Marc Sabat

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Marc Sabat
Born (1965-09-22) 22 September 1965 (age 55)
Kitchener, Ontario, Canada
Years active1970s – present
WebsitePlainsound Music Edition

Marc Sabat (born 22 September 1965) is a Canadian composer based in Berlin since 1999.


He has made concert music pieces, works with video, and installations with acoustic instruments and, in some recent pieces, computer-generated electronics, drawing inspiration from investigations of the sounding and perception of small number relations (Just Intonation), American folk and experimental musics, Minimal Art. His work is presented internationally in radio broadcasts and at festivals of new music including the Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik, Donaueschinger Musiktage,[1] MaerzMusik,[2] Darmstadt and Carnegie Hall.[3] His works do not fall into a single personal style, but they generally share a crystalline clarity of texture and a seek to focus listeners' perception of sounding structures into a process of musical 'thinking'. Sabat is a frequent collaborator, having worked often with visual artists and other composers, including brother painter and filmmaker Peter Sabat. Other collaborators include John Oswald (composer), Martin Arnold, Nicolas Fernandez, Matteo Fargion, Wolfgang von Schweinitz, and Stefan Bartling. Most recently, since 2006 he has been working on a series of works placing compositions in scenery with works of Düsseldorf-based artist Lorenzo Pompa. Sabat's music may be heard on the Plainsound Music Edition YouTube Channel.[4]


Since the early 1990s, Sabat has been reinvestigating harmony by studying the theory and musical applications of Just Intonation. Together with Wolfgang von Schweinitz he conceived and developed a method of staff notation for JI ratios called The Extended Helmholtz-Ellis JI Pitch Notation.[5] He has also studied JI intervals empirically on string and brass instruments, developing a list of so-called "tuneable intervals": ratios within a three-octave span which can readily be tuned by ear using electronic or acoustic sounds. These intervals have been used in a number of recent compositions and also are the basis of a self-tuning computer algorithm ("Micromaelodeon")[6] which is currently under development. The most recent version was implemented in April 2009 on a Haken Audio Continuum Fingerboard and programmed in MaxMSP.

Current and Upcoming Projects[edit]

Recent projects include a concerto for piano and 14 instruments, "Lying in the grass, river and clouds", premiered by Daan Vandewalle in Bludenz with Ensemble Contrechamps commissioned by Alexander Moosbrugger with funding from the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung and the Canada Council, premiered at the 2012 Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik, a songcycle and cantata on texts by Uljana Wolf, a trio for Magnus Andersson, Rohan de Saram and Pascal Gallois, a bass solo for Frank Reinecke.

Studies, Teaching, Residencies[edit]

Sabat studied at the University of Toronto, at the Juilliard School in New York, as well as working privately with Malcolm Goldstein, James Tenney and Walter Zimmermann. He attended courses in electronic and computer music at McGill University. In 2008-9 he took part in a postgraduate pilot project initiated by the Berlin University of the Arts, the Graduiertenschule für die Künste und die Wissenschaften.

He teaches courses in composition, acoustics and experimental intonation[7] at the Universität der Künste Berlin, and has been a guest artist at the California Institute of the Arts, at the Escola Superior in Barcelona, the Janáček Music Academy in Brno and the Paris Conservatoire.

In fall 2010, he was artist-in-residence of the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles,[8] followed in 2011 by a one-year Stipendium at the German Academy in Rome, Villa Massimo.[9] Previous residencies include Akademie Schloss Solitude (1997–98, music juror: Christian Wolff), Herrenhaus Edenkoben (1996, music juror: Peter Eötvös).

Career as Violinist[edit]

Beginning in the 1980s, Sabat has also been active as a performer on violin and adapted viola, concentrating primarily on American Experimental Music of the 20th Century. He has recorded CDs of music by James Tenney, Morton Feldman, Christian Wolff, and Maria de Alvear, amongst others. In the 1990s, whilst living in Toronto, he formed a duo with pianist Stephen Clarke, as well as performing with the Modern Quartet and Arraymusic. Like the great American pianist and electronic musician David Tudor, in recent years Sabat has largely abandoned a concert career in favor of creating his own music.

List of works[edit]



  • Swing in sweetest summer (a chromatic ground for glissando-flute; 2013)
  • Air—Spit—Tune (mezzo-soprano, adapted viola; 2013)
  • Lying in the grass, river and clouds (solo piano and 14 instruments: alto flute/piccolo, oboe d'amore, clarinet, bassoon, horn, trombone, tuba, percussion, digital keyboard, violin 1, violin 2, viola, cello, bass; 2012)
  • Jean-Philippe Rameau (any three sustaining instruments; 2012)
  • LOSS and GAIN (edition of 7 double LP vinyl dub plates; 2011)
  • ERIK SATIE Vexations INTONATION (3 instruments-open; 2011)
  • Kaleidoskop für Gerd Lünenbürger (string ensemble; 2011)
  • Euler Lattice Spirals Scenery (string quartet; 2011)
  • John Jenkins (2-manual harpsichord in just Intonation, six instruments; 2011/01)
  • Epistolae Cucumeris (edition; 2010)
  • Hairy Hippy Happy (double horn, tenorbass trombone, 5-valve F-tuba; 2010)
  • String Quartet 2 (Cucumber Variation) (2 violins, viola, cello; 2010)
  • Composition for La Monte Young (February 2010) (two players, twice the same instrument; 2010)


  • 2nd WAKE (for Bob) (computer-controlled Fokker organ in 31-tone equal temperament; 2009)
  • Cucumber Serenades (Gurkenlieder) (violin solo, violin choir, electronic tones; 2009)
  • Tristan, Isolde (2 pianos; 2009)
  • Father's suit and watch (video ballet; 2009; made with Lorenzo Pompa)
  • Garden Songs (prerecorded voice, alto flute, dobro, percussion; 2009; text by Wolfgang Betke)
  • eudaimonia (piano; 2009; composed with Stefan Bartling)
  • Erbsen (5 recorders or solo recorder with prerecorded track; 2009)
  • By the Rivers of Babylon (bass and mezzo-soprano voices, adapted viola and synthesizer; 2008; based on words and melody notated by Harry Partch)
  • De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine (viola, bass violin and cello – each instrumentalist must also sing; 2008)
  • Claudius Ptolemy (violin, cello; 2008)
  • November 15, 1935 – Leaving Santa Barbara (version for solo intoning voice and violin; 2007; based on words and melody notated by Harry Partch)
  • wave piano scenery player (MIDI piano, computer and live performer; 2007; made with Lorenzo Pompa)
  • reminded again (music scenery for accordion/harmonium and electronic tones; 2007)
  • WAKE for JIM (player-piano and live performer; 2007)
  • reminded of charlemagne Palestine (violin, cello, piano; 2007)
  • AUTOMAT (music scenery for 2 violins and video; 2007; made with Peter Sabat)
  • November 15, 1935 – Leaving Santa Barbara (version for solo intoning voice and adapted viola with spoken, sung and played accompaniment on violin, viola, and violoncello; 2006; based on words and melody notated by Harry Partch)
  • By the Rivers of Babylon (version for solo intoning voice and adapted viola with spoken, sung and played accompaniment on horn, trombone, and tuba; 2006; based on words and melody notated by Harry Partch)
  • Wonderful Scatter (music scenery for 6-valve F tuba, computer, filtered loudspeaker; 2005)
  • Spectral Canon No. 1 (for James Tenney) (12 contrabasses or solo contrabass with delay; 2005)
  • Les Duresses : a book of music in Just Intonation (solo violin/2 violins; 2004-)
  • Henrys Cowbell DJ & Strike (5 percussionists and computer-generated electronic tones; 2004)
  • Three For Magister Zacharias (installation; 2004; made with Peter Sabat)
  • John Jenkins (string trio and 2-manual harpsichord in Helmholtz Temperament; 2003)
  • Three For Magister Zacharias (DVD-Video with 5-channel sound; 2002; made with Peter Sabat)
  • Artificial Music for Machines (MIDI-output acoustic piano, computer-generated tuned sinetones; 2002)
  • Change in your pocket (DVD-Video with 2-channel sound; 2002; made with Nicolas Fernandez and Peter Sabat)
  • Johann Sebastian Bach RICERCAR Musikalisches Opfer 1 INTONATION (any 3 appropriate instruments in Just Intonation; 2001; made with Wolfgang von Schweinitz)
  • John Jenkins (6 instruments & 2-manual harpsichord in Helmholtz Temperament; 2001)
  • Hope (male and female voice, bass flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano; 2000; text by Philostratus, translated by Christian Wolff)
  • YOU MAY NOT WANT TO BE HERE (after Bruce Nauman) (violin, piano, voices; 2000; composed with Matteo Fargion)
  • Idyllily (11 solo strings [6,2,2,1] and obbligato voices; 2000; composed with Martin Arnold, John Oswald, Richard Wagner)


  • 4 piano inventions (piano; 1999)
  • Backyard summer patio (bass clarinet, percussion, piano; 1999)
  • Three Fleshy Loves (clarinet, violin, cello, piano; 1998)
  • Everlasting sweet peas (3 violins; 1998)
  • Ein modernes Kaufhaus (clarinet, trombone, cello, piano; 1998)
  • Trio for piano violin cello (1998)
  • New shoes, without laces (monodrama for female voice, accordion, violin, cello, percussion; 1998; text by Nicolas Fernandez)
  • Change in your pocket (performance for any string instrument & digital delay; 1997)
  • Mein Mantel ist weg for Ensemble Da Noi (whistling, saxophones, violin, electric bass, harpsichord; 1997)
  • An Opera (violin and clavichord or marimba; 1997; based on a text by Emmett Williams)
  • You & Mr Mason (11 piano players with no previous experience required; 1997)
  • for solo voice (soprano; 1997)
  • For Magister Zacharias (performance for amplified Steinway piano mechanism; 1997)
  • Nocturne (piano; 1996)
  • pier (ships horns; 1996; composed with John Oswald)
  • Quiet Winter (violin solo, 3 saxophones, 2 clarinets, violin, cello, bass; 1996)
  • Composition for trumpet and bass drum (1996)
  • 2 piano studies (1995)
  • Beautiful city (string quartet; 1994)
  • 3 Chorales for Harry Partch (violin, viola; 1993)


External links[edit]