The past and the future collide in the present through Gemini, the latest single from Fredericton-born, Toronto-based musician Greg Harrison.
There is something really interesting about composers with a background in percussion. In my experience, musicians who learn to build and dissect rhythm before they learn where each note sits on a staff often end up composing some of the most interesting scores. This may have something to do with how a musician’s ear develops. Or maybe it has more to do with a drummer’s constant quest for new noise, forever seeking ways to add new colour to the predictability of their role in an ensemble. Whatever the case may be, the rewards are often rich, as is the case with Gemini, the latest single from Fredericton-born, Toronto-based musician Greg Harrison (aka Grej).
“I definitely didn’t read music or write melodies before I started taking drum lessons,” said Harrison, who could easily be counted among the most explorative percussion-based composers working in Canada today. “However, I remember experimenting with layering sounds with my dad’s reel to reel. I think that was the gateway into composing. Just figuring out how things mesh. I was also more curious about sounds vs. rhythm, which made learning drums really interesting.”
Harrison’s work spans a variety of percussive and melodic pursuits. He has composed extensively for dance productions in the Toronto area and recently won the East Coast Music Award for Classical Recording of the Year for his album Lighthouse, created with soprano Maureen Batt.
Harrison’s latest single, Gemini, was inspired by the idea of an otherworldly funeral procession and combines a range of modern sounds and textures with a distinct Renaissance colouring.
“I had this strong image of an alien funeral procession, where the music being played has a medieval, Renaissance-era vibe,” said Harrison. “I couldn’t get that vibe out of my head, so that’s what I was shooting for. This piece was a means of trying to write a weird theme and variations melody – a long theme that repeats, adding new layers with each pass, paying more attention to detail in the harmonic progression. The B section, I guess, could be interpreted as the afterparty. Or maybe the ‘person’ who is being mourned just won’t die. The rhythm sort of becomes the melody in some ways, feeding live drums through arpeggiators, which was a fun way to add some chance to the piece. The variation is a bit different, more of a subtractive approach dropping beats on each repeat.”
Gemini was created in part as a commission from Choreographer J.T. Papandreos and features AI generated artwork created using the themes Harrison described.
“My pal Tom Belding helped me out with the artwork,” said Harrison. “It was kind of a terrifying and hilarious experiment.”