Martin Arnold (composer)

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Martin Arnold (composer)
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Martin Arnold

1959 (age 64–65)
Edmonton, Alberta
  • B.Mus. in Composition
  • M.Mus. in Composition
  • Ph.D. in Composition
Alma mater
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Victoria
  • Composer
  • Performer of contemporary music

Martin Arnold (born September 1959 in Edmonton, Alberta) is a Canadian composer and performer of contemporary music.

Life and career

Arnold studied at the University of Alberta (B.Mus. in Composition, 1981) with Alfred Fischer and Malcolm Forsyth at the University of Alberta. He attended the Banff School of Fine Arts, 1981-82, and was a guest student at the Royal Conservatory, The Hague, Netherlands, 1982-83. At the University of Victoria (M.Mus. in Composition, 1985, and Ph.D. in Composition, 1995), he studied with Doug Collinge and Rudolf Komorous. Since leaving Victoria, Arnold has lived in Toronto. He teaches in the Department of Cultural Studies at Trent University and is an adjunct professor in the Faculty of Graduate Studies, York University.

Arnold's music has been recorded by the ensemble Quatuor Bozzini (Aberrare), pianist Eve Egoyan (Weave), and violinist Mira Benjamin (Janet). It has been performed at the Muziekgebouw (Amsterdam), Wigmore Hall (London), Glenn Gould Studio and Mercer Union (Toronto), Centre culturel canadien (Paris), Studio 12 (Bratislava), Sheffield City Hall Ballroom (Sheffield, U.K.), and the Museums of Art (Boras and Göteborg, Sweden). A weekend devoted to performances of Arnold's music, entitled of-the-now, was held in Victoria, British Columbia, in 2017.

Influence and style

Arnold has written about the influence of Komorous' "aesthetic of the wonderful" on his music.[1] Komorous developed the aesthetic with musical colleagues in the Czech Republic before emigrating to Canada in 1969. According to Komorous, another translation of the Czech word for wonderful is strange. Composers influenced by the aesthetic seek to create musical encounters with the unexpected.[2]

Arnold's music is characterized by a sense of dislocation and discontinuity, effects which are created using unusual combinations of instruments and timbres.[3] Some pieces are composed for conventional instruments, such as piano and flute, viola and cello, and string quartet. Others are written for ensembles of less conventional instruments including the melodica, electric drawbar organ, hurdy-gurdy, electric tenor banjo, harmonica, and sleighbells.[4] Arnold plays one or more of these instruments in performances and on recordings.


Leaflitters (2010) for solo bass flute and electronics

Janet (2010) for solo voice gating recordings

Liquidambars (2009) for two violins

Aberrare (Casting) (2009) for string quartet

Behind the Shadows (2008)

Water Lens; Water Limbus (2007) for voice gating recording, berimbau, violin, and string bass

Rubber Wain (2007) for 2 clarinets, vibraphone, piano, violin, and cello

Moonlight on the Bluff (2005) for flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin and cello

Urchin Points (Hedgehog Knots) (2004) for traverso, harpsichord, Baroque violin, and bass viola da gamba

Herl (2003) for piano

Tam Lin (2003) for improvising trio singing and playing trombone, analog synth., and electric guitar, with clarinet, trumpet, melodica, 2 vibraphones, electric piano, piano, violin, and string bass

Fancy (2002) sound installation involving 4 channels of pre-recorded music/soundscapes, of different lengths, repeating indefinitely, played through 4 speakers

Rubber Wagon (2002) for trombone, guitar, tenor banjo, and analog synthesiser gating recording

Cow-drifting (2002) for trombone, guitar gating recording, melodica gating recording, and analog synthesiser

Scudding Glamour (Ragged, Scud Grammar) (2002) for piano

The Fankle (2002) for piccolo, clarinet, vibraphone, guitar, piano, violin, viola, cello, and gated tapes

Slow Burn & Sloe Air (2002) for bass recorder

Slew & Hop (2001) for viola and cello

Willie O’Winsbury (2001) for voice gating tapes

B.Org (inégale) (2000) for bass clarinet, piano, violin, viola, and cello

Fergus (2000) for melodica gating recording

Loose Warp (2000) for any number of plucked strings and gated recording

Shank/Shank's Pony (2000) for guitar, lap-steel guitar, and analog synth

Idyllily (2000) for string orchestra and choir

(Damper) Coaster (2000) for bass clarinet, trumpet, 2 percussion, piano, violin, and string bass

Play Organum, Work Organum (2000) for piccolo, bass clarinet, trombone, harp, violin, and string bass

Slip (1999) for bass clarinet, piano, violin and cello

Rat-drifting (1999) for piano

Mint (1998) for clarinet, viola, and piano

Jack; Bolt (1998) for singer vocoding tape

Contact; Vault (1997) for string quartet

chamber dérive (1997) for violin and piano

Vines & Tubers (Nightshades) (1. Woody 2. Deadly) (1997) for prepared piano

Cameras (1997) for electric violin gating recording

Concerto in A major (Spillage) (1996) for Baroque bassoon, horn, timpani, portable sampling keyboard, and violin

Smut Mirabilia (1995) for Baroque bassoon, hand horn, vibraphone, piano, and violin

Mole Meander (1995) for soprano recorder, sackbut, and positiv organ

Whistle Vault (1993) for whistling and live electronics

Burrow On (1992) for Baroque bassoon, electronic percussion, Baroque viola, and bass viola da gamba

Burrow Out; Burrow In; Burrow Music (1992-94) tape music involving low-tech., altered, overdubbed recordings of Baroque flute, sopranino recorder, alto recorder, bass recorder, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, trumpet, trombone, melodica, Casio D[igital] H[orn]-100, electric organ, string bass, whistling, and humming

Contact Chorales 2. Contact Melodies (1992) for clarinet, trumpet, prepared piano, 2 percussion, and string bass

Press your eyelids with your fingertips (1992) for bass clarinet, bassoon, alto saxophone, baritone saxophone, trumpet, trombone, vibraphone, drums, electric guitar, accordion, piano, violin, cello, and string bass

Horn and Hardart (after Joseph Cornell; for Mark Ellestad) (1991) for wah-wah bassoon, midi wind controller gating tape, baritone saxophone, vibraphone, piano, and violin

The Booth (1986) for Baroque flute

Reptile-like (1986) for Baroque flute, harpsichord, and bass viola da gamba

Cathedra (1985) for violin and piano

In the media



  1. Martin Arnold, "Thinking the Wonderful," in Canadian Cultural Poesis: Essays on Canadian Culture, pp. 305-21, edited by Sheila Petty, Garry Sherbert, and Annie Gérin. [1] Accessed on 11 May 2020.
  2. "Rudolf Komorous and the 'Aesthetic of the Strange,'" The Globe and Mail, 16 June 2010.
  3. Nick Storring, "Radical Liminality," [2] Retrieved on 10 May 2020
  4. Höstman, A. (2016). "Tuber, Rhizome, Tendril, and Corm: On the Music of Martin Arnold." Tempo, 70(277), 16-33 [3]. Accessed on 10 May 2020

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