The Canadian Music Centre remembers CMC Associate Composer David Keane who passed away on Tuesday, June 20, 2017 after a long struggle with dementia and ALS. David was prolific as a composer, performer, educator, and writer, and we share a sense of loss with a wide community of artists and colleagues who have been affected by David’s work. He was active on the CMC’s Ontario Regional Council in the early 90’s and his music is featured on several recordings distributed by the CMC.
Born in 1943 in Akron, Ohio, Keane studied piano, trumpet, and double bass. He arrived in Vancouver as part of a wave of young artists who left the United States in the 60s to settle in Canada. These first years in Canada were spent teaching in public schools, playing bass in the Vancouver Symphony, and lecturing at Simon Fraser University. David Keane moved to Ontario when he joined the Queen’s University School of Music in 1970, founding the Electronic Music Studio and serving as its director until 1997.
He wrote his first piece of electronic music in 1963, and while he lamented the time-intensive process, once he completed his first eight seconds of electronically generated sounds he was hooked—electronics would remain integral to his musical output.
A professor of Composition and Theory, his output included works for dance, theatre, film, radio, multi-media, installations, and the concert hall. Characteristically combining electroacoustic instrumentation with live performance, his music reflects his long-standing interest in polyphony and his interest in musical perception, especially the listener’s discovery, in repeated hearings, of subtle and complex transformational patterns.
Supported by the Ontario Arts Council and The Canada Council for the Arts, David Keane produced work for the National Film Board, the National Gallery of Canada, the CBC, the National Design Council, and the Ontario Science Centre. He also received commissions from France, the US and the Cuban Commission for UNESCO. He wrote extensively on electroacoustic music and musical aesthetics in such journals as Canadian Music Educator, Computer Music Journal, Canadian University Music Review, Musicworks, and Queen’s Quarterly, and the classic work in its field, Tape Music Composition (Oxford, 1980). His music can be heard in three dedicated albums, Lyra, Aurora and Dialogics as well as in collections such as The Anthology of Canadian Music.
Special thanks to Melba Cuddy-Keane for her assistance in preparing this story and for including a suggestion that donations can be made in David Keane’s name to the ALS Society of Canada, and the Canadian Music Centre.