Yellowknife’s Carmen Braden was named classical composer of the year at the Western Canadian Music Awards in Whitehorse on Thursday night.
Braden, who just released her second studio album, was selected from a shortlist of five – including two of her former teachers, Allan Bell and Laurie Radford.
“There are heavyweights on that list. When my face showed up on the big screen, it was awesome,” Braden told Cabin Radio, dedicating her win to the teachers she has had.
“Awards are tricky things. It doesn’t change the work that I’ve done or that I’m going to do,” she said.
“But to have an acknowledgement that the kind of music I’m writing is valued and has a place – within the context of my home, and the broader part of Canada that I live in – gives me hope and courage to keep going.
“And it should encourage other young people from the North to follow the path they want, no matter how off the beaten path it may feel at the time.”
Braden and Digawolf were the two NWT artists nominated at this year’s awards ceremony. The ceremony forms part of Breakout West, a music festival billed as “western Canada’s largest music industry event.”
Braden’s latest composition, Songs of the Invisible Summer Stars, will appear in a performance by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in November. Her work occupies a berth alongside that of Vivaldi and Copland on the bill.
John Reid, from the Canadian Music Centre – whose in-house label publishes Braden’s music – said the centre was also working to secure a Toronto launch event for the album.
Speaking before her win was announced, Reid told Cabin Radio Braden had progressed from “almost a singer-songwriter approach” in her earlier work to “a rather unique blend … very good art music, but still at times combining that singer-songwriter sensibility.”
Cabin Radio will air a full recording of Braden’s Yellowknife album launch, recorded in September, from 7pm on Wednesday, October 9.
‘Checking out the universe’
Asked what will drive her on to her next achievement after this award, Braden said her ultimate goal is “to write for an instrument that hasn’t even been invented yet.”
Known for working creatively with the sound of objects like ice blocks, Braden said: “This whole tradition of writing classical music has, for the entire time, been about reinventing the history of that music.
“Beethoven was doing things that nobody before was doing – he broke the mould, he was a trailblazer, writing for instruments that at the time were new.
“The possibilities, now, for new instruments and sounds – ones that we create or look for in our surroundings – that, to me, is the next place to explore.
“It’s like Bach and Beethoven were just exploring our solar system, and now we’re out there checking out the rest of the universe.”