Flocking for Orchestra

2*,2,2*,2 4,3,3*,1
hrp.,pno, 3 perc., strings.
10 minutes

Program Notes

The term “flocking” typically refers to the complex behavior of birds coordinating their flight; it also refers to the texture produced by the process of depositing small fiber particles onto a surface. Over the course of my career, both of these processes have inspired several of my compositions, which use an intuitive method to respond to these behaviors. For “Flocking for Orchestra,” I’ve integrated the interpretation of data in a flocking model to develop essential structural elements of the piece, including most of the pitch material.

For more than 15 years, I have been fascinated by the intersection of new technologies with traditional artistic practices and how they inform one another. “Flocking for Orchestra” allowed me to explore this idea more deeply, thanks to an Explore and Create grant I received from the Canada Council for the Arts. Starting in fall of 2017, I’ve had the privilege to work with Philippe Pasquier, associate professor at Metacreation Lab, SIAT, Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, and Jeff Ens, an MSc student in his research group. Together, we’ve created a tool that allows me to translate flocking simulation data into musical parameters.

For this piece, I associated the sudden changes in direction one finds in flocking behavior with contrasting orchestral textures. I used the axes of a 2-dimensional grid, translating time duration on the x-axis and pitch and harmony on the y-axis. This approach allowed me to produce a precise gestural outline within the overall tessitura of the orchestra. Occasionally, I used the spatial movement of sound on the stage going from left to right and vice versa. While digital tools and computation provided a frame for the composition and produced countless sketches, I still sat down with pencil and paper to compose the work.

“Flocking for Orchestra” is constructed in five sections expressing different viewpoints: inside the flock before takeoff (dense), airborne (flurries), slow motion (frozen photographic frames), vanishing points (horizon), and stillness.

This work is dedicated to the Victoria Symphony Orchestra and Bill Linwood. I am grateful to have been chosen for the Hugh Davidson Commission Award.


The extraordinary Ornitographies photos by Xavi Bou

Photos by Xavi Bou.

Composition Process

While digital tools and computation provided a framework for the composition and produced countless sketches, I still sat down with pencil and paper to compose the work.


World Premiere

Flocking for Orchestra
Victoria Symphony conducted by Bill Linwood
April 6th, 2018
Alix Goolden performance Hall, Victoria, BC Canada
Hugh Davidson Award

Flocking for Orchestra
Orchestre de la Francophonie, conducted by Simon Rivard.
June 18, 2018

Société des Arts Technologiques, Montréal, Quebec, Canada