In this edition of Earmark we get to know CMC Associate Composer Owen Bloomfield. Owen is an active composer and music educator with a deep connection to his community in Cambridge. Increasingly, a community-engaged skill set is vital to any artist establishing their practice. Artists in dense urban centres can on occasion confine themselves to “professional” spaces, and neglect developing arts facilitation skills with folks of varying abilities and skill levels. By comparison, Owen and other artists outside of urban centres have an added motivation to develop those facilitation skills as the survival of their art is bound up with a much different demographic. It made for a refreshing chat with Owen, which included some information about his recent projects.
Canadian Music Centre: What got you excited about music at a young age?
Owen Bloomfield: I come from a musically active extended family. Aunts, Uncles, grandparents, cousins and my mom (dad was an observer) all took part in the musical life of my small town of Dryden, Ontario. I took it all for granted until my teen years when I discovered I had an interest and ability to write songs. This spurred a deeper interest in pursuing a musical life. That being said, I had developed a strong grounding in the power of community music making which has influenced everything I do.
CMC: What was the most important music concert/event you attended?
OB: I have a few to choose from, but two I go back to quite often are from the great NUMUS concerts in Waterloo in the mid-nineties when I was a student at Wilfrid Laurier. One was my first encounter with Gubaidulina’s Homage a T.S. Eliot, a piece I would return to over and over again. I don’t remember anything else on the program. I remember being transfixed and transported by every aspect of the piece. I became obsessed with it. The other was a performance of Moments by Micheline Coulombe Sainte- Marcoux. Its use of staging and drama for a chamber piece with a vocalist brought me into a musical sandbox that I have never left.
CMC: What is currently on your playlist?
OB: I am currently listening to a lot of Lutoslawski and Berio. I’m not sure what my current fascination is with mid-century music. Maybe it’s the uncertain times we are living in. I also find myself listening to the Beethoven symphonies, probably because I’m teaching a lot of classical structures. I have two children at home, one who is a twelve-year-old so she dominates the music in the car. That means a lot of Top 40 being played. It is a battle not worth fighting!
CMC: How do you define your musical/artistic community?
OB: I would define the musical/artistic community of Waterloo Region and Guelph as small, close, amicable and vibrant. Most everyone knows everyone else or is separated only by a degree or two. There is a deep sense of place and much of the art attempts to connect with the history and environment of the area.
CMC: Tell me about a project/work of yours that you are particularly proud of.
OB: I recently completed and performed a large interdisciplinary piece (45 minutes) involving original sung and spoken text, piano and bass clarinet and choreography for two principal dancers and youth dancers. River Flow: Confluence of Word, Music and Dance is an exploration of a river’s journey from source to mouth through the prism of its natural and human history.