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.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

9/11: Robert Xavier Rodriguez

We artists are used to hard times, but the world of the spirit has consistently managed courageously to assert itself in marvelous ways in the face of, and sometimes stimulated, albeit unwillingly, by the temporal demands of the flesh. The Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times!” doesn’t apply to artists; for us, “interesting times” are the raw materials of magic. Remember Orson Welles in The Third Man, talking about Italy under the Borgias:

...they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed.
They produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci,
and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had
brotherly love, 500 years of democracy, and peace.
And what did they produce? The cuckoo clock.

Today, we have plenty of warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, so why not expect a Renaissance to go with it?

Robert Xavier Rodriguez
Robert Xavier Rodríguez is one of the most significant and often-performed American composers of his generation. His music has been described as “Romantically dramatic” (Washington Post), “richly lyrical” (Musical America) and “glowing with a physical animation and delicate balance of moods that combine seductively with his all-encompassing sense of humor” (Los Angeles Times). “Its originality lies in the telling personality it reveals. His music always speaks, and speaks in the composer’s personal language.” (American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters). Rodríguez has written in all genres — opera, orchestral, concerto, ballet, vocal, choral, chamber, solo and music for the theater — but he has been drawn most strongly in recent years to works for the stage, including music for children.
Rodríguez received his early musical education in San Antonio (b. 1946) and in Austin (UT), Los Angeles (USC), Lenox (Tanglewood), Fontainebleau (Conservatoire Américain) and Paris. His teachers have included Nadia Boulanger, Jacob Druckman, Bruno Maderna and Elliott Carter. Rodríguez first gained international recognition in 1971, when he was awarded the Prix de Composition Musicale Prince Pierre de Monaco by Prince Rainier and Princess Grace at the Palais Princier in Monte Carlo. Other honors include the Prix Lili Boulanger, a Guggenheim Fellowship, awards from ASCAP and the Rockefeller Foundation, five NEA grants, and the Goddard Lieberson Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. Rodríguez has served as Composer-in-Residence with the San Antonio Symphony, the Dallas Symphony, Bennington College, The Bowdoin Music Festival, the Atlantic Center for the Arts and the American Dance Festival. He currently holds the endowed chair of University Professor of Music and is Director of the Musica Nova ensemble at The University of Texas at Dallas. He is also active as a guest lecturer and conductor.
Rodríguez’ music has been performed by conductors such as Sir Neville Marriner, Antal Dorati, Eduardo Mata, Andrew Litton, James DePriest, Sir Raymond Leppard, Keith Lockhart and Leonard Slatkin. His work has received over 2000 professional orchestral and operatic performances in recent seasons by such organizations as the Vienna Schauspielhaus, The National Opera of Mexico, New York City Opera, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Boston Repertory Theater, American Music Theater Festival (now Prince Music Theater), Dallas Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Pennsylvania Opera Theater, Michigan Opera Theatre, Orlando Opera, The Aspen Music Festival, The Juilliard Focus Series, The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Mexico City Philharmonic, Toronto Radio Orchestra, The Baltimore, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Knoxville, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Boston and Chicago Symphonies, The Los Angeles Philharmonic, National Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Louisville Orchestra and Cleveland Orchestra. Rodríguez' chamber works have been performed in London, Paris, Dijon, Monte Carlo, Berlin, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, The Hague and other musical centers. His music is published exclusively by G. Schirmer (íguez) and is recorded on the Newport, Crystal, Orion, Gasparo, Urtext, CRI (Grammy nomination), First Edition, Naxos and Albany labels.

Monday, August 29, 2011

9/11: Daron Hagen

In Manhattan, 9-11 dawned crisp, cool, and clear. Exquisite. My wife had only just left for school: the subway took her from 96th Street Station down to the World Trade Center where she transferred to a train out to Stony Brook where she was finishing the course work for her doctorate. My nephew had just moved to New York to begin college, moved into his NYU dorm room. I finished my first cup of coffee at around nine, sat down at the piano to work. The phone rang.

"Baby, turn on the television. A man just got on the train and said that a plane has flown into the World Trade Center. They've stopped the train. The conductor said there are no trains behind us. I can see the smoke." "Are you okay?" I asked. "Yes." "Okay. Sweetheart: stay off the phone. Call me when you get out to Stony Brook."

I squatted in front of the television and turned on CNN in time to see the second plane hit at 9:03. I called my nephew. "Where are you?" I asked. "I'm on the street, Uncle Daron," he said. "The air is gray." "Get up here as soon as you can," I ordered. "Start walking north now, fast."

I sprinted out to the deli at 98th and Broadway and bought staples and three gallons of spring water. The sidewalk vibrated with the thunder of military aircraft streaking fast and low southwards over the west side.

Later: "I'm in Stony Brook. Everything's locked down: nobody's getting out or going in to Manhattan," Gilda said. "You're okay?" "Yes. I'm staying with Matt and Sally."

I walked out to Broadway. Tractor-trailer trucks hurtled south in convoy through the dark at top speed, ignoring all the lights. I followed them on foot. Smell of steel. There was a super-fine white film of grit on everything. Cabs with the back seats ripped out headed downtown like a fleet of ferryboats.

Reflexively, I headed toward Midtown. I couldn't get past Washington Square. "Go home," the cop said, exhausted. "Oh. For God's sake just go home to your family." I stared at him, wringing my hands. He softened. "They're making sandwiches to send south over there across the park," he said, pointing. "Maybe they need a hand."

I remember thinking how beautiful the weather had been while standing stupidly at a folding table and spreading bright yellow mustard with a broken plastic knife on one piece of white bread after another.

I have lived in Manhattan since 1984. I used to take the trip to Erewhon every couple of weeks on the Staten Island Ferry just to rekindle—by watching "my" beloved skyline first recede then—on the return trip—regain its majesty. After that day, all I could think about when I took the ferry was the presence that absence makes. I haven't boarded it since.

Several months ago I had a long conversation about 9-11 with the Captain of the Police Precinct in which I now live. I asked him what the most enduring feeling he felt that his colleagues on the force retain about that day. "Shame," he said. Surprised, I asked why. "We're ashamed that it has taken so long to rebuild Ground Zero. There should have been something there within a year."

Daron Hagen
Hagen and Clare
Along with four symphonies, twelve concerti, over 150 art songs and song cycles, and forty chamber works, Daron Hagen (born 1961, in Milwaukee) is the composer of five highly-acclaimed, frequently-performed full-length operas: Shining Brow, Bandanna, New York Stories, and Amelia as well as two one-act operas: Vera of Las Vegas and The Antient Concert.
Other career highlights include Philharmonia, commissioned for the 150th anniversary of the New York Philharmonic, Much Ado, commissioned for the 75th anniversary of the Curtis Institute of Music, The Waking Father, for the Kings Singers, and major concerti for colleagues Joel Fan, Gary Graffman, Soren Hermannsson, Sara Sant'Ambrogio, Jeffrey Khaner, Yumi Kurosawa, Jaime Laredo, Michael Ludwig, and Sharon Robinson; works for the Amelia Piano Trio, Borromeo Quartet, Elements String Quartet, Finisterra Piano Trio, Lark Quarte+, Maverick Concerts, Music from Curtis, Present Music, Sweet Plantain and Voxare String Quartets and the Wisconsin Brass Quintet; and commissions from the Albany Symphony, Buffalo Philharmonic, Denver Chamber Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony, National Symphony, New Mexico Symphony, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Seattle Symphony, and Wisconsin Philharmonic, among others.
Mr. Hagen's music is widely performed and recorded. In 2009, Naxos released Shining Brow (Buffalo Philharmonic / Falletta) and the complete Hagen Piano Trios (Finisterra Trio). Bandanna was released on Albany under his baton in 2007; Vera of Las Vegas on the CRI label. Nearly all of Hagen's vocal music is recorded and available commercially.
During 2012-13, Hagen's operas will receive new productions and / or premieres in Austin, California, Chicago, Como (Italy), New York City, Sarasota, and Sondrio (Italy). LyricFest (Philadelphia) and Virginia Tech will premiere new song cycles. The Hawaii and Seattle Symphony Orchestras will premiere new works. The Voxare String Quartet will premiere String Quartet No. 2 in Washington and release a CD of Hagen's works on Naxos.
Mr. Hagen lives in New York City with his wife Gilda Lyons and sons Atticus and Seamus.

Friday, August 26, 2011

9/11: Emma Lou Diemer

9/11 affected me probably the same way it affected most other Americans. Shock, incredulity, premonition of great change, finally lots of anger.

Emma Lou Diemer
Emma Lou Diemer was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Her father, George Willis Diemer, was an educator (college president); her mother, Myrtle Casebolt Diemer, was a church worker and homemaker. Her sister, Dorothy Diemer Hendry, was an educator, poet, writer (married to Col. Wickliffe B. Hendry; their children are Betty Augsburger, Terri Sims, Alan Hendry, Bonny Gierhart). Her brothers were George W. Diemer II, an educator, Marine fighter pilot, musician, and John Irving Diemer educator, musician (his children are George W. Diemer III, René Krey, Jack Diemer, Dee Dee Diemer).
Emma Lou played the piano and composed at a very early age and became organist in her church at age 13. Her great interest in composing music continued through College High School in Warrensburg, MO, and she majored in composition at the Yale Music School (BM, 1949; MM, 1950) and at the Eastman School of Music (Ph.D, 1960). She studied in Brussels, Belgium on a Fulbright Scholarship and spent two summers of composition study at the Berkshire Music Center.
She taught in several colleges and was organist at several churches in the Kansas City area during the 1950s. From 1959-61 she was composer-in-residence in the Arlington, VA schools under the Ford Foundation Young Composers Project, and composed many choral and instrumental works for the schools, a number of which are still in publication. She was consultant for the MENC Contemporary Music Project before joining the faculty of the University of Maryland where she taught composition and theory from 1965-70. In 1971 she moved from the East Coast to teach composition and theory at the University of California, Santa Barbara. At UCSB she was instrumental in founding the electronic/computer music program. In 1991 she became Professor Emeritus at UCSB.
Through the years she has fulfilled many commissions (orchestral, chamber ensemble, keyboard, choral, vocal) from schools, churches, and professional organizations. Most of her works are published. She has received awards from Yale University (Certificate of Merit), The Eastman School of Music (Edward Benjamin Award), the National Endowment for the Arts (electronic music project), Mu Phi Epsilon (Certificate of Merit), the Kennedy Center Friedheim Awards (for piano concerto), the American Guild of Organists (Composer of the Year), the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers/ASCAP (annually since 1962 for performances and publications), the Santa Barbara Symphony (composer-in-residence, 1990-92), the University of Central Missouri (honorary doctorate), and many others.
She is an active keyboard performer (piano, organ, harpsichord, synthesizer), and in the last few years has given concerts of her own music at Washington National Cathedral, St. Mary's Cathedral and Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, and elsewhere.
Emma Lou lives in Santa Barbara, California, five minutes from the Pacific Ocean.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

9/11: Paul Moravec

Paul Moravec wrote No Words (2003), as a commissione from Gay Gotham (now called Empire City)
Chorus. "As a New Yorker, I lived through the attack and its depressing aftermath;
I have nothing really to add to the notes below."

Faced with incomprehensible loss, we say, “There are no words.”

New York daily newspaper (Post), Jan. 15, 2002: Cover photograph of several elegant, mechanical watches, some without wristbands, all abraded and damaged to various degrees.
Headline: “FROZEN IN TIME”
Sub-header: “Victims’ watches, some still ticking, found at Ground Zero.”

The piano soloist and chorus of NO WORDS keep time, wind down, and come to a stop.
In this piece, there are no words; only music.

Paul Moravec
Paul Moravec, winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in Music, has composed over one hundred works for the orchestral, chamber, choral, lyric, film, and operatic genres. He is University Professor at Adelphi University, recently served as the Artist-in-Residence with the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ., and in 2010 he was recently elected to the American Philosophical Society.
Mr. Moravec’s first opera, The Letter, commissioned by Santa Fe Opera, with libretto by Terry Teachout, premiered in the 2009 season. Other recent premieres include Danse Russe, a one-act comic opera for the 2011 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts; The Blizzard Voices, an evening-length oratorio for Opera Omaha; Brandenburg Gate, for Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall; Piano Quintet, for Jeremy Denk and the Lark Quartet; Anniversary Dances, for the Ying Quartet; Cornopean Airs, for the American Brass Quintet; The Time Gallery with eighth blackbird at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Morph with the String Orchestra of New York (SONYC); Cool Fire and Chamber Symphony for the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival; Capital Unknowns for the Albany Symphony; Everyone Sang for the Marilyn Horne Foundation; Parables for the New York Festival of Song; Vita Brevis, for tenor Paul Sperry; Useful Knowledge, a cantata commissioned by the American Philosophical Society for Benjamin Franklin’s tercentenary; No Words, commissioned by Concert Artist Guild for pianist James Lent and the Empire City Men’s Chorus.
Paul Moravec’s discography includes Tempest Fantasy, performed by Trio Solisti with clarinetist David Krakauer, on Naxos American Classics; The Time Gallery, performed by eighth blackbird, also on Naxos; Cool Fire, with the Bridgehampton Chamber Festival on Naxos; Songs of Love and War for Chorus and Orchestra on a CD featuring The Dessoff Choirs & Orchestra; Sonata for Violin and Piano performed by the Bachmann/Klibonoff Duo for BMG/RCA Red Seal; Double Action, Evermore, and Ariel Fantasy, performed by the Bachmann/Klibonoff Duo on an Endeavour Classics CD entitled “The Red Violin.”; Atmosfera a Villa Aurelia and Vince & Jan, performed by the Lark Quartet on an Endeavour Classics CD entitled “Klap Ur Handz”; Morph, performed by the String Orchestra of New York on an Albany disc, Spiritdance, an orchestral work on the Vienna Modern Masters label; an album of chamber compositions titled Circular Dreams on CRI; and Vita Brevis, with Paul Sperry, tenor, and the composer at the piano, on Albany Records. Upcoming releases include an orchestral album with Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and Useful Knowledge, on Naxos.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

9/11: Roxanna Panufnik

9/11 influenced me hugely. I was pregnant with my first child and it sent me into a panic over what sort of world I'd be bringing her into. It was about that time that someone reminded me about Christians, Jews and Muslims all having the same one God. This inspired my interfaith violin concerto for Daniel Hope "Abraham" - which incorporated chant, rhythms and modes from all 3 monotheistic faiths. This alter led to the World Orchestra of Peace asking me to turn it into an orchestral overture which was premiered with Gergiev in Jerusalem. It has left me with an intense love and respect for the cultures of all these faiths which I'm sure will influence the rest of my domestic and musical life.

Roxanna Panufnik
Roxanna Panufnik is one of the UK's most popular and loved composers whose works have struck a deep emotional chord with audiences everywhere.
Since studying composition at London's Royal Academy of Music, Roxanna's since written a wide range of pieces including opera, ballet, music theatre, choral works, chamber compositions and music for film and television which are regularly performed all over the world.
Among her most widely given works are Westminster Mass, commissioned for Westminster Cathedral Choir on the occasion of Cardinal Hume's 75th birthday; The Music Programme, an opera for Polish National Opera's millennium season which received its UK premiere at the BOC Covent Garden Festival; and settings for solo voices and orchestra of Vikram Seth's Beastly Tales - the first of which was commissioned by the BBC for Patricia Rozario and City of London Sinfonia.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

9/11: Steven Stucky

In the days and weeks after 9/11, I was appalled to see composers practically overnight turning out musical responses to those events. It felt too soon, too opportunistic. Surely none of us had even had time yet to process our complex feelings. Politicians were seizing the opportunity to show-boat, but surely artists could take a more reflective approach.
My instincts were the opposite: keep quiet, do your work, let the healing for yourselves and others start slowly as we began to understand what had happened, and how we felt.You don't write about Hiroshima the next day. It took Kurt Vonnegut 14 years after the fire-bombing of Dresden to publish Slaughterhouse-Five.
So I went back to work on my Concerto for Percussion and Wind Orchestra. But as I composed its slow fourth movement I soon noticed the tragic tone of the music I was writing, and I realized that I was thinking about all the victims of September 11. I didn't have to seize the opportunity to "say" something about 9/11, those feelings had seized me after all.

See part of the score for his Percussion Concerto here. Hear some samples of the concerto here.

Steven Stucky
Widely recognized as one of the leading composers today, Steven Stucky was awarded the 2005 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Second Concerto for Orchestra. He has written commissioned works for many of the major American orchestras and ensembles.
Mr. Stucky has taught at Cornell University since 1980, where he serves as Given Foundation Professor of Composition. He has also been associated with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for more than 20 years, and is currently Consulting Composer for New Music.

Monday, August 22, 2011

9/11: Penn and Teller

Teller and John in Austin, March 2011
While Penn and Teller are not composers, they are artists - wonderful magicians who I met in Las Vegas. I became friends with Teller and we worked together for the Las Vegas Chamber Music Society to bring all six Bartok String Quartets with the Colorado String Quartet. Later he conducted a Purcell suite on my farewell concert. I adore his genius and thoughtfulness, and knew he might have something to say about this question. Here is his response:

After 911, Penn and I felt we had to omit from our show our deeply patriotic piece that uses the American flag. The piece, actually written a couple years before in response to experiences in repressive foreign countries, suddenly felt wrong. In our piece, we celebrate the way the flag expresses our pride in the Bill of Rights. In the wake of 911, the image of the flag had become tied to grief, loss, and mourning. To do our trick at that time would have seemed either disrespectful or pandering. As the nation recovered, we were able to restore it to our repertoire, and we now perform it at virtually every live show.

Penn and Teller
They defy labels, and at times, good taste. They’ve performed together for 30 years; skewering the genre of magic, their sold-out audiences, and themselves -- very often all at the same time, within one mind-boggling evening.
September is an exciting month for the duo as they celebrate their fifth year as headliners in their own theater at the Rio All-suite Hotel and Casino, as well as two Emmy nominations for their Showtime series, “Penn and Teller: Bullshit!”
And along the way, Penn and Teller have made the hardest trick of all – a remarkable career that ranges from stage to television to three best-selling books – look easy. And they’ve done it all on their own, distinctively offbeat terms.
They call themselves “a couple of eccentric guys who have learned how to do a few cool things.” Since first teaming up in 1975, when they combined Teller’s silent, occasionally creepy, magic with Penn’s clown college education and juggling expertise, the two have created an entertainment success story that went from the streets to small clubs to national theater tours, and now to a current, multi-year engagement at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Friday, August 19, 2011

9/11: Robert Moran

When Robert Ridgell asked me to compose the TRINITY REQUIEM for his youth chorus as part of the 10th Anniversary of Sept. 11th, 2001, a commissioned score, my immediate reaction was “No, Robert.... having a youth choir sing a Requiem strikes me as slightly ghoulish and a bit unnerving. Let me think about this”. Directly after this conversation, I began to get ‘flash-backs’ of numerous stories I had heard throughout my life of children who had lost their entire families from plagues, wars, endless catastrophes, vicious governments, etc. I told Rob that I had heard of a specific story of a little girl in Kosovo, maybe no more than 8 years old, whose parents and brother of age 6 had been murdered; she was found daily at the grave of her brother, and had completely lost the ability to speak. “Rob, this is what ‘our’ Requiem is about, these thousands and thousands of kids left with nothing. A friend of mine in England, as a little child, was sent off to Wales during the Nazi bombings of London. He returned to London at the end of the war to find that both his parents had been killed. I was speechless. Luckily we have the ability to attempt some expression of grief through our music. Let’s get going with this project now”.
Robert Moran and John Clare
9/11/2001? Most of the voices in this Trinity Youth Chorus are of young people born in 2000. The World Trade Center attack would mean nothing to them... But knowing and seeing on television children’s lives destroyed time and again would have a deep impact. We recorded the Trinity Requiem in November 2010; a very intense and moving experience for everyone involved. At the conclusion of In Paradisum, many of us were in tears. One note concerning the Offertory: I based this short movement upon the bass line of the famous Pachelbel Canon, using that organ statement for my own musical canon for the four celli. The first four notes of the Pachelbel ‘bass line’? Where had I heard those before? They are used as the “Parsifal” chimes, courtesy of Mr. R. Wagner. And even with our concern for eliminating New York City street sounds during this recording, we couldn’t totally succeed. During the opening of the Offertory, one hears a siren passing the church. We decided that this ‘alarm’ was, although ‘not in the score’, worth keeping as a reminder that the World Trade Center, ten years before, had just been behind Trinity.

Robert Moran
Robert Moran has already written his place into the rich tapestry of contemporary music which has flourished in the United States in the second half of the twentieth century. Whilst Glass, Reich, and Riley trod the various paths towards minimalism, Moran was composing and organising performance art spectaculars such as Thirty Nine Minutes for Thirty Nine Autos - a deceptive title for a piece which used 100,000 performers and most of downtown San Francisco - premiered in August 1969, and Hallelujah (April 1971) using most of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania and twenty marching bands, forty church choirs and several gospel groups.
Robert Moran was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. Having studied with Apostel (12 Tone Composition in Vienna) and then Berio and Milhaud, Moran co-founded the San Francisco New Music Ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in the mid-1960s. His time in America’s West Coast culminated in an evening of his works given by the San Francisco Symphony in August 1974. Directly following this concert, Moran moved to West Berlin as Composer in Residence at the invitation of the German Government.
Moran's operas include Night Passage (1995), commissioned by Dennis Coleman and the Seattle Mens' Chorus; The Juniper Tree, co-composed with Philip Glass. He has had three opera premieres via Houston Grand Opera, including Desert of Roses and The Dracula Diary. His dance works are in the repertoire of companies including The Royal Ballet, Netherlands Dance Theater, New York City Ballet, Bavarian Opera House and San Francisco Ballet.
Among his works premiering in 2011 are Alice for Scottish Ballet in April, Trinity Requiem for Trinity Cathedral, Wall Street, NYC in September, Buddha Goes to Bayreuth for double choral and string groups, Germany's Ruhrtriennale Oct 2011, and new dance work The Lottery.
His works are heard throughout the USA, Australia, Europe, and Asia.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

9/11: Libby Larsen

My publisher OUP asked me to compose a piece in response to 9-11. I was flattened by this calculated, commodified request. In fact, it spelled the end of our relationship. Instead I waited to work with great artists Susanne Mentzer, James Dunham and Craig Rutenberg and we created the best work I have ever composed - "Sifting Through the Ruins". We premiered the work at Aspen. This is OUR response to 9-11.

Listen to Sifting Through the Ruins here: sounds files
See the score here.
Sifting Through the Ruins is a set of five songs composed in memory of the human lives changed forever by the bombing of the WorldTradeCenter in September 2001. Susanne Mentzer, James Dunham, Craig Rutenberg, and I give these songs to you with a wish to honor the profound love of life, so gentle, but at present ferociously and blindingly evident in every second of our lives.
Susanne privately collected a number of texts which she discovered on her personal journey towards understanding the events of September 11th. We chose the words we present today as a way of bringing out essential emotions. The truths are stark. The words are startling simple, innocent, direct, and bereft of contrivance. In short, they are authentic. They are the only logical response of human beings to the utter shock of sudden death. That there are words at all astounds me. These are the hardest words with which I have ever partnered as a composer. But we four artists trust that our work together can in some small way articulate their weight by letting the words speak for themselves, born up by the music we make.

Libby Larsen
Libby Larsen is one of America’s most performed living composers. She has created a catalogue of over 400 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over fifteen operas. Grammy Award winning and widely recorded, including over fifty CD’s of her work, she is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world, and has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory.
As a vigorous, articulate advocate for the music and musicians of our time, in 1973 Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composer’s Forum, which has become an invaluable aid for composers in a transitional time for American arts. A former holder of the Papamarkou Chair at John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, Larsen has also held residencies with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony and the Colorado Symphony.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

9/11: David Mairs

David Mairs will perform his Lacrimosa and Benedictus on September 11, 2011 with the Mid Texas Symphony. This is what he had to say about the work:

David Mairs
Mairs began his professional career playing Solo Horn for the elite U.S. Army Band in Washington, D.C. Following his military service, he became Associate Principal Horn of the Pittsburgh Symphony, Solo Horn of the Pittsburgh Opera and Ballet, and a member of the New Pittsburgh Quintet brass ensemble.
Mairs’ interest in conducting led him to the Flint Symphony where he served as Assistant Conductor and Music Administrator. He moved to the San Antonio Symphony in 1988 where he served as Resident Conductor until 1999, directing classical concerts, audience-pleasing pops, and educational and family concerts. Mairs also hosted the weekly “Symphony Spotlight” on KPAC radio.
Mairs has conducted leading orchestras around the country including the Houston, Dallas, Colorado Springs, Dayton, Austin, Saginaw Bay, Phoenix, Charlotte, West Shore, Kansas City, and Ft. Worth symphonies. He is an annual guest conductor with the Flint Symphony.
Mairs has been a leading Texas music educator for over 35 years, and was named Denton ISD’s 2010 Teacher of the Year (after a short four years in the school system as its director of orchestras). Mairs has served as Conductor of Orchestras at UTSA, Music and Administrative Director of the North East School of the Arts, and Music Director of the Youth Orchestras of San Antonio.
Mairs has led sessions of the League of American Orchestras Conductors’ Workshop, designed to teach up-and-coming conductors their craft. His passion for education and talent for communicating with audiences of all ages make the annual Mid-Texas Symphony’s Children’s Concerts outstanding, yet fun, educational experiences. As the Seguin Gazette-Enterprise wrote, Mairs “is looking for a lot more than offering students a unique experience. He’s looking to change lives.”
In addition to conducting, Mairs composes and arranges orchestral, band, and choral music; his works include the creation of the first marching band arrangements for half-time programs at high school football games using classical music, choral and orchestral works, and many of the arrangements for children’s chorus heard at the Mid-Texas Symphony annual Christmas concert.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

9/11: Andrew Waggoner

I think what it most did for me was to make the communal personal, and vice versa. I think this is because my relationships to New York and to loved ones there were affected in ways that went way beyond the catastrophe itself, and yet were profoundly marked by it. I didn't write a 9/11 piece, but one that I was writing at the time which was very personal ended up being shaped by the whole experience such that it became something very different than it would have been otherwise. So it pulled me inside out, with collective tragedy somehow acting in me on a deeply intimate level.

(The piece Andrew was writing was his String Quartet #3, for the Corigliano Quartet - coming out this fall on Albany Records.)

Andrew Waggoner
Andrew Waggoner was born in 1960 in New Orleans. He grew up there and in Minneapolis and Atlanta, and studied at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, the Eastman School of Music and Cornell University. Called "the gifted practitioner of a complex but dramatic and vividly colored style" by the New Yorker, his music has been commissioned and performed by the the Academy of St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Saint Louis, Denver, Syracuse, and Winnipeg Symphonies, the Cassatt, Corigliano, Miro, and Degas Quartets, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the California EAR Unit, pianist Gloria Cheng, violist Melia Watras, 'cellist Robert Burkhart, the Bohuslav Martinu Philharmonic of Zlin, Czech Republic, Sequitur, the Empyrean Ensemble, Buglisi-Foreman Dance, the Athabasca Trio, CELLO, Flexible Music, Ensemble Nordlys, of Denmark, and Ensemble Accroche Note, of France.
He has received grants and prizes from ASCAP, Yaddo, The New York State Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer, New Music Delaware, the Eastman School of Music and Syracuse University. He has also been awarded the Lee Ettelson Composer's Award from Composers Inc., in San Francisco, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Roger Sessions Prize for an American composer by the Liguria Study Center in Bogliasco, Italy, where he was in residence at Bogliasco in the spring of 2008. In 2009 he received an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Monday, August 15, 2011

9/11: JoAnn Falletta

Can anyone be the same after 9/11? Can I ever forget the images I saw on television...or later, the heartrending homemade altars of flowers and candles on the New York city streets we thought were invincible? Can I ever forget my beloved and noisy hometown turned silent by a numbing grief that changed a city of vibrant humanity into a place of incomprehensible sorrow?
But most of all, I remember how important it was to be together that weekend at our concert, to sit in that darkened hall and draw comfort from Beethoven and from each other, to sing our National Anthem with a searing intensity we had never felt before, to believe that the part of man that could create such beauty as music was the part of us that would sustain and heal us and, somehow, make us whole again.

The Beethoven they played was his Symphony No. 9, " Choral."

JoAnn Falletta
JoAnn Falletta has a rapidly growing international reputation as a vibrant ambassador for music and an inspiring artistic leader. An effervescent and exuberant figure on the podium, she has been praised by The Washington Post as having “Toscanini’s tight control over ensemble, Walter’s affectionate balancing of inner voices, Stokowski’s gutsy showmanship, and a controlled frenzy worthy of Bernstein.” Acclaimed by The New York Times as “one of the finest conductors of her generation”, she serves as the Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Principal Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Center.
Ms. Falletta is invited to guest conduct many of the world’s finest symphony orchestras. This year, she will make her South American debut with the Orquesta Sinfonica de Chile in Santiago Chile, guest conduct the London Symphony in a program of music of Kenneth Fuchs to be recorded for the Naxos label, return to Asia to conduct the Korean Broadcast Symphony in Seoul and the Beijing Symphony in China, and make a tour of Germany and Italy with the Sudwestdeutsche Philharmonie. This summer will be her first as Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Center.
Highlights of her recent international guest conducting appearances include the Haifa Symphony (Israel), Goettingen Symphony (Germany), Ulster Orchestra, Netherlands Radio Orchestra, National Philharmonic of Lithuania, Orquestra de Extremadura (Spain), Warsaw National Philharmonic, Kraków Philharmonic, Orchestra National de Belgique, Seoul Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic in Manchester, Ensemble Kanazawa (Japan), Tokyo Metropolitan Orchestra, Orchestra of Asturias (Spain), Rotterdam Philharmonic, Orchestre National De Lyon, Northwest German Philharmonic, Royal Scottish National Orchestra and the Lisbon Metropolitan Symphony. She has guest conducted over 100 orchestras in North America, including the orchestras of Philadelphia, Detroit, Montreal, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Houston, Rochester, Utah, Edmonton, Quebec and the National Symphony. Ms. Falletta’s summer activities have taken her to numerous music festivals including Aspen, Tanglewood, Hollywood Bowl, Grand Teton, Wolf Trap, Eastern Music, Cabrillo, OK Mozart International, Lanaudiere, Peter Britt, Breckenridge, Brevard and Interlochen, among others.
She is the recipient of many of the most prestigious conducting awards including the Seaver/National Endowment for the Arts Conductors Award, the coveted Stokowski Competition, and the Toscanini, Ditson and Bruno Walter Awards for conducting, as well as the American Symphony Orchestra League’s prestigious John S. Edwards Award. She is an ardent champion of music of our time, introducing over 400 works by American composers, including more than 100 world premieres. Hailing her as a “leading force for the music of our time”, she was honored with her 10th ASCAP award in 2008. Ms. Falletta serves as a Member of the National Council on the Arts.
The Buffalo Philharmonic, which celebrated its 75th Anniversary Season, last year, will release three new recordings, and record a fourth this season and has been invited to perform at Carnegie Hall in May 2013, as part of the Spring for Music Festival. This spring, the League of American Orchestras and ASCAP presented the BPO with a 2010-2011 ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming and second place nationally for Programming of Contemporary Music.