Gordon Fitzell is a Winnipeg-based composer, performer, producer and concert presenter. His music has been performed across Canada and at international festivals including Festival Synthèse Bourges (France), the Darmstadt Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik (Germany), the ISCM World New Music Days (Sweden), the Tanglewood Music Festival (USA), and the International Sound Art Festival (Mexico). He has received awards and acknowledgements for his compositions from various organizations including the SOCAN Foundation, CBC Radio, Vancouver New Music, and the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (USA).
Fitzell has been commissioned by leading artists and ensembles including Roger Admiral and Corey Hamm, Alizé, eighth blackbird, Ensemble contemporain de Montréal, GroundSwell, the Harrington/Loewen Duo, François Houle, and Vancouver New Music. His music has also been performed by Arraymusic, Sabastian Berweck, BIT20, edgeffect, Ensemble Symposium, Matthew Gold (Glass Farm Ensemble, Sequitur, TimeTable), Jonathan Golove, Gwen Hoebig and David Moroz, Giorgio Magnanensi, Pazzia Contemporary Performing Collective, Plexoos Ensemble, Pro Coro Canada, Sonic Generator, Trio Fibonacci, and Vancouver Pro Musica, among others.
In 2009 his chamber work violence was among three Canadian works selected for performance at the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) World New Music Days in Sweden. The work has been performed by various international ensembles and appears on the Grammy-winning album strange imaginary animals by eighth blackbird—an album on which Fitzell also appears as co-producer and live electronics artist.
Fitzell’s music has been reviewed in international publications such as The Globe and Mail, BBC Magazine, and The New York Times, and is discussed in the book The Contemporary Violin: Extended Performance Techniques by Patricia Strange and Allen Strange (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001). More generally, his work has been supported by numerous organizations including the Canada Council for the Arts, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, various provincial arts councils and universities, and a number of private foundations.
Born and raised in Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada, Gordon Fitzell studied music composition at Brandon University with Kenneth Nichols, then at the University of Alberta with Howard Bashaw and Malcolm Forsyth. He then went on to complete a dual-emphasis Ph.D. in Music Theory and Composition at the University of British Columbia under the tutelage of Keith Hamel and John Roeder. Fitzell has also studied briefly under Beat Furrer and Salvatore Sciarrino at the Darmstadt Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, under Aaron Jay Kernis and Roger Reynolds at June in Buffalo, under Martin Bresnick and Joan Tower at the Yale Summer School of Music and Art, and under Linda Bouchard and Robert J. Rosen at the Banff Centre for the Arts.
In recent years, Fitzell has begun exploring directed improvisation and transdisciplinary approaches to musical notation. Certain of his works, for example, employ manipulated photographs in conjunction with graphic notation and textual indications. These images are sometimes broadcast during performance. He is also a guitarist, conductor, sound diffuser and live electronics artist. Over the years he has performed with a host of artists including François Houle, Giorgio Magnanensi, Jeremy Berkman, Massimo Mariani, and Chicago sextet eighth blackbird, with whom he performed on two CD release concerts at “The Kitchen” in New York.
An Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition at the University of Manitoba, Fitzell also leads the eXperimental Improv Ensemble (XIE). In recent years the XIE has presented a diverse offering of sonic art including pre-concert events at the Winnipeg New Music Festival, an evening of live soundtracks at Cinémathèque, an outdoor sound installation for the Museum of Clear Ideas, and Jamming the Kitchen—a “sonic cuisine” fund-raiser sponsored by Amnesty International. In 2010 the group will perform at the Winnipeg New Music Festival using WallBalls, a locally designed smart-table interface for collaborative spatial audio improvisation. The XIE also hosts Jamming the Dragon, a regular open stage for experimental improvisation.
Fitzell is actively engaged in interdisciplinary new media, having contributed the audio component to a media installation that ran for two months at the 2007 Lisbon Architecture Triennale in Portugal. Moreover he has participated in initiatives such as the CineGrid International Workshop in San Diego and the Canada California Strategic Initiatives Partnership in Montreal, as well as independent projects with Sheldon Brown, Peter Otto and Miller Puckette of CalIT2 at the University of California San Diego.
Fitzell’s scholarly interests also include correlations between philosophy and music, notably the application of phenomenological constructs to the study of music experience. Recent publications include ““Riding the Dragon: Toward a Pedagogy of Free Musical Improvisation,” in eContact!, 10.4, Canadian Electroacoustic Community (October 2008) and the co-authored “Let Loose with WallBalls: A Collaborative Tabletop Instrument for Tomorrow,” which was presented at New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME), Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh (June 2009). More generally, Fitzell has spoken on the topic of contemporary music at numerous venues and events, most recently the Meet the Composer Series at McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg and the guest lecture series at the University of Birmingham Department of Music in England.
Fitzell has curated numerous sound art events, ranging from chamber music concerts to media art installations, and in 2009 became an Artistic Director of GroundSwell, Manitoba’s premiere new music series.