Talking Down the Tiger


Composing Talking Down the Tiger was one of the rare times where both the title for the piece and the musical ideas came at the same time. For me, percussion is a metaphorical tiger, possessing all at once ferociousness, beauty, and mystery. Many percussion instruments (and percussionists) exhibit their most interesting and expressive sounds at the pianissimo dynamic register, which is at odds with the type of blustering, heavy-handed writing often associated with percussion, particularly in a historical context. In this piece I wanted to explore a journey from a wild and ferocious sound world that gradually recedes into a mystical and beautiful sound world lying beneath. It is in one continuous movement with two large divisions, the first marked “Crazy!” and the second marked “Beautiful”.

The work involves live electronics in the form of looping. Looping is a fairly standard electroacoustic practice that essentially involves sound capture and repeating playback. I took these basic parameters and expanded them to reflect the compositional logic of the piece. The looper I designed, dubbed the stanilooper, is capable of a number of unusual looping functions that match the pitch and rhythmic material of the percussion. The electronics extend the sound of the percussionist in both space and time, diffusing over multiple speakers. The work may be played with or without the live looping; the looping is improvisatory and as such is not notated in the score.

Talking Down the Tiger was commissioned by virtuoso percussionist Ryan Scott, with assistance from the Toronto Arts Council.

Andrew Staniland CA

Composer Andrew Staniland has firmly established himself as one of Canada’s most important and innovative musical voices. Described by Alex Ross in The New Yorker as “alternately beautiful and terrifying”, his music is regularly heard on CBC Radio 2 and has been broadcast internationally in over 35 countries. Andrew is the recipient of the 2009 National Grand Prize in EVOLUTION, presented by CBC Radio 2/Espace Musique and The Banff Centre, top prizes in the SOCAN young composers competition, and the 2004 Karen Keiser Prize in Canadian Music. Andrew has been Affiliate Composer to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (2006-09) and the National Arts Centre Orchestra (2002–04), and has also been in residence at the Centre du Creation Musicale Iannis Xenakis (Paris, 2005) . Recent commissioners include the Gryphon Trio, Les Percussions de Strasbourg, the Toronto Symphony, cellist Frances-Marie Uitti, and American Opera Projects.

Andrew is the lead composer/educator with the Gryphon Trio’s Listen Up! education initiative, created and produced in collaboration with the Gryphon Trio and music educator Rob Kapilow. Andrew also performs both as a guitarist and working with new media (computers and electronics). He is currently on faculty at Memorial University in St John’s Newfoundland.

For more information about Andrew Staniland, click here.

Andrew Staniland