Ann Southam | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Ann Southam

Ann Southam. Composer, teacher, b Winnipeg 4 Feb 1937, d Toronto 25 Nov 2010; Licentiate Diploma (Toronto) 1963. Early on, Ann Southam was interested in visual arts, but she turned to composing at age 15 after attending a summer music camp at the Banff School (now The Banff Centre).

Ann Southam

Ann Southam. Composer, teacher, b Winnipeg 4 Feb 1937, d Toronto 25 Nov 2010; Licentiate Diploma (Toronto) 1963. Early on, Ann Southam was interested in visual arts, but she turned to composing at age 15 after attending a summer music camp at the Banff School (now The Banff Centre). After studies with Samuel Dolin (composition) at the Royal Conservatory of Music and with Pierre Souvairan (piano) and Gustav Ciamaga (electronic music) 1960-3 at the University of Toronto, she began teaching at the Royal Conservatory of Music in 1966. Her association with the New Dance Group of Canada (later Toronto Dance Theatre) began in 1967, and she became composer-in-residence in 1968. She composed many electronic scores for this company, and for other dance companies and choreographers. In 1977, with Diana McIntosh, she helped to create Music Inter Alia, which promoted Winnipeg new music concerts until 1991.

Southam's early works were written in a Romantic style (ie, expressive music predominant in the 19th century). She later adopted 12-tone procedures, though never strictly. In the 1980s, Southam began drawing away from electronic music, while simultaneously developing an increasing interest in music by American minimalists Terry Riley and Steve Reich. Glass Houses (1981), for example, is constructed from short tonal units that combine and re-combine, creating an overall sense of lyricism. Around this time, Southam made an important professional ally when she hired the pianist Christina Petrowska-Quilico to record a demo tape of parts of Glass Houses and Rivers (1979-81, rev. 2004). The inspiration she found in such collaborative relationships inspired Southam to write an increasing number of works for acoustic instruments. In 1988, she composed Throughways, for chamber orchestra, with no electronic element. A commission of the Music Gallery, the work was premiered there by the Hemispheres Orchestra 9 Nov 1989.

In the 1990s Southam abandoned electroacoustic writing, creating wholly instrumental works such as Song of the Varied Thrush (1991) for string quartet; Webster's Spin (1993) for string orchestra, commissioned by the CBC and premiered by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra 22 Mar 1994; and Full Circles (1996, rev. 2005) for Arraymusic. Later she began collaborating with Eve Egoyan, who premiered Qualities of Consonance (1998) at the Music Gallery 28 May 1999; Figures (2001) with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at the Massey Hall New Music Festival 22 Nov 2001; In Retrospect (2004) 26 Mar 2004; and Simple Lines of Enquiry (2008) at Toronto's Enwave Theatre 30 May 2009. The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra premiered Music for Strings 20 Sep 2000. In July 2006 Angela Pickett, Teresa Doyle, and Kate Poole performed an acoustic version of Re-Tuning in St. John's. Christina Petrowska Quilico gave the first complete performance of Rivers in May 2005 at the Music Gallery in Toronto, and premiered Southam's Pond Life for solo piano in 2008 at the Sound Symposium in St. John's.

Ann Southam's earlier works, especially for piano, are lyrical atonal pieces. Lyricism remains an important element of the later electronic scores and of such works as Counterparts for orchestra and tape and CounterPlay, a CBC commission for string quartet and tape. Of Waves (based on electronic wave forms), commissioned and premiered (1 Apr 1976) by Milton Barnes's Toronto Repertory Orchestra, John Kraglund wrote: "Its cycles of sounds were effectively achieved by the location of sections of the orchestra in a semi-circle... While there was an element of chance music in the style, the effect was pretty controlled... alternating long lyrical lines with angular, staccato phrases - interrupted by silences."

Southam's return to acoustic composition also came about in part through an interest in the physicality of performing. Four in Hand (1981), written for pianists Jane Blackstone and Ruth Kazdan, is a single-movement work for piano four hands that uses free 12-tone harmony and motifs, which lead to a closing D major chord. The composition essentially has the performer "blasting about the keyboard" (Musicworks, Summer 1998). It also demonstrates Southam's predilection for reconciling the 12-tone system with traditional practices. Re-Tuning (1985), however, is more indicative of the direction Southam's music took in years to come. Made up of 25 modular sections that are repeated and spun rapidly one into another over an electronic drone, this piece was heavily influenced by Southam's collaboration with Rivka Golani.

Feminist Elements in Ann Southam's Works

Southam is one of Canada's first prominent women composers. When she came of age as a composer, in the 1960s, it was comparatively uncommon for women to be recognized in the field of music composition, and for any composer, regardless of gender, to be recognized in the burgeoning field of electronic music. She was on the vanguard of a generation that profoundly and positively changed the landscape and social mechanics of contemporary Canadian music. Southam, an avowed feminist, proudly - and even provocatively - incorporated this change in her music. In Musicworks (no. 101, Summer 2008), Eve Egoyan and Gayle Young observed that for Southam, ". . . there is a close connection between composing for or playing the piano and other forms of work done by hand, such as weaving, that reflect the nature of traditional women's work - repetitive, life-sustaining, requiring time and patience. But through it all, runs a thread of questioning . . . ."

Memberships; Honours

Southam was a member of the Canadian League of Composers; and a founding member, first president 1980-8, life member (2002) and honorary president (2007) of the Association of Canadian Women Composers. She was a sponsor for new music events, eg the Excentricities (1998) concert featuring women composers; the Arraymusic Young Composers' Workshop; and Continuum Contemporary Music. She was also an associate of the Canadian Music Centre, which named its recording collection the Ann Southam Digital Audio Archive. She received the Friends of Canadian Music Award in 2002. In 2010 Southam was named a Member of the Order of Canada. A forthcoming book on Southam's life and music was announced in 2011. The project is under the direction of Christina Petrowska Quilico and composer Constantine Caravassilis.

See also Ballets and dance theatre.

Selected Compositions

Rhapsodic Interlude for Violin Alone. 1963. Ms. Melbourne SMLP-4021 (Zafer)

Momentum. 1967. Pf pre-recorded on tape, viola, violoncello, harpsichord, 2 percussion. Ms

Configurations. 1973. Pf, tape. Ms

CounterPlay. 1973. Str quartet, tape. Ms

Integruities (G. Arbour, M. Thompson). 1975. Pf, narrator, tape. Ms

Interviews (Arbour, Thompson). 1976. Pf, narrator, tape. Ms

Towards Green. 1976. Fl, clarinet, violin, viola. Ms

Waves. 1976. Str orch. Ms

Networks. 1978. Fl, viola, trombone, piano, violoncello, percussion. Ms

Re-tuning. 1985. Va, tape. RCI 634 (Golani)

Quintet. 1986. Pf, 2 violin, violoncello, violoncello. Ms

Alternate Currents, Percussion Music for Solo Performer. 1987. Ms

Throughways: Improvising Music. 1988. Instr ensemble. Ms

Song of the Varied Thrush. String quartet. 1991. Ms

The Music So Far. Clarinet and piano. 1992. Ms

This Time. Flute, cello, and piano. 1992. Ms

Webster's Spin. String orchestra. 1993. Ms

Full Circles. Trumpet, violin, percussion, and piano. 1996 rev. 2005. Ms

Music for Strings. String orchestra. 2000

Figures: Music for Piano and String Orchestra. Piano and string orchestra. 2001. Ms


Suite for Piano. 1960. Ms

Four Bagatelles. 1961. Berandol 1974. Melbourne SMLP-4031 (Kubálek)

Three in Blue. 1965. Berandol 1966. CCM-2 (Cavalho)

Quodlibet. 1966. Berandol 1967. CCM-2 (Cavalho)

Five Pieces in a Jazz Manner. 1970. Ms

Five Shades of Blue. 1970. Berandol 1981

Rivers: Set 1 (1979); Set 2 (1979); Set 3 (1981). Ms. (Set 2, No. VII) EK 1 (Keillor)

Cool Blue; Red Hot. 1980. Ms

Four in Hand. 1981. 2 piano. Ms

Glass Houses. 1981. Ms

Soundings for a New Piano. 1986. Ms

Spatial View of Pond. 1986. Pf, tape. Ms

In a Measure of Time. 1988. 2 piano. Ms

Remembering Schubert. Piano solo. 1993. Ms

Qualities of Consonance. Piano solo. 1998. Ms

Two by Two. Piano solo. 2000. Ms

In Retrospect. Solo piano. 2004

Simple Lines of Enquiry. Solo piano. 2008

Pond Life. Solo piano. 2008

Pond Life. Solo piano and dancer. 2008

Others, including Sea Flea (1962). BMIC 1963


A Thread of Sand. 1969. Tape

Boat, River, Moon. 1972. Tape. Melbourne SMLP 4024

Sky-Sails (O'Huigan). 1973. Tape. Berandol CSPS 645

L'Assassin Menace. 1974. Tape

Mythic Journey. 1974. Tape

The Reprieve. 1975. Tape. Hathor HS-290147

Nighthawks. 1976. Tape

Rude Awakening. 1976. Tape

Soundplay. 1978. Tape

Seastill. 1979. Tape

The Story's Dream. 1980. Tape

The Emerging Ground. 1983. Tape. Hathor HS-290147

Rewind. 1984. Tape

Music for Slow Dancing. 1985. Tape

Goblin Market. 1986. Tape

Fluke Sound. 1989. Tape. 4-ACM 37

Several other electronic works, mostly for dance; also scores for Toronto Arts Productions


Southam, Ann. "Music in the morning in Vancouver," Musicworks, 47, Summer 1990


Canadian Music for Piano. Louise Bessette piano. 1993. CBC Records MVCD 1064

Virtuoso Piano Music of Our Own Time. Christina Petrowska piano. 1993. JLH Lasersound JLH 1002 DDD

Mystic Streams. Christina Petrowska piano. 1996. Welsprings CD WEL001

Seastill: The Electronic Music of Ann Southam. 1998. Furiant Records FMDC 4604-2

Fluke Sound. Furiant Records FMDC 4677-2

Glass Houses: Music of Ann Southam. Eve Egoyan piano, Stephen Clarke piano. 1999. CBC Records MVCD 1124

Canadian Composer Portraits - Ann Southam. Christina Petrowska Quilico piano, Eitan Cornfield producer/narrator. 2005. Centrediscs CMCCD 10505

Simple Lines of Enquiry. Eve Egoyan piano. 2009. Centrediscs CMCCD 14609

Pond Life. Christina Petrowska Quilico piano. 2009. Centrediscs CMCCD 14109

Glass Houses Revisited. Christina Petrowska Quilico piano. 2011. Centrediscs

Further Reading