Author Archive

A reminder of the muscular, haunting style of Peter Schulthorpe, who passed away a couple of days ago.

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Vijay Iyer and the Brentano Quartet in a live performance of sections from Mutations at Greene Space

Over the past two decades, Vijay Iyer has recorded some 18 albums of bold, genre-defying and original music that navigates the fine line between composition and improvisation, between jazz and New Music.  Although his restless musical imagination roams easily through both Carter and Monk territory, unearthing insights that evolve and morph over time, the gestures have largely been identifiable as jazz.   His new and first ECM recording—Mutations—unveils more of the composer side of the 42-year-old New Yorker’s prolific bag.  The title composition–for string quartet, piano and electronics—was written nearly 10 years ago but is recorded here for the first time, with considerable care, by Iyer and top chamber players Miranda Cuckson, Michi Wiancko, Kyle Armbrust and Kivie Cahn-Lipman,  under the magic ear of Manford Eicher.

Is Mutations jazz or is it contemporary classical or some sort of Third Stream, as envisioned by Gunther Schuller?  Does it matter?

“I find myself at the intersection of several music communities where people have different understandings and assumptions about what music is,” he says.  “When you talk about genres you’re really talking about different communities of people each of which has people who have a shared understanding of music.  But, those assumptions shift as we are exposed to different approaches and sounds so we are constantly redefining what music is. ”

In other words, he isn’t much interested in labels or categories.

“As you can imagine, from the perspective of an artist who makes music and has lived pretty intimately in both the jazz and classical worlds it is not useful think about labels or categories.  It’s more useful to think about what can I do with these particular people.  Because when you talk about genres you’re really talking about communities and people who have a shared understanding about what is music.  When you’re exposed to something new, that can expand or alter your perceptions.”

Lately, Iyer has become the Pharrell Williams of the New Music community—a musician who has worked over 20 years to become an overnight success.   Although Iyer’s music is unlikely to dominate the planet in the same resistance-is-futile way that Williams has, he has plenty to be “happy” about, too.  In the last two years, he’s won a MacArthur Genius Award, gotten a tenured teaching position at Harvard, landed a big commission and retrospective at BAM this coming December and released an extraordinary new album on ECM.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Sign up for the New York Philharmonic’s eNews for a chance to win   a pair of tickets to hear the New York Philharmonic in a concert featuring the World Premiere of Christopher Rouse’s Symphony No. 4 and Violinist Midori on your choice of Thursday, June 5, 2014, at 7:30 PM or Saturday, June 7, 2014, at 8pm at the first-ever NYPHIL BIENNIAL!   2 winners will be selected on May 31, 2014.   The winners will be notified by the email address provided on the form. One entry per email address.

Register here.

Read about the concert here.

Read about Christopher Rouse below.

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The American Composers Forum–in partnership with the super cool So Percussion has announced  the finalists in the 2014 American Composers Forum National Composition Contest: Michael Laurello (Yale School of Music), Todd Lerew (CalArts), and Kristina Warren (University of Virginia).  In addition to a cash prize, the three finalists get to compose an 8 – 10 minute piece for So Percussion, and travel to Princeton to hear it workshopped and premiered on July 20  as part of the So Percussion Summer Institute 2014. One of the works will be chosen to receive the final prize, which includes an additional cash award and future public performances by So Percussion.

The National Composition Contest is open to composers currently enrolled in graduate and undergraduate institutions in the United States; this year’s installment drew more than 250 applicants from 39 states. Each finalist receives an award of $1,000 plus an additional stipend of $750 to help defray expenses associated with attending the workshop and studio performance. Along with further performances of his/her piece, the winning composer will receive an additional $2,000.

The competition began during the 2010-11 season as the Finale National Composition Contest, partnering with the group eighth blackbird. JACK Quartet was the ensemble for 2011-12. The competition went on hiatus last season, returning in September 2013 under its new name, the American Composers Forum National Composition Contest.

A B O U T   T H E   F I N A L I S T S

Michael Laurello (b. 1981) is an American composer and pianist. He has written for ensembles and soloists such as the Yale Baroque Ensemble, Sound Icon, the 15.19 Ensemble, NotaRiotous (the Boston Microtonal Society), guitarist Flavio Virzì, soprano Sarah Pelletier, pianist/composer John McDonald, and clarinetist and linguist/music theorist Ray Jackendoff. Laurello is an Artist Diploma candidate in Composition at the Yale School of Music, studying with David Lang and Christopher Theofanidis. He earned an M.A. in Composition from Tufts University under John McDonald, and a B.M. in Music Synthesis (Electronic Production and Design) from Berklee College of Music where he studied jazz piano performance with Laszlo Gardony and Steve Hunt. He has attended composition festivals at highSCORE (Pavia, Italy) and Etchings (Auvillar, France), and was recently recognized with an Emerg ing Artist Award from the St. Botolph Club Foundation (Boston, MA). In addition to his work as a composer and performer, Laurello is a recording and mixing engineer.

Todd Lerew (b. 1986) is a Los Angeles-based composer working with invented acoustic instruments, repurposed found objects, and unique preparations of traditional instruments. Lerew is the inventor of the Quartz Cantabile, which utilizes a principle of thermoacoustics to convert heat into sound, and has presented the instrument at Stanford’s CCRMA, the American Musical Instrument Society annual conference, the Guthman Musical Instrument Competition at Georgia Tech, and Machine Project in Los Angeles. He is the founder and curator of Telephone Music, a collaborative music and memory project based on the children’s game of Telephone, the last round of which was released as an exclusive download to subscribers of music magazine The Wire. His solo piece for e-bowed gu zheng, entitled Lithic Fragments, is available on cassette on the Brunch Groupe label. H is pieces have been performed by members of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, the Wet Ink Ensemble (New York), the Now Hear Ensemble (Santa Barbara), and the Canticum Ostrava choir (Czech Republic).

Composer and vocalist Kristina Warren (b. 1989) holds a B.A. in Music Composition from Duke University and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Composition and Computer Technologies from the University of Virginia. Recent works include Three Sonnets of Elizabeth Barrett Browning (soprano, electronics), Folk Studies No. 1 (Up in the A.M.), No. 2 (Vimeda Sakla), andNo. 3 (Shousty) for voice-based electronics, and Pogpo (electric guitar quartet). Warren’s research interests include voice, electronics, and questions of aleatory and performance practice in conjunction with various non-Eurocentric musics, such as folk music and Korean p’ansori. Warren’s compositions have been performed across the US and in Europe, and she has been fortunate to study composition with Ted Coffey, Judith Shatin, Anthony Kelley, Scott Lindroth , and John Supko.S

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Hey Jerry. We would love your help getting the word out on the balance of our reading opportunities this year. What’s new is that we are now accepting them by email and also offering the ability to apply for both the Underwood New Music Readings and the New York Philharmonic EarShot Readings that will result in three of the six chosen having their works performed June 5-7 by the Phil either under Alan Gilbert or Matthias Pintscher. I’ll go ahead and say that I think this is pretty cool.

Also, if you can post this opportunity on your site somewhere in addition to blasting the attached pdf, I’ve pasted the link to the page on our site concerning these opportunities.

Many thanks for all your help in getting the word out on these composer opportunities!



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The demise of the New York City Opera is a tragedy for American composers, singers and fans of new opera.  With rare exceptions, it has been, since its founding in 1943, the only game in town for large-scale productions of major works by composers who were still breathing at the time.  From now established oldies like Douglas Moore’s The Ballad of Baby Doe, Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, Leonard Bernstein’s Candide, and Aaron Copland’s The Tender Land to newer masterpieces like Mark Adano’s Little Women, John Corigliano’s The Ghosts of Versailles, and Tobias Picker’s Emmeline, the NYCO has been an invaluable platform for American-style grand opera.

The NYCO was instrumental in launching the careers of many great singers like the people’s diva,  Beverly Sills, Sherrill Milnes, Plácido Domingo, Maralin Niska, Carol Vaness,José Carreras, Shirley Verrett, Tatiana Troyanos, Jerry Hadley, Catherine Malfitano, Samuel Ramey, Lauren Flanigan and Elizabeth Futral.

Many of the happiest nights of my life I have spent sitting quietly in the dark were spent in the upper reaches of what will always be called by me the New York State Theater.   I feel like I’ve lost an old friend.

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It’s  September, the beginning of a new season, and time for our annual below half-price one-year Sequenza21 sponsorship/advertising sale.  You can change your ad monthly if you like so basically, you get up to 12 ads for the price of 5 at the standard rate.

145×145 – $1,000 for 12 months (Standard Rate – $200 per month)
145×400  -$1,500 for 12 months (Standard Rate – $350 per month)
We use jpg, gif or animated gif.
Send me a note for more information.


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seahIf there were a contest for hardest working man in New Music, my choice for a winner would be Sean Hickey. The personable 43-year-old Detroit native is not only a husband and father and a top classical music industry executive with a serious day job, he is a prolific composer of eloquent, stately music that manages to engage (or, at minimum, not enrage) the post-modern crowd through the sheer originality and persuasiveness of its musical ideas–without sending the blue hairs scurrying for the exits. Like his original inspiration, Igor Stravinsky, and well-known contemporaries like Daniel Asia, Michael Daugherty, Aaron Jay Kernis, Libby Larsen, Lowell Liebermann,Paul Moravec, and Osvaldo Golijov (Have we forgiven him yet?), Hickey writes music that is enjoyable to listen to. Not easy. Enjoyable.

He also arranges music, writes travel articles, helps any friend who needs it and occasionally mows lawns on big estates in Westchester.

The release of his Concerto for Cello and Orchestra and Concerto for Clarinet on Delos has solidified his reputation as a formidable new classicist whose work demonstrates where American music might have gone had the heirs of  neoclassic Stravinsky, Ravel, Hindemith, Milhaud, Martinu, Honneger and their tuneful ilk taken over music academia in the 50s and 60s instead of the mathematicians.

Hickey’s route to a music career is a familiar one for talented kids of his generation –he got himself a guitar and learned how to make it talk. Read the rest of this entry »

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Berkeley Symphony, in cooperation with EarShot, invites applications for the 2014 Under Construction Reading Series. Three emerging composers will be selected to participate from a national candidate pool. Each will compose a new 10-minute work for orchestra that will be workshopped, rehearsed and read  under the baton of music director Joana Carneiro, in two reading sessions on February 2-3 and May 4-5, 2014 in Berkeley, CA. Composers will receive artistic and career guidance from the Symphony artistic staff, orchestra musicians, and mentor-composers, Robert Beaser and Edmund Campion. Composers will also participate in professional development workshops and feedback sessions.

Each accepted composer will write a new work, not to exceed 10 minutes duration, scored for the following instrumentation: 2 flutes; 2 oboes; 2 clarinets; 2 bassoons, 2 French horns, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones (one tenor, one bass), timpani + 1 percussion, piano, and strings: 8, 6, 5, 4, 2. (The following woodwind doubles are permitted: piccolo, English horn, and bass clarinet.) Attendance is required for both sessions, and each composer is responsible for delivering professional quality score and parts. Travel and accommodations will be provided.

Applicants must be either a U.S. citizen, permanent resident, or student studying full-time in the U.S.  Applicants should be composers at the early stages of their professional careers and must not have had a work performed (other than a reading) by a Bay Area professional orchestra, nor have had a substantial history of works performed by professional orchestras at large. Composers who have applied previously for an EarShot Reading are eligible to apply. Applicants must submit a signed submission form, representative work sample orchestral score, resume, works list, and letter of recommendation. Incomplete, illegible, or late applications will not be considered.

Full guidelines & submission information available online at:

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dobrinka-21What’s the most important factor in becoming a successful contemporary composer? (By successful, I mean a composer whose work gets played regularly in public venues, recorded, and written about in the music press). Talent? Sure. Determination? Of course. Hard work? Maybe. Strong relationships with musicians who inspire and play your work?

Dobrinka Tabakova, the 32-year-old Bulgarian/English composer whose debut ECM CD, String Paths, will be released in the U.S. on June 18, has all those qualities in spades but her career illustrates just how important that last social aspect of building a career are. Tabakova’s music is a textured blend of modern and ancient, familiar and unknown, tonal and modal, eastern and western, folky and formal. Her big musical gestures are bold and assertive. Among post-modern composers only John Adams and a handful of others write opening “hooks” that grab the listener as seemingly effortlessly.

When Tabakova was 11, her father, a medical physicist, took a position at Kings College Hospital and moved his family from their native city of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, to London. For Dobrinka, a quiet, only child with still rudimentary English skills, it was an opportunity to immerse herself even more deeply into the world of classical music.

“I had started taking piano lessons in Plovdiv when I was 7 and I continued them in London,” she says. “I was lucky enough to have teachers who didn’t seem to mind that I sometimes improvised when I came to a part I didn’t know,” she says, with a laugh. She applied and was accepted into the Junior Academy of Guildhall School of Music and Drama, which provides specialist training Saturday training to promising young people between the ages of 4 and 18.

“By the time I applied to Guildhall, I was improvising more and more and writing down sketches that I was pleased with. I took along a couple of those to my entrance exam and was accepted to study composition.” She ultimately graduated from regular Guildhall and then earned a doctorate in composition from King’s College, London.

Her first “big break” came at the age of 14, when she submitted a piece to the Fourth Vienna International Music Competition and won the Jean-Frederic Perrenoud Prize & Medal.

“I had seen an advert in the corridors at Guildhall and submitted a piece as a kind of lark,” she says. “I was stunned when I learned I had won.” Other opportunities quickly followed. She received a scholarship to attend the Centre Acanthes. Xenakis was guest composer and Messiaen’s widow Yvonne Loriod was giving lectures. Heady stuff, indeed, for a 15-year-old. Read the rest of this entry »

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