University of Calgary

William Jordan

  • Professor Emeritus School of Creative and Performing Arts

Research Interests

Currently Teaching

Not currently teaching any courses.


William Jordan was born in 1951, and grew up in Athens, Georgia where he completed undergraduate studies. In 1978, after completing his MA (Penn) and PhD (Florida State), he signed on with the University of Calgary as a professor of music theory and composition. From 2000 to 2006 he served as Associate Dean (Research) for Fine Arts, and from 2008 to 2013 he served as Head of the Department of Music.
Recent premiere performances include Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (Donovan Seidle, soloist; Edmond Agopian and the Calgary Youth Orchestra), 24 Preludes for Piano (Lana Henchell, piano), Owl Song (Gryphon Trio), Hymns of St. Ambrose (Janet Youngdahl, soprano; Neil Cockburn, organ), and the Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (Jeremy Brown, saxophone; Ami Epp, piano).

Over the past forty years, William Jordan has composed several hundred works for concert and recital performance, including songs, choral music (both sacred and secular), music for piano solo, music for chamber ensembles, orchestral music (including several concerti), and operas. His music explores technical resources from the long history of Western music, often infused with modernist and non-Western influences.

His music has been performed and broadcast across North America, Europe and Asia, frequently in connection with commissions (Alberta Foundation for the Arts, New Works Calgary, Spiritus Chamber Choir, Land’s End Chamber Ensemble, Piano Six, Calgary Pro-Musical, Windsor Symphony Orchestra Society, National Guitar Network, Canada Council, Calgary Cathedral-Church of the Redeemer, and the Calgary Philharmonic Society. 


I have developed several lines of research by integrating a variety of theoretical perspectives with available musical materials.  I have developed these perspectives based on a study of early and non-Western music (as opposed to new technologies) in order to remain within the phenomenal window of everyday (if often unfamiliar) human experience. 

Integrating a variety theoretical perspectives assumes a mobile, or somewhat “post-modern” subject, one who is capable of inhabiting multiple perspectives in sequence, or even simultaneously.  There is nothing unusual about this, other than the fact that in the age of ideologies it is rare to encounter music for which such a perspective is not fixed in advance.  I try to bring everything I find valuable to the table.

Recent performances of compositions

Concerto for Violin and Orchestra. Donovan Seidle, violin; Edmond Agopian, Calgary Youth Orchestra. Leacock Recital Hall, Mount Royal University, Calgary, March 16, 2014.

Anthem and Celebration. U of C Wind Ensemble, Gareth Jones director. Eckhardt-Gramatté Recital Hall, Calgary. November 28, 2013.

Quintet for Erhu and String Quartet. Han Lu, erhu, the UCalgary String Quartet. Eckhardt-Gramatté Recital Hall, Calgary. December 7, 2012.

Owl Song. Land’s End Chamber Ensemble. Arrata Opera Centre, Calgary. November 23, 2012.

24 Preludes for Piano. Lana Henchell, piano. Eckhardt-Gramatté Recital Hall, Calgary. January 25, 2012.

Magnificat (Soprano, Cello, Organ and Piano). Jennifer Billard, soprano, Hyunmi Park, piano, Olena Kilchyk, cello, and Antonina Cox, portative organ.  Eckhardt-Gramatté Recital Hall, Calgary. May 29, 2011.

Vopnahlé (Overture and Libretto). Reading directed by Patrick Finn.  U of C Drama Students.  Invited audience.  Joyce and Quenten Doolittle Theatre, U of C. March 8, 2011.

Sonata for Violin and Piano #2.  Edmond Agopian (violin) and Colleen Athparia (Piano). Happening New Music Festival, Eckhardt-Gramatté Recital Hall, Calgary. January 27, 2011.

Sonata For Flute and Piano #1. Gwen Klassen (flute), and Charles Foreman (piano).  Pender Island Flute Retreat Fundraiser, Eckhardt-Gramatté Recital Hall, Calgary. February 28th, 2010.

Sonata for Violin and Piano #1. Edmond Agopian (violin) and Suzanne Hardick (piano). Happening New Music Festival, Eckhardt-Gramatté Recital Hall, Calgary. January 25, 2010.

Melancholia for Piano and Chamber Orchestra. Charles Foreman, piano, the UCalgary String Quartet and friends. Eckhardt-Gramatté Recital Hall, Calgary. June 5, 2009.

Hymns of St. Ambrose, for soprano soloist and organ. Janet Youngdahl, soprano; Neil Cockburn, Organ. U of C Organ Series, Eckhardt-Gramatté Recital Hall, Calgary, April 19, 2009. (Premiere Performance).

  • Deus Creator Omnium
  • Veni, Redempto Gentium
  • Jam Surgit Hora Tertia
  • Aeterne Rerum Conditor


My approach to teaching is based on the notion that people learn better when they are open, positive and enthusiastic, and that the best way to foster these conditions is to allow the students to enjoy their work, engage with the materials on their own terms, and have some fun.  

That being said, I tend to choose topics that are somewhat off the beaten track, topics I want to know more about, topics that other learners can contribute to. 

I believe everything needs a fresh look, which is an informal way of describing research.  Especially since the beginning of the new century, information has been increasingly mediated by fast-changing technologies which result in new research methods, access to sources previously unavailable, and a whole new horizon of sources, commentary, opinion and music that forms around blogs and downloads.

Area of Specialization

My own area of specialization—apart from but complementary to my work as a composer—has to do with the history of technical discourse about music, which is suggested by the phrase “history of music theory.”  Discourse about music, conceived and expressed within number theory, has formed a large part of musical training since the sixth century BCE.  While much of this discourse is clearly “pre-modern,” it can nevertheless inform and enrich current discussions about what it means to be musical today. 

Curriculum Vitae


  • PhD - History of Music Theory
    Florida State University, 1976
  • AM - Composition
    University of Pennsylvania, 1973
  • BMus General Honours and Honours in Music - Composition
    University of Georgia, 1971
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