“Gayle Young is a Canadian treasure! Her work is a beautiful part of the community of experimental musicians of the world. Her writings are generous and illuminating. Her music is inviting and lovely just as she is.” ___________________________________________________Pauline Oliveros

Gayle Young

Born St Catharines, Ont, 22 Mar 1950. Gayle Young is a Canadian music artist, involved in composition and sound sculpture. As a composer and performer, she developed notational systems and designed musical instruments. The invention and performance upon the microtonal percussion instruments, the Amaranth and Columbine, have been mentioned in several publications. Along with creating her own electroacoustic compositions, Young has authored a biography of Hugh LeCaine, the foremost Canadian inventor of electronic instruments. She has worked with R. Murray Schafer, Pauline Oliveros, Michael Snow, Gerry Hemingway, David Mott, Don Wherry and many others prominent names in contemporary new music


Gayle Young studied contemporary music at Toronto’s York University, 1974-77, with David Rosenboom, Richard Teitelbaum, James Tenney, and Bob Becker, among others. Her compositions have been broadcast and performed internationally and she has received several awards and commissions. She has researched and written numerous articles about artists and issues in contemporary music, and is the publisher of Musicworks Magazine. She is also a founding board member of the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology, formed during a conference in Banff in 1995, and the Canadian Association for Acoustic Ecology.

In January 1978 she presented the first concert of microtonal music composed for a percussion instrument she designed and built using 23 pitches per octave in an expanded just intonation tuning system: the Columbine. Many performances followed, featuring this instrument in works that she and other composers have written for it. From 1979 to 1982 she was a consulting composer with Wm. Buxton’s Structured Sound Synthesis Project which pioneered research in graphic interfaces for computer music systems at the University of Toronto.

In 1980 she designed and built a 24-stringed instrument with a flexible tuning system. As a composer performing on instruments of her own design, Young often experienced enthusiastic response from non-specialist audiences after verbal introductions to the music were provided. She became convinced of the importance of articulating the intentions of innovative practices in new music and sound arts, and the social and cultural contexts in which such art forms flourish.
When Musicworks, a magazine dedicated to innovative and adventurous sound exploration, began publication in 1978 Young submitted articles about tuning systems, and interviews with several composers including one with James Tenney—one of the first publications about this composer. In 1988 Young became editor of Musicworks magazine; she is now its publisher. The Sackbut Blues, Young’s biography of Hugh Le Caine, an early Canadian electronic music pioneer and inventor, was published in 1989; in 1999 she released a CD of compositions and demonstrations found among Le Caine’s papers.

Young has also contributed to interdisciplinary arts practices. In 1978-79 she composed three compositions for sculptural installations by Reinhard Reitzenstein. These works, with an accompanying book of photos, were released on the 1980 LP According. Young’s later works in sound installation, also co-created with Reitzenstein, extend her interest in the role of sound in the everyday environment and emphasize interactive sound exploration, as described in a chapter of the book Sonic Geography.

She has curated several exhibitions of sound sculpture, including ‘Sounds of Invention’ for the 1990 Newfoundland Sound Symposium and “J’écoute / I am Listening” for the Glendon Gallery at York University in Toronto, for which she produced a bilingual exhibition catalog on video. Her revised catalog essay for ‘Sounds of Invention’ was republished by Artexte in the book S:on in 2004.

Young has written many compositions for chamber ensembles, often using standard tuning systems. Some of her recent compositions use texts as a structural device allowing a degree of freedom to performers without reducing the complexity of the music.
Her 2002 composition Fissure (dedicated to the late Don Wherry, artistic director of the Newfoundland Sound Symposium) combined microtonal tunings with soundscape: noise-based environmental sound is recorded through tuned lengths of tubing, which filter the noise according to their lengths. Young’s compositions have been broadcast and performed internationally and she has received several awards and commissions from national and provincial arts councils.