Dan Brophy



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My Chamber, solo, and orchestral classical works explore the darker edges of human existence through experimentation with transgressive and destructive processes and the inclusion of elements from extreme metal and experimental electronic elements.  The result is a sound world that embraces the absurd and contradictory, unapologetically reveling in the beauty and madness of humanity

Playing with dead things for the tpc ensemble

'Playing with Dead Things' is a piece I’ve been envisioning for years – the aggression, rhythms, and patterns of death metal, instrumentation and compositional techniques of modern chamber music, and the gritty sound of a DIY noise-instrument.
The Catherine Wheel is an amplified large metal garbage can, filled with glass and other precarious materials to be destroyed with a large metal rod. The wheel is also run through a Boss distortion pedal, turning the garbage can into a feedback container whose pitches can be semi-controlled through the positioning of the metal rod." Video by AJ Gray, Audio by John S. Gray

string quartet no. 2

Performed by Melissa Schakk, Elizabeth Tremain, Katherine Mermak, and Jonni Glidden

in the Maureen Forester Recital Hall

Performer’s notes:  String Quartet no 2 was one of my first textural works, in which I worked with aleatory and indeterminacy. The first movement was intuitively conceived and through composed, with the durations being marked by relative space within the score. The second movement is a chromatic fugue with the subject being spun in as many different presentations as possible while retaining a consistently suffocating texture. For the third movement I envisioned a large empty hall with giant columns. The fourth movement utilizes the fugal subject on the 2nd, with augmented durations and diminished intervals.

The video is an analysis performed by professor Michael MacDonald, inspired by a lecture I gave at a graduate symposium at the University of Alberta. In this analysis, he visually depicts the feelings of vastness, spaciousness, and claustrophobia I was trying to convey in the music.


Commissioned and presented by the Toy Piano Composers

Performed by Wesley Chen

Performer’s notes:  I have dreams of a beautifully ornamented piano floating in a lake of bubbling feces. The piano is a bed for spring time flowers with their inflorescences replaced with infected irises.

Video by AJ Gray, Audio by John S. Gray

THE RED SKY for harp, marimba, violin and cello

Winner of the 2013 Toronto Harp Society Composition Prize

Performed by Angela Schwartzkopf, Michelle Colton, Melissa Schakk, Samuel Bison

Performer’s notes:  "When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather today: for the sky is red and lowering."

The weather-lore rhyme originally from England, is alluring to me as a composer due to its diametrically opposite states of light and dark. To accommodate these opposing states, the piece is divided into three basic sections: The first section, "light, flowing, and dance-like," although beginning with a looming and dark introduction, lures the listener into a state of comfort. The second section, "raw and aggressive," has the imagery of a violent storm bringing man and machine alike to their knees. The third and final section "slow and connected, with a sense of vertigo," is written purposely to hide any sense of pulse, placing the listener on shaky ground and denying them a sense of internal balance. Through their opposition, these sections both counter-balance and compliment one another, reflecting the dual nature of man and the elements reminding myself and the listener of the cyclical nature of life.

"The Red Sky" is a recent winner of the Toronto Chapter of the American Harp Society 2013 Composition Contest, made possible by a grant from the American Harp Society.

Sonata for Satan for chamber ensemble and electronics

Commissioned and presented by the Toy Piano Composers

Performed by the Toy Piano Composer Ensemble

Performer’s notes:  I find the human search for purity in all of its forms interesting for several reasons – its unattainability, its use as a unit of measure, and its oppressiveness through expectation. The expectation is of homogeneity which then becomes the catalyst for complex violence, permeating everything with change.

Evil, and all of its reincarnations, is a symbol of change through death. Through the left hand path we explore the forbidden and reinterpret our perspective on purity, and the many wonderful ways to destroy it.

'Sonata for Satan' is based on similar principles where a pure object is systematically degraded until its original form is no longer visible. The process is linear and degrading, driving further away from its original form as it moves along its trajectory. 

The initial section featuring the piano and electronics serves as the original source of purity, which was recorded, fed through a spectrographic program and notated. Multiple compositional tools stemming from indeterminacy are applied to the resultant notation alongside intuitive motivic variation technique to realize a degrading structure."

Audio by John S. Gray


This work was written in the third year of my undergraduate degree for my good friend James Moat. For this work I was immensely influenced by the art works of the dada-ist painter Max Ernst, basing each movement upon a different painting


Winner of the 2012 Kitchener/Waterloo Chamber Orchestra Composition Competition

Performed by the Kitchener/Waterloo Chamber Orchestra

Performer’s notes:  The work presented here is a musical interpretation of the epic poem found in the Norse Mythology known as “Voluspa” which is translated as “Prophecy [spa] of the Seeress [volva].1The poem as a whole is the synopsis of the entire mythology and is believed to have been the first of the Scandanavian people. It encompasses the creation and the destruction of the physical world, then its rebirth. Due to the size of this work I have decided to work only with the first section of the poem, the creation of the physi- cal world.
In the third movement of this work, the origins of the Sun and Moon are described as both beautiful and horrific, showing how destruction and creation are intricately linked. A man and his wife have two children that are so beautiful that they are named Sun and Moon, when the Gods hear of this, they punish the parents for their act of pride by placing the children in the sky to serve the heavenly bodies. The children control the movement of the sun and moon by pulling them with a cart which is being chased by giant wolves who will devour them when Ragnarok comes. The overall mood of this movement is dark and solemn, as the perspective I have taken is the parents of Sun and Moon watching their children being punished for their faults day and night.