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Vanier Prize Winner - Jason Noble

Jason Noble  - Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship Winner 2012

About Jason Noble:

Jason Noble is a doctoral student in composition at McGill.  He holds a MMus in composition from The University of Western Ontario and honours degrees in music and philosophy from Memorial University of Newfoundland. His current supervisor is Dr. Chris Harman.  Previous teachers include Dr. Omar Daniel, Prof. Clifford Crawley and Dr. James Bradley.

Jason has composed for many of Canada's finest ensembles, including Amabile Choirs of London, Soundstreams, Esprit Orchestra, Vancouver Chamber Choir, the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra, Lady Cove, Newman Sound, and Shallaway. His pieces have been featured on CBC national television and radio and in concerts in Argentina, the United States, France, Belgium, Italy, and across Canada.  Upcoming performances are scheduled in New York, Berlin, Montreal, and St. John’s. 

In June 2012, Jason and several other McGill composers cofounded the inaugural Montreal Contemporary Music Lab.  He currently holds a residency with the McGill percussion ensemble, and commissions from the Sudbury Symphony Orchestra, choral conductor Angela Warren, and pianist James Hurley. 

In addition to composing, Jason is a researcher for the Advancing Interdisciplinary Research in Singing (AIRS) project.  He performs regularly as a singer with voces boreales, the Christ Church Cathedral Choir, and the Montreal Consort, and occasionally as a solo or collaborative pianist.  

What he will be researching:

Jason’s area of research is semiotic composition, a compositional orientation that focuses on signs and meaning in the creation of new music.  It involves the study of listeners’ perceptions of contemporary musical materials, as well as their perceptions of interactions between music and extramusical signs such as words, gestures, and images.  Semiotic composition draws on multidisciplinary fields including topic theory, tripartitional analysis, spectromorphology, and cognitive dynamics.  The hypothesis of semiotic composition is that a richer understanding of the transmission of meaning in contemporary compositions can help composers connect deeply with listeners. 

What the Vanier funding means to Jason:

I believe new music is a pillar of our cultural life: it can express meanings, ideas, and feelings that are inaccessible to any other art, yet are vital to our understanding of one another and to our collective sense of identity.  In addition, the cognitive, emotional, social and health benefits of music are well-documented and supported by abundant new research.  It is enormously in the interest of our society for composition to remain a living activity that is relevant to our own times.  Composers thus need to find a way to connect with audiences in a supersaturated media environment.

I believe the question of musical meaning is key.  I think most people judge art on the basis of what it means to them, even if that meaning is something they cannot put into words.  If we, as composers, do not give due consideration to our work’s potential for meaningful connection with the audience, it is possible that listeners will lose interest in our activity and, in the worst-case scenario, contemporary composition will fall into cultural irrelevance.  My hope is that by studying people’s perception of meaning in contemporary music and applying the knowledge thereby gained to compositional practice, we will create works of deep, broad, and lasting significance.

I receive this award in an age of austerity, when many valuable cultural institutions are economically threatened.  I am humbled and honoured by this recognition of the importance of composition.  I look forward to the next three years of intensive research and writing, during which I will spare no effort in my attempt to justify this tremendous investment in my work.