Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Underwood New Music Readings - Composer Spotlight: Tomàs Peire Serrate

Tomàs Peire Serrate was born in Barcelona. He studied piano at the Sant Cugat del Vallès conservatory, where he grew up, and history at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. After few years performing and teaching he decided to focus on composition, first studying at the Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya (Barcelona) with Salvador Brotons, and in 2009 at the Sibelius Academy of Helsinki (Finland) with Tapio Tuomela and Risto Väisänen. In 2011 he moved to New York with the La Caixa Fellowship to pursue a Master's in Scoring for Film and Multimedia at the New York University, where he graduated in 2013 obtaining the Elmer Bernstein Award. That year he moved to Los Angeles to explore the film music industry and participate as a composer in different projects including writing the music for the films The Anushree Experiments and Prism, and orchestrating and arranging music for If I Stay, Minions, and Love and Friendship.

In the fall of 2015, Tomàs initiated his PhD studies at UCLA, where he is having the privilege to study with Bruce Broughton, Richard Danielpour, Ian Krouse, Mark Carlson, Peter Golub and David S. Lefkowitz. His research at UCLA is about music, space and media, with particular interest in new technologies and virtual reality. His concert works have been performed in Europe, US and Asia, and is currently working on a short opera-monologue that will be premiered at the Off-Liceu series in Barcelona next June 2018.

Tomàs' piece Rauxa was selected for the 2018 Underwood New Music Readings where it was workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and maestro George Manahan. Tomàs received the $15k Audience Choice Commission to write a new piece for ACO to be performed during a future season. He spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Composer Tomàs Peire Serrate

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

Tomàs Peire Serrate: I was very happy, of course! I knew it was a demanding selection process because of the amount of composers applying. The thought of having the opportunity to work with an orchestra such as the ACO, and getting feedback from both the performers and the mentors of the program was already extraordinary. 

ACO: Your write that your selected piece explores the duality of two Catalan words: Rauxa, meaning "a sudden determination," and Seny, meaning "balance and sensibleness," which together are used to describe the Catalan people and their character. Can you talk the musical elements you used to represent both Rauxa and Seny in your piece? Did your native Barcelona influenced your piece in any other ways?

TPS: The piece begins in a very passionate mood, with a lot of intensity and motion. But this doesn't last long as the music evolves and delves into this intensity by exploring it more carefully, from different perspectives, reaching unexpected places. I like to think as Rauxa and Seny as intrinsic to each other. In a way, I perceive the relation between these two concepts as similar to what happens in the creative process of an artist, in which there's a component of inspiration but also a lot of reflection, study and hands-on work. This process sometimes can culminate in something quite different from the initial idea or sketch, and I find this quite appealing. 

I have been living far from Barcelona since 2009. I miss my family and friends every day, but I visit as much as I can. Nowadays it's easy to be in touch with people, as well as being connected to what is going on there. That's and advantage but sometimes it can be complicated. The political situation has been very unsettling in these last few years and I find it very difficult to avoid being constantly updated. It can become quite an obsession and difficult to deal with when trying to compose. More than explicitly referring to anything in particular, or using any Catalan music reference, I believe that this feeling can be somehow present in my music.

ACO: You are currently working on a PhD at UCLA with a particular interest in new technologies and virtual reality. Can you talk the ways you've seen new technologies and virtual reality already influencing the music world? In your opinion are the effects always positive, or can there be negative effects as well?

TPS: New technologies are making composers and musicians' life easier in many ways, but they also require a whole new set of skills and knowledge that take time and willpower to acquire. What interests me the most about virtual reality is the potential of exploring music in different ways than we are used to, although I must admit that I am still in the process of researching how those ways will influence music. This means to perceive music from the audience or participant's perspective; but also to create it as composers, using these new tools and platforms that are already available. 

ACO: What did you do to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you made to your piece before or during the readings?
TPS: Of course, I went back to the score I submitted month ago and I reviewed it very carefully. Every time I look again to a piece of mine I find small things to modify or details to add trying to improve it. This time was no exception. Besides that, I tried to minimize any possible mistakes in the parts or confusions with indications and tempi, and added a few expression marks in order to help and ease the performance. 

ACO: What was the most valuable experience, advice, or lesson you gained from the Underwood New Music Readings?
TPS: I couldn't dare to mention only one thing because everything turned out to be a very positive experience where I learned a lot. If anything, perhaps the fact that even thought the reading went very well, and that mentors and musicians liked the piece, it's always possible to find things to improve. That's not new, but it's really something to keep in mind in every work in order to be demanding and critical with it.

Learn more about Tomàs at www.tomaspeire.com


Friday, June 22, 2018

Underwood New Music Readings - Composer Spotlight: Liliya Ugay

Composer and pianist Liliya Ugay's music has been described as “assertive and steely” and “lovely, subtle writing” by the Wall Street Journal. Liliya received the 2016 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a 2017 Horatio Parker Memorial prize from the Yale School of Music. She has collaborated with many top orchestras, including the Nashville Symphony, Albany Symphony, and New England Philharmonic.

During the 2017-2018 season Liliya will be working on a new opera as a Resident Composer at the American Lyric Theater. Originally from Uzbekistan, Liliya is currently a Doctor of Musical Arts candidate at the Yale School of Music studying with Aaron Kernis and David Lang.

Liliya’s piece Rhapsody in Color was selected for the 2018 Underwood New Music Readings where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and maestro George Manahan. Liliya spoke to us about the readings and her piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on June 21 and 22 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Composer Liliya Ugay

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

Liliya Ugay: Honestly, I was very surprised. I applied to Underwood before with the piece that I would consider more impressive and competitive in terms of its subject and complexity, and it was not selected. In contrast, Rhapsody in Color is a light unpretentious piece – very different from a lot of orchestra music – and writing it I had lots of fun.

ACO: What is it about Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsodies and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue that inspired you to write your own rhapsody? What do you especially love about these works by Liszt and Gershwin, and what aspects of them do you try to emulate in your own Rhapsody in Color?

LU: Being born and raised in Uzbekistan in a Russian-Korean family I always felt the influence of the various cultures on my music. Rhapsody in Color is my reflection on American music, and particularly on Gershwin and old jazz, which one can hear in both the harmony and rhythm of this piece. I take simple and conventional motives and, using different combinations of timbres and counterpoint, give them a more modern sound. The effect is similar to re-creating old sepia photographs into contemporary colors. On the other hand, it is written in the form of variations with a substantial fast and dance-like coda, which, certainly, can be found in multiple example of Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsodies. Hence, the title Rhapsody in Color seemed to me very appropriate for this piece. 

ACO: Your biography mentions the series of lecture-recitals you give at Yale School of Music on repressed composers from the Soviet era. Can you tell us a little bit about one of these composers, and perhaps share a piece that you particularly love or admire?

LU: This is my long-term passion, which started several years ago with the first piano lecture-recital I gave on this topic, which I took as an Independent Study project course at Yale with the generous guidance of Boris Berman. In 2017, as a highlight of my studies and for the anniversary of Russian Revolution, I co-organized the concert series Silenced Voices at Yale, featuring and performing the works of repressed and neglected Soviet composers. The series included solo, chamber, and even choral music of such composers as Mosolov, Roslavets, Ustvolskaya, Gaigerova, Weinberg, Slonimsky, Gubaidulina, and many others, and the pieces were performed by various members of Yale community (including faculty and non-music majors) and beyond. This series was very exciting and intense, and we gathered great audience. For my last recital at Yale I took the theme of Russian/Soviet composers-emigrants, and there I also performed my own music. In future, I plan the series of the music by Soviet composers from Caucasus, Baltic, and Central Asian regions. 

It is hard to name a single favorite piece, but one day I would particularly love to perform Alexander Mosolov's piano concerto, which I truly admire and think fully deserves to be in a standard repertoire – just like Prokofiev's piano concertos. Music of the USSR hides inconceivable amount of gems that could truly enrich the repertoire of each instrument and genre. I, as a descendant of that culture, feel that it is my direct duty to promote these works to the audience in the United States, and to preserve the memory of the culture that was either lost or never fully exposed.

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

LU: Rhapsody in Color received readings last summer at the Aspen Music Festival. I was not happy with how the piece turned out there, so for the Underwood readings I made a completely different orchestration. Hearing it today for the first time, I can tell I am happy with how I have done it, because now the piece has the character I intended it to have – light, joyful, fun, and excitingly cute.

ACO: What do you hope to gain from the Underwood New Music Readings?

LU: I hope to gain more skills and practical wisdom in writing for orchestra. It is very important that here we have two sessions of readings, and we get feedback from mentors as well as the musicians. And of course, I am looking forward to the final reading and the recording of my piece.

Hear Liliya's piece at the 2018 Underwood New Music Readings. Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on June 21 and 22 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Learn more about Liliya at www.liliyaugay.com


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Underwood New Music Readings - Composer Spotlight: Carlos Bandera

Composer Carlos Bandera embraces his fascination with musical architecture and music of the past to create works that often explore these subjects. His music has been performed in the Faroe Islands, Scotland, Uzbekistan, China, and US, including Carnegie Hall. In 2016, he organized and participated in a workshop between Peabody composers and the Uzbekistan-based contemporary music ensemble, Omnibus Ensemble. Carlos earned his Bachelor of Music degree at Montclair State University and his Master of Music degree at The Peabody Institute, where he participated in masterclasses with Christopher Rouse and Georg Friedrich Haas and studied privately with Kevin Puts.

Carlos’ piece Lux in Tenebris was selected for the 2018 Underwood New Music Readings where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and maestro George Manahan. Carlos spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on June 21 and 22 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Composer Carlos Bandera

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

Carlos Bandera: I’m very sentimental about my piece Lux in Tenebris. It was the last piece that I finished as a master’s student at Peabody and is sort of the culmination of my studies and musical interests during that time. Finding out that I had been selected for such an amazing opportunity was incredibly exciting, particularly because it meant that this piece would be getting some more life.

ACO: You biography describes you as a composer fascinated by the music of the past, often using musical quotations in your works. In your program note, you write that the first section of your piece Lux in Tenebris quotes the main theme of the first movement of Bruckner's Eighth Symphony. Can you talk about how you go about dismantling and developing this theme, vs. how Bruckner goes about it in his Eighth Symphony?

CB: I use quotation in a lot of my recent works, though in a variety of different ways. In some pieces, I like to mask the use of a quotation, but that is definitely not the case in Lux in Tenebris. I use two quotations from the first movement of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony, and when these quotations appear, they come to the forefront and pierce through the surrounding textures.

The quotations are presented similarly in Lux in Tenebris as to how they appear in the Eighth Symphony, at least in its orchestration. The context in which it appears, however, is quite different. The first quotation that I use is the main theme from the first movement. In the Eighth Symphony, the main theme is essentially the first thing you hear, but in Lux in Tenebris, the Bruckner theme appears after about two minutes of establishing a dense micropolyphonic texture. It may not always be audible, but tiny fragments of the theme are present throughout a great deal of my piece.

The second quotation is the last time the main theme is played in its entirety at the end of the first movement, which Bruckner described as “how it is when one is on his deathbed, and opposite hangs a clock, which, while his life comes to an end, beats on ever steadily: tick, tock, tick, tock.” Immediately after this quote is presented, the textures begin to outline C-major, as if the textures, which had persisted for much of the work, have become infused with Brucknerian light. The use of C-major is almost a quote in itself, as it represents the light in the darkness-to-light narrative of the entire symphony. I don’t want to say that in Lux in Tenebris, the textures represent darkness, and Bruckner represents light, because the quotes that are taken from the Eighth Symphony are in fact used to represent both light and death. I like to think of it as if the textures function as a sort of fabric through which elements that make up the darkness-to-light narrative of Bruckner’s Eighth Symphony are occasionally interwoven.

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

CB: I’ve made some minor changes to the orchestration. The piece features a great deal of independence of parts, particularly in the strings, so I tailored this version of the piece specifically for the string section of the ACO. I must admit, I think I like this version better than the original version!

ACO: In 2016, you organized and participated in a workshop between Peabody composers and the Uzbekistan-based contemporary music ensemble, Omnibus Ensemble. Can you talk about what the Peabody composers and Omnibus Ensemble were able to learn from each other?

CB: Every composer that participated in the workshop was able to write for any combination of the instruments in Omnibus, so I think every composer learned something different. Omnibus is a remarkable ensemble that is comprised of both western instruments and traditional instruments of Uzbekistan, such as a Nay, Tanbur, and Chang. I think for me personally, this workshop gave me an opportunity to explore timbre in a new way by allowing me to experiment with blending these different kinds of instruments.

ACO: What do you hope to gain from the Underwood New Music Readings?

CB: I don’t know if there’s specifically something I hope to gain, but I’m really looking forward to hearing my piece, particularly with some of the changes I’ve made. I’m also incredibly excited to learn from the mentor composers and all the presentations, in addition to hearing the works by the other participating composers.

Hear Carlos's piece at the 2018 Underwood New Music Readings. Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on June 21 and 22 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Learn more about Carlos at www.carlosbandera.com
Follow him on Facebook and Soundcloud


Friday, June 15, 2018

Underwood New Music Readings - Composer Spotlight: Scott Lee

Composer Scott Lee earned his PhD in composition at Duke University, Master of Music degree at the Peabody institute, and Bachelor of Music degree at the Blair School of Music. His bio describes his music as "infused with the visceral sounds of popular music" and Scott has worked with many top orchestras and chamber groups: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, North Carolina Symphony, and Portland Symphony Orchestra; Jack Quartet, yMusic, and the Da Capo Chamber Players; and multi-platinum pop artist Ben Folds.

Notable honors include a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, and winner of the Symphony In C Young Composer’s Composition. Lee has also received fellowships to attend the Tanglewood and Aspen Music Festivals.

Scott’s piece Anadyr was selected for the 2018 Underwood New Music Readings where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and maestro George Manahan. Scott spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on June 21 and 22 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Composer Scott Lee

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

Scott Lee: I was absolutely thrilled to hear my piece had been selected. I've been a fan of the ACO for a long time, admiring all of the organization's amazing programs and activities from the sidelines. Now that I get to be a part of the action I couldn't be more excited. 

ACO: Your selected piece Anadyr is named after the Soviet Union's secret 1962 operation, "Operation Anadyr," in which Soviets deployed missiles and supporting forces to Cuba, prompting the Cuban missile crisis. You write that the piece "aims to evoke the deception and subterfuge that characterized this period." Why did you choose this incident as the basis for your piece? Why did you feel it was an important moment in history to evoke?

SL: There's an obvious connection between the subject matter of the piece and current world events, but I didn't intend to write a political piece. Instead, when writing music I most often begin with the musical materials themselves, letting them dictate the initial stages of the creative process. Once I start to feel a strong sense of character coming from the music, I then usually begin to find an appropriate subject matter to help guide the material in a specific direction. That's exactly what happened with Anadyr. After figuring out some of the initial material, I realized that the music had, despite my best intentions, turned into something resembling the opening credit music of a spy movie. After some trepidation, I decided to fully embrace this aesthetic, and dove headfirst into the world of spies. 

I was born and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida, where the Cuban Missile Crisis has left a relatively strong historical presence. To me the Cold War embodies the romanticized idea of spycraft, so I thought it would make the perfect subject matter for the piece. As I was researching, I came across "Operation Anadyr," which described the most preposterously secretive mission. For example, all of the supplies to be taken to Cuba from Russia were loaded onto boats and submarines in the dead of night, disguised as farm equipment. The captains were given binders full of possible destinations, and weren't told which was the true one until they were already underway. Russian intelligence agencies gave false information about the mission to Americans, but fed true information to Cuban émigrés living in Miami, knowing the CIA would discount the credibility of that intelligence. The name of the mission itself, Anadyr, (which in and of itself was undeniably part of the reason for my choosing it) is the name of a remote town in Northeastern Russia near Alaska, and was chosen in order to suggest to eavesdroppers that the mission was taking place far from the Caribbean. 

While I didn't intend to write a political piece, it is impossible to deny the subject matter's resonances with our current international political climate. Having grown up in the post-Cold War era, my encounters with Russia were mostly through its role as a common and easy antagonist in films, novels, and video games. While for a time it has been replaced by other stock “bad guys,” Russia seems to be bending over backwards to reprise its role as nemesis of the West, perhaps sooner than historical cycles usually predict. Russia’s recent return to prominence in our cultural consciousness has made it a compelling subject to tackle in my piece.

ACO: There is definitely a spy movie feel to your piece. Were you inspired by or referencing any film scores when you were writing Anadyr, such as John Barry's James Bond film scores, or any other film composers?

SL: It would be more accurate to say that I stumbled into a spy movie aesthetic rather than purposefully took inspiration from any specific spy movie score. But the scores from the many James Bond, Mission Impossible, and Jason Bourne films I've digested over the years undoubtedly influenced the aesthetic of this piece. Another score that may have offered a more immediate, but also nonspecific, influence would be Darcy James Argue's Real Enemies, which I've listened to a great number of times since the recording was released. I intended the music to be a bit stranger than most spy film music, using pointillistic orchestration and intricate polyrhythms. I also wanted sections of the piece to have a certain swagger, which comes from the heavy groove that appears early on in the music.

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

SL: I have made a number of changes since the piece was initially read by the Aspen Conducting Academy Orchestra last summer. I had a really helpful phone call with Derek Bermel, the ACO's Artistic Director, which resulted in a number of edits. Most of these suggestions were pretty technical, like adding a double bar line at a specific moment to signify the start of a new section. Others were more about the more intangible aspects of notating music, like adding expressive indicators such as "sempre lyrico" to tell the strings to play out in certain sections. I also made some edits to the drum set part. Writing for drum set and orchestra is always a challenge (one that I seem to put myself through quite often), both because of the acoustic issues and because drum set parts often have to live in a liminal world somewhere between being precisely notated and being mostly improvised. I tend to write out the exact pattern I want at the beginning of a section, but then allow the player to make it their own as it continues. This often requires a number of adjustments after the first performance, and almost always benefits from close collaboration with the drum set player, which is a lot of fun.

ACO: What do you hope to gain from the Underwood New Music Readings? 

SL: First and foremost, I hope to have a productive and fun experience rehearsing my music with a fantastic orchestra and conductor. It's always an incredible experience to hear my music in the hands of top-notch performers. I'm also looking forward to being inspired by the exciting new works of my peers, as I'm sure all of our pieces will explore different aesthetic directions. I can't wait to meet and work with the ACO mentors, all of whom are leading composers that I have admired for a long time. Finally, I think I'll get a ton of useful career advice and information from the many seminars and discussions that are planned.

Hear Scott's piece at the 2018 Underwood New Music Readings. Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on June 21 and 22 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Learn more about Scott at www.scottleemusic.net
Follow him on Facebook, YouTube, and Soundcloud


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Underwood New Music Readings - Composer Spotlight: Lily Chen

Lily Chen, born in Taiwan, is a composer of both acoustic and electronic music interested in exploring literary, emotional, and social aspects of the contemporary condition. Lily's numerous awards include the George Ladd Prix de Paris, 1st Prize of Asian Composers League Young Composers Award, and winner of !BAMM! Student Composers Competition. Her music has been performed in the US and Asia, by esteemed ensembles such as St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Signal, Mivos Quartet, Ensemble Mise-en, National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra, and many others. Lily studied at Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan and received her Ph.D. in music composition from the University of California at Berkeley.

Lily’s piece A Leaf Falls After was selected for the 2018 Underwood New Music Readings where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and maestro George Manahan. Lily spoke to us about the readings and her piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on June 21 and 22 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Composer Lily Chen

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

Lily Chen: I was very excited when I found out I'd been selected for the readings, since I’ve heard it’s an amazing program where composers work with professional orchestra performers and mentor composers.

ACO: Having lived on three continents - Asia, North America, and Europe - during your career, can you talk about what influences that different locations have had on your compositional style? Or has your compositional style developed independently from where you happen to live?

LC: My compositional style has developed more by my listening and studying experiences than my living experiences.

It’s hard to describe what has influenced my compositional style, but my compositional style might be traced back to some musical styles of these three continents through my listening experiences. Born and raised in Asia, I had access to some Asian traditional music while studying Western music; the heterophony, linear gestures, and subtle timbral changes have somehow inspired me. But at the same time, I’ve listened abundantly to European and American contemporary music, which has aroused my interest in the world of timbre.

My experiences living on three different continents exercise more influence on my compositional attitude than my style. I’ve broadened my listening experiences as well as become more open-minded and bolder in exploring sonic potentials and the possibilities of music, which has helped develop my compositional style a lot.

ACO: You write that your piece A Leaf Falls After is inspired by both the beautiful and frightening experiences you had when you lived in Paris and traveled around Europe for the first time. Do you find it easier to write music inspired by beautiful moments or frightening ones? Or do both processes come naturally?

LC: To me, both processes come kind of naturally, or rather, emotionally. However, the harder (and more important) process when composing this piece is how to orchestrate or fuse the musical gestures/materials transformed from the beautiful and frightening images, and how to create musical tension or strike balance between “beautiful” sounds and “frightening” noises.

Also, I would like to invite the audience to join my sonic world through the metaphors transformed into music. Though some noises I use in my piece are inspired by some frightening moments, still these so-called “frightening” noises also sound very “beautiful” to me. Maybe to some people they are not so accessible or familiar, but to me, beautiful sounds and frightening noises exist naturally and necessarily in my music, just as beautiful and frightening memories co-exist in one’s life. I hope these experiences not only bring me inspiration for composing, but also provide my audience with some images in connection to music so that it’ll be easier for them to get into my piece.

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

LC: I have revised the piece quite a bit, simplifying some textures to make the music more concise and more effective for the readings. Also, after discussing with Dr. Derek Bermel, I added more expressive indications in the score to suggest the scenarios, hoping this could help introduce the performers to my music world more easily and quickly.

ACO: What do you hope to gain from the Underwood New Music Readings?

LC: I wanted to thank the UNMR program for providing us composers with such strong support and complete working process: arranging phone discussions with the director to help refine our pieces, giving us comments from the publishing consultant to help us make professional scores/parts, and building up a perfect platform to promote this event and the composer participants. I’ve learned a lot through the working process. I am looking forward to gaining precious experiences of working with the professional orchestra, learning from them about how to make the performance effective, and enjoying the other composers’ great music!

Hear Lily's piece at the 2018 Underwood New Music Readings. Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on June 21 and 22 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Learn more about Lily at www.chenlily.com
Follow her on Facebook and Soundcloud


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Underwood New Music Readings - Composer Spotlight: Ryan Lindveit

Composer Ryan Lindveit’s works have been performed across the United States and around the world, by ensembles including Alarm Will Sound, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band, Orkest de Ereprijs, the USC Thornton Symphony, and many others. His music has received recognition from BMI, ASCAP, SCI, the American Modern Ensemble, the National Band Association, Tribeca New Music, and the Texas Music Educators Association.

Ryan grew up in Texas and is a graduate of the University of Southern California, where he was selected as Salutatorian for the class of 2016 and named the Thornton School of Music’s Outstanding Graduate. He is currently a master’s student at the Yale School of Music. His past teachers include Aaron Jay Kernis, Christopher Theofanidis, Andrew Norman, Ted Hearne, Frank Ticheli, and Donald Crockett.

Ryan’s piece Like an Altar with 9,000 Robot Attendants was selected for the 2018 Underwood New Music Readings where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and maestro George Manahan. Ryan spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on June 21 and 22 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Composer Ryan Lindveit. Photo by Marije van den Berg
American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Underwood New Music Readings?

Ryan Lindveit: I was elated! The Underwood New Music Readings have almost become a rite-of-passage for aspiring orchestral composers in the United States, so I am very happy to be a participant this year. Composing orchestral music is mostly lonely and laborious, and it is gratifying to receive the validation of having my piece selected for performance. 

ACO: Can you talk about what it's like to hear a new orchestral piece read for the first time as a composer? Can you talk about any moments in your selected piece Like an Altar with 9,000 Robot Attendants that stood out when it was read for the first time by the USC Thornton Symphony?

RL: It’s so exciting! Hearing my orchestral music performed is one of my favorite things ever. I become totally engrossed. When my piece was performed by the USC Thornton Symphony, I remember being so impressed by the energy and vitality of my colleagues in the orchestra, and I look forward to hearing a second performance by the professional musicians in ACO. 

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

RL: First of all, I am packing because I will be flying to New York from Aspen, Colorado, where I am spending most of the summer as a composition festival at the Aspen Music Festival and School. Secondly, I am scoping out some new restaurants to try in the city. New York has *such* great food, and I feel like even a lifetime of exploring New York restaurants wouldn’t exhaust its food scene.  In terms of changes to my piece, after I found out I was selected for the ACO Readings, I made a few revisions to tighten the structural pacing and polish some particular orchestrational moments, but it was nothing too drastic. 

ACO: What are you most looking forward to about the Underwood New Music Readings? What do you hope to gain from the experience?

RL: First of all, I am excited that this will be my first performance in New York. I love any chance I have to visit the city, which thankfully I can do fairly often since I live in Connecticut. I am also very much looking forward to working with the performers in the American Composers Orchestra and Maestro George Manahan. Finally, I am stoked to have the chance to learn from the fantastic roster of composer mentors.

Hear Ryan's piece at the 2018 Underwood New Music Readings. Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on June 21 and 22 at NYU's Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Learn more about Ryan at www.ryanlindveit.com
Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Soundcloud

Friday, April 20, 2018

EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings: Composer Spotlight - Meng Wang

Meng Wang (b. 1989) is a Chinese composer currently based in New York City. Meng’s music has been performed throughout North America, China, and Europe, by esteemed ensembles such as The Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Thin Edge New Music Collective, LONGLEASH trio, MSM Composer’s Orchestra (George Manahan, conductor) and China Youth Symphony Orchestra. Her piece Beloved by Artemis won the 2012 Chinese National Chamber Music Composition Competition and was selected for the composition showcase by the Xi’an Conservatory of Music in China. Meng has been a fellow at Aspen Music Festival and School and was named The Deolus W. Husband Scholarship for Composition in 2015-2017. Upcoming projects include a chamber opera, Simulacrum, presented by Path New Music Theatre, which will be premiered in April 2018. Meng is a graduate of Manhattan School of Music, where she studied with Dr. Reiko Fueting. She also studied with Andreia Pinto Correia and Kaija Saariaho.

Meng Wang was selected for the EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings for her piece Blooming in the Long Dark Winter’s Night, which will be workshopped and conducted by Music Director Courtney Lewis in a final performance on Friday, April 20 at 8PM. Details here

Meng spoke with us about the piece and what she looks forward to at the readings.

Composer Meng Wang

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out that your piece had been selected for the EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings? What are you looking forward to about the program?

Meng Wang: When I first saw my name on the EarShot program this year, I was so excited! Especially when I realized that this would be such a fantastic chance to have my music performed by the incredible Jacksonville Symphony. I started to feel that this trip to Florida would be mean a lot to me.

ACO: Your piece Blooming in the Long Dark Winter’s Night is based on the French symbolist poem "Correspondences" by Charles Pierre Baudelaire. Why did you decide to base your piece on this poem? Is the poem well-suited to your compositional style?

MW: "Correspondences" is a sonnet divided into two quatrain and two tercets. The title of the poem points out what the poem is about, which is to blend all the perceptions. When I was working on this piece, I used the ideas of "blending" and "transforming one thing from another" to organize my orchestration of this piece. We can hear the frequency transferring from different groups in the opening section, and all the sounds blending into a sound field in the slow part. I chose metallic percussion instruments hitting throughout the whole piece to imitate the bell in the ancient temple, which then becomes the most important symbol of this piece.

ACO: What aspects of your piece have you improved or fine-tuned during the readings?

MW: After the two-day intensive rehearsal of my piece with Music Director Courtney Lewis and workshop with three mentors Marcos Balter, Steven Mackey, and Courtney Bryan, my piece has been adjusted in many ways and become more and more mature. For me, this is the most valuable experience during the readings. Now I'm very looking forward to hearing the latest version performing by Jacksonville Symphony on April 20th.

Learn more about Meng Wang at www.mengwangmusic.com
Follow Meng on Facebook and Instagram

The EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings culminate in a final performance on Friday, April 20 at 8PM. Details here

Check out Meng's contemporary opera group, Path New Music Theatre, which has an upcoming performance of Meng's chamber opera Simulacrum on June 3-10 in NYC.


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings: Composer Spotlight - Ursula Kwong-Brown

Ursula Kwong-Brown (b. 1987) is a composer and media artist from New York City. Described as “atmospheric and accomplished” by The New York Times, her work has been performed in diverse venues including Carnegie Hall, Le Poisson Rouge, Miller Theatre and the Manhattan Movement & Arts Center in New York, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. Awards include a 2017- 2019 fellowship with the Berkeley Symphony, the 2016 George Ladd Prix de Paris Prize, the 2015 Composers, Inc. BAMM Prize, and the 2014 Bowdoin Festival Prize, as well as honors from ASCAP, the New York Composers’ Circle and the Chicago Ensemble. Plans for 2018 include new works for both the Berkeley Symphony and the UC Berkeley Symphony. Currently, Ursula is finishing a Ph.D. in New Media & Music at UC Berkeley with support from a Mellon-Berkeley fellowship.

Ursula was selected for the EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings for her piece Night and Day, which will be workshopped and conducted by Music Director Courtney Lewis in a final performance on Friday, April 20 at 8PM. Details here

Ursula spoke with us about the piece and what she looks forward to at the readings.

Composer Ursula Kwong-Brown

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out that your piece had been selected for the EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings? What are you looking forward to about the program?

Ursula Kwong-Brown: I was super excited to find out that my piece Night and Day had been selected for the EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings. I’ve never heard this work performed before - not even a rehearsal - so I am very much looking forward to hearing it for the first time. Also, I’m looking forward to working with my mentor composer, Steve Mackey, and getting feedback from the orchestral musicians. I just met my fellow composers in the hotel restaurant here in Jacksonville, and I am excited to get to know them and to hear their works, too. 

ACO: Your experience includes some fantastic projects that are far removed from the concert hall, including your sound-art installation Chromatic Counterpoint and research on production and perception of musical intervals in African clawed frogs for Columbia University. Can you talk about why these experiences have been important for you as a composer? Do you think they affect your approach when it comes to writing a conventional orchestral work?

UKB: It’s funny because I rarely think about the influence of my background in science on my compositions, but I think there is a connection between the textures and timbres in the “Night” section of my piece and the many hours that I spent recording and analyzing the calls of crickets and frogs in the nighttime.

ACO: Your piece Night and Day is split into two sections, night in the first half, day in the second. From your program note it seems as if these two sections will contrast quite a bit. What, if any, are the musical elements that tie them together? Is the piece trying to show similarities between night and day, as well as differences?

UKB: Excellent question. To be honest, I really think of this piece as having two separate parts. The one conscious connection that I made was in the orchestration: both start with pizzicato in the strings, but use the pizzicato in very different ways. 

ACO: What aspects of your piece do you hope to improve or fine tune during the readings?​

UKB: It’s hard to say without hearing the piece, but I am open to any and all possible improvements! From the more technical aspects of orchestration to the more musical questions of motivic development.

The EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings culminate in a final performance on Friday, April 20 at 8PM. Details here

Learn more about Ursula at www.ursulakwongbrown.com

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings: Composer Spotlight - Nicholas Bentz

Nicholas Bentz (b. 1994) is a composer and violinist whose music often takes its inspiration from pieces of literature and poetry, film, and visual art. He has received several esteemed commissions and performances of his music, was Composer-in-Residence for Symphony Number One’s 2016-17 season, and was a finalist for the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards in 2014. Nicholas is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in violin at Peabody Institute and studying composition privately with composer Felipe Lara.

Nicholas was selected for the EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings for his piece E.W. Korngold Goes to Nikkatsu, which will be workshopped and conducted by Music Director Courtney Lewis in a final performance on Friday, April 20 at 8PM. Details here

Nicholas spoke with us about the piece and what he looks forward to at the readings.

Composer and violinist Nicholas Bentz

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out that your piece had been selected for the EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings? What are you looking forward to about the program?

Nicholas Bentz: When I first found out, I was floored! The orchestral stage is one of the largest for a composer, and it's a steep learning curve that we have to figure out extremely quickly. ACO provides such an amazing program in that you get to learn from your fellow composers as well as mentor composers that have already mastered the game, so to say. I'm really excited to dig into my piece and to see what things I can tinker around to better approach the sound I want to hear. As great as MIDI has become, it doesn't compare to a full orchestra!

ACO: You are both a composer and a performer, with extensive experience studying and playing the violin. How does the performing aspect of your career affect the way you write music? Do you compose on the violin?

NB: I think that being a performer can only positively influence you as a composer. Being an active performer allows you to go through and really get to know so many pieces on a different level. I've always treated orchestra rehearsals like orchestration lessons, seeing what works in the orchestra and what doesn't - seeing what kinds of gestures require additional rehearsal time, and which ones can be executed correctly the first time. Being a performer also forces me to think about the physicality and psychology of the players. I've played through enough pieces where I feel like my part is either extraneous or overbearing, and it's hard to connect to a piece in which you feel that way. I actually don't compose on the violin oddly enough, even though it's easily the instrument I'm the most comfortable on. I oftentimes find myself controlled by the idiomatic nature of the instrument if I ever do try.

ACO: Your program note says that your piece E.W. Korngold Goes to Nikkatsu is based on the idea of using Korngold's musical style to score a Nikkatsu film. Can you talk about the result of combining these two artists' styles into one piece? Did it end up different than you expected when you first had the idea?

NB: When I first set out with the idea of a piece based on the combination of Korngold and Suzuki, I was more than a little apprehensive. I didn't know if there was much overlap between the two artists that I could utilize for myself, but as I watched more and more Suzuki, and got more accustomed to his frenetic and high-octane style, the more comfortable the idea became. The piece definitely came out much different than I planned (which is never a bad thing)!

ACO: What aspects of your piece do you hope to improve or fine tune during the readings?​

NB: I definitely have a few gestures and textures that I want to see if I got right, and how to make them more like what I hear. It's also always good to look towards possible balance issues and to see how those work out, and how I can best improve those situations.

The EarShot Jacksonville Symphony Readings culminate in a final performance on Friday, April 20 at 8PM. Details here

Learn more about Nicholas at www.nicholasbentz.net
Follow him on Soundcloud and Facebook

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Dreamscapes: Q&A with Clarice Assad

Clarice Assad is a Brazilian-American Grammy-nominated composer, pianist, vocalist, bandleader and educator. She has been commissioned by Carnegie Hall, Orquestra Sinfônica de São Paulo, Albany Symphony, BRAVO! Vail Music Festival, and her works have been recorded by Yo-Yo Ma, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Eugenia Zuckerman, Chanticleer, and Liang Wang. Assad is a founding member of the Chicago-based music and poetry publishing company Virtual Artists Collective and VOXPloration, an award-winning research based outreach program and workshop for children and adolescents on spontaneous music creation, composition, and improvisation.

Clarice's piece Dreamscapes for violin and chamber orchestra is based loosely on Assad’s research on the subject of rapid eye movement (REM) and lucid dreaming. The piece follows a storyline based on notes Assad made about her own dreams, and depicts her struggle to have a pleasant dreaming experience against the strong subconscious draw of negativity.

ACO gives the New York premiere of Dreamscapes with violinist Elena Urioste on Friday, April 6, 2018, 7:30PM at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall. Click here for concert details and tickets.


Clarice Assad. PC: Amara Photo.
"One of Brazil's brightest young composers" – Gramophone

American Composers Orchestra: In addition to composing, you are an accomplished singer/pianist and a dedicated educator as co-founder of VOXploration. Can you compare the concert experience as a composer (sitting in the audience listing to a performance of your piece) vs. a performer (on stage and performing your own music)? Do you find one more nerve-wracking than the other?

Clarice Assad: I think being exposed is the nerve-wracking part in either scenario, but it might be more so when I am sitting from an audience. When I perform, I am so preoccupied with the music that I am playing, that I tend to forget about everything else to focus mostly on doing justice to that piece (which most of the time, is music written by other composers…). When my own music being performed by other musicians, I will think about a million things per second. Ultimately though, it’s just an amazing moment to be inside of, having my music performed by people who took the time to learn it and are sharing it with others. The butterflies in the stomach turn out to be a good thing.

ACO: The human voice is the centerpiece of many of your works and performances, including your well-known singing scat concerto which you have performed all over the world. Can you talk about the influence the human voice has, if any, in your instrumental music? The violin is an inherently lyrical instrument -- did you write the solo violin part in Dreamscapes almost as if it was a singing part?

CA: Maybe I unconsciously write for other instruments thinking about the voice, because it is such an important part of my musical life! Dreamscapes is not really singable, though. It has lyrical moments, but I was more concerned about the different emotions and change of scenarios that take place, and the interplay between the orchestra and the soloist.

ACO: As a Brazilian-American who speaks Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and English, can you talk about how your music has been influenced, affected, or guided by these languages?

CA: When I think of languages I think of cultures, so yes, I think somehow speaking other languages may influence the way in which we organize thoughts. I traveled frequently to France as a child and this experience deeply influenced me in every area of my life. Traveling at a young age also meant that I came in contact with people from other nationalities, so this may have given me a sense of familiarity with cultures that were not my own, and carte blanche to write in styles and genres that might not have come from my place of origin. I still feel a sense of belonging to more than one place at once.

ACO: Your Dreamscapes violin concerto is inspired by your research on the subject of rapid eye movement (REM) and lucid dreaming, and follows a storyline based on notes you made about her own dreams. Did the process of composing this piece change the way you think about dreams? Did it change anything about your actual dreams?

CA: I have an overactive mind and have had a handful of anxiety related problems affecting sleep. I've experienced many events of sleep paralysis which were petrifying until I knew how to handle them, so I began reading a lot about the brain and sleep. Writing this piece was the way I found to exteriorize what happened in my own mind, obviously because vivid dreams were a constant part of my life. I am in a better place now, having found ways to cope with these symptoms, and the silver lining was to turn vivid dreams into a piece of music. 

ACO: What are you looking forward to about the upcoming performance?

CA: Everything. The performance, hearing the orchestra, the soloist,  the hall, and the experience of re-visiting a work that is now completing 10 years of existence!

ACO gives the New York premiere of Dreamscapes with violinist Elena Urioste on Friday, April 6, 2018, 7:30PM at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Hall. Click here for concert details and tickets.

Learn more about Clarice at www.clariceassad.com
Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, InstagramYouTube, and Soundcloud