James Montgomery

Montgomery, James (Louis). Composer, performer, administrator, b Ravenna, O, 6 Feb 1943; B MUS (Baldwin-Wallace) 1966, M MUS (Toronto) 1972. He studied composition with D. Beswick, with Anthony Donato at Northwestern U, and with John Weinzweig and Gustav Ciamaga at the University of Toronto.

Montgomery, James

Montgomery, James (Louis). Composer, performer, administrator, b Ravenna, O, 6 Feb 1943; B MUS (Baldwin-Wallace) 1966, M MUS (Toronto) 1972. He studied composition with D. Beswick, with Anthony Donato at Northwestern U, and with John Weinzweig and Gustav Ciamaga at the University of Toronto. He is a founding member of the Canadian Electronic Ensemble, and was its managing director 1976-83. He was administrative director 1984-7 of NMC, and in 1987 was appointed artistic director of the Music Gallery. In 1990 he was also a member of the Faculty of Education of the University of Toronto (electronic media).

Montgomery's compositions cover many media. Those for the stage, such as Eye of the Beholder (1979), Didactic Musics No. l (1981), Prole (1982), and Didactic Musics No. 2 (1983), reflect a definite socio-political activism. Literary influences play an important part in much of Montgomery's music. Four works - Relations (1972) for piano and tape, Plunger (1973) for horn and tape, White Fire (1974) for amplified brass quintet, and Reconnaissance (1975) for amplified string quartet (revised for string orchestra in 1982) - were inspired by the work of Lawrence Durrell. A four-piece cycle of works, scored for various instrumental combinations and electroacoustic devices, under the common title White Goddess, was inspired by the poet Robert Graves' work of the same name. These four works are subtitled Ritual (I-IV), and each also has its own second title - Exhortation and Paean (1980), The Wood (1982), Nest of the Nightmare (1984), and The Uses of Power (1986). Montgomery terms the cycle a musico-psychodrama concerned with the source and essence of creativity and its place in contemporary culture. James Joyce's Ulysses is the source of the theatre piece Nightbloom (1984), which he created with the other members of the Canadian Electronic Ensemble, and Riverrun (1977, rev 1984) for three amplified pianos takes its inspiration from Finnegans Wake.

Most of Montgomery's chamber, large ensemble, and theatrical pieces are supplemented by electronic technology of one kind or another, ranging from simple amplification or tape playback to computer-programmed treatments of the original instrumental sounds. The instrumental language itself covers a full gamut from dodecaphonic counterpoint to special sonic effects drawn from the physical and acoustical makeup of the instrument. His explorations in the realm of music created by 20th-century technological means have evolved over the years, moving from traditional studio techniques through various synthesizing processes to computer programming. Affinity Groups (1988) invites the performers to discover, by listening, the dataset which makes up the score, and then to develop it in innumerable ways. Tallisman (1988) is an ingenious transformation of Thomas Tallis' 40-voice motet Spem in alium through computer synthesis. In each of his various roles - as composer or performer or administrator - Montgomery is always searching for new avenues to explore, new questions to ask, and new methods to develop.


Further Reading

  • James Montgomery, 'Affinity,' Musicworks, 43, Spring 1989