Home 9 Composers 9 CARMEN BRADEN

Award-winning contemporary composer and singer/songwriter Carmen Braden is a dynamic force in the world of new music, hailing proudly from Yellowknife NWT. Carmen is a “multi-talented artist” (BK on the Scene) recognized as an “acoustic ambassador of the Canadian Subarctic” (Musicworks). She has played intimate theatres and main stage folk festivals, and smoothly jumps between genres of songwriting and composing. Her contemporary classical compositions are nationally recognized, with commissions and performances by world class ensembles and performers including the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, James Ehnes and the Elektra Women’s Choir.


photo by Hannah Eden

HEATHER - from "The Lost Words"

by Carmen Braden

SSAA with piano – CP 2195 – duration 1:58
(instruments parts available)

I dug into the sounds of the words themselves for Heather; the softness of the “h” and the “th” consonants, the gentle vowels, sounded as gentle and scratchy as the heather itself. And as the poem goes on to list some of the other fantastic-sounding plant names that all make up the moorlands, it becomes almost a tongue-twister of a journey for the singers, just like exploring a landscape.

When the most recent edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary – widely used in schools around the world – was published, a sharp-eyed reader soon noticed that around forty common words concerning nature had been dropped. The words were no longer being used enough by children to merit their place in the dictionary. The list of these “lost words” included acorn, adder, bluebell, dandelion, fern, heron, kingfisher, newt, otter, and willow. Among the words taking their place were attach-ment, blog, broadband, bullet-point, cut-and-paste, and voice-mail. The news of these substitutions – the outdoor and natural being displaced by the indoor and virtual – became seen by many as a powerful sign of the growing gulf between childhood and the natural world.

In response, Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris set out to make a “spell book” that would conjure back twenty of these lost words, and the beings they name, from acorn to wren.
Morna Edmundson, Elektra Women’s Choir director, decided to commission 10 composers to write 2 compositions each – 20 compositions set to the poetry of Robert Macfarlane – and a fabulous concert program was born (premiered in 2022). These pieces are available individually and also as a complete book. They can be performed with piano alone or with instrumentation; flute/piccolo, violin, cello, clarinet/bass clarinet and marimba/percussion.

LARK - from "The Lost Words"

by Carmen Braden

SSAA with piano – CP 2199 – duration 2:10
(instruments parts available)

I was captivated by this imagining of Robert Macfarlane’s Lark – “a little astronaut heading out into space, singing its song – the company of exploding suns.” It brings to mind how the power of small sounds, small words, things that seem small at first glance can have a real strength, and sometimes be the thing that reaches farthest and deepest into the unknown.

“Lark” is the 12th movement from the collection of 20 songs/poems entitled “The Lost Words“.