Michael J. Baker

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Michael J. Baker was one of Canada's most active composers of music for dance, but has had only a bit of his music released commercially. He also kept quite busy as a conductor for both film scores and…
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Michael J. Baker was one of Canada's most active composers of music for dance, but has had only a bit of his music released commercially. He also kept quite busy as a conductor for both film scores and contemporary music. His major compositions include "In Paradisum," written in 1982 but not released on CD until after the composer's death, "Skyling," "Animated Shorts," and "Columbus." He began his musical career as a trumpet player and was a member of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra as well as the Tommy Banks big band, both representing the major gigs for freelance players in that frozen town.

In 1971, Baker moved east to Toronto and became involved in the thriving modern dance community as an accompanist. He studied in New York with the composer and cellist Gwendolyn Watson, her multi-disciplinary leanings serving as a further inspiration for subsequent collaborations with various choreographers and performances with the Toronto Dance Theatre, les Grands Ballets Canadiens, the National Ballet of Canada, and Montréal Danse. Baker continued his study of harmony, counterpoint, orchestration, and conducting with Roman Toi at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Despite all this training, Baker still described himself as largely a self-taught composer. The work of American minimalists was an influence, but what exists of Baker's work on recording indicates he had evolved a personal language.

In 1992, Baker teamed up with painter Dan Solomon and choreographer Bill James on a work entitled "Big Pictures." The following year he became artistic director of ARRAYMUSIC, an ensemble which he also conducts. He has also served as artistic director of Numus in Waterloo, Ontario, and as conductor of Hemispheres in Toronto. He received numerous grants and awards from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council.