Dawson's time as an undergraduate student at the University of Victoria from 1968 to 1972 was the first stage in a personal voyage of creative discovery, set against a background of the west coast scene and social experimentation that characterized the late 60's. On campus, in contrast to his earlier training, the ideas of John Cage, new music, and interdisciplinary work were mainstream themes, and these became formative influences for the next 18 years of creative exploration.
During Dawson's third undergraduate year, he composed "Pentad" for String Quartet, which won the national CAPAC William St. Clair Low fellowship competition in 1972 and provided him with necessary support to pursue graduate studies in music. Following the advice of composer Brian Cherney, he moved to Toronto and enrolled in the master's program at the University of Toronto. The single year spent in Toronto was a very mixed experience, especially in constant to the open experimental ideas of the west coast, but it was a first serious introduction to the field of electronic music and technology.
In 1973, Dawson won the Murray Adaskin Award, and began composing "Concerto Grosso I" - a new work realised in part at the U of T electronic studio. He also dappled in sound for an abstract experimental film using polarized crystal images. At the end of that academic year, he made the decisive choice to leave Toronto, and complete his master's degree in Montreal under scholarship at McGill University. McGill and Montreal proved a much better philosophical and social fit, and his studies with composers Bengt Hambraeus and alcides lanza opened up new worlds of ideas, including contemporary repertoire of the European avantgarde, experimental music theatre, and further studies in electronic music at the McGill Studio.
CONCERTO GROSSO I