for chamber ensemble and two digital soundtracks

The work may be called a meditation on the Canadian nation in that it involves the listener in an east-to-west journey across the country. In each region it is 12 noon, starting with the noon gun in St. John's harbour, Newfoundland, followed by various foghorns and other whistles. In the middle section depicting the vast expanse of central Canada and its founding Anglophone and Francophone cultures, the noon chimes and hour bell of the Peace Tower in Ottawa are played out in counterpoint against the bells of the Basilica in Quebec City. The ubiquitous E-flat minor triad of the CPR train horn connects the various sections, just as the transcontinental railway was instrumental in unifying the country. In the Prairies we hear the noon siren from a small town in Alberta, along with various typical ambient sounds such as wind in a wheat field and a humming power line. Another set of horns and whistles announces the arrival in British Columbia, and the work ends at noon in Vancouver with the daily sounding of the O Canada Horn.

In a live performance, the 12 instrumentalists are spread out left to right like a map of Canada, the strings and winds representing the 10 provinces, and the percussion and trumpet the two territories (as they were in 1991). The performers accompany the tape by imitating its pitches and musical gestures, and near the end when the O Canada horn is sounded, they react like the fractious political regions they represent, only to finally drift back into unison with the dying reverberations of the horn.

The source materials for the tape are recordings of Canadian soundmarks made in each province by the World Soundscape Project at Simon Fraser University during a cross-country tour in 1973, and the work follows the east to west trajectory of the WSP program "Soundmarks of Canada". All sounds are heard at their original pitch but are stretched in time, often to a hundred or more times their original duration. The extended versions allow the listener to hear out the inner harmonics inside these dramatic and unique sound signals, and it is these pitches which are picked up by the live performers and amplified. The suspension of the sounds may also give listeners the space in which to explore their own inner associations with this aspect of the Canadian cultural heritage.

The title refers to Canada's official title as a nation, a designation suggested by Sir Leonard Tilley, one of the Fathers of Confederation, based on Psalm 72: "He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth."

The work was commissioned by Alex Pauk and the Esprit Orchestra, Toronto, to whom the work is dedicated.

Instrumentation: fl,ob,cl,hn,bsn,trp,perc,vln,vla,vc,db,tape


Dominion is available on the Cambridge Street Records CD Islands.

For an interesting educational website based on this piece, see the Canadian Music Centre's Sound Adventure, recently awarded Best Information and Educational Site by Applied Arts magazine in its 2005 Design & Advertising Annual.






Train Horns

Note: All source materials are available on the DVD-ROM.


B. Truax, "Composing with Time-Shifted Environmental Sound," Leonardo Music Journal, 2(1), 1992, 37-40.

Technical note:

The work was realized using the composer's PODX system which uses the DMX-1000 Digital Signal Processor controlled by a PDP Micro-11 computer. The principal signal processing technique involves time stretching of the sampled environmental sound with software for real-time granular synthesis developed by the composer in the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University. Sound densities around 250 events/second were recorded on 8-track tape and mixed down in the Sonic Research Studio at SFU.