About Michael

Photo: André Leduc

Michael J. Baker was born in Edmonton, Alberta, in 1949.  He began his musical career as a trumpet player, playing with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the Tommy Banks Band before moving to Toronto in 1971. There he became involved in the modern dance community as an accompanist. A growing interest in interdisciplinary work prompted a period of study in New York with composer/cellist Gwendolyn Watson. Returning from New York, he studied conducting with Roman Toi as well as harmony, counterpoint and orchestration at the Royal Conservatory of Music. Largely self-taught as a composer, his musical language developed out of an early interest in the pulse and process music of the American minimalists.

Soon, Michael J. Baker became one of Canada’s most active composers of music for dance, having collaborated with many of the nation’s major choreographers.  His works are in the repertoires of such companies and artists as the National Ballet of Canada, James Kudelka, Toronto Dance Theatre, Peggy Baker, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Dancemakers, Marie-Josée Chartier, and Montréal Danse. Many of these works have been performed extensively throughout Canada, USA, Europe, South America and the Orient. In 1992 he renewed his interest in multi-disciplinary work, creating Big Pictures with painter Dan Solomon and choreographer Bill James. In 2008, the Big Pictures musical score was inducted in the Paul Klee Zentrum Archives in Bern Switzerland. His work with choreographer James Kudelka, In Paradisum, is featured in the films Dance for Modern Times and Sur les Scènes de l’Orient, and in the television series The Dancemakers, which also features his work Animated Shorts, choreographed by Christopher House.

In addition to his theatrical work, he composed works for groups and soloists  such as Arraymusic, the Canadian Electronic Ensemble, Strange Companions,  Barbara Pritchard, Peter Hannan’s Hal Band and Les Coucous Bénévoles. He also enjoyed his activities as a musician performing in the works of other composers as well as with Toronto’s Glass Orchestra.

Michael J. Baker was very active as a conductor, both in the contemporary  music and film communities. He was a regular conductor with the Arraymusic Ensemble, a member of Musicdance Orchestra with Bob Stevenson and Holly Small and artistic director of Numus in Waterloo; he conducted the Hemispheres Ensemble and for several productions of Autumn Leaf Performance. He was the music director of the National Choreographic Seminar at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver in 1985. The recipient of numerous commissions from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council, Michael was a member of the Canadian League of Composers, an affiliate of the Canadian Music Centre, a member of the American Federation of Musicians as well as a member of SOCAN.

In 1993, Michael J. Baker became the Artistic Director of Arraymusic. In this capacity, he was responsible for the development of several large, multi-disciplinary events, incorporating new music, dance and theatre, establishing ongoing collaborations abroad with such groups as Grame in Lyon, France. His tenure at Arraymusic was marked by his dedication to promoting the diverse voices of both young and established composers, in Canada and abroad. He died in Toronto of leukemia on September 16, 2000.