Casey Sokol | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Casey Sokol

Casey Sokol. Composer, pianist, b New York 6 May 1948; BA music (State U of New York) 1970, MA (California Institute of the Arts) 1971.

Sokol, Casey

Casey Sokol. Composer, pianist, b New York 6 May 1948; BA music (State U of New York) 1970, MA (California Institute of the Arts) 1971. He studied piano and improvisation with William Douglas at the California Institute of the Arts, where he also began studies in solo classical South Indian drumming and Carnatic rhythm. In 1971 he moved to Toronto to continue his studies in South Indian music at York University with Jon Higgins, and began teaching as a special lecturer in the Music Dept, where he continued in 1991 to teach piano, improvisation, and musicianship. He also studied at the American Society for Eastern Arts at Mills College in 1971, and travelled to Madras, India, in 1973, where he studied privately, participating in concerts, lessons, discussions, and practice sessions with professional musicians. On a Canada Council grant in 1975 he worked with and performed the music of Cage, Wolff, Brown, and Feldman in a composer's workshop at the State U of New York, and participated in workshops on improvised music with Musica Elettronica Viva at Antioch College in Ohio. He is a founding member of the CCMC.

As a pianist Sokol has explored a wide variety of musical styles including classical and contemporary chamber works, jazz, and improvisation. He has concertized extensively as a soloist and with several ensembles including CCMC, the York Winds, and Sound Pressure, and has toured in Canada, the USA, Europe, and Japan. He has participated in many contemporary music festivals including the Pro Musica Nova Festival (Bremen), New Music America (New York, Hartford), and Sound Symposium, and he has been in residence at the Holland and Avignon Festivals. His work has been broadcast on radio and TV in North America, Europe, and Japan.

Much of Sokol's creative work has focused on improvisation performed in a live concert setting. His music has been recorded for radio and TV broadcast and for recordings produced by Music Gallery Editions. He has also produced and organized workshops and concerts. In the 1970s Sokol participated in several artist in the classroom workshops and organized concert events including The Sacred Grove (1975, in collaboration with Eileen Thalenberg), a month-long series of outdoor musical plays for students, musicians and day-care children; Borders Boundaries & Thresholds (1977, with Thalenberg and choreographer Linda Rabin), a dance/theatre piece performed at the University of Toronto; and Musicollage, 'A Performance-Workshop in Mus-ecology' (1979), a multi-disciplinary event which involved 85 performers and was designed for York University Fine Arts on Markham (YUFAM). In 1982 Sokol produced and performed in 'The Rhythm Concert,' held at the Music Gallery, a concert of diverse rhythmic practices including Carnatic drumming, flamenco dancing, and experimental rhythm ensembles.

In 1985, in celebration of the first decade of the Music Gallery, Sokol created and edited Decade: The Tape for the Holland Festival, a 90 minute audio documentary presenting excerpts of activities at the Gallery 1976-85. Also in 1985 he composed Species, a work for three pianos (revised in 1991 for two pianos and tape), commissioned for choreographer Cathy Ferri through the Canada Council for the INDE '85 Festival. Species is based on the novel More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon, and uses compositional procedures that are related to minimalist pattern music and serialism, with sequential variations used to represent the various characters in the story.


'Notes on piano improvisation: pushing the limits,' Musicworks 17, Fall 1981