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.

Friday, August 12, 2011

9/11: Robert Pound

I was stunned.  I did make an attempt at a immediate artistic response (within months), but it was unsuccessful.  It probably found its way into my work since, but I've not analyzed for that.  I'm not sure I could yet create an apt artistic response to it.

Robert Pound
Composer and conductor Robert Pound teaches courses in theory, composition, and conducting. He is Director of the Dickinson Orchestra. Pound's numerous compositions include orchestral works for the Atlanta Symphony and the Columbus (GA) Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, and the Youth Orchestra of Greater Columbus. He has received commissions from such distinguished ensembles as the Corigliano Quartet, the Timaeus Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, and the Florestan Recital Project. Pound has also written music for professional stage productions, including Eurydice, Moby Dick Rehearsed, Oedipus at Colonus, André Gregory's Bone Songs and Strindberg's The Dance of Death. In March 2002, Pound was Composer in Residence at Columbus State University. He was guest composer and lecturer at the University of North Texas in April 2010. Pound has guest conducted with Verge (the performing ensemble of the Contemporary Music Forum, Washington, DC) with whom he performed at the June in Buffalo Festival in 2009. He was Music Director of the West Shore Symphony Orchestra (New Cumberland, PA) from 2000 to 2002. As a Fellow at Tanglewood Music Center in the summer of 2003, he participated in master classes with Robert Spano, Christoph von Dohnányi and Kurt Masur and conducted Peter Lieberson's Razing the Gaze in Seiji Ozawa Hall as part of the Festival of Contemporary Music.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

9/11: Stephen Hartke

Just before it happened, my family and I had been moving into a new house and had just finished unpacking the last box on Sept. 10. I was planning on going back to work on a piano quartet the next day. We were worn out from the move and planned to sleep in on 9/11 but were awakened by a firend calling to tell us what was going on. We live in California, so actually the attack was over by the time we switched on the TV.

I grew up in Manhattan and, so, was particularly devasted. I rattled around the house for several weeks, going into to school to teach my classes, but otherwise not getting anything done. The sketches for the piano quartet that I had seemed pretty irrelevant and yet I had to come up with something for the Opus One Piano Quartet to premiere that December at the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society. About a month or so after 9/11, I sat at the piano and started playing the opening of Thomas Tallis' Lamentations -- and, of course, the text from Jeremiah is a lament for the destruction of a great city -- and gradually a new piece began to emerge based on the structure of the Tallis and building on motives derived from it. I finished the piece remarkably quickly for me -- in about 6 weeks -- and decided to call it Beyond Words -- that being what music is for.

The second piece is my Symphony No. 3, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for the 2nd anniversary of 9/11, although they later said that the piece did not necessarily have to be a memorial. I asked to have the Hilliard Ensemble as soloists and did a setting of my own translation of an Anglo-Saxon elegy in which the poet describes the ruins of a Roman city, imagining how magnificent it must have been at its height, and in the process affirming the worth of human aspiration despite the inevitability of death and decay.

Listen to a portion of the Symphony No. 3 here.

Stephen Hartke
Stephen Hartke is widely recognized as one of the leading composers of his generation, whose work has been hailed for both its singularity of voice and the inclusive breadth of its inspiration. Born in Orange, New Jersey, in 1952, Hartke grew up in Manhattan where he began his musical career as a professional boy chorister, performing with such organizations as the New York Pro Musica, the New York Philharmonic, the American Symphony Orchestra, and the Metropolitan Opera. Following studies at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of California at Santa Barbara, interrupted by stints as advertising manager for several major music publishers, Hartke taught in Brazil as Fulbright Professor at the Universidade de Sã o Paulo, before joining the University of Southern California faculty in 1987.

Hartke's output is extremely varied, from the medieval-inspired piano quartet, The King of the Sun, and Wulfstan at the Millennium, an abstract liturgy for ten instruments, the blues-inflected violin duo, Oh Them Rats Is Mean in My Kitchen, and the surreal trio, The Horse with the Lavender Eye, to the Biblical satire, Sons of Noah, for soprano, four flutes, four guitars and four bassoons, and his recent cycle of motets for chorus, oboe and strings, Precepts. He has composed concerti for renowned clarinetist, Richard Stoltzman, and violinist, Michele Makarski, and his collaboration with the internationally-celebrated Hilliard Ensemble has resulted in three substantial works, including his Symphony No. 3, commissioned by Lorin Maazel and the New York Philharmonic. Most recently his acclaimed full-length opera, The Greater Good, was premiered and recorded by Glimmerglass Opera. Other major commissions have come from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Harvard Musical Association, the IRIS Chamber Orchestra, the Kansas City Symphony, the Library of Congress, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Barlow Endowment, Chamber Music America, the Fromm Foundation, the Institute for American Music at the Eastman School of Music, Meet The Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, among others.
Stephen Hartke has also won the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, two Koussevitzky Music Foundation Commission Grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Stoeger Award from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Charles Ives Living from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Deutsche Bank Berlin Prize from the American Academy in Berlin.  In 2008, Hartke's opera, The Greater Good, received the first Charles Ives Opera Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Most of Hartke's music is available on commercial CDs released by Bridge, Chandos, CRI, ECM New Series, EMI Classics, Naxos American Classics, and New World Records.
Stephen Hartke lives in Glendale, California, with his wife, Lisa Stidham, and son, Sandy, and is Distinguished Professor of Composition at the Thornton School of Music of the University of Southern California.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

9/11 Response

I recently sent an email to composers, performers and a few conductors with this question:

How has/did 9/11 affect you?

I also included this with the question: It can be a word, sentence or paragraph.  If you like I can call you and we can talk about it. I will not be offended if you do not reply.  I also hope you do not mind me asking you.

The response has been amazing and inspiring.  Almost everyone has a story or response.  Between now and September 11th, I will post their responses.  You too can participate, leave a comment!