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.

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