Gates of Light

Year Composed: 2006
Instrumentation: flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano
Duration 9 minutes

Audio Excerpts (MP3)

Program Notes

Gates of Light was composed for the Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal workshop at the University of Toronto, 2006. This workshop afforded me the opportunity to experiment with a number of techniques I had never used but was intrigued by, including an adventurous rhythmic drive, saturated counterpoint, and a generally 'spiky' pitch palette, all contributing to a discourse that is not so much non-tonal as it is vigorously and aggressively anti-tonal. The title was influenced partly by the phrase "light at the end of the tunnel," meaning the peace attained at the end of a lengthy period of ordeal. Far from being comforting or luminous, however, Gates of Light dwells on the 'tunnel' itself, twisting and churning vertiginously toward an uncertain goal.


  • October, 2006 - Ensemble contemporain de Montréal, conducted by Veronique Lacroix; University of Toronto (reading only)
  • April 5, 2012 - Ensemble Paramirabo. Café L'Artère, Montréal
  • April 28, 2012 - Ensemble Paramirabo. Lily Pad, Boston
  • May 5, 2012 - Ensemble Paramirabo. Chapelle Historique, Montréal
  • March 20, 2013 - Ensemble Paramirabo. Gallery 345, Toronto


  • "The first piece on the program, Gates of Light by Canadian composer Kevin Lau, exploded with a savage intensity. Right away the cohesiveness of this ensemble was apparent — they danced lightly over an extremely thick web of rhythmic complexity, each player aware of the score’s nuances, providing the listener with a feeling of complete ease despite such tangled intricacy. Lugubrious and dizzying lines wound themselves ever upward as Lau’s music gained complexity and strength, and, at times, strains of tango music seemed to appear...

    "This 'saturated counterpoint' created an unending stream of energy and tension, often setting the piano against the rest of the ensemble with such elaborate rhythmic patterns that one single misstep would have caused disaster. Lau's piece was a highlight of the concert, and a fine way to open the program." - Andrew Crust, Bachtrack, May 9 / 2012.

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