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Michael S. Horwood: Biography

Michael S. Horwood
1947 -
Region: Prairie

Michael S. Horwood

Michael Horwood was born in Buffalo, N.Y., on May 24, 1947. He studied music composition and theory at the State University of New York at Buffalo with Lejaren Hiller, Lukas Foss, and Istvan Anhalt, receiving his Bachelor's and Master's degrees (1969, 1971). In 1971 he moved to Canada and from 1972-2003 was a professor of music and humanities at Humber College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto. During the latter half of the 1970's, Horwood formed Convergence, an improvisation ensemble in which he played piano and percussion. In 2003 he retired from teaching and with his wife moved to Cowley, Alberta.

His more than 70 compositions constitute a kaleidoscope of the traditional and the avant-garde spanning a wide variety of contemporary idioms including 12-tone, theatre pieces, electroacoustic (both live and pre-recorded), jazz, minimalism and neo-romanticism. He has written for conventional ensembles, unusual instrumental combinations and even flexible scoring. Among his most successful works have been those which involve extra-musical concepts such as his chamber works Birds (1979) and Nervous Disorder (1988), the electroacoustic work Motility (rev. 1986), and the orchestral works Amusement Park Suite (1986),National Park Suite(1991), and Symphony No. 2, Visions of a Wounded Earth(1995).

Horwood seems content writing in any genre and, similarly, feels a composer today should be able to adapt and create in a variety of styles. From all the deliberate variety in Horwood's music, a few personal traits have tended to emerge. One of these is an acute sense of sonority, the knack of exploiting the unique ranges and timbres of his instrumental forces, whether in solo or combinations. This use of instrumental sound is occasionally coupled with an overt sense of theatricality or humour, even in his non-theatre works.

Since the late 1980’s, many of Horwood's compositions have returned to his original interest in Romantic period music. Thus, the more global interest in neo-romanticism is seen by Horwood as not only welcome, but concurrent with his own creative goals. In 1995 he completed a co-commission (through the Canada Council) from four Canadian orchestras for his most ambitious work to date - a 50 minute choral symphony, Symphony No. 2, Visions of a Wounded Earth, with texts from eight Canadian poets on the state of the environment. 1996 saw the commission (Windsor Symphony) of a short chamber orchestra piece on the theme of “morning”, Do You Live for Weekends?, as well as the un-commissioned, Symphony No. 3, Andromeda. Another multiple orchestral commission (through the Ontario Arts Council) followed in 1997, the piano concerto Intravariations, for pianist Mary Kenedi. Later that year the Festival of the Sound (Parry Sound, Ontario) commissioned him for Quartzite Dialogues, a work for narrator and wind quintet. October, 1999, brought forth the short piano work, T + I = Ewigkeit, based on a theme by Wagner. In 2000 he adapted the interludes from his 2nd symphony as an independent orchestral work, Three Interludes. A new version of his early Concerto for Double Bass and String Orchestra was issued in 2003. In 2006 two commissioned works (through the Alberta Foundation for the Arts) were composed: Fragments, a duo for any two treble instruments for the St. Crispin’s Chamber Ensemble, and Piano Sonata - Preludes, Elegy and Dances for Mary Kenedi. Four orchestral works (Amusement Park Suite, National Park Suite, Intravariations and Symphony No. 1) were released in July, 2007, on an Albany Records CD with Ian Hobson, Joseph Kubera and the Sinfonia Varsovia.


A new version of his early Concerto for Double Bass and String Orchestra was issued in 2003. In 2006 two commissioned works (through the Alberta Foundation for the Arts) were composed: Fragments, a duo for any two treble instruments for the St. Crispin’s Chamber Ensemble, and Piano Sonata - Preludes, Elegy and Dances for Mary Kenedi. Four orchestral works ( and Symphony No. 1) were released in July, 2007, on an Albany Records CD (TROY-943) with Ian Hobson, Joseph Kubera and the Sinfonia Varsovia under the album title Suite and Serious. Piano Sonata (Preludes, Elegy and Dances), funded by a grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts was premiered in Oct., 2008, by commissioner Mary Kenedi during the Les Amis concert series at Gallery 345 in Toronto. Piece Percussionique No. 6 (2008) was commissioned by the Toronto Percussion Ensemble for Horwood’s complete percussion works CD. The 2008 WCMA (Western Canadian Music Awards) nominated Three Interludes (ERM Media, Masterworks of the New Era, Vol. 10) as best classical composition of the year and the Suite and Serious CD (Albany Records) was nominated for best classical album of the year. In 2009 the Calgary Philharmonic performed Do You live for Weekends? during a two-day new music event in Calgary called Hear and Now. Horwood’s all-percussion CD, Percussionique, performed by the Toronto Percussion Ensemble was released on Albany Records (TROY1122). Recent performances over the past few years include 3 U.S. performances of Residue, 1 U.S. of National Park Suite, 4 U.S. of Amusement Park Suite, 2 of Piano Sonata (Preludes, Elegy and Dances) (Toronto and Calgary), an excerpt from Symphony No. 1 (U.S.). National Park Suite placed in the finals round for the 2012 American Prize in Composition under the category orchestra-professional. A limited edition Lp on Beniffer Editions (No. 129) of a live 1979 performance by Convergence was released in July, 2012.

BA, MA, SOCAN, Canadian League of Composers, Associate Composer of the Canadian Music Centre

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