Sonic Assembly! – a creative opportunity for youth


Dinuk Wijeratne, Diomira, and Debut Atlantic invite all imaginative and innovative youth from the Maritime provinces of Canada to participate in an exciting musical composition opportunity entitled Sonic Assembly! As a participant, you will have the special opportunity to flex your creative muscles in assembling an original work for Diomira to perform live in concert during their February 2014 Debut Atlantic tour. One lucky person from each community hosting a concert will have their creation premiered by Diomira in concert.

Diomira (from left) - Joseph Petric, Dinuk Wijeratne, Nick Halley

Diomira (from left) – Joseph Petric, Dinuk Wijeratne, Nick Halley

to tell a dynamic story through music to a live audience, in the form of a 3-minute piece, created using your imagination and existing musical material provided by Diomira.

SUBMISSIONS: Online submissions will be open December 10th, 2013 – January 17th, 2014. To submit, please visit

CONTACT: Please direct any questions to

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: No compositional experience is required! We are encouraging you to think about music performance as storytelling. What is music doing when it best communicates its purpose? We are not looking for original music, but we are interested in the ‘soundworld’ you have in mind. We will help you realize this in musical terms. An interior decorator, for example, may not build a chair from scratch, but in selecting and placing a particular piece of furniture in a space makes a bold and potentially transformative personal statement.

The stories which will inspire the participants’ musical storyboards have been selected by Dinuk, who turned to one of his favourite books: Invisible Cities by the legendary Italian writer Italo Calvino. Calvino’s imagined cities do not function by any of the earthly laws that govern our own cities. Incidentally, the first ‘city’ (‘Diomira’) inspired Dinuk to write Solea Di Diomira, after which the trio was named. He hopes that other Calvino stories will inspire you in turn.

RESOURCES: You will be working with the three creative, skilled, and inspiring musicians that make up Diomira. The trio includes a pianist, percussionist, and accordionist, all of whom will help you realize the original sound-world you wish to create from the instructions and storyboard you provide. It is important to keep in mind that the percussion will take on rhythmic atmosphere of your story; while the accordion and/or piano will take on the melodic and harmonic atmosphere.

To listen to Diomira:

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PROCEDURE & GUIDELINES for CREATION: Guidelines should be followed closely to ensure each Sonic Assembly entry is suitable. Students interested in participating in Sonic Assembly should contact Debut Atlantic for more information.

1. Choose one story or ‘city’ from the three provided.

2. Choose between two and four motifs from Dinuk’s selection of musical motifs. These encompass a wide range of moods, but notice how they take on different meanings if they are played slower or faster, lower or higher? A melody on the accordion will sound differently when played on the piano. Exactly when and how you wish to use the motifs is entirely up to you!

3. Create a ‘musical storyboard’ in the form of a written description (1 page maximum). Be sure to mention your choice of city and motifs. Feel free to use adjectives, moods, metaphors, or any descriptive words to convey what you imagine your ‘sound-world’ to be. Feel free to create your own diagram or representation. Be sure to give Dinuk and Diomira a clear idea of the structure or narrative arc of your story.

NB: Your storyboard should be very simple for the musicians to read. It should provide them with a clear idea of how musical events unfold in time, so include instructions as to when exactly you want them to play within the 3-minute time-frame (eg, specific cues for improvisation). They will only have 15 minutes before a given performance to rehearse your creation!

4. Using improvisation guided by the storyboard you provide, Diomira will attempt to realize the story that you have imagined and assembled.

5. Please use only the instruments and resources provided by Diomira

6. Have fun!

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1. ERSILIA (Trading Cities 4)

In Ersilia, to establish the relationships that sustain the city’s life, the inhabitants stretch strings from the corners of the houses, white or black or gray or black-and-white according to whether they mark a relationship of blood, of trade, authority, agency. When the strings become so numerous that you can no longer pass among them, the inhabitants leave: the houses are dismantled; only the strings and their supports remain.

From a mountainside, camping with their household goods, Ersilia’s refugees look at the labyrinth of taut strings and poles that rise in the plain. That is the city of Ersilia still, and they are nothing.

They rebuild Ersilia elsewhere. They weave a similar pattern of strings which they would like to be more complex and at the same time more regular than the other. Then they abandon it and take themselves and their houses still farther away.

Thus, when traveling in the territory of Ersilia, you come upon the ruins of abandoned cities, without the walls which do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away: spiderwebs of intricate relationships seeking a form.


2. OLINDA (Hidden Cities 1)

In Olinda, if you go out with a magnifying glass and hunt carefully, you may find somewhere a point no bigger than the head of a pin which, if you look at it slightly enlarged, reveals within itself the roofs, the antennas, the skylights, the gardens, the pools, the streamers across the streets, the kiosks in the squares, the horse-racing track. That point does not remain there: a year later you will find it the size of half a lemon, then as large as a mushroom, then a soup plate. And then it becomes a full-size city, enclosed within the earlier city: a new city that forces its way ahead in the earlier city and presses its way toward the outside.

Olinda is certainly not the only city that grows in concentric circles, like tree trunks which each year add one more ring. But in other cities there remains, in the center, the old narrow girdle of the walls from which the withered spires rise, the towers, the tiled roofs, the domes, while the new quarters sprawl around them like a loosened belt. Not Olinda: the old walls expand bearing the old quarters with them, enlarged but maintaining their proportions an a broader horizon at the edges of the city; they surround the slightly newer quarters, which also grew up on the margins and became thinner to make room for still more recent ones pressing from inside; and so, on and on, to the heart of the city, a totally new Olinda which, in its reduced dimensions retains the features and the flow of lymph of the first Olinda and of all the Olindas that have blossomed one from the other; and within this innermost circle there are always blossoming – though it is hard to discern them – the next Olinda and those that will grow after it.

olinda sketch

3. THEKLA (Cities & The Sky 3) 

Those who arrive at Thekla can see little of the city, beyond the plank fences, the sackcloth screens, the scaffoldings, the metal armatures, the wooden catwlks hanging from ropes or supported by sawhorses, the ladders, the trestles. If you ask “Why is Thekla’s construction taking such a long time?” the inhabitants continue hoisting sacks, lowering leaded strings, moving long bruses up and down, as they answer “So that it’s destruction cannot begin.” And if asked whether they fear that, once the scaffoldings are removed, the city may begin to crumble and fall to pieces, they add hastily, in a whisper, “Not only the city.”

If, dissatisfied with the answers, someone puts his eye to a crack in a fence, he sees cranes pulling up other cranes, scaffoldings that embrace other scaffoldings, beams that prop up other beams. “What meaning does your construction have?” he asks. “What is the aim of a city under construction unless it is a city? Where is the plan you are following, the blueprint?”

“We will show it to you as soon as the working day is over; we cannot interrupt our work now,” they answer.

Work stops at sunset. Darkness falls over the building site. The sky is filled with stars. “There is the blueprint,” they say.

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…for your STORYBOARD (click to enlarge):

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Good luck!

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© DINUK WIJERATNE & DEBUT ATLANTIC 2013 – Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.