Harry Freedman (b Henryk Frydmann). Composer, english hornist, educator, b Lodz, Poland, 5 Apr 1922, naturalized Canadian 1932, d Toronto 16 Sep 2005.
Raised from the age of three in Medicine Hat, Alta, where his father was engaged in the fur trade, Freedman moved with his parents to Winnipeg in 1931. He enrolled at the Winnipeg School of Art at 13 to train as a painter. Attracted also to big band jazz, he began clarinet lessons at 18. His teacher - Arthur Hart, the leading local orchestral clarinetist, later principal of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra - introduced him to symphonic music. Painting and jazz remained influences in Freedman's composition. After serving in the RCAF in World War II Freedman settled in Toronto, where he studied composition 1945-51 with John Weinzweig at the Royal Conservatory of Music and oboe with Perry Bauman. He also took summer classes with Messiaen and Copland at Tanglewood. He joined the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in 1946 as english horn and remained with the orchestra for 25 years, serving during his last year as the orchestra's first composer-in-residence. In that capacity, he produced orchestral arrangements of 'O Canada' and 'God Save the Queen,' short pieces for small ensembles to play in the schools, and the large work Graphic I ('Out of Silence ... ') for the orchestra's 50th-anniversary celebrations. After 1971 Freedman devoted himself almost entirely to composing though every summer 1972-81 he also taught and served as composer-in-residence at the Courtenay Youth Music Centre, which commissioned his Graphic II for the Purcell String Quartet, Encounter for the violinist Steven Staryk, a fanfare for the opening of the summer festival, and the one-act jazz opera Abracadabra. He taught orchestration and composition at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto, for two seasons 1989-91, the second as Jean A. Chalmers Visiting Professor of Canadian Music.
Freedman's earliest work, the Divertimento for Oboe and Strings, showed the influence of Weinzweig, whose own Divertimento No. 1 for flute and strings had been completed the previous year. With Tableau, for chamber orchestra, Freedman came into his own, though the use of the 12-tone row (his first) also was founded in the Weinzweig approach, in which the row was regarded as a self-contained melodic unit and a source from which motivic material could be extracted. Freedman's predilections, however, were manifest in the strongly visual connotation. Suggested by a painting of the Canadian Arctic, Tableau was the first of several compositions - notably Images and Klee Wyck - inspired by Canadian paintings. Written in 1958 for the McGill Chamber Orchestra on a commission from the Lapitsky Foundation and orchestrated the following year (in their best-known form), the three contrasting Images are Freedman's musical impressions of Lawren Harris's Blue Mountain, Kazuo Nakamura's Structure at Dusk, and Jean-Paul Riopelle's Landscape.
Freedman turned away completely from the 12-tone technique in his Symphony No. 1, begun in the summer of 1953 while studying with Ernst Krenek at the Royal Conservatory of Music and completed in 1960. For symphonic purposes, at that time, Freedman found the technique inhibiting, focused as it was on manipulation of 12-tone patterns while his instinct dictated expansive melodies and expressive orchestral discourse. The Symphony was premiered in 1961 by the CBC Symphony Orchestra under Geoffrey Waddington at the Inter-American Festival, Washington, DC.
Freedman's return to 12-tone technique - and his only strict use of it - came in 1964. Commissioned to write a work for the Festival Singers, he chose to set 19 classical Japanese poems in the haiku, tanka, and senryu forms. The poems were from a group of 53 that accompanied woodblock printer Ichiryusai Hiroshige's 53 Stations of the Tokaido - the Tokaido being the road that runs east from Kyoto to Tokyo. At the time of the commission Freedman was studying sumi painting, a ritualistic Japanese skill that aims at a high degree of expression achieved with a strict economy of brushwork. The paradox of free aesthetic expression attained through formalized conventions of craft - a premise in all oriental art - suggested to Freedman that the strictures of serial technique (which at one time had seemed merely onerous) would be helpful in forging a light but strong musical support for the delicate and passionate but ritualistic oriental verse he had chosen to set. Once he had accepted the suitability of the technique, he found that the permissible 12-tone manipulations could be made to serve the verses' nature images as aptly as Debussy's expanded tonality served impressionism a generation earlier. Thus, The Tokaido became a cornerstone of Freedman's language. Though he wrote no more strict serial works, he did use elements of serialism - at will, easily and purposefully - in most of his music.
Music for Film, Theatre, and Ballet
In the early 1960s Freedman became interested in writing music for films, TV, and theatre, and by the mid-1970s he had provided background music for some 15 films and TV productions, including Pale Horse, Pale Rider, The Pyx, Lies My Father Told Me, and Paul Almond's Act of the Heart. (His cantata The Flame Within, which shares an LP with The Tokaido, was a focal point for the Almond film and won the best feature film score "Etrog" award at the Canadian Film Awards in 1970.) After 1970, as a member of the Toronto Film Co-op, he continued to investigate the relation of film and music. (See also Film scores.) He also wrote incidental music for Stratford Festival productions (Much Ado About Nothing, As You Like It, Twelfth Night), for Toronto Arts Productions (an earlier Twelfth Night), and for Festival Lennoxville (George Ryga's Sunlight on Sarah). He wrote three scores on commission for the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. The first of these - and the company's first evening-long ballet - was composed for Brian Macdonald's Rose Latulippe, premiered at the 1966 Stratford Festival. For small orchestra with harp and percussion, the Hindemithian score reaches its apex in the 'gripping and eerie' (Toronto Telegram, 13 Apr 1967) 12-tone fiddle dance that accompanies the central action of the drama. The ballet was produced for CBC TV by Franz Kraemer and Pierre Morin in 1967. The other Royal Winnipeg Ballet commissions - Five over Thirteen, premiered in 1969 at the National Arts Centre, Ottawa, and The Shining People of Leonard Cohen, premiered in June 1970 in Paris and performed in July in Ottawa - also were collaborations with Macdonald. The latter ballet combines, on electronic tape, excerpts from Cohen's The Spice-Box of Earth, natural sounds, and the soprano voice of Freedman's wife, Mary Morrison, enhanced electronically. Freedman's concert works of the 1970s showed the effects of his theatrical writing. In Pan, for instance, written for the Lyric Arts Trio, he required the three performers to stamp their feet, whisper, cluck, and shout into the piano strings and to act out a comic episode, besides performing their accustomed functions as soprano, flute, and piano.
Further film projects in the 1980s included the documentaries Pyramid of Roses and Something Hidden. The same decade saw the new ballet scores Oiseaux Exotiques (National Ballet of Canada) and Heroes of Our Time (Encore! Encore! at Expo 86). In 1988 Freedman told an interviewer he found film work less and less satisfying, but enjoyed composing for ballet.
Freedman's orchestration won him much praise. After his Symphony was premiered (28 Apr 1961), Washington Post critic Paul Hume wrote, 'The influence of Bartók is strong in the symphony, both in orchestral sound and in the powerful employment of melodic lines moving in contrary motion.' Freedman, he continued, 'has an unusual gift for expressive melodic contours.' Reviewing his Tableau and Images, the composer and critic Udo Kasemets wrote: 'Freedman's style - frugal and forthright - and his well-trained ear and cultured taste for orchestration serve him well in a work of this nature. He is a symphony player and knows his orchestra, in the true sense, ''inside out.''' Freedman, he said, succeeded in 'capturing in his music much of the spiritual atmosphere of this country' (Canadian Music Journal, Winter 1961). In his painting-inspired works, Freedman himself claimed to be concerned more with design than content. 'The most important part of composing,' he said, 'is deciding what the piece is about - what's the mood, texture, orchestration, movement - almost everything else but the notes. The notes are the least important thing' (Canadian Composer, December 1974). This is not to say that Freedman was careless or even casual in his choice of notes. On the contrary. In his Graphic I ('Out of Silence ... '), inspired on the one hand by the visual textures in contemporary graphics and on the other by silence as discussed in Max Picard's book The World of Silence, Freedman incorporated silence in a fragile web of instrumental and electronic sounds interrelated with a precision which left no doubt as to the care he exercised. And in Encounter, fresh sonic relationships between piano and violin were explored with extraordinary delicacy and assurance.
Studies by theorist Gail Dixon in the early 1980s revealed features of Freedman's compositional habits, and were unusual among published commentaries on Canadian music in being illustrated by pages from his notebooks and sketches. Although steadily productive, he worked slowly, and often substantially revised a piece years after its premiere. Especially in the later works, pitch decisions were the last to be made: for the composer 'textures, rhythms, and moods are as important as notes' and 'the sound - that is the important thing.' As a result, though often (and justly) characterized as 'lyrical,' Freedman's music rarely depended for coherence on overt thematic or even intervalic recurrences. For example, the scales and arpeggio figures surrounding the Gertrude Stein texts in And Now It Is Today Oh Yes constantly shift, as if to avoid reference to regular scales or modes. An exception is found in the four-way conversations in minor thirds that link the String Quartet No.2 (Blue) with the classic blues idiom.
Texts for the vocal works were sometimes created by the composer out of syllabic sounds that he enjoyed for their own sake; the same applies to the players' whispered interjections in Chalumeau. He borrowed the title Totem and Taboo from Sigmund Freud mainly because he liked its sound, and said the same of the word 'chalumeau.' In both cases sonorous appeal however aligned with meaning, in that the one was a 'primitive' (or perhaps 'primal') non-texted choral work, and the other a virtuosic exploration of basic qualities in the clarinet and its historical relatives.
Freedman's sense of irony and of the absurd repeatedly drew him to the Alice books of Lewis Carroll. From the 1976 score for a puppet presentation through to the mimed story (drawn from both Carroll volumes) presented in 1990 in Banff and in a different form in 1991 in Toronto, he responded with brief, clever musical spin-offs described in the 1991 production as 'true theatre music ... both illustrative of the action and non-obtrusive' (Robert Everett-Green, Toronto Globe and Mail, 6 Feb 1991). His composition process was documented in the National Film Board film Harry in Wonderland.
The Early 1980s
The early 1980s saw three major additions to Freedman's orchestral output, composed in rapid succession - Royal Flush for brass quintet and orchestra for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, a Concerto for Orchestra for the Toronto Symphony, and the Symphony No. 3 for the Regina Symphony Orchestra - as well as other slightly shorter or smaller works. The Concerto justifies its title in a series of characteristic solo segments separated by slow orchestral refrains, their formality offset by quizzical, oddly placed silences. A piccolo solo against a full-orchestra pianissimo is especially effective, as equally are the weird glissandi of temple bowls resting on the timpani in the slow movement. The later dialogue between a drum and a low-trombone cluster is another typically concertante procedure - in this case punctuated in the droll manner of the Weinzweig divertimenti. Gradually a boisterous crescendo of overlapping tune-snippets is cut off when the conductor produces a referee's whistle from his pocket. The ending is a fast fugue - free fugato being a favourite Freedman mode in rapid tempi. Similarly acute instrumental inventions mark the Symphony No. 3. A prominent colour motive of the opening movement is a correlation of harp and low gongs; the piccolo is again imaginatively treated, this time in an ornate solo evoking birds; the finale is a study in fast repeated-note patterns.
Contrasts, for 15 solo strings, is subtitled 'The Web and the Wind,' and its central contrast is between two connected movements relating to those two images. The orchestral suite from Oiseaux Exotiques exploits exuberant rhythmic and timbral exoticisms in the tradition of such masters of orchestral colour as Glinka, Chabrier, and Bernstein. Graphic VI: Town joined the growing list of works by Freedman inspired by visual art - in this case four paintings by Harold Town. Accord, for solo violin and orchestra, commissioned for the 1983 Montreal International Music Competition, was planned in 'a most unorthodox way' (composer's note in the score) as a result of the articles by Gail Dixon referred to earlier: 'I jokingly suggested that her work would be greatly simplified if she were to write the analysis first, before I wrote the work rather than after ... [We] agreed the idea was not as far-fetched as it seemed. For my part, I was curious as to whether the insights ... I had gained from her articles would actually affect [my] techniques in that they would now be conscious rather than largely intuitive. Professor Dixon on the other hand was excited at the prospect of her work being an intrinsic part of the creative process ... So we decided to try it. The only clue I gave [her] was that I was thinking of a long duet for solo violin and timpani that would serve as the opening statement of the piece. She took it from there and... presented me with a detailed "analysis." I followed her descriptions and specifications almost exactly.' The structural recurrences of the opening violin-and-timpani passage are indeed a special trait of this colourful short work.
Honours and Assessment
Active in musical causes, Freedman was a lobbyist on behalf of the Canadian League of Composers, an organization he helped found in 1951 and of which he was the first secretary and, 1975-8, president. Additionally, he was president of the Guild of Canadian Film Composers (1979-81). He served, as a musician, on the advisory board of Pollution Probe, and from 1985-90 was music officer for the Toronto Arts Council. He was an associate of the Canadian Music Centre. He was the subject of a CBC Radio documentary prepared by Norma Beecroft and broadcast 13 Sep 1977. In 1980 the Canadian Music Council named him composer of the year. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1984.
Freedman's composition Touchings, recorded by Nexus and the Esprit Orchestra, won a Juno award in 1996. Borealis, a commission for CBC Radio, the Toronto Symphony, and Soundstreams Canada, won an award at the 1998 International Rostrum of Composers and was subsequently performed widely in Europe. The recording Canadian Composers Portraits: Harry Freedman (Centrediscs 8402) was released by the Canadian Music Centre in 2002. Freedman deposited his papers at the National Library of Canada. The Canada Council gave him its Lynch-Staunton Award in 1998.
Five over Thirteen, ballet. 1969 (Ott 1970). Sm orch. Ms
The Shining People of Leonard Cohen, ballet. 1970. Tape. (Paris 1970). Ms
Romeo and Juliet (original title Star Cross'd), ballet. 1973, rev 1975 (Ott 1973). Renaissance consort. Ms
Abracadabra, opera. 1979 (Courtenay, BC 1979). Ms
Oiseaux Exotiques, ballet. 1984 (Toronto 1984). Ms. (Suite) CBC SM-5059 (Edmonton Symphony Orchestra)
Heroes of Our Time, ballet. 1986. Ms
Breaks, ballet. 1987. Ms
Fragments of Alice, stage. 1987. Actors, singers, dancers. Ms
Several sets of incidental music for plays at Stratford, Lennoxville, St Lawrence Centre (Toronto)
See also Rose Latulippe.
Act of the Heart/Acte du coeur (cantata The Flame Within - Bible, St Augustine, arr P. Almond). 1968. SATB, organ. Leeds 1970. RCI 341/CBC SM-142/Decca DL-75244/6-ACM 8 (Festival Singers)
Also Bells of Hell (1973); China 'The Roots of Madness' (1969); The Dark Did Not Conquer (CBC TV, 1963); Friendship (1975); Isaobel (1968); Let Me Count the Ways (1965); Lies My Father Told Me (1974); November (1970); Pale Horse, Pale Rider (CBC TV, 1963); The Pyx (1973); Romeo and Jeannette (CBC TV, 1965); Seven Hundred Million (CBC TV, 1964); Spring Song (1965); Twenty Million Shoes, Where Will They Go?; '1847' (1977); Kavik the Wolf (1978); Pyramid of Roses (1980); Something Hidden (1981); Connections (1985); for NFB, CBC, and other filmmakers.
Symphonic Suite. 1948. Full orch. Ms. RCI 19 (TSO)
Five Pieces for String Orchestra. 1949 (Toronto 1953). Str orch (string quartet). Ms. (Str quartet version) RCI 43/6-ACM 8 (Parlow Str Quar)
Nocturne I. 1949 (Toronto 1952). Med orch. Ms. RCI 71/6-ACM 8 (TSO)
Tableau. 1952 (Toronto 1952). Str orch. Ricordi 1960. CBC SMCD-5081 (CBC Vancouver Orchestra)
Images. 1958 (Toronto 1960). Orch (string orch). BMIC 1960. RCI 187/(educational kit) Mead M-3004 (cass and filmstrip)/6-ACM 8 (McGill Chamb O)/Col M2S-356/Col MS-6962/CBS 32-11-0038 (TS)
Symphony No. 1. 1961 (Washington 1961). Orch. BMIC 1961
Fantasy and Allegro. 1962 (Brantford 1962). Str orch. Ms. RCI 238/6-ACM 8 (Hart House O)
Chaconne. 1964, rev 1977, 1982 (CBC Toronto 1964). Orch. Ms
A Little Symphony. 1966 (Saskatoon 1967). Orch. Leeds 1974
Armana. 1967 (Toronto 1967). Orch. Ms
Tangents. 1967 (Montreal 1967). Orch. Leeds 1969. Audat 477-4001 (TS)/CBC SM-296/6-ACM 8 (Vancouver SO)
Klee Wyck: The Laughing One. 1970, rev 1986 (Victoria 1971). Orch. Ms. 1974. 2-CYMC EPN-208 (BC Summer Youth O, Pauk conductor)/Total TRC-1060 (Victoria SO)
Graphic I: Out of Silence. 1971 (Toronto 1971). Orch, tape. Ms
Tapestry. 1973 (Ott 1973). Orch. Ms
Nocturne II. 1975 (Calgary 1977). Orch. Ms
Concerto for Orchestra. 1982, rev 1985 (Toronto 1982). Orch. Ms
Third Symphony. 1983, rev 1985 (Regina 1984). Orch. Ms
Contrasts: The Web and the Wind. 1986 (Toronto 1986). Str orch. Ms
Graphic VI: Town. 1986. Ms
A Dance on Earth. 1988. Orch. Ms
Sonata for Symphonic Winds. 1988 (Toronto 1989). Ms
Also some works for band
Soloist(s) with Orchestra
Divertimento for Oboe and Strings. 1947 (Toronto 1949). Ms
Fantasia and Dance. 1955, rev 1959 (Toronto 1956). Vn, orch. Ms
Voice Lines, vocalise after three poems of Jacques Prévert (original title Trois Poèmes de Jacques Prévert). 1962, rev 1981. Sop, string (piano). Ms
Scenario. 1970 (Toronto 1970). Alto saxophone, elec bass guitar, orch. Ms
Celebration: Concerto for Gerry Mulligan 1977 (Hamilton 1977). Saxophone, orch. Ms
Nocturne III. 1980. Chor, orch. Ms
Royal Flush: Concerto Grosso. 1981 (Montreal 1982). Brass quintet, orch. Ms
Accord. 1982. Vn, orch. Ms
Passacaglia for Jazz Band and Orchestra. 1984 (Toronto 1984). Ms
The Saxophone Chronicles. 1984. Saxophone, orch. Ms. 1987. Pro Acoustic CDP-703 (CD) (G Mulligan saxophone, Houston SO)
A Garland for Terry(M. Waddington). 1985 (Victoria 1986). Narr, orch. Ms
Touchings. 1989. Perc ensemble, orch. Ms
Trio. 1948. 2 oboe, english horn. Ms
Two Vocalises (no text). 1954. Sop, clarinet, piano. Ms
Quintet. 1962. Ww quintet. Kerby 1972. RCI 208/6-ACM 8 (Tor WW Quin)/(last movement) T-56424 (Barrie Collegiate Band)
The Tokaido (Japanese poetry). 1964. SATB, woodwind quintet. Ms. RCI 341/CBC SM-142/Decca DL-75244/6-ACM 8 (Tor WW Quin, Festival Singers)
Variations. 1965. Ob, fl, harpsichord. Ms. RCI 219/RCA CCS-1013/6-ACM 8 (Baroque Trio of Montreal)
Toccata (syllables). 1968. Sop, fl. Kerby 1972. CBC SM-96/6-ACM 8 (Lyric Arts Trio)/Kids' Records KRL-1003 (Camerata Canada)
Soliloquy. 1970. Fl, piano. Leeds 1971. 2-Dom S-69006 (Aitken fl) / Independent. 2005. CML CD 101
Tikki Tikki Tembo (Mosel). 1971. Narr, woodwind quintet. Ms. 1973. RCI 388/6-ACM 8 (Lorien WW Quin, R. Coneybeare narrator)
Graphic II. 1972. Str quartet. Ms. RCI 394/6-ACM 8 (Purcell String Quartet)
Pan (vocal sounds, Indigenous place names in Ontario). 1972. Fl, soprano, piano. Ms. RCI 404/6-ACM 8 (Lyric Arts Trio)
Lines. 1973. Cl solo. Ms. RCI 484/6-ACM 8 (Campbell)
Encounter. 1974. Vn, piano. Ms. CBC SM-342/6-ACM 8 (Staryk)
Love and Age (Reeves). 1975. Sop, bar, woodwind quintet, brass quintet. Ms
Vignette. 1975. Cl, piano. Ms
Five Rings. 1976. Brass quintet. Ms. CBC SM-320 (Canadian Brass)
Fragments of Alice (L. Carroll). 1976 (Sweden 1976). Sop, alto, bar, various instr. Ms
The Explainer. 1976. Fl, oboe (horn), violoncello, piano, percussion, narr/cond. Ms
Tsolum Summer. 1976. Fl, 3 violin, 2 viola, violoncello, double-bass, percussion. Ms
Mono. 1977. Solo horn. Ms. Music Gallery Edns MGE-21 (James MacDonald)
Epitaph for Igor Stravinsky (J. Reeves). 1978. Ten, 4 trombone, string quartet. Ms
Opus Pocus. 1979. Fl, violin, viola, violoncello. Ms. Centrediscs CMC-0983 (Aitken)
Blue: 2nd String Quartet. 1980. Ms
Impromptus. 1980. Mezzo, guitar. Ms
And Now It Is Today Oh Yes, a musical entertainment (Stein). 1982. Sop, fl, clarinet, violin, viola, violoncello, percussion, piano. Ms
Chalumeau. 1982. Cl, string quartet (string orch). Ms. Centrediscs CMC-0983 (Campbell)
Fanfare for Century II. 1987. 3 trumpet, 3 horn, 2 trombone, tuba, timpani, 2 percussion. Ms
Little Girl Blew. 1988. B clarinet. Ms
Bones. 1989. Mar. Ms
Short Story. 1989. Eng horn. Ms
Another Monday Gig. 1991. Jazz ensemble
Downwind. 1992. Accordion and bass clarinet
Indigo. 1994. 22 solo strings
Saxtet. 1995. Saxophone quartet
Blue Light. 1995. Flute, clar, violin, cello, piano
Higher. 1996. Bass clarinet, cello
Graphic 9. 2000. 16 solo strings
Graphic 8. 2000. String quartet
Romp and Reverie. 2002. Solo flute
Phoenix. 2003. String quartet
Choir and Voice
Three Vocalises (vowel sounds, syllables, humming). 1964. SATB. Leeds 1965
Anerca (Eskimo poetry, transl K. Rasmussen). 1966. Sop, piano. Ms
Poems of Young People (various). 1968. Low voice. Ms. CBC SM-77/Sel CC-15-073/6-ACM 8 (Forrester)
Keewaydin (Ontario place names in Ojibway). 1971. SSA, optional tape. GVT 1972. Poly 2917-009 (Festival Singers)/Centrediscs CMC-2285/TCC-005C (cass) (Toronto Children's Chor)
Songs From Shakespeare. 1974, rev 1990. SATB, (rev for 4 soli voice, 2 piano). Anerca 1974
Pastorale (phonic sounds). 1977. SATB (divisi), english horn. Ms. Centrediscs CMC-0983 (Elmer Iseler Singers) / 1999 Centrediscs CMC CD 6599
Green... Blue... White... (songs of the eastern provinces). 1978. SATB. Ms. CBC SM-365 (Vancouver Bach Choir)
A Spring Song. 1981. SATB. Ms
A Time Is Coming (Bible). 1982. SATB. Ms
Rhymes from the Nursery. 1986. Children's chorus, fl. Ms. TCC-D-004 (Forrester alto, Keefer fl, Toronto Children's Chor)
Spirit Song. 1993. Soprano, string quartet
Borealis. 1997. 4 choirs and orchestra
Voices. 1999. SATB choir
Other works for voice and choir; also some works for piano including a Suite for Piano (1951), FH 1955 ('Scherzo')
Letter to the CBC Times, 1 Nov 1958
'Parodies and Paraphrases,' CBC radio script, 12 Dec 1962
'Working with Stravinsky,' Music Across Canada, vol 1, Feb 1963
'Music and the businessman,' Music Across Canada, vol 1, Jun 1963
'? ? ?' CFMTA Newsletter, Aug 1978