The Canadian Music Centre sadly announces the passing of Associate Composer John Burke. Born in Toronto, John’s musical journey began at an early age with an intensive involvement with chant and scared choral music. He studied composition at McGill University, privately in France, and at the University of Michigan where he earned a doctorate in composition. He taught at McGill University, McMaster University, and the University of Victoria. He received many important commissions and performances from organizations, including La Société de musique contemporaine du Québec, Les Événements du neuf, New Music Concerts, Vancouver New Music, the Esprit Orchestra, the CBC Vancouver Orchestra and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. In 1995, he was awarded the Jules Léger Prize for New Chamber Music for his String Quartet (1994). He also received a Chalmers Arts Fellowship.
Burke was intrigued by a world of sound, music, healing, and consciousness as a potential field of inquiry that could be informed and intensified by the sophisticated musical resources developed by the contemporary music avant-garde. Burke pursued his explorations into the relationship of sound and states of consciousness at the Monroe Institute in Virginia, and with numerous shamanic teachers.
In 1997 he received a commission from Vancouver New Music and responded with Remember Your Power for piano and chamber ensemble. In 2000, Burke expanded Remember Your Power into an hour-long work whose three movements modeled the three phases of the archetype of personal transformation that mythologist Joseph Campbell called The Hero’s Journey. Burke’s interest in the transformative power of myth and ritual deepened through his subsequent work with Jean Houston, one of the pioneers of the human potential movement. He explored the possibility of engaging the listener at a far deeper level of awareness than the conventional concert hall dynamic could offer, through the contemplative practice of walking the labyrinth, in particular, the pattern found at Chartres cathedral in France.
He was composer and project manager for a major labyrinth installation at the Sacred World Music Festival at the Plaza of Nations in Vancouver in November 2002. Burke shared his insights into sound, music, and consciousness with those outside the concert music mainstream, presented to groups at the Society for the Anthropology of Consciousness, and the Association for Music and Imagery.
For more information about John Burke, or to discover some of Burke’s compositions, please go to John Burke Composer Showcase on cmccanada.org