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Brian Abbott is an American composer/improvisor/guitarist currently residing in Toronto, Canada. To date he has written over 200 compositions that widely vary in style and method. Abbott draws on all the musical sources he loves, atonal modernism, minimalism, jazz, free improvisation, punk, microtonality, and world music like Gamelan, Indian Raga, and Arabic Maqam. Abbott distrusts the idea of cultivating a recognizable, personal style. Instead, anything can happen in one of his pieces. A quiet minimalist piece can break out into jazz, or a polka can emerge out of dense atonal clusters. He has written for solo instruments, improvisors, chamber ensembles, big bands, electronics, jazz groups, and rock bands and has had compositions premiered in Toronto, Kitchener, Guelph, Montreal, Boston, New York, and Budapest. The entire world of music interests Abbott, not just the Western music tradition. More and more he has been writing music which combines instrumentations, forms, and musical philosophies of contrasting civilizations. Recent works in that vein include a duo for harp and shamisen, a trio for electric guitar, vibraphone, and erhu, and works for bansuri flute. A trained improviser, he also creates “compositions in the moment” using the Soundpainting conducting language and many of his works utilize moments where performers are called upon to improvise within pre-arranged parameters. Some compositions also use indeterminacy and while maintaining a character all their own can never be performed the same way twice. Abbott was able to explore the idea music as a long form ritual in 2014 with a 14-hour performance of Erik Satie’s Vexations that he arranged for over 20 musicians. Titled Electric Vexations, it was probably the loudest performance ever of the piece, featuring drum set, electric guitar, bass, and a horn section.


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