Tristan Zaba


If (opera fragment)

My major project on standby for the next little while is a full length opera to my own libretto taking place on If Day. If Day was a simulated Nazi invasion of the city of Winnipeg, facilitated by the Canadian military and Greater Winnipeg Victory Loan Organization in 1942 to convince people to buy more war bonds. Largely set in the vein of “bottle” scenarios such as 12 Angry Men, my libretto sees a collection of wildly different characters stuck in close quarters (in this case a downtown Winnipeg boarding house) in a stressful situation. The kicker is their finding out near the end that the entire thing is pointedly manufactured. It is meant to be something of a statement on individuals’ handling of traumatic events as well as the importance of questioning one’s surroundings. I have set and fully orchestrated the latter half of scene one of four, the excerpt being about 15 minutes. The opera as a whole will likely be about an hour and a half, for seven singers and chamber orchestra. No planned performances are currently in the works. Please get in touch if you are interested in learning more about this project!

Mostly Harm. less (for 7.1 surround sound guitars)

I was honoured to be selected as 2019-2020 composer-in-residence for the University of Toronto Guitar Ensemble. This piece I wrote for the ensemble was, along with Gone Fission (see below), one of the final works I completed in 2019. Rehearsals began in January for a planned April 1 premiere. By all accounts things were going swimmingly. However, I was sadly unable to hear the piece before the remaining rehearsals and performance were cancelled in mid-March due to the COVID19 pandemic. While this was obviously absolutely necessary, it’s still unfortunate. I would nevertheless like to say that I am extremely thankful to all the players and to Professor Jeffrey McFadden for the work they put in. It was a fantastic opportunity receiving Professor McFadden’s feedback on the piece throughout the compositional process, an honour writing for the ensemble, and I sincerely hope they have the opportunity to do something with the piece in the future.

Song for Dzhokhar (for Victor Daoyuan Cheng and the Mississauga Summer Chorale)

Last year Victor Daoyuan Cheng, a truly fine young conductor based out of Toronto, commissioned me to write a piece for double choir to be performed in the summer of 2020 by his group, the Mississauga Summer Chorale. Poem for Dzhokhar is a poem Amanda Palmer (of feminist activism and cabaret-punk fame) titled after Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the Boston Marathon Bomber, in 2013. It’s something of a statement pointing out not only the limits we put on our own empathy, but also imploring people to reconsider the morality of doing this. My piece intersperse passages from the KJV Bible in amongst the Palmer text. Stay tuned for performance details!

Country Bare Jamboree (music theatre piece)

Over the fall term I collaborated with a group of actors from the U of T drama department to present a theatre music piece at the University of Toronto New Music Festival. What resulted was not only a lot of fun to perform, but also very uniquely collaborative. Check out the video below.

Gone Fission (for the ACTOR project)

ACTOR is an international creative research project studying the “analysis, creation, and teaching of orchestration.” During the 2020 University of Toronto New Music Festival I had the opportunity to workshop a piece I wrote for the project in a live reading situation. It explores spectral-type blending of non-spectral sonorities, as well as fractured spectral sonorities. The “Fission” in the title is meant as a contrasting term to spectral fusion. You can access a video of the reading session below.

Live at the Goodwill (Zaba EP)

On New Year’s eve I released a free EP on Bandcamp featuring recordings from one of my rock band’s 2018 shows in Winnipeg. If you kept up with the band when it was going and miss our shows, click the link below! This particular show included some notable audience interaction.

Camden (for the Fresh Blood Project)

I was incredibly honoured to be a part of Cameron Denby’s inaugural Fresh Blood recital in Winnipeg on October 31, 2019. Cam put together a truly inspiring concert and delivered a fantastic performance of my piece for solo marimba. (from memory I might add!). I would like to thank him, everyone else who made the concert possible, and the University of Toronto for funding my trip! Audio of the performance is below.

Études for a Dying Race (for the Source Song Festival)

I was humbled to witness the first international performance of one of my pieces when Tracey Engleman and Matthew McCright delivered a stunning premiere of my revised song cycle, Études for a Dying Race, at Minneapolis’ Source Song Festival on August 9th, 2019! While this was a while ago, support has kept pouring in for this project and I still have a few thank yous to say. The Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the SOCAN Foundation were all instrumental to making this trip possible and I thank them for their support from the bottom of my heart. Of course, I’d also like to reiterate my thanks to Tracey and Matthew, as well as to the Source Song Festival for making it all happen!