Gayle Young | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Gayle Young

Young, Gayle. Composer, writer, editor, designer of musical instruments, performer, b St Catharines, Ont, 22 Mar 1950; BFA (York) 1977.

Young, Gayle

Young, Gayle. Composer, writer, editor, designer of musical instruments, performer, b St Catharines, Ont, 22 Mar 1950; BFA (York) 1977. Young's studies at York University were in composition under David Rosenboom, Richard Teitelbaum, and James Tenney; she won an award in composition from BMI Canada in 1977. In the same year she designed and built the columbine, a percussion instrument consisting originally of 40, later of 61, steel tubes using an expanded just intonation system, and in 1978 she began to tour Canada performing works that she and other composers had written for the instrument. (See also Inventions and devices.)

From 1979 to 1982 Young served as consulting composer with the Structured Sound Synthesis Project, a computer music system at the University of Toronto. She composed music 1978-9 for three visual environments by Reinhard Reitzenstein. These works, with an accompanying booklet, were released in 1980 on the album According (JWD Music WRC1-1265). In 1980 she designed and built the amaranth, a 24-stringed instrument with a completely flexible tuning system. In 1987 she composed the theme music for the film Our Marilyn. Her long association with sculptor Reinhard Reitzenstein flourished in the 1990s with two sound installations in 1994, Tuyeaux Sonores in Alma, Que, and 5 - Ypsilon; the Bunker Version for the Newfoundland Sound Symposium. In 1995 Young and Reitzenstein created a sound sculpture for the Glendon Gallery at York University, and in 1996 they created Klang Bau; the Bunker Version, again for the Sound Symposium. Along with Reitzenstein, Toronto Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Jacques Israelievitch, and percussionist Jesse Stewart, Young formed the group The Test Tubes, which played at the Guelph Jazz Festival 1997-9. A CD, Line 6, was made of the initial concert in 1997. Young created two further sound installations in 2004, one for the 25th anniversary of Musicworks magazine and the other, entitled Sonic Playroom, for the Kitchener Open Ears Festival.

Young has received commissions from the Canada Council for Theorein, pianist Eva Egoyan for Forest Ephemeral: Four Flowers, and the Ontario Arts Council for Usque ad Mare and Cuesta. She continues to give concerts and workshops in Canada and the US. In addition to her musical activities she wrote (1981-6) a biography, The Sackbut Blues, of the Canadian electronic music pioneer Hugh Le Caine, for which she received grants from the Canada Council, the Secretary of State, and the 1985-6 Sir Ernest MacMillan Memorial Foundation award. In 1987 she became managing editor of Musicworks magazine, a position she held as of 2006. For the 1990 Newfoundland Sound Symposium she was curator of the exhibition 'Sounds of Invention'; the catalogue essay was republished in the book S:on: Sound in Contemporary Canadian Art in 2003.

Though her varied responsibilities have led her to describe herself as "a grab-some-time-when-you-can composer," Young remains actively engaged in the music scene through her performances, sound sculptures, and writings. Many of her compositions, such as In Motion and Theorein, reveal her involvement with complex tuning systems and her interest in the sonic potentials of the instruments she has built. She has made a special effort to bring these interests to rural communities, with some success.

She is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre, a member of the Canadian Association for Sound Ecology (for which she was secretary 1996-9), and of the World Forum of Acoustic Ecology. She was a contributor to the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.

Selected Compositions

According to the Moon. 1978. Sop, alto. Ms. JWD Music WRC1-1265 (B. Bridgman soprano, K. Skidmore alto)

Aquilegia. 1978. Synth, tape. (excerpt) Musicworks 42 (cassette) (Young)

In Motion. 1979. Columbine. Ms. JWD Music WRC1-1265 (Young)

Theorein. 1979. V, columbine. Ms. JWD Music WRC1-1265 (R. Reitzenstein voice, Young columbine)

Cuesta. 1981. Computer, amaranth. Ms

Usque ad Mare. 1981 4 synthesizer. Ms

Study in 11/9. 1986. Amaranth. Ms. Musicworks 37 (cassette) (Young)

Neptis Cantrix. 1987. Columbine, amaranth, tape. Ms

Harmonium for James Tenney. 1988. Str quartet. Ms


'The design and construction of columbine, a percussion instrument with forty steel bells,' Musicworks, 1, 1978

'Innovations in instrument design: the excitement of discovery,' Musicanada, 48, May 1982

'The how and why of instrument design,' Musicworks, 21, Fall 1982

'Prior art: electronic sound in Canada between the 1930s and the 1960s,' Musicanada, 57, Jun 1986

'Twenty-four strings,' Musicworks, 37, Winter 1987

'The theory and design of a multi-intonational metallophone,' Percussive Notes, Fall 1987

'The pitch organization of Harmonium for James Tenney,' Perspectives of New Music, vol 26, Summer 1988

The Sackbut Blues (Ottawa 1989)

"Newfoundland Sound Symposium 1992," Contact, 6 no. 3, Mar 1993

"Reviews & announcements - The tuning of the world," Musicworks, no. 58, Spring 1994

"Multiples of two and five: Some anniversaries," Musicworks, no. 71, Summer 1998

"Between seeing and hearing: sensing energy at another level," Musicworks, no. 74, Summer 1999

"Sounds of Invention," Le son dans l'art contemporain canadien/Sound in Contemporary Canadian Art, ed Nicole Gingras (Montreal 2003)

Also interviews in Musicworks with Hildegard Westerkamp (issue 26, Winter 1984), Michael Snow (39, Fall 1987), Charles Dodge (41, Summer 1988), Murray Adaskin (43, Spring 1989), Barbara Steinberg (45, Winter 1990), John Luther Adams (70, Spring 1998), Lauren Pratt (77, Summer 2000) and James Tenney (77, Summer 2000).

See also Bibliography for Hugh Le Caine

Further Reading