Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Underwood New Music Readings - Composer Spotlight: Chen Yihan

Much of Chen Yihan’s music seeks for a convergence of different points in time and space, connecting the past to the future and bringing different corners of the world together in an abstract, poetic, and emotional way that transcends culture and epoch. His music is often a play of lines, space, and intensity in a calligraphic way, reflecting his cultural roots in the Chinese arts. As a composer, Chen Yihan’s music has been performed by the Symphony Orchestra of the National Opera House (China), The Juilliard Orchestra, Longcheng Symphony Orchestra, The New York Virtuoso Singers, Cantoría Hong Kong, the Entre Madeiras Trio, among others. He has earned honors such as two ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, the Jacobs School of Music Dean’s Prize, a winner of the Juilliard orchestra competition, to name a few.

Chen Yihan’s piece SPIRITUS was selected for the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and conductor Ludovic Morlot. Chen Yihan spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here



Hear Chen Yihan's piece at the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings. Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Learn more about Chen Yihan at www.yihanmusic.com

Follow Chen Yihan on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Underwood New Music Readings - Composer Spotlight: Rodrigo Castro

Rodrigo Castro’s work is a counterpoint of ideas laid out in mosaic, fractal, and dendrite forms. Imbued with an esoteric spirit, the organic cell-driven structures that he creates in every piece project atmospheres where spectral and playful echoes are chanted in a shifting sense of time. Rodrigo’s music aims to perfume the environment with aleatoric waves that highlight the liminal spaces between individual and universal identities. His esoteric music evokes feelings or memories in each listener with spiritual and metaphorical considerations and with the aim to create musical landscapes that need to exist. As a troubadour of his own time, he uses the orchestra to redefine the vernacular melodies and rhythms of his Mexican and Cuban heritage. Rodrigo’s work is influenced by artists such as Silvio Rodríguez, Bob Dylan, Luis Eduardo Aute and Leonard Cohen.

Rodrigo’s piece La gaviota was selected for the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and conductor Ludovic Morlot. Rodrigo spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Composer Rodrigo Castro

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Underwood New Music Readings?

Rodrigo Castro: Considering the somewhat challenging circumstances behind my piece’s inception, and its varying stages of development, I was astounded and relieved upon finding out that I was one of the selected composers. In the following days, I began to feel more of a sense of contentment and pride in my work and efforts. By now, I feel excited from the anticipation and, most of all, incredibly thankful for this important opportunity.

ACO: What are you doing to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you have made to your piece?

RC: In preparation for the readings, I had to reconsider some aspects of my piece with a critical sense for both refinement and pragmatism. It was encouraging to know that I still had the chance to chisel away at some specific details that could ensure a more productive experience. With that in mind, I reworked some minor aspects of the orchestration in certain passages, as well as the approach to some extended techniques and even some editing of the overall layout of the piece. It was a refreshing review of my ideas after having some time to gather a more objective perspective on the aesthetic intentions proposed in the work. With a better sense for how to balance out some areas, that may not have been entirely convincing, or even properly formed at first, the piece is now imbued with a new sense for the occasion.

ACO: What are you looking forward to about the workshops and readings? What do you hope to learn from the experience?

RC: I am very much looking forward to meeting all of the wonderful people behind this project. Naturally, the emphasis is on the experience of hearing my piece and learning all that there is still to learn about my work, but the feeling of belonging to such an important moment shared by all who are involved, is undoubtedly something to look forward to as well. As it is, composers of new music do not often have a such a significant chance to learn more about their creative ideas through a tangible experience, and everything has been set up for us to really dive deep into the atmosphere of our field. This is where the abstractness of what we do will become a reality that we can engage with. Our art form is mostly driven by context, and these readings are an important next step for our development in light of that pursuit.

I hope to learn about specific concerns, such as finding an equilibrium between one’s distinctive artistic vision and the practical considerations implied when working with an ensemble and within the protocols of our trade. I also hope that I will learn more, and in a comprehensive manner, about what it really means to be a composer in our world and of our times, through what promises to be a very meaningful experience.

Hear Rodrigo's piece at the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings. Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Underwood New Music Readings - Composer Spotlight: Jack Hughes

Jack Hughes is a Chicago-based composer who is interested in exploring the ways in which the inner life of sound interacts with a listener’s mind, body and soul. While Jack avoids being prescriptive in the response his music elicits, one of his core values is for his music be meaningful on some level to all audience members, regardless of their musical knowledge. He seeks to foster musical experiences in which imagination, empathy, and trust flow in all directions among the composer, performers, and listeners. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago, where he studies with Augusta Read Thomas. Jack Hughes received his Bachelor of Music degree in composition and theory at the Cleveland Institute of Music, in the studio of Keith Fitch. Jack served as composer fellow of San Francisco’s Volti choral ensemble in 2017 and of the Canton Symphony Orchestra in 2014.

Jack’s piece Needlepoint was selected for the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and conductor Ludovic Morlot. Jack spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Composer Jack Hughes. Photo by Phillip Sossenheimer

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Underwood New Music Readings?

Jack Hughes: I was thrilled. Right after receiving the email I found myself reflecting on the two weeks in August when I was working on one of the most difficult sections of the piece. It was incredibly hot in Chicago and composing felt exceedingly slow and difficult. To keep myself motivated I would imagine how exciting it would be to hear the work performed live, and it was so gratifying to find out that this hypothetical performance was going to become an actual performance!

ACO: What are you doing to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you have made to your piece?

JH: I'm trying to study my score in a more detached and practical way--almost as though I didn't write the piece. This more detached relationship to the piece is a nice contrast to the intensely personal connection we often feel to our pieces while composing. I'm trying to think very practically: highlighting spots that might potentially be difficult for the orchestra and coming up with some potential alternative dynamics or registral changes in case a passage needs revision. Most of the changes I've made to my piece have just been small tweaks and formatting changes. With orchestral music the editing never ends!

ACO: What are you looking forward to about the workshops and readings? What do you hope to learn from the experience?

JH: I'm so excited to meet the other participating composers and to hear their works. And I look forward to speaking with audience members about their experience of the concert. Hearing ACO read and assemble my piece will be a special experience that will help me understand orchestral composition in a deeper way.

Hear Jack's piece at the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings. Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Follow Jack on Soundcloud

Underwood New Music Readings - Composer Spotlight: Jihyun Kim

Jihyun Kim’s music has been performed in the prestigious venues around the world, including Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Cloisters at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bruno Walter Auditorium at Lincoln Center, Seiji Ozawa Hall, Harris Hall in Aspen, DiMenna Center, Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence Italy, and Seoul Arts Center in Korea. Jihyun’s works were performed by eminent ensembles such as Tanglewood New Fromm Players, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, JACK Quartet, PUBLIQuartet, Asciano Quartet, Karien Ensemble, Switch Ensemble, Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra, Cornell Festival Orchestra, Bloomington Trio, and Chanticleer LAB Choir, and were featured in Tanglewood Music Center, Aspen Music Festival, Mayfest, the University of South Florida New Music Festival, Midwest Composers Symposium, and Korean Music Expo.

Jihyun’s piece A Tramp in the Assembly Line was selected for the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and conductor Ludovic Morlot. Jihyun spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Composer Jihyun Kim

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Underwood New Music Readings?

Jihyun Kim: I was extremely happy to find out that my piece was selected among many others; this is the opportunity that I have been always wanting to participate in, as I have seen my friends participating in previous editions and really enjoying the experience. Especially with this work, I am very excited to hear the work come to life by a wonderful orchestra specialized in new music.

ACO: What are you doing to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you have made to your piece?

JK: I have been making a few changes for the readings: One of the mentors, Mr. Derek Bermel gave productive comments on the piece and also the publisher, Mr. Bill Holab, gave me suggestions on perfecting the layout of the score/parts.

ACO: What are you looking forward to about the workshops and readings? What do you hope to learn from the experience?

JK: I am very much looking forward to working with ACO under the baton of maestro Ludovic Morlot, and hearing the valuable insight of the renowned mentor composers, Derek Bermel, Tania León, and Anthony Cheung. It will also be an inspiring experience to hear the works of my colleagues. It is exciting to see the workshops that ACO is offering: meeting with the publishers and presenters and learning about the world of publishing and programing will provide me with critical information and knowledge that every young composer needs.

Hear Jihyun's piece at the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings. Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Learn more about Jihyun at www.noeljihyunkim.com

Underwood New Music Readings - Composer Spotlight: inti figgis-vizueta

inti figgis-vizueta is a queer Andinx experimental composer based in Brooklyn, NY. They write identity-focused musics, often channeling story-telling and the manifestation of non-hegemonic voices in concert spaces. inti works to create transparent, self-contained musical processes through which melodic and timbreal interaction blooms and consumes itself. inti studied with Felipe Lara. inti has received numerous awards, most recently the 2019 Hildegard Competition from National Sawdust and the 2019 Mizzou International Composer’s Festival featuring Alarm Will Sound. They’ve won calls for scores for organizations such as Verdant Vibes, N/A Ensemble, UnTwelve, Baltimore Choral Arts, and 113 Collective. Their music has also been played by ensembles such as loadbang, PUBLIQuartet, Hypercube, RTE Contempo String Quartet, and Balance Campaign as well as the Shenandoah Valley Youth Orchestra and SJSU Wind Ensemble.

inti’s piece Symphony for the Body was selected for the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and conductor Ludovic Morlot. inti spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Composer inti figgis-vizueta. Photo by Ella Joklik

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Underwood New Music Readings?

inti figgis-vizueta: I was incredibly excited, obviously; having an orchestra put its weight behind my music, even for a few hours, is something incredibly thrilling. I am also happy to join the long lineage of music whose early stages were nurtured and incepted by this supportive, forward-thinking organization.

ACO: What are you doing to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you have made to your piece?

IFV: My main goal is making sure my notation is as clear as possible, so that most of our rehearsal is spent on music-making rather than the initial dance that notation as specific as mine sometimes requires. Through previous readings with both conservatory and youth orchestras I was able to integrate best practices I had the privilege to observe.

ACO: What are you looking forward to about the workshops and readings? What do you hope to learn from the experience?

IFV: I'm excited to hear the music of my fellow participants and have mentorship from Tania Leon, a longtime inspiration and hero. I value community-building above all in my musical practice and the Underwood Readings are another branch in which to grow.

Hear inti's piece at the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings. Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Learn more about inti at www.inticomposes.com
Follow inti on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

Underwood New Music Readings - Composer Spotlight: Aaron Israel Levin

Aaron Israel Levin writes music that is guided by the emotional dynamism of storytelling and drama. He draws from a variety of musical and non-musical influences – including film, theater, and performance art – to create compositions that are both personal and wide-ranging. Aaron’s music has been performed by the Bent Frequency Duo, Fifth House Ensemble, loadbang, Pavia Winds, the Yale Philharmonia, mezzo-sopranos Kayleigh Butcher and Lisa Neher, and percussionists Dmitrii Nilov and Sam Um. Passionate about collaboration, Aaron frequently works with artists from different mediums. He has collaborated multiple times with playwright Christopher Gabriel Nuñéz, and has also developed projects with projection designer Johnny Moreno, and choreographers Celeste Miller and Mary Gwin.

Aaron’s piece In Between was selected for the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and conductor Ludovic Morlot. Aaron spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Composer Aaron Israel Levin. Photo by Eric Snoza

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Underwood New Music Readings?

Aaron Israel Levin: I really couldn’t believe it because I was so elated. I think I immediately emailed the composition teacher who had worked with me on the piece that it had been selected, and it was a really special moment sharing that news with him. So many fantastic composers have worked with the American Composers Orchestra through the Underwood New Music Readings over the years, and I am deeply humbled to be included this year.

ACO: What are you doing to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you have made to your piece?

AIL: I made a few orchestrational changes to make certain moments more clear. I also decided to make the principle cellist more of a protagonist. In my initial draft, the solo cello doesn’t really speak until the end of the piece; but in this revision there is a solo moment right at the beginning, which I feel gives the work more of a complete, cyclical structure. I’m excited to hear how it works!

ACO: What are you looking forward to about the workshops and readings? What do you hope to learn from the experience?

AIL: I’m really looking forward to working with the fantastic mentor composers, Derek Bermel, Anthony Cheung, and Tania Léon, as well as the esteemed conductor Ludovic Morlot. I’ve never worked with a professional orchestra before, so I’m hoping to learn more about what that process is like, and what the best ways are for composers to effectively work with the conductor and the players in bringing a new piece of music to life. I’m also excited to meet the other participant composers and to hang out in New York City!

Hear Aaron's piece at the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings. Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Learn more about Aaron at www.aaronisraellevin.com
Follow Aaron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Where We Lost Our Shadows - Composer Portrait: Gloria Coates

Gloria Coates has written sixteen full-scale symphonies, eleven string quartets, several orchestral works, a number of song cycles, and a chamber opera, Stolen Identity. The 1978 premiere in Warsaw of her Symphony No. 1, “Music for Open Strings” brought her acclaim; the work was among the finalists for the 1986 International Koussevitsky Award. It was also the first piece by a woman composer to be performed at Munich’s Musica Viva, in 1980. Symphony No. 1 “Music for Open Strings,” was written in 1973 and is scored for a string orchestra playing entirely on retuned open strings. The work opens with the strings tuned to a minor pentatonic scale (B flat, C, D flat, F, G flat), which are returned to their normal tuning movement by movement.

We spoke with Coates about the story behind Symphony No. 1, “Music for Open Strings,” as well as her experiences as an American woman composer in Europe, and what advice she has for young composers.

American Composers Orchestra performs Symphony No. 1, “Music for Open Strings” on Thursday, April 11, 7:30pm at Carnegie Hall, Zankell Hall. Click here for tickets and more information.


Composer Gloria Coates. Photo by Simon Leigh

American Composers Orchestra: Can you talk about your decision to write a symphony for open strings with “abnormal” tunings? What was the creative process like?

Gloria Coates: In 1971, I was commissioned to write a work for the Rhineland Chamber Orchestra.  

Back in 1962, after a summer course with Alexander Tcherepnin at the Salzburg Mozarteum, he jotted down several Chinese pentatonic scales he brought back with him from China while he was teaching there, and said, “You might want to use one of these scales one day.” I chose one of the scales and wrote an adequate piece. Not me! I felt, so tore it up. I tried a few more times to no avail. About to give up using the scale, I awoke one morning with an idea to see whether I might tune the instruments to this scale. It worked! Then I wrote a little tune using the scale and had the orchestra play it with open strings.  Many ideas struck me as I looked at the hocket-like matrix. Each time it was played, I had two instruments fall out of this matrix into a phrase of a particular color. With each repeat, more and more colors were added to the melody until it disappeared into an explosion of colors. This was the first movement.

The second movement used the open strings in a sort of scherzo.

For the last movement I decided it should be based on an early quartet I had written while studying in Louisiana in 1963 using glissandi in all instruments.  This had been rejected as “preposterous” by my professor. I had said, “Why can't I write this in glissandi if it can be played?” He laughed, “You can write it, but who will listen to it?” I whimpered, “I would.” So now I decided I would use this material. I set our normal scale vertically which happened to coincide with the tunings of the strings.  Then I had the instruments emerge from it using open strings. As I wrote it, more complex rhythms and intervals took over and it seemed to be a final movement. I called this piece “Music on Open Strings” and sent it off to the US copyright office.

ACO: Can you talk about what you remember about your very first time hearing an orchestra perform this piece? How long was it from the time you finished the piece to its world premiere?

GC: The Rhineland Chamber Orchestra began rehearsals but there was much protest, especially from the violin section. Someone came into the rehearsal from the street very excited at the new sounds and wanted to know when it would be performed. This gave me confidence which was short-lived as the last movement, when played, sounded like an old fashioned washing machine and the orchestra could not play it without accents on the beats. My attempts at getting a conductor to perform it properly were rejected, and I sadly took the piece out of the concert and put it away, hoping for better times.

I took it to Boosey and Hawkes in New York, and an editor named Stuart Pope was excited about it, and said it would be ideal for their Education Department. I told him it was a regular concert piece so turned down that wonderful offer. Before going out the door, he called at me, “Why don't you write a movement connecting that last movement with the other two?” (I had thought it would be interesting for the audience to see and hear the orchestra retuning for an interval of time.) This thought stayed with me, and a few weeks later I sat in a restaurant and suddenly saw a possibility. One of the strings did not need retuning, so was able to use it to retune with tuning by fifths. I found myself writing little canons and then arrived at a point of using the fine tuner with chords in fifths from the entire orchestra. This became the third movement named “Scordatura” … and completed “Music on Open Strings.”

It took five years before it was premiered, having been rejected by Wolfgang Fortner for Musica Viva. (After its success at Warsaw Autumn and a change of artistic director, it became the first orchestral work by a woman in the then 34 year history of Hartmann's famous Musica Viva series.)

The American conductor Richard Kapp was interested in performing this work with his Philharmonia Virtuosi. Alas, some musicians were afraid of their instruments’ being ruined … Stradivarious, Ramati and such … so he sent the score back.

A few years later, an avant-garde ensemble from Poland came through Munich led by Zygmunt Krause. After the concert I told him about my piece and he advised me to send it to Warsaw Autumn Festival. It was accepted. 

Again, a stumbling block! At the rehearsal, the orchestra did not want to play the piece on open strings.  Their reason was that it did not sound beautiful, but most of all, they could not crescendo the movement with open strings. I asked them to play it both ways for me, and I heard it did not meet with my expectations. I told them I would decide the next and last day about what I would do.

That night I could not sleep … pacing the room on the fifth floor of the old Bristol Hotel, an idea struck me: perhaps if I used the bow for the crescendo … loosen the hairs of the bows and in the matrix where the rests were, tighten the hairs, and gradually a crescendo might appear. There was no time to try this out at the last rehearsal. I had to find an instrument before 9am.

I glanced down at the plaza from my window and saw a man carrying a case. It was now about 3:30am so wondered if this were a doctor called out to deliver a baby in the night. But there was a slight chance it was an instrument. The elevator was locked for the night so I ran down the spiral staircase and out into the plaza. I saw no one. Then, around a column there he stood! I tried to talk to him, but he spoke no English, no German, no French. I motioned as if playing a violin and he nodded! … and pointed to the poster on the column about an orchestral concert and to Krakow … pointing to his watch. I showed him my name on the same poster and he understood. We woke the night watchman of the hotel who spoke German and he translated my request with the bow hairs on the strings. It worked!!

ACO: Many of your earlier works for orchestra were not originally classified as symphonies. Why was this the case? What made you retitle them as symphonies?

GC: I would say my life is different from most composers, because I was rather isolated. I wasn’t getting grants like my peers were. It was a different situation because there were no women composers then. I never set out to write an orchestra work. The first titles I had, I always tried to do something sort of programmatic. Even with “Music for Open Strings,” at one point I called it “The Three Ages of Samurai.” I never called it a symphony … Then there was a piece I wrote and it was so complicated. I think I had 54 instruments going simultaneously. It was a commission for an orchestra piece from the Stuttgart Radio and I could use all my ideas for a very large orchestra. I was able to put into practice things that had never been done for orchestra before. I thought that this piece was so huge that I would call it a symphony. It didn’t follow the rules for the old-fashioned symphonies, but then nothing that I had written followed the rules.

I thought, “If that’s a symphony, what were those earlier pieces that I’d written?” I went back over them, and the ones with more movements, that were heavier, I called symphonies. So by this time I had seven symphonies altogether. 

I sent Classic Produktion Osnabrück, which is very good label in Germany, recordings of my Symphonies No. 1, 4, and 7 … CPO sent my symphonies to a well-known musicologist, who wrote back, “I had no idea you’d written symphonies.” I thought, “I wonder if those were symphonies?” I wasn’t sure because they were different from symphonies normally. So he analyzed them and wrote that these are real symphonies, using examples of Mahler to evaluate them. Then other musicologists realized this and called them real symphonies, which they were. I continued then to write symphonies. 

ACO: An important part of your career has been to promote American music in Europe, with a German-American Music Series (1971-1984), writing musicological articles, and making broadcasts for the WDR Radio Cologne, and Radio Bremen. Can you talk about why this initiative is important to you? What improvements, in terms of the attitude towards American music, have you seen since you first moved to Europe in 1969?

GC: I think Germany is very proud of its musical heritage, and when I was first there the Americans were thought of more as light and superficial, even Charles Ives … Basically American music had very little promotion. I didn’t get paid for it … but I was able to have a music series promoting American music at the Amerika Haus. They helped with promotion and production. I did that for 13 years, and I think it made quite a difference. I also helped organize performances European music in America to facilitate an exchange of ideas.

Things changed through the years. The Wall came down. There was more money. And then there was a book that came out called Desert Plants: Conversations with 23 American Musicians around 1975 and I was asked to review it. Basically what the German writer [Walter Zimmermann] was doing was promoting only a very avant-garde group of Americans, like John Cage and Harry Partch. I would say that more conventional and new music people, even electronic artists, were pushed out. I created quite a long radio program for Radio Bremen, which was also broadcast on WDR Radio Cologne, which sampled all these various American composers … That was so successful that WDR Radio Cologne invited me to do a series of broadcasts music based on different themes, which I could use to promote more American music and also women composers, because there had been no women composers on the radio at that time. So I promoted American music quite a bit. In fact, I wasn’t able to do much of my own composing because I was busy doing this. It was kind of a dedication feeling I had. 

ACO: You have lectured about your concepts and techniques of composing at Harvard, Princeton, Brown, and major institutions around the world. Can you talk about some of the most common advice you give young orchestral composers?

GC: There’s a way that you can compose by looking at scores and developing your technique from that. That's all right. However, I feel that it’s important to go within yourself and that means you have to live more. It has to do with exploring yourself and trying to find the connections with what you’re expressing. It sometimes happens with an instrument, like if you’re a singer you’ll have a different compositional expression from if you’re a saxophone player. So my feeling for young people is to experience life and to find their own individual expression. If you have say 2,000 composers all with a similar technique, which one will stand out? It’s really the one who has that basic knowledge of music, but also has a personal voice that touches the audience.

Each composer has his own manner of composing. Mine is more intuitive than technical. I express myself as honestly as I can. I only hope it is received by the listener in his own way.

American Composers Orchestra performs Symphony No. 1, “Music for Open Strings” on Thursday, April 11, 7:30pm at Carnegie Hall, Zankell Hall. Click here for tickets and more information.



Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Where We Lost Our Shadows - Performer Portrait: Shayna Dunkelman

Shayna Dunkelman is a musician, an improviser, and a percussionist based in Brooklyn, NY. She is known for her versatile and unique techniques, and her use of electronics to access a sonic pallet not found in acoustic percussion. Dunkelman is the founding member of the retro-future electronic band Peptalk with Michael Carter and Angelica Negron based in Brooklyn, NYC. She was also a member of the world touring band Xiu Xiu for six years.

Shayna Dunkelman is a featured soloist in Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Du Yun and Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar’s new multimedia work Where We Lost Our Shadows, which explores the timeless story of human migration and the resilient human spirit.


American Composers Orchestra presents the New York premiere on Thursday, April 11, 7:30pm at Carnegie Hall, Zankel Hall. Click here for tickets and more information.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Where We Lost Our Shadows - Performer Portrait: Ali Sethi

Ali Sethi is a renowned Pakistani author and musician. Having grown up in Lahore, Pakistan, Sethi graduated from Harvard College and authored the critically acclaimed novel The Wish Maker. He is also a trained vocalist in the Indo-Pakistani classical traditions of Khayal and Ghazal. A regular on the popular Coke Studio program, he is known for combining live music with historical narrative and critical analysis. He lives between Lahore and New York City.

Ali Sethi is a featured soloist in Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Du Yun and Palestinian artist Khaled Jarrar’s new multimedia work Where We Lost Our Shadows, which explores the timeless story of human migration and the resilient human spirit.


American Composers Orchestra presents the New York premiere on Thursday, April 11, 7:30pm at Carnegie Hall, Zankel Hall. Click here for tickets and more information.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

EarShot Sarasota Orchestra - Composer Spotlight: Sam Wu

The music of Sam Wu deals with the beauty in blurred boundaries. From Shanghai, China, Wu attends The Juilliard School for his M.M., after receiving an A.B., with honors, from Harvard University. His teachers include Tan Dun, Robert Beaser, Chaya Czernowin, Richard Beaudoin, and Derek Bermel. Wu also has been featured on the National Geographic Channel, Business Insider, Harvard Crimson, Yale Daily, Asahi Shimbun, People’s Daily, China Daily USA, SinoVision, CCTV, and ICS, among others.

Sam's piece Wind Map was selected for the EarShot Sarasota Orchestra New Music Readings, where it will be rehearsed and performed under the direction of conductor Christopher Rountree. A reading session on Saturday, March 16, 8PM is open to the public at Holley Hall. Click here for more information.

We spoke with Sam about his piece and the EarShot program.

Composer Sam Wu

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Sarasota Orchestra EarShot New Music Readings?

Sam Wu: I was thrilled! It is a rare opportunity for young composers to hear their orchestral music played live, particularly by an ensemble of as high a caliber as the Sarasota Orchestra. I also really look forward to meeting my amazing peer composers and our esteemed mentor composers!

ACO: You write that Wind Map was composed with inspiration from a graphic visualization of global wind patterns, in which empirical data results in aesthetic beauty. Are there any examples in your piece of this same process, in which the input (pitches, note-lengths, or dynamics, for example) came from rigid, empirical data, but resulted in something much more artistic?

SW: Not really! I did not think as much of producing direct musical "analogies" of the empirical data. Rather, I wanted to perhaps "reinterpret" the swirls and colors of the wind map in musical form; in general, once I feel that I have a source of inspiration I want to explore throughout an entire piece, I keep it in the back of my mind as I think more abstractly / in musical terms as I start writing.

View the live graphic visualization of global wind patterns at earth.nullschool.net

ACO: What are you doing to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you have made to your piece?


SW: Besides some minor instrumentation changes, I also shortened a few bars, and played with some harmonies in the climactic session. I was lucky to hear this piece read by the Juilliard Orchestra last fall, so I based my edits off of that reading recording.

ACO: What are you looking forward to about the workshops and readings? What do you hope to learn from the experience?

SW: I really look forward to hearing and studying the other pieces being read! I feel that, in addition to lessons with teachers, I also learn so much from my friends and peers (both their works, and how they contribute in rehearsal settings). I'm sure that I will feel the same way when I'm in Sarasota. I also am excited to learn more about the "behind-the-scenes" work of a professional American orchestra -- ACO and Sarasota organized various career development Q&A sessions with the Sarasota staff in addition to the readings and feedback sessions themselves.

Words cannot describe how grateful I am to be able to participate in EarShot; a HUGE thank you to everyone at ACO and the wonderful Sarasota Orchestra for making all this possible for us!

Sam Wu's piece Wind Map will be performed by the Sarasota Orchestra, led by conductor Christopher Rountree, on Saturday, March 16, 8PM at Holley Hall. Click here for more information.

Learn more about Sam Wu at www.samwumusic.com