Casey Sokol is currently an Associate Professor of Music in the Faculty of Fine Arts* at York University, where he has been teaching courses in piano, improvisation, movement and musicianship since 1971. He received a B.A. from SUNY Buffalo (1966) and completed graduate studies in music at the California Institute of the Arts (1972), where he complimented his pianistic and improvisational training with studies in ethnomusicology with intensive study of South Indian (Carnatic) classical music. After beginning studies in Carnatic rhythm and mridangam with Tanjore Ranganathan (1970) and Trichy Sankaran (1972), he continued practical and theoretical studies in rhythm and drumming in India and then with a variety of percussionists throughout Southeast Asia during the year 1980-81. In the summer of 1975 he studied at SUNY Buffalo with John Cage, Christian Wolff, Earle Brown and Morton Feldman and performed their music with The Creative Associates, and he also studied and performed at Antioch College (Ohio) with the members of Musica Elettronica Viva (Frederic Rzewski, Anthony Braxton, and others). From 2000-2006, Casey immersed himself in concentrated studies of Dalcroze Eurhythmics—movement and improvisation—at The Longy School of Music (Cambridge), Carnegie Mellon (Pittsburgh), Oberlin College (Ohio), and numerous other centres with senior international teachers, including Anne Farber, Lisa Parker, Marta Sanchez, Herb Henke, Annabelle Joseph, Stephen Moore, Madeleine Duret and others.

He has been active as a workshop leader for music teachers, dancers, actors and musicians. He has directed and composed for dance and theatre since 1968 and has produced over a dozen large-scale musical presentations. In 1979 Casey collaborated as music director with N.Y. director André Serban for the adaptation of the medieval mystery play, “The Clown of God.” With the support of the contemporary ensemble, Sound Pressure, and the participation of 150 performers, he conceived and co-produced (with James Tenney and Udo Kasamets) “Cagewake,” a music-circus marking the passing of John Cage in 1992, and, with Martin Arnold, he produced and co-directed the North American premier of Cornelius Cardew’s eight-hour epic based on Confucius’ text, “The Great Learning” in 1994. In 1995, Casey composed and produced, with the participation of Tokyo’s UNO Man Butoh Troupe, a multimedia performance of the first multi-lingual Renga, a traditional Japanese collaborative poetic form. More recently, to mark the one hundredth birthday of John Cage, he produced “CageSpace” in 2013, incorporating students, faculty and alumni representing 40 years of graduates from York University’s Fine Arts Faculty. Since the 1980s, he has produced ongoing monthly community-participation improvisation soirées both at York University and in downtown Toronto.

As a performer of classical and contemporary chamber music and improvised music, he has been involved with a variety of musical styles and groups since 1971. In appearances outside of Canada, Casey has performed extensively, touring as a soloist and ensemble player in Europe, Japan and North America, with performances at numerous venues of note, including the Pro Musica Nova Festival (Bremen), the Avignon Festival (France), the O-Kanada Festival (Berlin), Seibu Yao Hall (Osaka), le Centre Pompidou (Paris), The Los Angeles Olympic Arts Festival, Expo ‘86 (Vancouver), the St. John’s Sound Symposium, Kanadishe Täge in Stuttgart, and numerous others in France, England, Holland, Belgium, Poland, Germany, Austria, Cyprus, the United States and Japan.

He has performed over a thousand Canadian concerts of classical, contemporary, folk and improvised music with groups such as The York Winds, the CCMC, New Music Concerts, Sound Pressure, Oliver Schroer and The Stewed Tomatoes. He has participated in over seventy interviews and broadcasts on radio and television here and abroad with numerous rebroadcasts of previously recorded material. Casey has been involved in performances of over forty world premières and premières of seventeen commissioned works by Canadian composers—pieces either commissioned personally or through the Sound Pressure Ensemble. Since the early 70s, he has also performed and collaborated with many artists from Canada and elsewhere such as Christina Petrowska, Derek Bailey, Anthony Braxton, Michael Snow, Matt Brubeck, Peter Chin, Carlos del Junco, bp Nichol, Misha Mengelberg, Henry Kaiser, Lucas Ligeti, Trichy Sankaran, Evan Parker, John Zorn, James Tenney, David Mott, Andrew Craig, and Peggie Sampson.

Most of Casey’s compositional work has been realized as ‘free’ improvisational performance, both live and on recording but he has also written for various ensembles. In 1985, he was commissioned by the INDE ’85 Festival to write a twenty-minute piece for three pianos, based on the award-winning fantasy novel, “More Than Human.” The piece was titled, “Species,” and was performed by Margaret Gibbs, Stephanie Sebastian and Sokol and broadcast by CJRT. In 1992 he composed the process and form for a twenty-four movement improvisation for five improvising musicians titled, “Renga.” It was commissioned by President R. Runte (Glendon College) and performed in 1992 with Oliver Schroer, Richard Armin, Robert Bik, David Mott and Casey Sokol with the Uno Man Bhutto Troupe of Tokyo. More recently (2011) Casey composed and published “Duets with Oli,” an eighty-page book of thirteen original concert pieces for solo piano, based on the melodies of Canadian fiddler, Oliver Schroer. The second edition has been printed under the title, “Covering Oli,” and will be available in February 2016, when the CD and book will be launched in concert.

Casey’s discography includes both improvisations and performances of contemporary repertoire. From 1976-80 he released LPs with various musicians on Music Gallery Editions—MGE #3, #4, #6, #11, #15 (3 LP set), #22, #23—and MGE #9, a duo LP with Eugene Chadbourne, “Music from Acoustic Piano & Guitar,” was released in 1977. In 1991 he composed and performed his original arrangements with Oliver Schroer on “Whirled” (Big Dog Music) and on “Oliver Schroer and the Stewed Tomatoes,” in 1995. “Pressure Points,” a CD of premiers commissioned by Sound Pressure, was released in 1993 on Soundprints. Casey contributed WinterRise to “Stuck on a Cold Steel Pole,” a 1995 CD published by MCA/Universal. He performed on Nira as part of the 2012 CD, “new Music 90,” with the New Music Concerts Ensemble and which was released on their label. Casey’s music has been broadcast on CBC, CJRT, CIUT, FUJI-TV (Japan), PIK-TV and PIK Radio (Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation), KUSC-FM, OECA-TV, WBAI-FM (NY), and on other stations throughout N. America and Europe.

He is one of the founding members of the CCMC Music Gallery in Toronto (1976) and served on its board through the 80s. Casey Sokol was the recipient of the 2001 OCUFA Award for Excellence in Teaching and, even after 40 years of university teaching, still thinks it’s an amazing way to spend the day.

 

*Currently renamed: The School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design