ music than more traditional ‘boom-bap’ rap. As well, I’ve been working on a new piece for the University of Toronto wind ensemble, which has led me to discover and listen to a lot of Joseph Schwanter’s music.

CMC:: How do you define your musical/artistic community?

AMK: Self-definition is often a dangerous business, but that said, I was born in Toronto, and I’ve established it as a home-base for some time now, so I guess I’d say that’s my community. For all of the fuss and myth around Toronto being some sort of cold corporatist nightmare, it’s a city that I’ve always found incredibly warm, welcoming, and supportive. This is especially true of the small, but incredibly tight community of composers, performers, and new music presenters and I’m incredibly grateful to have the chance to be a composer in this city.

CMC: Tell me about a project/work of yours that you are particularly proud of.

AMK: Just under two years ago, fellow associate composer Bekah Simms and I formed Caution Tape Sound Collective. We’re dedicated to commissioning and performing new works, specifically with the goal of providing composers a professional space in which to try out something they haven’t done before, or wouldn’t normally do in the context of a commissioned work. It’s been quite a successful endeavor thus far – we’ve commissioned over fifteen pieces presented across three concerts – and we’re on the verge of presenting our fourth concert, with the next two seasons planned and ready to go. Our second concert last year presented new pieces for accordion, cello, piano, percussion, and electronics, featuring associate composers Tyler Versluis, Sophie Dupuis, and Bekah Simms. We also commissioned Toronto-composer Patrick Arteaga for the same concert. Here’s the piece I wrote for that evening, entitled Chronesthesia.

Check the CMC community page regularly for more composer profiles! To learn more about August you can visit his CMC profile page.