Music evolves from Bach to Bachmann

In his down time from the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, violist Arthur Bachmann pulls double-duty as a composer.

The born and raised Calgarian premiered his latest piece, a string trio titled ‘Wood Poppy,’ at Scarborough United Church on Jan. 20.

“You can say it only took three days [to compose] but it took 15 years—that’s how long it took,” said Bachmann.

“To get where you are, you have to have all of that experience behind you.”

Bachmann’s interest in music was initially piqued at a very young age.

He recalls listening to a classical music show on CBC radio called ‘The Transcontinental’ with his parents while he was growing up.

“I was around 10 or something like that and I heard some announcer say, ‘That was Arthur Fiddler with the blah blah blah’ and I thought, ‘Arthur Fiddler—I want my name like that,’” said Bachmann.

Yearning for adolescent fame, Bachmann convinced his mother to let him take viola lessons, a decision that eventually led to his current position in the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra.

At the age of 12, Bachmann had his first compositional experience when his grade-school teacher assigned several music exercises for Bachmann and his classmates to complete.

“I really thought that was cool—I can do that. I can write some of the stuff these guys do,” said Bachmann.

In addition to completing the assigned homework, Bachmann decided to make a few of his own compositions.

“I still have them. They’re pretty awful.”

After this initial compositional foray, Bachmann wrote a few pieces but chose not to take music-writing any further.

He returned to pursue a career as a violist, attending the University of Western Ontario for a Bachelor of Musical Arts degree as well as an Artist Diploma for Viola Performance.

In 1986 he won a position at the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, a position he holds to this day.

In the early ‘90s, Bachmann decided to have the best of both worlds, performing and composing, and returned to his compositions after a 10-year hiatus.

By 1997, Bachmann received an associate composer designation at the Canadian Music Centre.

His compositions have been performed around the world by groups including the Beau Quartet as well as accompanying larger-scale performances at Calgary Opera.

Bachmann’s pieces also frequent CBC radio programs that are broadcast across the country.

Composers all have different methods to complete compositions, but Bachmann prefers to write his pieces in a linear fashion.

This process is similar to writing a novel—from start to finish.

“Sometimes it’s surprising where it takes you. It’s not always where you think you’re going to go,” he said.

Although Bachmann tends to borrow styles from popular 20th century composers, he adds his own modern update that focuses on tonal aspects and melodies that represent the “beauty in this world.”

“You see composition all of the time—it’s in everything that we do,” said Bachmann.

“Everything that’s been impactful in society today has been because it was accompanied by music.”

About Sarah Sussman 4 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Sarah Sussman worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2012-2013 academic year.