Composer Anthony Cornicello (born in Brooklyn, New York, 1964) writes music that blurs distinctions between performers and electronics, timbre and harmony, composition and improvisation, and explores the boundaries of what may be considered post-classical concert music. His music is vibrant and visceral, full of rhythmic energy and harmonic sophistication, and his forays into live electronics have led to exciting combinations of instruments and processed sound. Cornicello’s background as a jazz pianist is evident not only in the rhythmic activity of his music, but also in his constant investigation of the rich sonorities available from a variety of instruments.
He has been commissioned to write music for the Scorchio Electric String Quartet, ModernWorks! (funding from Meet the Composer/ Commissioning Music USA), the Auros Group for New Music, the Prism Saxophone Quartet, the New York New Music Ensemble, David Holzman, the Group for Contemporary Music, and the InterEnsemble of Padova, Italy. His work has also been featured on the Guggenheim Museum’s “Works and Process” series. Cornicello’s works have also been performed by the Chicago Civic Symphony, Parnassus, ALEA III, Composers Concordance, Madeleine Shapiro, Robert Black, among many other outstanding groups and solo performers. His music has been presented as part of the Darmstadt International Festival of New Music as well as the June in Buffalo Festival.
Cornicello’s Second String Quartet has been recorded by the Atlantic String Quartet; the Second Sonata for Piano by David Holzman (Centaur). More recently, his Post-Modern Waltz was recorded by Eric Moe for Albany Records. A portrait CD of Cornicello’s works is scheduled for 2006 release on Albany Records.
As a performer, he has conducted or played piano in his own works on numerous occasions. While a graduate student at Rutgers, he formed and directed the Janus Ensemble, a group dedicated to contemporary music. More recently, Cornicello has begun performing on the laptop, using a variety of interfaces and the Max/MSP program. Those performances, mostly with EEE!, have had a notable impact on his music, as EEE!’s music ranges from hip-hop to experimental noise. EEE! is based at Eastern Connecticut State University, where Cornicello is an Associate Professor and Director of the Electronic Music Lab.
Cornicello received the Ph.D. from Brandeis University, where he studied with David Rakowski, Eric Chasalow, and Martin Boykan. His teachers also include Charles Wuorinen, Gérard Grisey, and Richard Beirach.
His current fields of interest include developing unusual interfaces for live computer music performances, as well as continuing to investigate resonance and spatialization. His recent and current projects (mostly for string instruments and electronics) have been exploring the latter two, and the series of experimental works ReZenant Garden, performed by EEE! have operated on all three areas of interest. Future projects will include works for instrumental groups or soloists and electronics, as well as turntablists.
Cornicello's works are published by C.F. Peters Corporation and APNM, and he is a member of BMI.
Okay, this is the start of my blogs on improvisation vs. composition. I'm hoping this will eventually coalesce into a paper of sorts. Any feed-back, comments, criticism, will be more than welcomed.
I'd like to start by bringing to mind the public image of the composer and the improviser. First, let's start with the composer. Now, to musicians and the general public, the image that comes to mind is a person laboring away at a musical score, pencil in hand. We can think of the Romantic composer (regardless of time, as we find the Romantic stereotype even today), at the piano, allowing inspiration to flow freely on to the page. There is also the Modernist, at the desk, surrounded by serial charts or dice, for that matter. There are others: the Hollywood, the Pop song-writer, the Academic, even the Post-Modern. In any case, the composer is setting down notes on to paper, regardless of how they get there.
Now, the improviser. Not at a desk, but possibly at a piano - usually with some smoke wafting through the scene. This cat comes in all different shades: the Bebopper, the Free Jazzer, the Fusion guy. There are improvisers in other cultures and traditions as well: Indian, Blues, Rock, to name a few. (The Rock improvisers, however, often seem to improvise a solo for the original recording, and then repeat it on subsequent performances.) There's also another form of improv: the avant-garde. More on that one later...
Throughout the 20th century, there has been a widening gap between the two, as least publicly. Creativity in jazz has raised the art of improvisation (back) to a level of respectability in the music-making world. It had lost some luster during the 19th century, as composers turned into control-freaks. The open-ended cadenzas of the Classical and early Romantic times gave way to written-out passages marked rubato, which in turn metamorphosed into music with fully notated rubato-like rhythms. Improvisation was for those people, the composers seemed to say. It has no place in our music; after all, we know what's best for the music. And if it sounds like elitism, it is.
However, some factors crept up during the 20th century that worked against this widening gap, bringing the two closer together. More on that next time.