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Artists Arthur Bull

Arthur Bull is a veteran musician of the improvising music scene. Formerly the guitarist with The Bill Smith Ensemble, Bull has also played extensively with Paul Dutton, David Prentice, Michael Snow, John Oswald and John Heward, and he has performed in concert with Derek Bailey, Roscoe Mitchell and Roger Turner. He is also a poet, with four books published, and a translator from the Chinese. Originally from Ontario, Bull now lives in Sandy Cove, Nova Scotia, with his artist and musician wife, Ruth Bull.


Arthur Bull

Ontario (Canada), 1950

Residence: Sandy Cove (Nova Scotia, Canada)

  • Composer
  • Performer (semi-acoustic guitar)

Associated groups

On the web

Arthur Bull [Photo: Ruth Bull, October 17, 2017]
Arthur Bull [Photo: Ruth Bull, October 17, 2017]
  • Arthur Bull [Photo: Ruth Bull, October 17, 2017]
  • Arthur Bull
  • Monicker, Scott Thomson, Arthur Bull, Roger Turner [Photo: KenIlasz]

Main releases

Ambiances Magnétiques / AM 246, AM 246_NUM / 2018
Ambiances Magnétiques / AM 229, AM 229_NUM / 2016
Ambiances Magnétiques / AM 151 / 2006
Ambiances Magnétiques / AM 083 / 2000
Tour de bras / TDB 9033


[Independent] / SURRU 01 / 2014
  • Not in catalogue
Heilako Sound Productions / HSP 006 / 2002
  • Not in catalogue
Various artists
DAME / DAME 2001 / 2001
  • Out of print


Ambiances Magnétiques / AM 246, AM 246_NUM / 2018

In the press

  • Stuart Broomer, The WholeNote, no. 24:8, May 1, 2019
    It’s a high-water mark in Canadian free improvisation.


Stuart Broomer, The WholeNote, no. 24:8, May 1, 2019

Guitarist and poet, Toronto-born and Nova-Scotia resident, Arthur Bull enjoys a compound musical identity. He has been a part of the Canadian improvising community for decades, developing a personal idiom that draws in equal parts from the extended techniques of free improvisation and the slide and finger-style traditions of blues and folk idioms. These two CDs, from Spring 2018, present Bull in radically different, if equally radical settings.

The Surruralists is essentially a duo of Bull and electric bassist Éric Normand, though guests sometimes contribute to a music that’s at once timeless and timely. The two (sometimes subtly, sometimes not) merge free improvisation with folk singing, mixing French and English traditions to craft a primal music in which country tunes and proto-rhythm ‘n’ blues collide with flashes of an unearthly sound art. Bull’s raw baritone and slide guitar drive Jack o’ Diamonds and Frankie (and Johnny), while his gift for epigram emerges on the spoken Skidmarks: “I couldn’t count how many ways the woodpecker could divide the beat.” Normand adds weird electronic burbles to condition familiar themes, and he’s eloquent on the dirge La courtisane brûlée, with Bull adding plaintive harmonica and Ben Grossman a funereal vielle à roue (or hurdy gurdy).

Among Bull’s international associations is one formed in 2002 with drummer Roger Turner, a charter member of the British school of free improvisation. Turner’s sometimes machine-like approach can be traced directly to an early appreciation of the brilliant precision of Dave Tough, the drummer who propelled the rise of Chicago jazz over ninety years ago. Anyone who imagines free improvisation to be somehow vague in its contours simply hasn’t heard Roger Turner. In 2018 Bull and Turner expanded their duo with the addition of trombonist Scott Thomson for a tour (as Monicker) that stretched from Southern Ontario to Nova Scotia.

No blow by blow description could do justice to Spine: the music is mercurial, each of the CD’s six tracks a continuum of shifting, permutating relationships and voices, much of it conducted at incredible speed, from Thomson’s burbling register leaps and runs, squeezed through a metal mute, to Turner’s high-pitched clatter. Bull’s voices range from long, wandering bass glissandi to high-speed flurries of metallic scatter-shot, liable to be confused with some of Thomson and Turner’s own voicings, but the very determination with which the three proceed soon destroys any identikit game of “he said, he said” with a conclusive “When was that?” It’s a high-water mark in Canadian free improvisation.

It’s a high-water mark in Canadian free improvisation.