Pentad for String Quartet (1971)

Pentad was written during Dawson's second to last undergraduate year at the University of Victoria, and won the national CAPAC William St. Clair Low Fellowship competition the following year (1972). Writing for this genre was an instinctive extension of his work as violist with the Victoria Symphony as well as reflecting his involvement with fellow symphony musicians in a local string quartet ensemble.

As the title implies, Pentad is written in 5 movements and features an abstract serial language laid out in a visually proportional notation system. Despite the predominance of cool abstraction, the work also contains hints of human tenderness and a mysterious atmosphere, including a viola solo that quotes the composer Alban Berg, and techniques in the finale that echo the contemporary works of György Ligeti.

@ @ @ @ @ @

1st Movement

3rd Movement

5th Movement



Stratiforms (1972)

This electronic composition was the first such work attempted by Dawson, realized on equipment at the University of Victoria during his final year of undergraduate study. Stratiforms consists of layers of concrete source material (pre-recorded spoken texts), creating a textural landscape with the character of an etude.

@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @


Concerto Grosso I (1972-74)

Following Dawson's move to Toronto to pursue graduate studies, Concerto Grosso I was partially realized at the University of Toronto's electronic music studio using some of the old equipment created by Canadian composer-inventor Hugh Lecaine. The piece was also commissioned under the Murray Adaskin Award that Dawson won the same year (1972). Following the composer's move to Montreal, the work was completed at the McGill University studio, premiered in Montreal, and later released as a commercial recording on McGill University Records.

Concerto Grosso I is a much more serious and indepth investigation of both electronic and concrete sources. It exists in two versions. The first of these is scored using visually graphic notation for Amplified Viola, Amplified Bassoon, Trombone, Percussion and Stereo Tape. The second version incorporates all the sound gestures into a work for Quadraphonic Tape.

Aside from references to the overall three-movement form of the historic Baroque Concerto Grosso with its textural contrast between live instrumental concertino and taped electro-acoustic orchestra, the style of this work is quite far ranging and dynamically expressive.

@ @ @ @ @ @


Archipelago (1974)

vJ@Loading the player...

@ @ @ @ @ @ @

Chameleon for Solo Amplified Viola (1974)

The first of two single movement works entitled Chameleon for live solo instruments, this piece was inspired by the Sequenza series of Luciano Berio and begins exploring the idea of sound transformation using amplification and alternate playing techniques. It is a direct extension of the soundscape of Concerto Grosso I, but now on an intimate scale.

@ @ @ @ @ @ @ @

Chameleon for Solo Amplified Flute (1974-75)

This second Chameleon for Flute further elaborates techniques explored in the earlier Viola Chameleon. The piece is entirely composed by recording sounds on tape in the manner of musique concrete, then constructing the actual work by splicing together selected materials. The source materials were played by Jonathan Bayley and recorded at the McGill electronic music studio.

Because of the nature of these sounds, graphic notation replaces a conventional score, and the result is a highly emotional physical presence that melds the player with the instrument. Chameleon opens the door to Dawson's further exploration of this quality of human physicality and tangibility in a series of experimental multimedia works, including The Clouds of Magellan, Binaries, Exploring the Object, Readings from the Edge of the Troposphere, and Joint Actions.

@ @ @ @