Dave Riedstra

Musician and web developer living in Victoria, BC



I’ll be attending the Ostrava Days New & Experimental Music Institute & Festival in the Czech Republic in August. I’m very excited that members of Canticum Ostrava will be performing ]                                   [ at St Wenceslas Church in a program of very interesting works. More information here.

Program note to ]               [

Many of my recent works use a semi-strict framework for improvisation named switchcraft (after the work of Dan Mellamphy and Nandita Biswas-Mellamphy). Performing using this framework requires a great amount of work of the performers. They must memorize the material thoroughly, re-learn to synchronize with the other performers, and then develop this continual re-synchronizing into a convincing musical performance and a unique approach to the piece. The performers must accept the possibility of no matter what eventuality and the simultaneous possibility of acting to create change. They must critically reevaluate their own tendencies while employing virtuosity and doing things in the ordinary way.

The written musical material of ]                      [ is greatly pared down and somewhat inverted. It is hoped that this presents a listener with a similar opportunity to practice sensitivity, virtuosity, and unlearning.

]                            [ was first performed by Cathy Fern Lewis, Christopher Reiche, and Dave Riedstra in Victoria, BC, Canada, in June of 2016.

Preparing OS X for Performance

I’m preparing my MacBook for tonight’s performance of Brosin’s Vertices and thought I’d share my checklist.

CMC Associate

A quick note: I’ve recently become an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre. This is very exciting for me and I hope to have some scores available in their library soon. In the meantime, you can visit my CMC profile here.

I, Site

I, Site

New compositions for solo bass with electronics, the results of collaboration between performer Dave Riedstra and composers Janet Sit, Annette Brosin, Mitch Renaud, and Nolan Krell. The program explores questions of individuality, location, and the visual, as well as the arenas where and processes through which these notions play out.

$15 ($10 students / seniors / artists)
Monday 22 May 8pm
Church of Truth
111 Superior St James Bay


Janet Sit – Without Asking*
contrabass and electronics

Nolan Krell – (glueing these birds to your arms has been great but I’ve grown to hate you.)
electric bass

Mitch Renaud – Resonance | Sites*
contrabass and sine tones

Annette Brosin – Vertices*
electric bass and electronics

Dave Riedstra – contrabass, electric bass

Thanks to the University of Victoria Alumni Association for supporting this project.

More here

Open Titles

I use open titles for a number of scores I’ve written. By open titles I mean titles which may be given differently in each usage. For instance, the title of the sextet I wrote to complete my MMus at UVic may be rendered ❙▲●▬■ or ●▲■▬❙ or ▲●❙■▬, or any other non-repetitive combination of those glyphs. In general though, the titles allow for repetition of elements, as in °0ºOoºoO00°oO°º°Oº or –—–—-–—–—–. ]                        [ uses square brackets to delimit mixed typographic white spaces, and ∥∥∥‖‖ǀ∥∥∥∣‖∥∥‖‖∥∥∣‖∥‖‖∥∥∥‖‖‖∣∥∥∥∣‖∥∣∥‖‖ǀ∥ǁ∥∥∥∥∣∥∥‖ tends to be on the longer side.

The usage of open titles was at first a simple imitation of the switchcraft open form technique I’ve been calling for in a number of my scores. To perform this technique, performers are asked to memorize some material, start at any point within it, and improvise switches to any other point within it. When anyone in the ensemble makes a switch, the other players must follow with them, attempting to always be performing a full system of material in time with each other. There are a number of things I really like about this technique, the description of which I’ll save for another article. Until then, I’ll just say that I borrow the term “switchcraft” from the brilliant researchers Nandita Biswas-Mellamphy and Dan Mellamphy, and there’s a paper of mine on switchcraft and other aspects of ❙▬■●▲ available on Academia.edu.

The jump from mobile musical sections to open titles was simple to make, but interesting linguistic effects have resulted. Since these titles are cumbersome to pronounce, they’re often elided or implied in verbal discussion of a score or performance. (A common question I get at performances is how to pronounce a piece’s title.) For example, instead of saying “lateral click lateral click parallel double vertical line lateral click dental click lateral click divides parallel parallel divides parallel double vertical line” (the full verbalization of ǁǁ∥‖ǁǀǁ∣∥∥∣∥‖), I’m more likely to say “the electric bass duet” or “the piece Annette and I performed at Woodstockhausen.” The effect of this for me is that it removes the semiotic baggage of the words used in the title from my recollection of the piece. As a comparison, consider the title of the score I wrote for any two like-timbred, four-or-more stringed instruments: Breach. The word is simple, monolithic, possibly even staunch, and bears particular ties to China Mieville’s the City & the City, where it was a “force to be reckoned with.” These colouring attributes are in place by authorial design: the choice of title was influenced by my desire for the piece’s performance to be remembered with and influenced by those affects. Conversely, by referring to a piece obliquely, one must call up details by which the name-users can identify the piece.

What I really like about what’s happened around some of my titles is the presentation of this opportunity to think about what we use to identify the piece, and then (in instances like this) to think about how we thought about that identification. It’s commonly discussed among musicians who I work with that in the Western art music practice a piece is synonymous with its score and effectively “belongs” to that score’s author. This perspective comes with its share of essentialization and it undervalues the work of performers, nevermind that it doesn’t actually say anything about the performance of the music. These faults become clear, for example, if I refer to ]                                [ as “my voice trio.” Hopefully, I’ll remember to use something more appropriate to a musical performance, something like “that time Cathy, Chris, and I un-sang the same pitch for like ten minutes.”


Veils is a solo for violin I wrote for Hollas Longton to perform for Why Can’t Minimal: Do This? at Open Space Arts on 30 Sept 2016. The concert is a Victoria Composers Collective event, and I’m thrilled to be playing a solo of Hollas’ for solo bass and electronics, as well as ensemble pieces by Alex Jang and Lynne Penhale. A forthcoming blog post from Nathan Friedman will have more information (I’ll link here once it’s published). For tickets see the Open Space website.

The performance of Why Can’t Minimal: Do This will be set among the works of the concurrent exhibit by John G. Hampton, Why Can’t Minimal, a curation which engages with minimalist tropes in visual art. The call for participation in the concert therefore suggested that composers do the same for our medium, with a nod to the humour Hampton finds in minimalist sculpture. This initially set me back a bit. I’m not much for humorous absurdity in music, and my primary engagement with very quiet sounds threatened to come off as a surface engagement with the topic (“very quiet > not much happening > minimal > done”), so I decided to look for a new approach.


Site Upgrade

The visibility of this post marks the launch of the 7th iteration of this site. I’ve finally caved and baked in WordPress, which means I’ll be updating more frequently. I’ll be posting news items (such as this) as well as short articles on my compositions, composing and performing in general, and possibly other topics. If you have any questions about the content on this site, please send me an email.