A man of many booms
As a weekend hockey warrior Brian Garbet is renowned for his booming slapshot that sends opposing goaltenders cowering for safety.
Now he’s making his name in a boom of a different sort, as one of the featured composers at Vancouver’s Sonic Boom Festival which runs through March 24 at various venues.
Garbet, whose searing shot and unique grooming earned him the nickname Unabomber amongst his hockey buddies, will be presenting Benazir, an original seven-minute work that is a tribute to Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan who was assassinated Dec. 27, 2007.
For Garbet, composition is a way to explore themes that didn’t always mesh with his previous musical incarnation with local alternative hard rock band Crop Circle.
“I’m really interested in politics and socio-political issues,” says Garbet, who’s nearing completion of his Masters of Music at UBC.
Expressing some of his ideas in composition for an orchestra or ensemble often starts with a small musical idea. Then, ensconced in the small studio that occupies a spare room in his New Westminster home, he uses his guitar to build on that idea.
“Composition is one of those esoteric things,” says Garbet. “It’s a craft. Sometimes we don’t understand it, we channel it. It’s magical.”
Benazir, for instance, grew from a fanfare Garbet was commissioned to write for an oud player visiting from Palestine. He based the fanfare on an Islamic call to prayer, working with a spectrum analyzer to understand its pitches and construction, and then adapt it for his composition.
“There’s a lot of science and math involved,” says Garbet, who’s also scored the music for some independent short films as well as video games.
He wrote the piece to be performed by the Turning Point Ensemble, a large Vancouver-based chamber group that is comprised of a single representative from each of a full orchestra’s sections. Scoring for instruments he can’t actually play involves a lot of research and helpful friends.
“The more familiar you are with the instruments, the better off you are,” says Garbet. “You have to have lots of friends with different instruments to ask their advice.”
Getting his work performed at a festival of composers is good exposure, says Garbet. It’s also a chance to workshop with other composers and see how an audience reacts to his music.
“With composition you’re trying to create imagery,” says Garbet. “Everyone has their own take on it, that’s what makes it so special.”
Garbet’s Benazir will performed by the Turning Point Ensemble at a concert on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Orpheum Annex. Also on the program will be absurd machinery, a 10-minute composition by another New Westminster resident and SFU student Remy Siu.
For more information about the Sonic Boom Festival, including a schedule of concerts and events as well as ticket information, go to www.vancouverpromusica.ca/sonicboom.