Thank you for joining us!

From November 2-8, 2017, Canada welcomed the world as Vancouver hosted the ISCM World New Music Days 2017.

“As far as contemporary music is concerned, it’s the Olympics and the World Cup rolled into one.”

-David Gordon Duke

Artslandia Vancouver

Since its founding in 1922, the International Society for Contemporary Music has been the world’s premier network for new music. Each year, its festival is hosted in a different city around the globe. In November 2017, the Canadian League of Composers and Music on Main welcomed nearly 50 countries for a festival of new music and a celebration of new ideas, new collaborations, and new fusions. We invite you to enjoy a stroll down memory lane!

We couldn’t be prouder of the hard work put in by our concert partners, staff, and volunteers. Of course, this watershed moment in Canadian contemporary music would not have been impossible without these generous supporters.

We welcomed 135 composers from 50 countries to Vancouver, and with 140 new music works performed by more than 300 musicians at 30+ events (and more across Canada), ISCM2017 was the largest gathering of contemporary music in Canadian history.

Relevant Tones

Relevant Tones, hosted by Seth Boustead on Chicago’s WFMT, did a two part episode about ISCM2017. Hear from composers Jordan Nobles, Charlotte Bray, Jocelyn Morlock, Stefan Prins, Jennifer Butler, Fredrik Gran, Sabina Ulubeanu, Robert J Coe, and more.

ISCM World New Music Days has a rich history of hosting world premieres and ISCM2017 added to that amazing history with 30 world premiere pieces. Here are just a few of the amazing premieres we heard at ISCM2017:

Mohamed Assani (محمد آسانی) & John Oliver

Mohamed Assani and John Oliver premiered their intercultural sitar concerto with The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

Drawing on, as well as departing, from the conventions of Hindustani classical music (Northern India and Pakistan) and Western contemporary orchestral music, Assani and Oliver collaborate to create Pressed for Time – a sitar concerto. Pushing past the idea of ‘setting’ the sitar in either a traditional or avant-garde context, instead they merge the best of both, developing the raga in a non-linear way, creating unexpected changes and new ideas that transform the musical materials and form. This new synthetic work plays with the listener’s expectations. Thanks to the Canada Council for the Arts and the Hari Sharma Foundation for funding.

Michael Finnissy

The cross-cultural PEP (Piano and Erhu Project) performed the world premiere of Sorrow and Its Beauty by renowned U.K composer Michael Finnissy.

More than ten years ago, I made a frustratingly unsatisfactory first attempt at this piece. Thanks to Corey Hamm’s sensitive cajoling, I have made a new and definitive version, in which only a small part of the original survives. The Erhu music is derived from Joseph-Marie Amiot’s Divertissements Chinois (1779), courtesy of my friend Tom Irvine. Amiot’s well-intentioned transcriptions stumble into issues of ‘cultural appropriation’ and ‘globalisation’ (hence my title). The piece is dedicated to PEP. (Michael Finnissy)

Jared Miller

The Victoria Symphony premiered Jared Miller’s Concerto Corto for violin and orchestra, featuring the brilliant Canadian violinist Müge Büyükçelen.

Ordinarily when I compose, I begin with a concept inspired by something extra-musical, whether it’s an image, memory, history, or current events. Contrarily, when I wrote Concerto corto, I was consumed with purely musical concerns. I began with the idea of reverberation and how this physical concept could be manifested in the relationship between the violin and orchestra – whether sounds were reverberating out of the solo violin part, echoing around it, or imitating each other. As I continued to explore though, my initial experiments with reverberation liberated me creatively and resulted in the eclectic compositional language that pervades this piece. (Jared Miller)

Hildegard Westerkamp

The premiere of Hildegard Westerkamp’s Klavierklang (for piano and stereo soundtrack) was beautifully brought to life by pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa during the ISCM2017 closing concert, A Kind of Magic: Music for Solo Piano.

Klavierklang is a sonic-musical journey into the complexities of piano playing. During the past few years, Pianist Rachel Iwaasa and I often reflected on the challenging and traumatic, but also inspiring experiences we have had with piano teachers, the roles our mothers’ ears played in our musical development, and how much the piano has been both a sanctuary for sonic explorations and soundmaking, as well as a site of trauma and discouragement. Ultimately, Klavierklang is a journey towards the piano playing we have always loved, into the magic of its sound.


Victoria’s Emily Carr String Quartet performed the premiere of composer Jennifer Butler’s Klee Wyck Woman, based on words by Mohawk/Tuscarora writer Janet Rogers.

Klee Wyck Woman was commissioned by the Emily Carr String Quartet for the ISCM WNMD 2017. This work is a collaboration between composer Jennifer Butler and poet Janet Rogers – a Mohawk writer from the Six Nations territory in southern Ontario who was the Victoria, BC Poet Laureate from 2012-2015. Rogers’ poem celebrates the unique life and work of painter and writer Emily Carr (1871-1945). Carr was one of the preeminent Canadian painters of the first half of the 20th century; she was also one of the only major female artists in that period in either North America or Europe.

James Maxwell

The world premiere of James Maxwell’s Eight or nine, six or seven was the result of a two-year collaboration between Instruments of Change, Music on Main, members of Vancouver’s binners community, professional performers, and the community-at-large.

Eight or nine, six or seven develops and extends my exploration of magic realism in music, drawing on elements of instrumental concert music, soundscape composition, and acousmatic music, to build narrative-like structures grounded in emotional logic, but resisting conventional signification and formal dogma. Conceived to bring together the highest standards of contemporary music, community-engaged arts, and art for social change, this piece is the result of a two-year collaboration between the arts-based community development non-profit, Instruments of Change, Music on Main, members of Vancouver’s binners community, professional performers, and the community-at-large. (James B. Maxwell)


Ana Sokolović’s stunning new violin concerto, Evta, performed by Ensemble contemporain de Montreal (aka ECM+).

Evta means “seven” in the language of the Roma from Serbia. Each of the seven movements is inspired by the colours of the chakras and is associated with one of the notes of the scale: C/red, D/orange, E/yellow, F/green, G/blue, A/indigo and B/violet. The work is strongly inspired by Gypsy violin music played in the Balkans.

Click here for the complete ISCM World New Music Days concert listings.


For even more images, check out our ISCM2017 Facebook page.

Photo credit: Jan Gates

2017 ISCM Young Composer Award

Rising Montreal composer/sound artist James O’Callaghan received the ISCM Young Composer Award for 2017, supported by Music on Main. O’Callaghan’s music intersects acoustic and electroacoustic media, employing field recordings, amplified found objects, computer-assisted transcription of environmental sounds, and unique performance conditions. His piece subject/object was performed at ISCM2017 by Standing Wave Ensemble.

Visit our ISCM2017 Youtube channel to enjoy even more videos!

ISCM2017 will live on, and not just in our memories. It will live on in the connections made, and the new ideas shared. Through listening together, we find new ways of understanding one another. Through listening, we embrace each other’s differences, and celebrate our commonalities. From November 2-8, Vancouver was buzzing with visiting composers, performers, and music lovers. For the locals, ISCM2017 was a once-in-a-generation opportunity.

“With more than 90 participating composers, 30+ events and around 20 ensembles, the breadth of the festival is far too much to adequately cover in a single article.”

-Mat Wilkins


2018 - BEijing, china
2019 - Tallinn, Estonia
2020 - New Zealand