Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Composing Thoughts: Xi Wang

A talk with Xi Wang about composition and creativity, featuring a new work for SOLI Chamber Ensemble.

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11: Dan Welcher

I can't give the knee-jerk response most people have to this sort of thing, which is "it made me redouble my efforts to improve the lot of humanity". Not being a religious person, I refuse to follow any "divine mystery" dictum, so 9/11 only reinforced my increasing sense that the world I inhabit (where art and music are the ruling forces) is not going to be able to change the course of events in the physical world.
I feel powerless to do anything that will make most Americans smarter, more inquisitive, or more open to serious thought or feeling. Instead, I think I've tended to herd together with my own kind---to care more about music and art, and less about politics. 9/11 itself didn't do this---the ongoing march of human stupidity and greed did it.

Dan Welcher
Writing in High Fidelity in 1974, critic Royal S. Brown said "on the basis of this work (Concerto for Flute and Orchestra), I would say that Welcher is one of the most promising American composers I have ever heard". Born in Rochester, New York, in 1948, composer-conductor Dan Welcher has been fulfilling that promise ever since, gradually creating a body of compositions in almost every imaginable genre including opera, concerto, symphony, vocal literature, piano solos, and various kinds of chamber music. With over one hundred works to his credit, Welcher is one of the most-played composers of his generation.
Dan Welcher first trained as a pianist and bassoonist, earning degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. He joined the Louisville Orchestra as its Principal Bassoonist in 1972, and remained there until 1978, concurrently teaching composition and theory at the University of Louisville. He joined the Artist Faculty of the Aspen Music Festival in the summer of 1976, teaching bassoon and composition, and remained there for fourteen years. He accepted a position on the faculty at the University of Texas in 1978, creating the New Music Ensemble there and serving as Assistant Conductor of the Austin Symphony Orchestra from 1980 to 1990. It was in Texas that his career as a conductor began to flourish, and he has led the premieres of more than 120 new works since 1980. He now holds the Lee Hage Jamail Regents Professorship in Composition at the School of Music at UT/Austin, teaching Composition and serving as Director of the New Music Ensemble.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: Miguel del Aguila

9/11 was an important landmark in my life, and a date that had already changed it before. I moved to NYC in 2000 during a time of personal change. I was traveling when it happened and returned to the city two days after the event. I will never forget the sight of those huge building reduced to rubble, the smell of the still burning underground fire, the feeling of loss and tragedy. NYC was never the same after 9/11, nor was my life there. In 2003 I moved back to California. I also remembered that some 20 years ago, on a 9/11 around 9am another tragic event changed the lives of Chileans and all Latin Americans. That event eventually caused my having to immigrate to the USA.
I'm always amazed at how easy it is to destroy things. How hard it is to create them, and how strong our will is to constantly rebuild what we ourselves (humanity), break. doesn't make much sense, does it?

Miguel del Aguila
An internationally recognized compositional voice and talent, Miguel del Aguila creates fresh, spontaneous music often colored by Latin and World Music idioms, and with a healthy respect for the classical tradition and form. What results is a captivating interplay of classical balance and romantic excess. His penchant for devising programs for his own works further enhances his highly dramatic style in which musical ideas, always simple and recognizable, are pushed to extremes by propulsive rhythms and adventurous instrumentation.
Two-time Grammy nominated American composer Miguel del Aguila was born 1957 in Montevideo, Uruguay. His prolific music output and distinctive musical style has placed him among the most highly regarded composers of his generation. He came to the attention of European audiences in 1983 when his Messages premiered at Musikvereinsaal, the home of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra. Soon performances at Konzerthaus and Bösendorfer Hall followed, marking the beginning of an international career that spans over two decades. In 1987 Peermusic published his first works eventually incorporating most of Aguila’s works to their catalogue. American audiences embraced Aguila’s music in 1988 as he introduced his piano works at New York’s Carnegie Recital Hall; and days later, Lukas Foss premiered his Hexen with the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra. KKM-Austria and Albany Records-NY took notice releasing in 1989/’90 two CD’s with five of his works.
During the 1990’s Aguila’s list of works grew as did the number of his recordings, performances and honors which by 1995 included the prestigious Kennedy Center Friedheim Award. Performances at NY’s Lincoln Center, London’s Royal Opera House, and in Moscow, Vienna, Zurich, Budapest, Prague, Tokyo, Rome and other major capitals, begun a decade of expansion and growth. After residing in Vienna for ten years, Aguila returned to the US in 1992 making California his home. Before long Los Angeles Times critics welcomed him as "One of the West Coast's most promising and enterprising young composers." During this time he founded and directed the young musicians group Voices, and became music director of Ojai Camerata (1996-1999).
In 2001 New York’s Chautauqua Festival invited him as Resident Composer where he remained until 2004 contributing with new works, performances and literary articles. In 2005 Aguila accepted a two year Composer in Residence position with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, through a Meet The Composer - Music Alive Award. This marked the start of an intensively creative period that culminated with the fully staged premiere of his opera Time and Again Barelas, commemorating Albuquerque’s tricentennial.
By 2008 first rate orchestras, ensembles and soloists were regularly commissioning and performing his works worldwide. They included almost fifty orchestras, over two hundred chamber ensembles and soloists in virtually every country in Asia, Europe and the Americas.
Currently Aguila’s catalogue reaches over a hundred works for all genres. His music is widely available on twenty one CD’s released by Bridge, Dorian, Telarc, New Albion, Albany, and Centaur among others .
Recently, Aguila was honored by the Recording Academy with two Latin Grammy nominations for his CD Salon Buenos Aires and for his composition Clocks. He also received the MTC Magnum Opus Award 2010, the Lancaster Symphony “Composer of the Year Award 2009”, the Peter S. Reed Foundation Award 2008, MTC Magnum Opus Award 2008, as well as awards by The Copland and Argosy Foundations among others. He is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with post graduate studies at Vienna’s Hochschule für Musik and Vienna Konservatorium.
His busy 2011 season includes performances at St. Martin in the Fields and Deutschen Oper Berlin and premieres by Nashville, Puerto Rico, Virginia, Buffalo. Memphis and Winnipeg symphonies among others.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9/11: Chen Yi

It's the darkest period of time in American contemporary history that I have experienced. I have composed several works in the following year, as a result from this impact. Here are the program notes and selected media coverage of the two pieces for your information.

Chen Yi Know You How Many Petals Falling? For mixed choir (2001)
Dedicated to the memory of New York firefighters who sacrificed themselves to protect thousands of fellow citizens at the 9.11 tragedy. The work was premiered by Elmer Iseler Singers at the 6th World Symposium on Choral Music, who commissioned the work for the event, on August 11, 2002 in Minneapolis, MN.
The text is taken from an ancient Chinese poem Know You How Many Petals Falling? by Meng Hao-ran (689-740, Tang Dynasty), sung in English. The English translation of the poem is heard in the choral work: "Spring dreams unconscious of dawning, Not woke up till I hear birds singing; O night long wind and showers -- Know you how many petals falling?"

CHEN Yi TU for full orchestra/wind ensemble (2002)
Commissioned by The Women’s Philharmonic and the American Composers Orchestra with a grant provided by NEA in 2000, the orchestral piece TU was composed between July and August of 2002, and dedicated to the memory of New York firefighters who sacrificed themselves protecting thousands of fellow citizens at the 9.11 tragedy in 2001, to express the composer’s compassion for the victims and their families, to denounce terrorist acts, and to call for peace in the future. The first recording was produced by BIS and performed by the Singapore Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Mr. Lan Shui in October, 2002. The world premiere took place on March 7. 2004, at The Women’s Philharmonic’s final concert, “The American Women Masters Gala Concert”, conducted by Anne Manson, at Herbst Theater, San Francisco, CA, as part of a state-wide festival promoting women composers and conductors throughout the month. The wind ensemble version was premiered subsequently on April 8, 2004, by UMKC Wind Symphony conducted by Dr. Sarah McKoin.
The Chinese character Tu could be related to burning, poison and fiery...

Chen Yi
As a Distinguished Professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance, a prolific composer and recipient of the prestigious Charles Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2001-04), Chen Yi blends Chinese and Western traditions, transcending cultural and musical boundaries. Through doing so, she serves as an ambassador to the arts, creating music that reaches a wide range of audiences, inspiring people with different cultural backgrounds throughout the world. She holds both a BA and MA in music composition from the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, and received her DMA from Columbia University in the City of New York, studying composition with Wu Zuqiang, Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2005.
Chen Yi's music has been commissioned by Yehudi Menuhin, Yo-Yo Ma, Evelyn Glennie, the Cleveland Orchestra, the BBC, the Seattle, Pacific, and Singapore Symphonies, the Brooklyn, New York, and Los Angeles Philharmonic, Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Raschèr Saxophone Quartet and Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke's, and recorded on many labels, including BIS, New Albion, CRI, Teldec, Telarc, Albany, New World, Naxos, Quartz, Delos, Angel, Nimbus, and KIC.
Dr. Chen has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation (1996) and the National Endowment for the Arts (1994), as well as the Lieberson Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1996). Other honors include first prize in the Chinese National Composition Competition (1985), the Lili Boulanger Award from the National Women Composers Resource Center (1993), New York University’s Sorel Medal (1996), the CalArts/Alpert Award (1997), a Grammy Award (1999), the University of Texas Eddie Medora King Composition Prize (1999), the Adventurous Programming and Concert Music awards from ASCAP (1999 and 2001, respectively), the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s Elise Stoeger Award (2002), the Edgar Snow Memorial Fund’s Friendship Ambassador Award (2002), the Kauffman Award in Artistry/Scholarship from the UMKC Conservatory (2006), and honorary doctorates from Lawrence University in WI (2002), Baldwin-Wallace College in OH (2008), the University of Portland in OR (2009), and The New School University in NYC (2010).

Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11: Kirsten Agresta Copely

I was numb when the Twin Towers fell on September 11, 2001. I felt powerless and deeply shaken. In the days that followed, our Mayor implored us to "get back to normal". But how could we in the face of such tragedy? In fact my experience in Midtown, where I live, was unsettling in its normalcy. My daily schedule resumed, performing and teaching. Life was eerily routine, while mere miles away rescue workers were covered in thick ash and tirelessly working against the clock to find any sign of life. The daily e-mails that I received from a colleague who lost her fiance kept me in the reality of all the loss and sorrow. Ladder 132, Engine 4 was one of the first firefighting teams to leap into Tower 1. She is now featured in the documentary REBIRTH, following the transformative lives of five people whose trauma and grief on 9/11 evolved into hope, showing how the human spirit can transcend the unthinkable over time.
On this 10th anniversary, I will be reflecting and performing at a Memorial Concert with the New York Pops in Central Park, honoring the family, friends, and survivors of Cantor-Fitzgerald.

Kirsten Agresta Copely
KIRSTEN AGRESTA COPELY has charmed audiences internationally since she began study of the harp at the age of five. By the time she was fourteen, she was soloist on a full tour of the British Isles and has since performed extensively as a solo artist throughout the United States, Europe, South America, Israel, Japan, and the South Pacific. Known for her passionate performances and versatility, Kirsten commands a wide range of genres from classical to hip hop. She has been awarded top national and international prizes and honors, including the Bronze Medal in the prestigious 1989 USA International Harp Competition. Kirsten debuted as concerto soloist at Lincoln Center (Avery Fisher Hall) and Carnegie Hall, where she has also performed numerous solo recitals.
Following a feature in People Magazine, she was presented on segments of NBC, CBS, and ABC-TV and later made appearances on MTV, Saturday Night Live, Late Night with David Letterman, The Early Show, and the Today Show. In Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center, and the outdoor concert venues of Live8 and Lollapalooza, Kirsten has played alongside and worked with artists such as: Enya, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Adam Levine of Maroon 5, John Legend, The Roots, and Amy Lee of Evanescence. She is featured on Erykah Badu's most recent album, New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh and can be heard on numerous movie soundtracks, including "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian."
Kirsten has also privately performed for notable officials and dignitaries, such as: Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden, Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and former Vice President Al Gore. In 2010, Kirsten had the honor of performing with Beyoncé for President & Mrs. Obama at the second official White House State Dinner, honoring Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
Copely studied with Nancy Allen at The Juilliard School and Distinguished Professor Susann McDonald at Indiana University. She received her Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from Indiana University, where she also served as Associate Instructor of the Harp Department from 1991-93. She is currently a member of the Music Faculty at Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, NY, and maintains a private teaching studio in New York City. Kirsten is Web Manager for the World Harp Congress Review, former New York Regional Director of the American Harp Society, a Voting Member of the Grammy Recording Academy (NARAS), and a member of ASCAP.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

9/11: P Kellach Waddle

My first thoughts of 9/11 are the literal cliche of "OMG, what's that on TV.. is it a movie?"
On 9/11/01, I was visiting my family an odd occurrence to be visiting them so late in September, but my Austin, Symphony and other duties just happened to be starting later in the month than usual. I sleep with the TV on and I just happened to have left it on CNN the night before--as my sleepy self started to register what was on TV the next morning I thought, " Wow, this is one of those creepy " real life" pretend disaster movies like the 1980s TV movie "Special Report" or "The Day After."
Of course then I realized to my horror, it was not a movie, and it was quite real . Then I heard the messages on the answering machine from my mother at work saying " As soon as you get up, you really need to turn on news, something very bad has happened in NYC."
My next thought was of concern for my NYC friends. I have always had many musician friends there but also at that time in one of my " other" work lives, I was writing a weekly column in a national TV magazine. I tried to call to make sure all of my magazine colleagues were OK and what would be the status of our deadlines. Needless to say I couldn't get through and instead of beating my head against the wall of that, I took a deep breath and said a great deal of prayers and realized I would hear from them as soon as they could get through, which thankfully I did indeed hear from all the people I was trying to contact by the next morning. (This was my first feeling of guilt for worrying about mundane job issues , "The world is forever changed and many people's lives , both living and deceased from this event, are destroyed. Am I going to hell for worrying about when for heaven's sake my column about friggin' TV show analysis is due?")
Then the immediate thought everyone is pondering in these guest blogs-- what shall I compose about this? I decided to take the very ironic route that I do in unspeakable tragedy :to attempt to write about trying to find hope where there seems to be none at the moment; to start searching for what possible redemption can be found in the aftermath of indescribable horror.
I do this because #1 : I think it's always quite the knee-jerk reaction to attempt to compose about all the horror and grief and I feel like tons of composers will already " go there" , as it were, and that they will do a better job of capturing THAT than I so I always look for a different approach-- and #2, I write SO Much music already tinged with Mahlerian darkness and angst that it seems almost insulting to the event and those who suffer the most deeply from said event If I just write something that is of the same color of all the music I write all the time anyway. I did the same thing when my father was killed in April 2009, I wrote a piece about redemption and ascension and my father (who had been ill for many years at the time he was killed) no longer being in any pain and now being in paradise with the Lord.
Moving on to October 11th, I was astoundingly flattered and blessed to be invited to perform on a series I appear on regularly, the Thursday at Noon concerts at Central Presbyterian Church in Downtown Austin. This concert was actually televised in part marking the one month demarcation of the horrific event and I performed some Bach and the piece I had indeed completed in reaction to 9/11. (I wrote another Prelude for solo bass, one of the eventually completed in a set inspired by the Chopin/Bach model-- pieces for solo bass--one in each key. Being the avid Messaien worshiper/admirer/stealer I am== I chose Messaien's key center he used often for religious redemption and transformation-- and composed "To Arise in a Prayer of Hope" : Prelude in F Sharp Major. )
I, like everyone else, was still in a very strange state of sadness, mourning and edginess. I played the short concert, then did short TV interview. Then I was trying to process my feelings by going outside for a walk, a cigarette and some coffee. When I walked back into that sanctuary, there was a middle-aged lady with her hand on my bass.
Still being edgy, my first reaction was appalled horror. I controlled myself enough not to run up to her and say "Hey !! What are you doing?? Get off of that !! That's not furniture lady, that's my life-- get away from there!!" But by the time I walked up to her, she had turned around and began to say the following:
"Mr. Waddle, I am sorry to be putting my hand on your bass violin. But my stomach has hurt non-stop since I found out what happened a month ago today. While you were playing your piece you wrote and those Bach movements, for the first time, my stomach stopped hurting. I just had to touch the large piece of wood that this nice long-haired young man used to finally make my stomach stop hurting."
She said "Thank you" as a tear ran down her face and walked off.
I was now alone in the church, and after my hating myself for wanting to at first yell at her, then my knees quite literally buckled. I collapsed into the front pew and then shed many tears of my own. Both in mourning and also in thankfulness that my playing that day touched someone so profoundly.
Since this was before our ubiquitous texting and social networking and such, it still pains me that I never caught that lady's name.

P.S. I want to also express my thankfulness that on the weekend of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, I will get to perform Strauss' Death and Transfiguration in my position with The Austin Symphony.

P. Kellach Waddle
P. Kellach Waddle enjoys a widely lauded career as a solo bassist, composer, chamber musician, orchestra musician, conductor and concert director. He has been cited as “... an Austin classical music legend…” by award-winning Viola By Choice Director Aurélien Pétillot; he has been called “…an amazing, incredible virtuoso...” by famed Austin radio personality John Aieili; and after his ovation garnering solo concert at the 2009 International Society of Bassists Symposium (where he was one of only five dozen bassists from all
over the world invited to perform a solo recital) convention officials declared “…(Waddle) is now obviously one of the great solo bassists of the world.” Waddle’s music has been performed over 700 times in nearly 40 states and in 10 foreign countries. With over 40 premieres scheduled for the calendar year 2011 alone and nearly over 370 works composed as of Winter 2011, Waddle continues to maintain his position as one of the most prolific and performed composers of his generation. Waddle has been a member of numerous professional and festival orchestras including his current position with The Austin Symphony,
which he has held since 1992. He has been nominated three times as a possible finalist for The Pulitzer Prize in Music and twice nominated for State of Texas Musician of The Year. He also serves as the “part-time Bach” in his position as Composer/Artist is Residence at Ascension Lutheran Church in Austin, Texas.
Waddle also is the director of PKWproductions — a company presenting sets of concert series comprising new works presented on literature, music presented with movies at the legendary Austin Alamo Drafthouse Theaters, music of Waddle’s all devoted to a single instrument or medium, and PKWproductions first out-of Austin endeavor --the series " When Texas Meets Manhattan" a series of concerts given in NYC combining composers and performers from both areas — all of the series under the PKWproductions umbrella continue to be some of the most lauded, inventive and unique classical music presentations in the nation. Mr. Waddle’s music is published exclusively by tFv Inc. of Concord, Massachusetts and Wyatt Brand of Austin Texas manages his publicity. For more detailed information as well as links to recordings of Mr. Waddle’s music please go to

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

9/11: Troy Peters

My strongest feeling in the wake of 9/11 was numbness. The immediacy and impact of what happened were so powerful that I found myself exhausted for weeks. When Steve Klimowski, who directs the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, asked me to write a piece for a 9/11 memorial concert, I knew I wanted to be involved. I struggled, however, to begin working.
At the same time, the Vermont Youth Orchestra (where I was the Music Director) was completing a huge building project, renovating a historic U.S. Army Cavalry drill hall to create the Elley-Long Music Center.
Just weeks after the 9/11 attacks, we held our opening ceremony on a Saturday morning, before a full house of community leaders. Among the guests at this event was Senator Patrick Leahy, who spoke eloquently of how the inspiring spectacle of a community investing so much to share music with its youth was the perfect antidote to the anguish we had all been going through as a nation. Senator Leahy's comments energized me, sending me back into conducting and composing with a new commitment and energy. In the end, the world is (and always has been) a dangerous place. All of us, however, can do our best to spread joy and beauty to our families, our communities, our audiences.
And what about the 9/11 piece Steve Klimowski had asked me for? I decide to write about my feelings in the immediate wake of the attacks. In the cello solo which opens Lament — 9/11/01, I tried to capture my sense of being emotionally lost. The cello mulls over its sorrow and doesn’t know where to go with it, turning in circles. When the cello finally exhausts itself, the voice enters with a brief song of mourning to this text by Abu Al-ala Al-ma’arri, an 11th century Arab poet from what is now Syria:

The soul driven from the body
Mourns the memory it leaves behind.
A dove hit in flight sadly turns
Its neck and sees its nest destroyed.

Listen to Lament — 9/11/01

Troy Peters
Troy Peters has been a popular and acclaimed guest conductor with orchestras including the San Antonio Symphony, Vermont Symphony Orchestra, and Vermont Mozart Festival. He became Music Director of YOSA (Youth Orchestras of San Antonio) in August 2009, after 14 years in Vermont, where he was Music Director of the Vermont Youth Orchestra, Middlebury College Orchestra, and Montpelier Chamber Orchestra. His work has been the subject of national media attention from CBS Sunday Morning, National Public Radio's Weekend Edition, and The New Yorker. He has gained international attention for his orchestral collaborations with rock musicians, including Jon Anderson (of the band Yes) and Trey Anastasio (of the band Phish), with whom he worked on two albums on Elektra Records.
Peters conducted the world premiere recording of Daron Hagen's Masquerade with violinist Jaime Laredo, cellist Sharon Robinson, and the Vermont Symphony Orchestra. Among the other soloists with whom he has collaborated are Midori, Horacio Gutiérrez, Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), and Soovin Kim. Vermont Governor James Douglas recognized his contribution to the state's cultural life by proclaiming April 17, 2005, as "Troy Peters Day" in Vermont, and he was also awarded a Vermont Arts Council Citation of Merit in 2009. He has been honored with seven ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. Among Peters' other past conducting positions are posts with the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, the Pacific Chamber Soloists, and Perpetuum Mobile. He holds degrees from the Curtis Institute of Music and the University of Pennsylvania.
Peters is also active as a composer, where his work ranges from orchestral and chamber music to a large body of songs and an opera for hand puppets. Among his honors are the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and grants from Meet the Composer and the Rockefeller Foundation. His music has been commissioned by many groups, including the Philadelphia Singers, Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Saint Michael's College, Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, and Social Band. His primary compositional mentors were Ned Rorem and George Crumb. A versatile instrumentalist, Peters not only plays the viola, but has also performed on tenor banjo and electric guitar with symphony orchestras. Born in 1969 in Greenock, Scotland (of American parents), Peters grew up in Tacoma, Washington, and lives in San Antonio with his wife and two children.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

9/11: Timothy Kramer

I was shocked as we all were about 9/11. My wife is from Manhattan, and my mother-in-law still lived there, so the impact was very personal. Also, at the time, we just received word that my wife's step-mother had passed away suddenly on 9/9. I remember having lunch with composer Ken Metz on 9/10 who was also having some problems. At the time, we asked ourselves "what else can go wrong?" I had nearly 6 months before and 8 months after 9/11 without writing a single note. But I had to finish a commission from the local Alamo Chapter of the American Guild of Organists. That piece, Meditation (Noel Nouvelet), was 9/11 inspired. The notes are as follows:

This work is the first work of mine written after the tragedy of September 11 and it is as much a meditation on how our world has changed as it is a personal reawakening for my work as a composer. The hymn tune Noël Nouvelet is associated with rebirth, renewal, and growth, and in that light this piece begins in a dark environment and moves toward that melody. The melodic arabesques in the center of the work are integrated with elements of the old French carol and eventually the hymn tune emerges in the pedal. At the end, the ascent continues on and hovers in quiet stasis. The text (often sung with this melody) echoes in my memory “…now the green blade rises…”

I had this work played at festival in Florida, with no program notes. After the performance, a composer, who was Egyptian, came up to me and asked me about the piece. He thought it must have a program behind it. He said that the mode that I used at the opening sounded like the Arabic mode Saba, a melancholy mode used for mourning, loss, and grief. Wow. I was amazed at what popped up in the music.

You can hear a portion of Meditation (Noel Nouvelet) here.

Timothy Kramer
Timothy Kramer's works have been performed widely throughout the United States and Canada – from Carnegie Hall to college campuses - and in Europe, South America, and Asia with performances by major symphony orchestras (Indianapolis, Detroit, Tacoma, San Antonio) chamber groups (North/South Consonance, SOLI Chamber Ensemble, ONIX Ensemble, Luna Nova, Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings) and university ensembles (Michigan State, Arizona State, Indiana University, Florida State). He has also been a featured composer at the San Antonio International Piano Competition, the Mostly Women Composers Festival in New York City, the Midwest International Clinic in Chicago, and at national conferences of the American Guild of Organists, the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, the Society of Composers, Inc. and the College Music Society.
He has received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Meet the Composer, Broadcast Music, Inc., ASCAP, the American Guild of Organists, and the American Music Center among many others. His degrees are from Pacific Lutheran University (B.M.) and the University of Michigan (D.M.A.), where he studied with William Albright, Leslie Bassett, William Bolcom, and George Wilson. He was also a Fulbright Scholar to Detmold, Germany, where he studied with Martin Redel.
Originally from Washington State, Kramer began playing the piano at a young age, and, although trained as a pianist, organist, and harpsichordist, he spent many years as a youth playing bass guitar in jazz and rock ensembles. Kramer often incorporates rhythmic elements of popular music in his works, and he embraces the idea that the composer should not lose touch with the performer or with the audience. After teaching at Trinity University in San Antonio for 19 years - where he also founded CASA (the Composers Alliance of San Antonio) - he accepted a post in 2010 as Professor of Music and Chair of the Music Department at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois.

Monday, September 5, 2011

9/11: Yvonne Freckmann

How has 9-11 affected me? I still clearly remember that morning in eighth grade in science class, hearing something terrible had happened, but not knowing and understanding what, nor knowing what the Twin Towers were. But seeing the photos in the Express-News of people jumping out of these high rises helped me realize the terror and unimaginable choice these people were making. So, I think a feeling of not wanting to move or do anything blanketed everyone for a while.
Overall, I think 9-11 has caused the U.S. to put security as its number one priority – even with the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as natural borders! The obsession with security as a reaction to fear and antagonization has led to a loss in freedom – be it privacy, travel, or peace. Every child born since 9-11 has been living during a time of war. They may be fought somewhere else but the mental and economic effects are inescapable in daily life. Roberto Prestigiacomo and other Trinity University drama faculty produced a show called ‘8’ – the age of Prestigiacomo’s daughter, who has only known life with a nation at war. It was mostly minimalistic and abstract, people running in patterns, scary masks and sets with bright colors, trying to recreate this post 9-11 world from the view of a child. I experienced a lot of emotions. The closing involved a lot of water – a kind of giant slip’n’slide on stage, and this had the most cleansing and hopeful effect… I believe it may be the first major artistic production in San Antonio that addressed the post 9-11 topic.
Furthermore, the focus on security and military efforts abroad has caused neglect to the basic needs at home – laid off teachers, failing infrastructure. It takes only a few listens on NPR to hear the details of many such maladies.
John, you had asked me about a response as an artist. I was not nearly as serious about composing back then, but I remember hearing one of my teachers talking about the feeling of ‘how do I start to compose after this?’ I have not written any pieces grappling with 9-11 and its aftermath; maybe it is not yet time for me to do so.
I think 9-11 will continue to affect the American psyche, especially if its memory keeps being used by politicians, military leaders and ordinary citizens to justify further fighting, occupation, racism or de-humanizing of other people in the world. The U.S. is an open and welcoming place for the most part, but it is part of a whole world of people, customs and ideas. I am glad that the 9-11 attacks brought the American people together, but I wish that it had been for healing, not a campaign for security and retribution.

Yvonne Freckmann
Yvonne Freckmann is a composer, performer and avid promoter of new music. Equally at home in two countries, she began her piano studies in Braunschweig, Germany, and began playing clarinet, accordion and composing after moving to a small town in south Texas during sixth grade. She earned her B.M. in Piano Performance and Composition from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas in 2010, and her teachers included Dr. Carolyn True (piano), and Drs. Timothy Kramer, Brian Nelson, Jack W. Stamps and David Heuser (composition). She is currently attending the University of Louisville as a Bomhard Fellow to earn her MM composition, studying with Drs. Marc Satterwhite and Krzysztof Wolek. Her most recent collaboration includes writing a string quartet for a student ensemble as part of the Chamber Music Institute hosted by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 2011. Freckmann attended the Czech-American Summer Music Institute (CASMI) in Prague with Ladislav Kubík in July 2009. She enthusiastically performs and promotes new music, and founded TUCHÉ (Trinity University Chamber Ensemble) in fall 2008. She has written a variety of solo, chamber and electroacoustic works, and completed her first orchestra piece. TUCHÉ formed a pit orchestra to perform incidental music she wrote for Trinity University main stage production of Booth. Her first electroacoustic composition, Remember From Womb You Came (2008) was selected for the 2008 SCI Student National Conference hosted at Ball State University, and the 2009 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, where she was the youngest participant. Besides making music with her friends, Yvonne greatly enjoys swing dancing and cycling.

Friday, September 2, 2011

9/11: Judith Lang Zaimont

For some years I believed the event hadn’t touched me much individually – although I continued to resonate with the deep wound to the nation’s psyche. You see, the news reached Minnesota while I was driving to campus and only when all afternoon meetings were abruptly cancelled did I begin to get word of the horror. (It was rather like the circumstance of being in rehearsal when we learned Kennedy had been assassinated.) Later that day, I also learned my nephew was downtown when the Towers were hit and he saw everything; witnessing certainly changed Daniel’s life permanently.

Starting in 2003, however, I slowly came to realize that my foundations for composing - the well-spring impetus to write - had been truly altered:
The early 2002 idea to write a large orchestra piece to be titled Stillness was, I earlier thought, simply the next project that called to me. In retrospect though, I can see it was a call to myself to attempt finding personal balance, an action to preserve the self in an extended, unending moment of turmoil.

The piece gave me no peace until I finished the sketch score and set it aside (at end summer 2002). Later - after I’d been able to finally write it a better way (in the blessed solitude of Copland House) - I threw out this whole first sketch; almost none of it went into the ‘real’ piece. But it was necessary to have written the first, poorer version: Finding a path towards sanity after a national calamity engineered to affect every citizen is something that happens in stages, and Stillness was my first stage.

-- I also suspect that 9/11 factored into the decision to take early retirement (which began to phase in the very next academic year). (My family’s mid-decade move to Arizona - with its vast horizons, cleanness of desert landscape, and ability to provide personal space – might in part also be considered an avenue toward balance after experiencing the unfathomable wound.)

Judith Lang Zaimont
Composer Judith Lang Zaimont (b. 1945) is internationally recognized for her distinctive style, characterized by its expressive strength and dynamism. Many of her 100 works are prize-winning compositions; these include three symphonies, chamber opera, oratorios and cantatas, music for wind ensemble, vocal-chamber pieces with varying accompanying ensembles, a wide variety of chamber works, and solo music for string and wind instruments, piano, organ, and voice.
Among her composition awards are a Guggenheim Fellowship (1983-84); Maryland State Arts Council creative fellowship (1986-87); commission grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1982) and American Composers Forum (1993); and grants to support recordings from the Aaron Copland Fund (American Music Center: 1995, 2002) and Ditson Fund (Columbia University: 2002). Over the past decade, she has been Composer of the Year at Alabama University-Huntsville (1994-95), Featured Composer at the 1995 Society of Composers International meeting, Filene Artist-in-Residence for the 1996-97 year at Skidmore College, Composer in Residence at University of Wisconsin-River Falls (spring 1999), and Honored Composer at the 11th International Van Cliburn Competition in 2001 (where both Gold Medalists selected and performed her music). Most recently she has been Featured Composer for 2002 - National Federation of Music Clubs, 2003 Commissioned Composer of the California Music Teachers Association, Commissioned Composer for the 2003 International San Antonio Piano Competition, and recipient of a 2003 Aaron Copland Award (commissions, residency), a 2005-06 Commissioned Composer - Kaplan Foundation (work for wind ensemble) and recipient of a 2005 Bush Foundation Artist Fellowship in Composition.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

9/11: Melissa Dunphy

I still lived in Australia on 9/11. It was about 11PM, and I was at a party with some college friends in Sydney, drinking and having a good time. Suddenly someone rushed into the room with a phone, yelling for us to turn on the television. One of our friends whose parents were diplomats of some kind had alerted him to the news. The party turned immediately into a news gathering collective, with everyone monitoring every type of media available, and some of us on the phone to people in the know. I bolted to the nearest computer with an internet connection and opened ICQ. My best online buddy, who went by the handle Leviathant, lived in York, Pennsylvania, and was available to chat. It was incredibly surreal: because of the satellite delay on the television broadcast, I would get news reports from him on ICQ before they showed up on our TV set. “Oh my god, the tower collapsed,” I yelled out, and everyone crowded around the television to watch it happen a few seconds later. I feel like this went on for hours, but I can’t be sure; it was all a bit of a blur. At some point, I expressed concern for Leviathant, but he was sure he was safe in rural Pennsylvania. Then, of course, we found out about Flight 93. It was terrifying. Much later in the evening, I sat in front of the TV with everyone else in the house, in shock, and I remember crying because I suddenly realized there’d be a war. Right from the beginning I was deeply frightened – not of the terrorists so much, but of how we would react, and how our culture would change in response. The next few days were full of contrasts. I felt and saw such genuine comradeship, a coming-together of humankind. I also witnessed some of the most vile racist polemic, always just under the surface in Australia, bubble up to the surface and exist proudly out in the open.

Five months later, I traveled to New York City and saw Ground Zero with my own eyes. I remember the weight, and the muffled silence. Laughter and speech seemed like a desecration.

The next week, I traveled to Pennsylvania to meet Leviathant, a.k.a. Matt, and the next year, we were married. 9/11 wasn’t directly responsible, of course. But the tragedy seems somehow integral to our early relationship. Maybe in some way it proved to me how much I care about someone, and how short life is.

Melissa Dunphy
Nationally acclaimed award-winning composer Melissa Dunphy (b. 1980 in Brisbane, Australia) has composed in a wide range of styles and mediums, but specializes in theatrical and political vocal music. Her large-scale choral work the Gonzales Cantata was performed at the 2009 Philadelphia Fringe Festival, and received rave press and reviews from The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Harper's Magazine, and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow. "What do you think I fought for at Omaha Beach?" a choral work in support of marriage equality, will be sung in a concert series titled "What do you think I fought for?" by the GRAMMY Award-winning ensemble Chanticleer in 2012. In 2010, "Omaha Beach" won in the Simon Carrington Chamber Singers Composition Competition and has just been released on their latest album, Go Song of Mine.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

9/11: Xi Wang

I first arrived at US on Aug. 11 2001. 9/11 happened exactly one month after I arrived at this country. I was in Kansas City Missouri at that time, beginning my M.M. study in composition. I remember all the TVs at university café, lounge and hallway were showing the bombing scenes. I was surprised and scared, but probably because I was so new to this country, I was too busy to adjust myself to the new environment and was fully occupied by the schoolwork, I wasn’t terribly affected by the event at that time. It was till 2007, after I moved to NYC, I witnessed the ceremony for 9/11 in NYC, saw numerous 9/11 exhibitions in museums, heard stories from the people around me. I was deeply struck by anger and sorrow.

Xi Wang
Composer Xi Wang Wang (Xi-family name, Wang-first name, pronounced "Shee Wong") has been considered as one of the most talented and active composers of her generation. Her music has been widely performed in the United States and abroad. Her orchestral music has been performed by the Minnesota Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony, the Shanghai Philharmonic and the Spokane Symphony, among others. Xi Wang has received six prizes from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP). As a conductor, Xi Wang has conducted a number of premieres of her own compositions as well as the music by her colleagues. She performs as a piano soloist as well as a chamber music pianist.
Xi Wang's music education started at the age of five. She received her B.M. from the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, M.M. from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and D.M.A. from Cornell University. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor at the Meadow School of Arts of Southern Methodist University.