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In our FINAL edition of Travelogue Composer Q&A…

…Wait! Final?

…Yes, Final! Our show opens THIS weekend, April 1st and 2nd

…Oh! Yay!

We are talking to Tobin Stokes, composer of Waterfront, which will be premiered in two short days. Tobin wrote Bianchi: a five-minute bicycle opera for us in 2014 and it’s become something of a signature, so we were very excited he agreed to write for this project.




What is Waterfront about?

Waterfront, on the surface, is about first world problems: an obsession for espresso, and a desire to own waterfront property. But traveling often gives us new perspective on our busy day-to-day lives, so as our two scientists are almost finished their journey to join the colony on Mars, they both begin to question life, its driving force, and its origins, from their unique perspective.

Was there a particular inspiration for this story?

There were five inspirations for this story: my friends’ differing opinions on how to create the perfect espresso, my addiction to (and simultaneous disgust with), all the recent news about Mars, and my side job in social media, where I read a tonne of science articles, and am faced with a 24hr-a-day barrage of science newsletters, and Twitter, Facebook and Instagram interactions. The fifth inspiration is a secret, because I don’t want to give everything away.

How would you describe the musical vocabulary you use? Would you say this piece is a continuation or a departure for you, compositionally?

Uncomplicated. Lyrical. Sort of traditional. This piece is not a departure, but more of an evolution in the same direction as my last piece for BOP, Bianchi. I’m looking for simple, effective techniques where words are super clear, characters can develop quickly, and timing is everything. I want every note, whether melody or harmony, to be integral to the storytelling, whether the music is leading or supporting.

Is there anything you’d like audiences to know before watching the premiere?

The piece is in five short scenes that run from scene 5 to scene 1, echoing five things contemplated in the opera. I’ve said too much.

What is Travelogue to you? What is your relationship to travelling?

Every trip I’ve ever taken I’ve either written a diary and lost it, or not written a diary. So I can’t remember anything about anywhere. I travelled a lot as a kid – even to Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. When I was a kid our parents would throw us in the back of the station wagon, before there were seat belts, and we’d go on summer vacations where you laid down in the back and looked up, out the windows and watched the moon follow you along, or the telephone wires swoop up and down from pole to pole. It was dangerous, I guess. But it was cozy.

Now I seem to take planes all over the place, so while my wife and I pay extra for natural gas from renewable sources, take pride in cycling almost everywhere rather than driving, and grow our own vegetables, I’m busy ruining the planet. I’m the world’s biggest hypocrite! Travelling by jet is surreal, amazing, and pretty much horrible. But being on a shuttle to Mars is probably much worse.


Tobin working on Waterfront aboard a shuttle to the U.S.

Sprint answers:

If you were a bike, what kind of bike would you be?

I’d be an old cruiser with a sissy bar and a banana seat. Does anyone even know what sissy bars are anymore?

Do you wear a helmet?

In BC it is the law. But it is a stupid law if you’re just puttering around the neighbourhood. I get it for faster commutes. So yah, I do.

How many killometers would you consider riding in one day?

Take the number 100 and subtract your age and that’s how many km’s you should ride each day. Toddlers excluded.

Where in the world would you like to bike around if you could?

Cuba. For goodness sakes, somebody get me to Cuba before it’s too la– oh forget it.

Travelogue premieres in Toronto April 1st and 2nd at 8 pm the Arts and Letters Club, and is part of Toy Piano Composer’s Curiosity Festival.Tickets and show information HERE. Single tickets now available for only $15 in advance