The Feather Songbook & CD (2016)

Sylvi MacCormac introduced herself in the ’80s with cassettes that showed her to be a talented songwriter in the Joni Mitchell/Bruce Cockburn vein. She later won acclaim for her soundscapes (sometimes no more than a taped conversation over tea). The Feather, her first album in years, manages to combine all her pursuits. The front half is about 50 minutes of her songs, the most pleasing of which is the title track featuring an ethereal yet intimate vocal plus equally moody instrumentation such as a melancholy violin. The rest of the CD is taken up by her soundscapes. These abstractions are an acquired taste, but are more concise than formerly with layers of sound and some arrangement. Both halves suggest sophistication (or maturity).

THE FEATHER CD contains 13 Music Tracks available at


1. The Feather (5:42)
2. Why? (4:42)
3. Carving Canoes: For the Wild (5:08)
4. Horizon (4:55)
5. Phoenix (5:31)
6. Aural Shadows (6:02)
7. Coastal Chant (6:02)
8. The Feather (7:39) 1993 & 2013 miX
9. Little House Big World / Bahay Kubo Malaking Mundo (4:21)
10. Vaudeville Soundchecks #therewerenomixingboardsinvaudeville (8:42)
11. Voices of a Place: Hildegard Westerkamp inside the Soundscape (6:16)
12. Waves of Kokoro (10:42)
13. Penny: a Process (3:12)

Produced by sylvi macCormac and Dave Symington; Mastered by Dave Meszaros
Recorded and Engineered by Dave Symington and Graeme Liam Wyman
Songbook & CD Design by Nicole Dextras; Music Notation by Brenda Baird

Voice and Harmonica by sylvi macCormac – Keys and Accordion by Brenda Baird – Saxaphone and Flute by Ross Barrett Viola by Thomas Beckman – Violin by Blaine Dunaway – Vocals by Mahal Langston – Musical Saw and Penny Whistle by Andrea Minden – Percussion and Didgeridoo by Russell Shumsky – Acoustic and Electric Bass by Wendy Solloway – Electronic Drums by Dave Symington – Electric Guitar & E-Bow by Graeme Liam Wyman

Recorded at VAMS Studio except Track 9 recorded with The Boom Booms and VAMS Choir at VAMS and The Warehouse Studio for VAMS Straight Goods CD (2013) Co-produced by Dave Symington and Craig Northey and Tracks 10-13 recorded and composed at SFU and See Through Studios by sylvi macCormac, including archives from the World Soundscape Project.

Special Thanks to Dave Symington, Nicole Dextras, Brenda Baird, Graeme Liam Wyman, Musicians, Dave Meszaros, Matthew Wild; Bravo Gloria, Souying, Jay Q for help sustaining and translating Little House Big World / Bahay Kubo Malaking Mundo; T’Uy Tanat/Cease Wyss for giving a Skwxwú7mesh/Squamish blessing to The Feather Songbook & CD

The Feather on the cover was given to me in ceremony of Uts’am / Witness (1997-2007)

Chen kw’enmántumi / Huy Chewx A / Meegwetch / Hi Hi / Graçias / Merçi / Xie Xie / Do Jay / Abrigado / Salamat Po / Shukriya / Dhanyavad / Chokrane / Cám On / Kop Khun Kha / Danka / Dziekuje / Hvala / Spasiba / Tashakur / Mamnoon / Asante / Go Raibh Maith Agat / Thank You

Dedicated with Love and Thanks to my Mother, Father, Brothers, Sisters, Family, Friends, Community, Vancouver Adapted Music Society, Squamish Nation and All my Relations

© 2016 sylvi & see through publishing (socan) Coast Salish Territories, Vancouver BC, Canada – –


Sylvi MacCormac finally has her album and book, The Feather, ready. She launched it Jan. 30 at Havana and goes online with it Tuesday via CD Baby.

Tom Harrison, The Province February 1, 2016

Sylvi MacCormac has all but received her shipment of a new CD and her songbook The Feather. She’s at the Havana Theatre, Jan. 20.
Tom Harrison, The Province Jan 27, 2016



PDF – macCormac The Feather Songbook sml

E-Book soon to be released

THE FEATHER Songbook contains 8 notated songs

and A Very Sweet Beginning (semi-autobiography)

The Feather on the cover was given to me during ceremony of Uts’am / Witness (1997-2007)

Dedicated with Love and Thanks to my Mother and Father Brothers and Sisters, Family, Friends, Community Vancouver Adapted Music Society, Squamish Nation and All my Relations

See Through Publishing Coast Salish Territories Vancouver BC Canada


“You are the feather given to me . . .

sylvi macCormac is a poet and a storyteller, and the feather is an ideal metaphor for her musical output: soft but strong, natural and enduring. As a musician she soars across boundaries, producing songs and soundscapes that echo her Celtic folk roots just as much as the electroacoustic world in which she was and remains, a pioneering figure. An eclectic persona with a fresh take on life and a humorous tickle in her veins, sylvi macCormac has been a constant and strong presence on the music scene and her voice flows with humanity, harmony, and justice. Her deep, introspective understanding of herself coupled with her quest for learning, love and inclusion result in a craft of immense depth and meaning. She discovers notes and phrases that touch the soul and intuition of humankind, often tending to trigger tears, laughter, epiphanies and calm in the listener. Working with sylvi is a creative exploration, I dare say an adventure! This is not creativity of conformity or format or genre but rather, a unique voice undergoing constant transformation and reflection. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, open and aware and enjoy this journey in life through her music!

Dave Symington December 2015 Vancouver, BC Canada


excerpts from semi-autobiography

A Very Sweet Beginning

me Mother and Father came from Ireland in 1956. My Father took the train out first. He poured sugar on his dinner because he thought it was the saltshaker. It was a very sweet beginning.

My Mother, Sylvia flew from Dublin with my two brothers Carl and Philip and older sister Michèle to New York, and then north to Toronto and west to Vancouver. They came as many immigrants, hoping for a better life for their family.

Mum would tell stories of Philip as a child, thinking he was born on the back of a cow and that the family lived in a white thatched cottage, always missing Ireland. Learning Gaelic via the web, Philip completed a Masters of Education on Language Acquisition via the Internet.

Mum was fond of saying, “Carl was such a sweet little boy taking care of Michèle in her pram. I’d leave the pram outside when I went in to shop. You know, you could do that in those days. People would admire da baby and Carl would say ‘yes, she’s my baby sister.’” Michèle was always busy with her hands creating crafts and paintings on glass and canvas, filling our home with the most beautiful art.

Named after a character in Gone with the Wind, my sister Melanie was born a beautiful baby and experienced the great Canadian adventure when Michèle took her young sister on a hand-made wooden raft on the Coquitlam River. Mum sensed something was wrong, that they were calling. They came home shivering to the bone and soaked to the soul.

My father, John Murphy was born in Newbridge, County Kildare. As a young man he worked with his father at Blood Stock Auctioneers creating and distributing catalogues that traced the lineage of the racehorses. Educated in English, Latin and French, John shared his love of language with his children.


Old Brick New Songs

Philip married Marleen, daughter of Eileen and Marvin Majocha of Marjan Galleries, one of Vancouver’s first Antique Galleries. The building is still located right across the Street from Bryan Adams’ The Warehouse Studios, where, with Craig Northey of Odds and Dave Symington co-producing we recorded Little House Big World with The Boom Booms and VAMS Choir for the Strong Sessions CD (2013). What are the Odds?

Marjan Galleries bought lots of boxes never knowing what treasures you might discover. Rockets to the moon though looking glass wardrobes in an enchanted mansion. Granny & Grampa lost a box on their journey to visit. Philip found a photo in one of the boxes, remarking “These people look familiar” and brought it home. Philip had found a photo of Stella and Captain Harney! i remember climbing the granite stairs and old cherry tree in Shaughnessy before we went hiking into and beyond Capilano Canyon.

Mum almost bought the Paddle Wheeler with the Marjans. When we’d walk along the seawall and see the Riverboat cruising on the water to the Fraser River, Mum would say “there goes my boat.” When Mum passed away i saw the Paddle Wheeler go by Siwash Rock and thought of Sylvia taking her boat back to Ireland.


At 16, i became an ice skating official at the West End Community Centre and qualified as a speed skater for the BC Winter Games in Prince George. Friends with her daughters during high school, i’d often hitch my horse at the homestead of Rose McGregor, manager of Isy’s Supper Club (later Isy’s Strip City) at the end of the club’s heyday as a venue for exotic dancers, rhythm and blues, soul and jazz musicians including Little Richard, Buddy Guy, Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson. After high school, as a picture framer i worked with images of some of the most beautiful artists: Bill Reid, Tony Onley, Norval Morrisseau, Peter & Traudi Margraff. i remember framing a gold watch for Bryan Adams from Jim Vallance and an original Emily Carr crossing my desk, an earlier painting of an English garden in contrast to her massive trees and totem poles.

At 21, i was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis. But it didn’t stop me from running away to the circus, becoming a clown and mask-maker, performing on stilts and unicycle. Some of my characters were Spottie the Dog with his funny puppets, Old Woman with her magic tea pots, and Silly the Clown Super Goof who never stopped attempting to fly. i performed with the eXtraOrdinary Clown Band in family and community events including the Vancouver International Children’s Festival and Vancouver Folk Music Festival.

Performing with my first name of sylvi as singer songwriter, i registered See Through Publishing in 1981 with SOCAN (Society of Canadian Composers Authors and Publishers) when it was still CAPAC (Composers, Authors and Publishers Association of Canada). In 1992 i co-produced Coastal Chants cassette tape with Jazz & Blues Violinist and Trumpeter Blaine Dunaway, winning Best Demo Presentation at CFOX Radio 99.3, Demo Listen Derby.


Vaudeville Soundchecks #therewerenomixingboardsinvaudeville

i was still green performing original folk-rock when i became embroiled in relations that almost destroyed me. Janus offered me the choice of two gold rings and a piano by the sea. i don’t play piano. i was assured i would be cared for, my music career managed. i entered chaos and control, and was introduced to abuse. i was a girl with guitar writing songs on railway lines with rose thorns, forsythia branches and holly prickles, scratching my heart over and over and over.

Janus with extreme fits of rage and jealousy were feral Jekyll and Hydes. Woken up at nights, yelled at while writing music, phoned ten times a day, watched, monitored, criticized, belittled and isolated, told to stop humming, finish scrubbing and put the drum down. i lost myself for several years drawn into unrequited love and toyed with amusingly, looking for acceptance and acknowledgment, trying to behave and belong, but always kept in line by the threat of verbal and physical assaults.

i was the odd girl out in the hood, writing poetry and performing by night, beaten down by daylight. i could hang out as long as i remained silent. Still temptation would taunt me and poetic sensibilities would find me composing to soothe the savage rose.

Janus said “You almost ruined me. I’m going to hurt, ruin and do you in.” They threw me from behind into the mixing board, hitting the wall, knees knocked out from under me, i found myself at the bottom of 22 stairs. No wonder i flew away with the angels then crashed and burned a few too many times. Disabled in Vaudeville Soundchecks? #therewerenomixingboardsinvaudeville

When i awoke this physical juncture appears to have thrown me from the 20th into the 21st Century. i quit performing and immersed myself in music and literature, falling in love with Soundscape Composition and became a woman composer painting with field recordings and colours of sounds. With my mother’s maiden name forming a kind of palindrome, composing as sylvi macCormac, i began to receive local and international honours with my music presented around the world in sound art and electroacoustic music concerts, radio, web, research catalogues and compilation CDs.


i remember playing for Women in Music at the Commodore and meeting Drew Burns at the Railway Club during Ellie’s 50th birthday party. Ellie O’Day is Canada’s first woman Rock DJ. Drew Burns was the Commodore bringing in the world’s greatest musicians for us to hear as we sprung to life on the dance floor. What ghosts whisper to us there?

During his youth Jimi Hendrix lived in Vancouver with his grandmother Nora, a cook at Aunt Vie’s Kitchen where they made the best fried chicken in town, playing guitar in the back and listening upfront to Dizzy Gillespie, Muddy Waters and Aretha Franklin on Main Street. Did he drink Chinese Tea at Mr. Hon’s on Keefer Street and enjoy Portuguese cornbread at Mrs. Gomez on Union Avenue? Bob’s your Uncle there’s a Spirit of the West where Legendary Hearts are found humming to the rivers of Chilliwack.

Forsythia by the sea like yellow roses on railway lines into eternity. Did Jimi Hendrix run into trouble in the Village of Luk’Luki on the Downtown East Side? Did drunken trolls making movies in pleather threaten to thrash his guitar and smash his soul into gelato? Was Maud Gonne aware of being inspiration for WB Yeats, forever gone, merely amused playing with his heart strings for her dramatic pleasure? Blooming Poetry. Next album, Hip Hop Rap and Johnny Cash.

Is it ironic that i would be Disabled in Vaudeville Sound Checks in Coast Salish Territory, Canada, when my Grandmother Stella MacCormack sang mezzo-soprano at the Abbey and Gaiety theatres in Dublin Ireland and was invited to sing in the Opera Houses of Europe, but her parents stopped her for fear she would run into trouble in the music business with its corruption and larceny, sex and drugs and rock and roll?


International Honours Coming Home

me Mother and Father came from Ireland in 1956. My Father took the train out first. His train broke down in a little town called WaWa in Northern Ontario, one of Glenn Gould’s favourite places. By coincidence, i was especially inspired to compose when hearing Glenn Gould’s Solitude Trilogy with the sounds of trains and waves, the syncopation of people’s voices spoken and sung.

i had worked as a picture framer, clown, mask maker, singer, songwriter and a girl with guitar. i knew multiple sclerosis would affect my ability to play and work with my hands, so i moved home to live in peace and continue my studies at Simon Fraser University. i was increasingly affected by MS, but i found that a sound stress-free healthy life, alone in nature and in city with community, swimming and composing, would be my medicine and my sanctuary.

A child of Irish immigrants who grew up on the West Coast of Canada, tho’ no longer able to play guitar because of MS, i am ‘still brave’ because electroacoustic soundscape composition and ‘new and improved’ radio provides me access to transcend disability and continue to explore fields of sound.

Electroacoustic music, including soundscape composition, stretches the boundaries of music by collaging sound, story and song, transforming sound sources with signal processing and combining them in creative ways. Diffusion extends familiar structures, by placing the listener inside the soundscape while inviting us on imaginary journeys.

R. Murray Schafer introduced the words Soundscape to describe our sonic environment and Schizophonia to refer to recorded sounds being reintroduced to our sonic environment via electroacoustic loud speakers. As a professor in the communications department at SFU, R. Murray Schafer established the World Soundscape Project in the 1970’s, creating awareness of our sonic environment and our responsibility in maintaining a healthy soundscape versus increasing noise pollution. The work continues today with various organizations including the World Forum for Acoustic Ecology.

Two of my favourite books dealing with aspects of sound, music and technology, are written and edited by Barry Truax; Handbook for Acoustic Ecology and Acoustic Communication. Barry Truax and Hildegard Westerkamp, teachers and composers, were two of the original members of the World Soundscape Project (WSP). Studying soundscape composition with Barry Truax, who encourages students to explore where no one has gone before, among other works i composed Voices of a Place: Hildegard Westerkamp inside the Soundscape, an audio portrait of the composer (1998).

Electroacoustic music opened sonic doors to new possibilities. Being in the music studio composing was like being in the art studio. Field recording felt natural like coming home, and composing like painting with timbres of sounds. i composed with Apple Macintosh, Peak Editing and ProTools Software, Digital Signal Processing, a wall of sound effects and Charlie Richmond’s Audio Box to create 8 Channel compositions, presenting Witness: Round Journey (2000) to the Audio Engineering Society. Literature and Language, Music and Technology, Art and Philoshopy, WB Yeats and the Japanese Nõ Theatre inspired me to compose many electroacoustic pieces and create an online eBook called The Rose & The Railway: of Yeats & Nõ Being and Blooming on Line (2000).

The history of electroacoustics fascinates me. Hugh LeCaine built Canada’s first synthesizer, Sackbut, and in the 1950’s composed one of my favourite pieces called Dripsody with the sound of one water drop. Leon Theremin in 1920s Russia built one of the first electronic instruments, Theremin, which sounds like a haunted violin by moving one’s hand about a metal antenna. John Cage’s music, predecessors and contemporaries, continue to inspire me with the idea that there can be no silence since sound is always around us and ambient sound is music. The Beatles on their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band have a picture of Karlheinz Stockhausen, one of the early electroacoustic composers. All of these ideas opened my ears to new compositional horizons. Did Trevor Wishart compose with reasons to listen to listen to reason freeing the elusive electroacoustic Red Bird?

Was the name and magic machines of the Wizard of Oz inspired by Thomas Edison, known as the ‘Wizard of Menlow Park’, inventor and developer of many tik-toks including the phonograph and the motion picture camera? The 200 Ton Dynamo-Phone or Tele-Harmonium was a development of inventor Thaddeus Cahill, as he dreamt of bringing music into homes via telephone lines like present day media streaming. Emigrating from Scotland to Canada, with mother and wife profoundly deaf and family interests in elocution and speech, Alexander Graham Bell is thought to have invented the first working telephone by converting acoustic sounds to electric signals.

Over one hundred years ago these pioneers envisioned our electroacoustic future. Would they be surprised by our smartphones? i was looking for the recorder in my phone and prompted Siri, an intelligent personal assistant application in our phones. Siri asked “what can i help you with?” “Record” i said. Siri wrote and spoke in reply, “There’s nothing in your music library, just Silence.” #tapemusic #acousmatique #musicconcrete #elektronische #computermusic #electronicmusic #soundart #circuitbending #laptopensembles #parabolicspeakers #octophonicsoundscapes. Some of my favorite electroacoustic composers include Barry Truax, Hildegard Westerkamp, Pierre Schaefer, Iannis Xenakis, Louis and Bebe Baron, Delia Derbeyshire, Philip Glass, Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson. Not to mention John Cage’s 4’33”. My own Digital Silence (:33) refers to the acoustic ecological significance of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring.


Why? is on Phoenix CD (1996), VAMS Straight Goods CD (2008) and The Feather Songbook & CD (2016). Why not? R. Murray Schafer was born in Sarnia, Ontario, the same year my mum Sylvia was born in Dublin, Ireland – 1933. Mum and i moved into Coal Harbour, which was Kanuka Ranch, the working ranch of my friend T’Uy ‘Tanat / Cease Wyss’ Squamish Grandmother. While caring for her beautiful garden i’d often jest that “My mother farms one hundredth of an acre of Kanuka Ranch.” Echoes of home, All the way from Ireland, a portrait of a family on Raven Shadows CD (2006) includes my family speaking of the meaning of family and life, clocks ticking, our cat purring, Stella telling lovingly of her garden and ‘Prunis Surbata Autumnalis’ and Captain Harney saying ‘Hello to All the Children in Canada.’

Mum was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008. i took care of Mum with my brothers and sisters until she went into extended care. In 2012, Mum was able to see me honoured for my music by the City of Vancouver as a Remarkable Woman, and to attend the Gala screening of the documentary film of our life, love and laughter, Patience and Absurdity.

Sylvia went to be with her Mum and Dad in 2013. Mum worked hard all her life, tithing her money to St James’ Anglican Church on Cordova Street in the Downtown East Side. Sylvia’s ashes rest in St. James Anglican Church, Vancouver which always reminded her of her old church, Saint Bartholomew’s in Dublin Ireland. In honour of my Mum, i brought together the band Horizon and release The Feather Songbook & CD (2016).

i am blessed to live and compose in Coast Salish Territories. Eventually, i will take the take the train back to Ireland via Siwash Rock to the Lake Isle of Innisfree.


Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made:
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey-bee;
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet’s wings.
I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)





1. The Feather (5:42)
2. Why? (4:42)
3. Carving Canoes: For the Wild (5:08)
4. Horizon (4:55)
5. Phoenix (5:31)
6. Aural Shadows (6:02)
7. Coastal Chant (6:02)
8. The Feather (7:39) 1993 & 2013 miX
9. Little House Big World (4:21)
10. Vaudeville Soundchecks #therewerenomixingboardsinvaudeville (8:42) 11. Voices of a Place: Hildegard Westerkamp inside the Soundscape (6:16) 12. Waves of Kokoro (10:42)
13. Penny: a Process (3:12)

Produced by sylvi macCormac and Dave Symington; Mastered by Dave Meszaros
Recorded and Engineered by Dave Symington and Graeme Liam Wyman
Songbook & CD Design by Nicole Dextras; Music Notation by Brenda Baird

© 2016 sylvi & see through publishing (socan)

Coast Salish Territories, Vancouver BC, Canada – –



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