With much of Canadian orchestral music being composed in the 20th century after Arnold Schoenberg had already abandoned tonality, it is no surprise that avant-garde and non-traditional methods are a common part of current Canadian composers’ techniques. Works often include graphic notation, serialism, improvisation (which has all but disappeared from Western Music), unorthodox performer placement, a pluralism of style, extended instrumental techniques, and more. Works with any combination of the above are often a challenge to play as well a challenge to hear but can also be a source of inspiring questions, of individual interpretation and exploration, and can be a beginning place for the formations of new art and a new way to listen to the world around us.
Breaking the Rules: Non-Traditional and Extended Techniques addresses some questions about creative individuality in creating and listening to music. Canadian composers Robert Aitken, John Weinzweig, R. Murray Schafer, Norma Beecroft, and Michael Colgrass have all made individual use of non-traditional compositional techniques, allowing a wide range of experiences and responses from musicians and listeners.