Fonds AS - Ann Southam fonds

Drawing by Ann Southam Biography of Ann Southam and list of compositions Biographies and program notes "Four in Hand" by Ann Southam : [programme] Handwritten playback notes concerning "Seastill" by Southam "Pond Life" : [recording notes and cue-sheet] "Returning" and "Rivers" : [recording notes] "Rivers" : [notes by Southam] "Three Quiet Songs" by Ann Southam : [score] [Untitled drafts and notes by Ann Southam]
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Ann Southam fonds

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pfla AS

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  • ca. 1904-2011, predominate 1954-2011 (Creation)
    Southam, Ann

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Physical description

1.04 m of textual and graphic material
64 audio compact discs
18 7 inch audio tapes
15 audio cassette tapes
10 DVDs
9 vinyl records (audio discs)
3 10.5 inch audio tapes

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Ann Southam was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba on February 4, 1937, her father (Kenneth Gordon Southam) was the great-grandson of Canadian newspaper baron William Southam.

At the age of three Southam and her family re-located to Toronto, Ontario, which was to be her home for the rest of her life. She was educated at the exclusive Bishop Strachan School (BSS) for Girls.

1952 marked a watershed year for Ann, her father died, and she also developed an interest in composition, which was nurtured by a summer she spent at the Banff School of Fine Arts (the first of many trips to the School). However, at her mother’s insistence, after graduating high school she briefly pursued secretarial studies at Shaw’s Business School. She dropped out after a year, when she secured a place at the Royal Conservatory of Music.

At the Royal Conservatory Southam was mentored by the progressive Professor Samuel “Sam” Dolin. Dolin introduced Southam to the world of “tape music” (now “electronic composition). During this period, Southam started to study piano with Pierre Souvairan and electronic music with Gustav Ciamaga at the University of Toronto, where she was a student between 1960 and 1963.

In 1966, Southam began teaching electroacoustic composition at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Dolin introduced Southam to dancer and choreographer Patricia Beatty, who introduced Southam to the world of modern dance. Beatty would go on to found the Toronto Dance Theatre. In 1968 Southam became the Theatre’s Composer-in-Residence, beginning a 15 year collaboration over which time Southam wrote at least thirty electronic works for their productions. Her work with the Theatre helped establish her as one of Canada’s leading composers.

In the late 1970s Southam begin collaborating with Music Inter Alia, the brainchild of fellow Banff School alumna Diana McIntosh, on creating mixed media works, such as “Eliptosonics” (1979) and “Light Lines, Sound Lines” (1980).

In the early 1980s Southam’s compositions started to reflect a shift away from electronic to acoustic music. This was inspired by a renewed interest in “the physicality of performing”. For instance in 1981’s “Four in Hand”, written for pianists Jane Blackstone and Ruth Kazdan involves the performers “blasting about the keyboard” (as described in “Musicworks”, Summer 1998).

At the same time she developed an interest in more minimalist composition, inspired by composers such as Terry Riley and Steve Reich. This demonstrated itself in pieces such as “Glass Houses” (1981). “Glass Houses” was important as it also introduced Southam to a longtime professional collaborator, pianist Christina Petrowska-Quilico, who recorded a demo tape of two Southam pieces: “Glass Houses” and “Rivers”.

As one of Canada’s first major women composers, Southam was deeply interested in nurturing new women composers and artists, quietly funding many new initiatives, performances, and projects. She was a founding member, first president (1980-1988), and later honourary president of the Association of Canadian Women Composers (ACWC). Feminist elements have long been noticed in her work, collaborators such as Eve Egoyan and Gayle Young noted that according to Southam “there is a close connection between composing for or playing the piano and other forms of work done by hand, such as weaving, that reflect the nature of traditional women’s work—repetitive, life-sustaining, requiring time and patience…” (“Musicworks”, no. 101).

In the late 1980s and 1990s Southam abandoned electroacustic writing, composing works such as “Throughways” (1988) written for a chamber orchestra, works for stringed instruments such as “Song of the Varied Thrush” (1991) and “Webster’s Spin” (1993). Later she started a long-standing and fruitful collaboration with pianist Eve Egoyan, working together on “Qualities of Consonance” (1998) and the critically acclaimed “Simple Lines of Enquiry” (2008).

In 2008 Southam was diagnosed with lung cancer, dying two years later in 2010 on November 25, 2010 (Eve Egoyan and Christina Petrowska-Quilico performed at her memorial). Shortly before her death, on May 6, 2010 she was inducted into the Order of Canada, her citation read: “For her contributions as one of Canada’s prominent women composers, known for electronic, acoustic and orchestral works, and as a philanthropist and committed volunteer”.

Selected Compositions by Ann Southam:


“Rhapsodic Interlude for Violin Alone” (1963)
“Momentum” (1967)
“Configurations” (1973)
“CounterPlay” (1973)
“Integruities” (1975)
“Interviews” (1976)
“Towards Green” (1976)
“Waves” (1978)
“Networks” (1978)
“Re-Tuning” (1985)
“Quintet” (1986)
“Alternate Currents, Percussion Music for Solo Performer” (1987)
“Throughways: Improvising Music” (1988)
“Song of the Varied Thrush” (1991)
“The Music So Far” (1992)
“This Time” (1992)
“Webster’s Spin” (1993)
“Full Circles” (1996, rev. 2005)
“Music for Strings” (2000)
“Figures: Music for Piano and String Orchestra” (2001)


“Suite for Piano” (1960)
“Four Bagatelles” (1961)
“Sea Flea” (1962)
“Altitude Lake” (1963)
“Three in Blue” (1965)
“Quolibet” (1966)
“Counterparts” (1966)
“Sonata in One Movement” (1966)
“Toccata” (1966)
“Five Pieces in a Jazz Manner” (1970)
“Five Shades of Blue” (1970)
“Rivers” Set 1 (1979), Set 2 (1979), Set 3 (1981)
“Sonocylces” (1979)
“Soundspinning” (1979)
“Soundstill” (1979)
“Slow Music I” (1979)
“Slow Music II” (1980)
“Slow Music III” (1981)
“Cool Blue; Red Hot” (1980)
“Four in Hand” (1981)
“Glass Houses” (1981)
“Soundings for a New Piano” (1986)
“Spatial View of Pond” (1986)
“In a Measure of Time” (1988)
“Remembering Shubert” (1993)
“Qualities of Consonance” (1998)
“Two by Two” (2000)
“In Retrospect” (2004)
“Simple Lines of Enquiry” (2008)
“Pond Life” (2008)


“The Recitation” (1968)
“Three Plus Three” (1968)
“A Thread of Sand” (1969)
“Against Sleep” (1969)
“Encounter” (1969)
“Continuum” (1969)
“Voyage for Four Male Dancers” (1970)
“Flique” (1970)
“Untitled Solo” (with sean o huigan) (1970)
“Eight-Way Jones” (with sean o huigan) (1971)
“Prospect Park” (1971)
“Boat, River, Moon” (1972)
“Figure in the Pit” (1972)
“Sky Sails” (with sean o huigan) (1973)
“Harold Morgan’s Delicate Balance” (with sean o huigan) (1973)
“L’Assassin Menace” (1974)
“Mythic Journey” (1974)
“Walls and Passageways” (1974)
“The Reprieve” (1975)
“Me and My Friends” (1975)
“Nighthawks” (1976)
“Rude Awakening” (1976)
“Soundplay” (1978)
“Seastill” (1979)
“Boundaries” (1980)
“The Story’s Dream” (1980)
“Natural Resources, Or What to Do Until the Power Comes On” (1981)
“The Emerging Ground” (1983)
“Rewind” (1984)
“Music for Slow Dancing” (1985)
“Goblin Market” (1986)
“Fluke Sound” (1989)

Mixed Media:

“Eliptosonics” (1979)
“Light Lines, Sound Lines” (1979)
“The Story’s Dream” (1980)

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists of material relating to Southam's professional life, and personal interests. The fonds is divided into ten series which reflect the many items found in fonds. Materials in the fonds include recordings (both by Southam and by others), scores (both by Southam and others), programmes, articles about Southam, photographs (personal and professional), material used by Southam in mixed-media presentation, and other material.

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Immediate source of acquisition

Material was donated to Banff Centre Archives by the estate of Ann Southam in 2013. The material was organized and shipped to the Archives by Tamara Bernstein. Many notes by Tamara were found in the archival collection, and explain provenance or importance of materials, these notes were signed "TB", and when helpful they have been left with the material in the fonds.


Arrangement was imposed by two archivists and Tamara Bernstein.

An attempt was made to preserve only the archival material in the donation. Published materials were, in some cases, donated to the Library or housed in a Special Collection. Contact the Archives for a full listing of material that arrived with the donation.

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Copyright in Southam's musical works remains with the Canadian Music Centre (CMC).

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See ACWC (Association of Canadian Women Composers fonds) for additional materials on the ACWC.

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Only some material in the fonds has been digitized. Please contact Banff Centre Archives to explore the whole fonds.

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