Tomas Dusatko

Tomas (John George) Dusatko. Composer, teacher, guitarist, pianist, b Toronto 12 Sep 1952; B MUS (Toronto) 1975, M MUS (Toronto) 1976. He was born to parents of Czech origin, and as a child had piano and later guitar lessons. He attended St Michael's Cathedral Choir School in Toronto.

Dusatko, Tomas

Tomas (John George) Dusatko. Composer, teacher, guitarist, pianist, b Toronto 12 Sep 1952; B MUS (Toronto) 1975, M MUS (Toronto) 1976. He was born to parents of Czech origin, and as a child had piano and later guitar lessons. He attended St Michael's Cathedral Choir School in Toronto. At the University of Toronto he studied classical guitar 1971-5 with Eli Kassner; composition 1971-5 with John Beckwith, Talivaldis Kenins, Oskar Morawetz, and John Weinzweig, and 1975-6 with Lothar Klein; electronic music 1975-6 with Gustav Ciamaga. In 1976 he did project work at the Computer Research Facility at the University of Toronto. As a student Dusatko began to win major awards for his music: the Canadian Music Centre's John Adaskin Memorial Award in 1975 (Interplay, 1974; Laments, 1972-3; and Melos I, 1975); the Guitar Society of Toronto's Quest for New Music for Guitar '78 (Interaction, 1976) and CAPAC's Sir Ernest MacMillan Award/Fellowship (Textures, 1975) in 1977; CAPAC's William St Clair Low Award/Fellowship in 1977 (Nomos II, 1977) and 1981 (Melos II, 1978); and third prize at the International New Music Composers' Competition in New York in 1987 (Traces of Becoming, 1986). Dusatko has received commissions from the CMCentre (Transformations, 1975), ARRAYMUSIC (Nomos II), the University of Toronto Wind Symphony (Achordos, 1980), the CBC (O Sancta Simplicitas, 1982; Gentle Madness, 1984), violist Rivka Golani (Melos III, 1984), the Esprit Orchestra (Traces of Becoming, recorded by the orchestra in 1990 on CBC SMCD-5101), the Amadeus Ensemble (dreamforms, 1989), and others. In 1977 he began to teach music history, theory and classical guitar at St Michael's.

Dusatko's oeuvre divides into two periods. Between 1971 and 1980 he was relatively prolific, completing more than a dozen works, and favoured a dense atonal style, intellectually rigorous in content and form. Typically in this period, the integrity of a work came from the consistent use of basic materials - for example, chords built entirely of seconds or thirds (Transformations), or given intervals deployed according to a complex mathematical ratio (Diasteme, 1980) - to dictate harmonic and melodic events. In the Melos solos, small, melodically and rhythmically distinct motives are subjected to intense development until exhausted. The Melos and Nomos works also reflect Dusatko's interest in ancient Greek melody and theory. Dusatko wrote only a handful of pieces between 1981 and 1990, but a major stylistic change was apparent. Works such as O Sancta Simplicitas are more intuitive and dramatic (at times, almost frighteningly intense), and draw more inspiration from traditional music; in Gentle Madness and Traces of Becoming, tonality and atonality are freely juxtaposed.

Dusatko is a member of the CLComp, and an associate of the CMCentre.


Further Reading

  • Schulman, Michael. 'Tomas Dusatko - writing from the heart,' CanComp, 230, May 1988.