Jan Jarvlepp | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Jan Jarvlepp

Jan (Eric) Jarvlepp. Composer, cellist, teacher, b Ottawa 3 Jan 1953; B MUS (Ottawa) 1976; M MUS (McGill) 1978; PH D (University of California at San Diego) 1981. Jan Jarvlepp played rock guitar at 12 before studying cello in high school.

Jarvlepp, Jan

Jan (Eric) Jarvlepp. Composer, cellist, teacher, b Ottawa 3 Jan 1953; B MUS (Ottawa) 1976; M MUS (McGill) 1978; PH D (University of California at San Diego) 1981. Jan Jarvlepp played rock guitar at 12 before studying cello in high school. His later teachers included Donald Whitton, Gisela Depkat, Peter Farrell and Rafael Druian (cello); and Luis de Pablo, Alcides Lanza, Will Ogdon, and Roger Reynolds (composition).

He was a prize winner in PRO Canada's Young Composers' Competitions 1980-2. Many of his chamber works were performed by the Ottawa ensemble Open Score, with whom he appeared as soloist and which premiered his Trio (1987). Time Traveller, a four-movement suite for carillon written 1982-6, was commissioned and performed by Gordon Slater at the Peace Tower. Jarvlepp's PH D dissertation at the University of California, San Diego was Time Zones, a work for 17 players that uses temporal composition techniques; it was premiered in 1984 by New Music Concerts under Robert Aitken.

A freelance cellist, Jarvlepp has been a member of the Nepean Symphony (1981-91) and the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra (1981- ) and has performed in Ottawa and national CBC chamber music broadcasts. He has been guest lecturer at Concordia and McGill universities, has taught cello privately, and taught part-time with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (1986- ) and at the University of Ottawa (1984-94 and 2006- ). In 1985 he founded, with composer John Winiarz, the J&W record label.

Jan Jarvlepp's Compositions

Jarvlepp's early works were tonally complex and formally abstract - they deal with sound as a pure medium rather than as a traditional musical entity. In his electroacoustic work Flotation (1978), he uses nontonal electronically altered sounds of water, bells and whistles to create an imaginary musical soundscape. This is a major contrast from Buoyancy (1977), an aggressive and complex piece featuring electronically altered cello sounds exclusively. His orchestral works include ICE (1976, for strings and percussion) and Camerata Music (1989). Works for solo instruments include Sunrise (1987, for accordion) and Dream (1990, for piano).

Following his doctoral studies, Jarvlepp's writing began showing a consistent post-modern style, more tonally centred than previous works, while retaining a formal complexity. His works throughout the 1990s demonstrated a clear attempt to reconcile popular and non-Western influences with classical music structures. Notable works that embody this aesthetic position include Moonscapes (1993), premiered 10 Apr 1994 at the SAW Gallery by Jarvlepp (electric guitar) and Angela Casagrande (english horn); Pierrot Solaire (1994), premiered 21 Nov 1994 at the Music Gallery by the Denis Schingh Ensemble; and Garbage Concerto (1995), premiered 22 Jan 1996 by the Ottawa Symphony Orchestra. This last work proved particularly popular, being recorded by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra on the BIS label in 2000 and performed by the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas in Mexico City and at the Lincoln Centre in 2008.

In the late 1990s, Jarvlepp formed a close relationship with Julian Armour and the Ottawa Chamber Music Festival (OCMS), writing a series of quintets (string quartet plus solo instrument), including Quintet 2000 (celesta); Quintet 2001 (mandolin); Quintet 2002 (english horn); Quintet 2003 (violin); Quintet 2004 (harp); Quintet 2005 (bass clarinet); and Quintet 2007 (vibraphone). In 2006 the OCMS also commissioned Three Stories by Hans Christian Anderson (2006), which received its premiere 31 Jul 2006.


Jan Jarvlepp is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre (CMC); the Canadian League of Composers; SODRAC; and SOCAN. He has served on juries for the Kiwanis Festival and the City of Ottawa. His electronic works, including Liquid Crystals (1988), are deposited at the CMC-Canadian Electroacoustic Community Electroacoustical Archive.

Selected Works

Ice. Orchestra. 1976. Ms

Buoyancy. 4-channel tape. 1977

Flotation. 2-channel tape (short and long versions). 1978

Transparency and Density. Percussion ensemble. 1978. Ms

Cello Concerto. Cello and orchestra. 1980. Ms

Time Zones. Spatially dispersed 17-piece chamber orchestra. 1981. Ms

Night Music. Carillon. 1982. Ms

Evening Music. Carillon. 1984. Ms

Guitar Piece. Amplified guitar or amplified guitar with prerecorded synthesizers (5 1/2 minutes), rev. 2005 for 2 amplified guitars. 1985/2005. Ms

Morning Music. Carillon. 1986. Ms

Afternoon Music. Carillon. 1986

Trio No. 1. Flute, oboe, and piano. 1987. Ms

Liquid Crystals. Digital FM synthesizers on tape. 1988

Life in the Fast Lane. Two pianos. 1990. Ms

Encounter. Viola and conga drums. 1991. Ms

Moonscape. English horn (also viola or saxophone), electric guitar. 1993. Ms

Pierrot Solaire. Flute, violin, double bass, percussion. 1994 (orchestral version 1998). Ms

Garbage Concerto. Five percussion soloists, orchestra. 1995. Ms

Trio No. 2. Piccolo, viola, and cello. 1994. Ms

Earth Song. Mixed SATB choir. 1998. Words attributed to U.S. Indian Chief Seattle but actually by Ted Perry. Ms

Overture. Woodwind quintet. 1999

Concerto 2000. Flute and orchestra. 2000. Ms

Quintet 2000. String quartet and celesta. 2000. Ms

Suite for Viola and Strings. 2001

Quintet 2001. String quartet and mandolin. 2001. Ms

Quintet 2002. String quartet and english horn. 2002. Ms

Quintet 2003. String quartet and violin. 2003. Ms

Laser Bells. Carillon. 2003. Ms

Quintet 2004. String quartet and harp. 2004. Ms

Quintet 2005. String quartet and bass clarinet. 2005. Ms

Three Stories by Hans Christian Andersen. Two narrators, two violins, viola, cello, and double bass. 2006

Quintet 2007. String quartet and vibraphone. 2007. Ms


'Compositional aspects of Tempi Concertanti by Luciano Berio,' Interface, vol. 11, 1982

'Pitch and texture analysis of Ligeti's Lux Aeterna,' University of California ex tempore, Jan 1982

'Conlon Nancarrow's Study #27 for Player Piano viewed analytically,' Perspectives of New Music, vol. 22, Fall-Winter 1983/Spring-Summer 1984

"Alchemy in the Nineties ... turning garbage into gold..." Experimental Musical Instruments, March 1997

Further Reading