Meet William Peltier

by Abigail Richardson-Schulte

More musicians and artists are moving to our city every day. Many of them keep their previous professional lives pretty intact and sometimes don’t mention they have moved to Hamilton, sometimes in fear of the Toronto crowd thinking they have fallen off the planet. Or, they just don’t find their type of work in Hamilton. Until I started my position at the HPO five years ago, I was one of those people. I had lived in Hamilton for 8 years before I started working as a composer in our city. That didn’t mean I wasn’t busy, it just meant that Hamilton hadn’t found me yet.

I recently wrote an article about JUNO Award winning Hamilton-raised composer Marjan Mozetich. I asked him if he had been celebrated as a Hamiltonian and his answer was as I expected – not really, no. It takes organizations with a strong community link to step up and support living artists from within our midst. I’m really proud that the HPO is now programming and celebrating Marjan’s work (The Passion of Angels, April 8, Postcards from the Sky, May 23). We should be championing our own.

Our HPO What Next Festival is a great chance to discover composers living in our own city. Meet William Peltier. William moved to Hamilton six years ago. He was born in Windsor and educated at Laurier and McGill. His music has been performed from Amsterdam and Berlin to Havana and Buenos Aires. Has it been performed in Hamilton? No. This will be William’s Hamilton debut!

William writes music in a very unusual way, with a technique he invented called Object-Oriented Composition. He says “People will always organize objects in artful ways. People will always be drawn to experiencing artfully organized objects.” So what is this technique? To me, it seems architecturally inspired. He first divides musical gestures into small units and calls them objects. They are then organized together, perhaps by a process more similar to building a structure with a combination of materials rather than “developed”, as in traditional composition. He tells me it is similar to current computer programming which uses a process called “oop” – object oriented programming. For more on his Object-Oriented Composition, visit William’s website at

The composing world is pretty small. I knew William was living in Hamilton and was keen to program a work of his. When he told me about his new idea, I instantly thought it would be a good fit for our Canadian inspired What Next Festival. I asked him how he came up with the idea of using the legendary Stompin’ Tom as a starting point:

Stompin’ Tom gave me the idea of having musicians stomp on plywood and then I came up with the title, “The Futility of the Furious Stomp”, so those were the two jump off points to creating the piece. Originally, I envisioned a kind of dual between two musicians, but I just couldn’t make it work.  Also, I believe I was having them do too much stomping.  I liked the percussive nature of the stomping, so I thought I’d relieve the musicians from the bulk of the stomping and add a percussionist to give the piece the energy I was looking for. Now, the musicians only stomp at a couple of points in the piece to bring in some drama and theatrics and I rely more on the percussionist to carry the rhythmical drive of the piece. Works much better. I wasn’t sure of what the duo would be – I just had some musical material for 2 instruments.  But when we talked and there was a possibility that you’d play the piece, I immediately thought of Leslie and Stephen-they’re both amazing performers! So that’s how it kind of evolved.

William is referring to our Principal Flute Leslie Newman and Concertmaster Stephen Sitarski, both new music veterans. The piece will indeed be performed by Leslie Newman but she will be joined by our soon to be stompin’ Associate Concertmaster Lance Ouellette and “dysfunctional drum kit” player Stefan Kitai (many of you will know Stefan as the smiling triangle player at the back of the orchestra, a favourite of our audience). I asked William how much Stompin’ Tom is in the piece:

Although Stompin’ Tom’s plywood stomping was my jump off point to creating the piece and there are a couple of subtle references to his musical style to give the piece a kind of rhythmical drive, I did not attempt to imitate him. My intention was to create music that has an energetic and rather eccentric character. 

The title of the work is The Futility of the Furious Stomp, so where does the futility come in?

The title of the piece alludes to the idea that anger and aggression never solve our problems; it is acts of compassion, kindness and peace that make our lives and world more joyous. The music ends in a way that reflects this ideal.

To meet William yourself and hear his world premiere with our HPO musicians stomping on plywood, join us at the Rock on Locke, May 27 at 7:30pm. Pay What You Can.