Christopher Gainey balances a variety of creative and academic pursuits that he considers complementary components of an eclectic approach to the study of music. He composes for and maintains professional relationships with performers around the world, he engages with and benefits from the ideas of his colleagues through academic research, and he performs regularly on guitar and banjo in music of any style that catches his ear. In preparation for this lifestyle, he has earned master of music degrees in composition, guitar, and music theory pedagogy from Peabody Conservatory and a Ph. D. in composition from the University of Iowa. Until 2011, he taught music theory and composition at Grinnell College and the University of Iowa where despite loving his work, he felt that his enthusiasm was undermined by a certain lack of intellectual refinement. In an attempt to remedy this, he is pursuing a second Ph. D. in music theory as a graduate student at the University of British Columbia where the focus of his research is the role of timbre in twenty-first century music. For more information, please visit:


Meltwater (four guitars)

PDF score

Over the past decade or so, I have lived in three different time zones and this has caused a certain increase in my appreciation for large environmental processes. When I was living in Baltimore and visiting my family in Pennsylvania, I vividly remember the first time I drove past a sign marking one edge of the "Chesapeake Bay watershed." The immensity of this system, stretching as far north as upstate New York and as far South as Virginia, and the beauty of the slowly flowing water that shapes it fills me with a type of awe that I am unable to adequately describe. From Baltimore, I moved to Iowa, gaining an hour and crossing the Mississippi into an unassuming Grant Wood dream world of languid muddy rivers and bucolic rolling hills. Little did I know that I was soon to have the extremely humbling experience of frantically stacking sandbags as the floods of 2008 consumed portions of Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. This was a tragedy to be sure, but I don't remember ever seeing people working so hard to save the houses of total strangers. I then migrated to Vancouver, British Columbia—three hours behind Baltimore and across a well-guarded invisible line. Despite this barrier, I was able to spend time hiking the mountains and coastline of the Pacific Northwest from Tacoma to Whistler often witnessing water flowing off of a melting glacier in the morning, and streams rushing into the Salish Sea in the evening. This condensed and dramatically dynamic environmental system has helped to solidify my conception of the scope and impact of water as a natural force, and as a metaphor for musical form. Meltwater would not have been possible without this shift in perspective. At times the music trickles, at other times it engulfs. Often serene, but sometimes violent, the music moves between textures, beautiful and harsh. But it always flows. I would like to thank the members of the Atlantic Guitar Quartet for allowing me to write music for them and for putting so much of themselves into preparing Meltwater for performance.

Sea Fugue, I. (mezzo-soprano and piano)

PDF score

This song is the first of a cycle based on "Sea Fugue"---a poem by Elee Kraljii Gardiner's. Although I am currently in the process of finishing the entire cycle, I was fortunate enough to have this song performed by Lynne McMurtry and Alison D'Amato as part of the Vancouver International Song Institute.

Through the Turmoil of Liquid Skies (chamber orchestra)

PDF score

The title of this piece, Through the Turmoil of Liquid Skies is taken from The Island of the Day Before—a novel by Umberto Eco. In this book, a sailor finds himself stranded on an abandoned ship that is anchored on the international dateline. As he descends into madness, he continually contemplates the idea that he floats in a temporal limbo between yesterday and tomorrow. Of course, it is all a matter of perspective. The dateline does not define the border between past and future, but rather allows for the measurement of the passage of time according to set parameters. However, in his addled state, our hero finds this curious conceptual position a bit too hard to bear. This piece uses differences in texture, density, and tempo to simulate the flexibility of our perception of time. However, the driving force behind this ambiguity is harmonic. This piece is woven together from harmonies derived through the frequency and ring modulation of a background two-voice framework. Differing levels of tension inherent in these harmonies create a continuum between spectrally-fused sonorities and the emergence of discrete harmonic and melodic figures.

Iago (violin solo)

PDF score

"Iago," for violin solo, takes its inspiration from my favorite villain. While attending a performance of Othello I found that I was more concerned with what was going on inside Iago’s mind than I was with the welfare of the other characters in the play. The instrumentation was chosen to reflect not only the intimate, internal turmoil of the character, but also Iago’s constant attempts to overstep the boundaries of his social position. This music is meant to sound as if the violin is fighting against the limitations of the instrument in a similar way. This piece does not follow a narrative as such, but instead is a glimpse into the whirlwind personality of a complex villain.