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Tom Allen is a writer, storyteller, trombonist, lyricist, songwriter and the host of CBC Radio’s Shift. (Photo: Max Telzerow)

Tom Allen: The Being Lost Project

A talk in the Fine Arts Research Lecture Series in Music (FARLS), hosted by the Department of Music


Tom Allen is most interested in the future of the Emma Lake location, and its connection to Canadian music, art, literature and to John Cage.

This talk is part of the Fine Arts Research Lecture Series in Music (FARLS) from the Department of Music.

Wednesday, Oct. 7
12:30 pm

Join Zoom meeting:

Meeting ID: 895 7933 9284

Passcode: 908281

Free and open to the public

Being Lost is a project in mid development that will culminate in 15 spoken-word pieces of exactly 100 words each, mirroring Cage's account of his time at the University of Saskatchewan Kenderdine Campus at Emma Lake, Sask., in August of 1965. This project will also represent the 15 hours Cage was lost (overnight) in the woods while at this northern campus. These spoken-word pieces are about Cage's experience, but also about the general state of being lost, either literally, or, in a more spiritual and emotional sense, as might happen during, say, a pandemic—that the state of being lost is, in fact, much closer to the natural state of things, and that, as Cage learned, the secret is being able to accept that truth and carry on.

Each of these spoken-word pieces will be married with improvised music in installments of exactly three minutes each, making the total presentation 45 minutes long. Artistic collaborator Jeff Riely is working on a set of parameters for this improvised content: variation in pitch focus, density of music, volume, emotional tone and other aspects which will all be determined by chance—by rolling dice. In live performance we would perform these chance-determining calculations on the spot, so that the piece is different each time.

Tom Allen is a writer, storyteller, trombonist, lyricist, songwriter and the host of CBC Radio’s Shift. He was born in Montreal and went to school at Marianapolis College and McGill before finishing degrees at Boston University and Yale. He worked as a bass trombonist in New York City, in Toronto and on tour with the Great Lakes Brass. He has written several books and has been a Resident Artist with Soulpepper Theatre. He wrote a series of cabaret storytelling shows called Chamber Musicals, including Bohemians in Brooklyn, The Judgment of Paris and From Weimar to Vaudeville, The Last Curlew and The Missing Pages.

FARLS host: Dean McNeill


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