Author Archive

Composer Vivian Fung

Composer Vivian Fung

This week marks the premiere of a new concerto by Vivian Fung for the harp. Starting in Alabama this Thursday and later this spring in Germany, NY, DC, and in the fall, California, harpist Bridget Kibbey unveils the piece for harp, percussion, and strings. “It was tricky,” says Fung. “When we were deciding on the instrumentation, we originally thought it was going to be for the entire orchestra – but the harp is like a guitar, or other instruments that have balance issues, if you are not careful [with the orchestration]. So even with the percussion, I have to choose instruments that could compliment that sound very well, but not drown out the sound of the harp.”
Fung also prepares the harp in one section of the work, placing card stock in the strings. “It kind of mutes the strings (in the low register) so it almost turns it into a percussive sound, almost a bass guitar sort of sound – you know, the thump.”

Listen to an interview with Vivian Fung about this new concerto here as an mp3 file including how the commission came about, whether to name or subtitle the new work, inspirations, and writing for harp.

The New York premiere takes place Sunday and Monday, April 6 & 7 at le poisson rouge.

Bonus – more behind the scenes for composers – shop talk with Vivian and John Clare: mp3 file Hear the answers to how Ms. Fung started as a composer, dream genres, and the importance of recordings/publication for a composer.

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The latest from Isabelle Faust

The latest from Isabelle Faust

Violinist Isabelle Faust may have impressed you in Mozart last week at the Mostly Mozart Festival. She’ll be back in New York for Beethoven and more next January! Her latest recording explores the sound world of Bela Bartok, including both of his violin concertos, now out on Harmonia Mundi.

“If you talk with a living composer, of course (s)he will be very clear and explain what kind of atmosphere, what kind of sound (s)he wants produced,” says Faust. The importance of new music is profound with Isabelle, who says this interaction between composer and performer is key, and influences how she plays older music.

Hear the entire interview with Isabelle Faust with John Clare, talking about each concerto, creating fresh sounds in programming, and the importance of composers here.

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This season (12-13) has many firsts for Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. For their opening concert, Orpheus performs Beethoven’s iconic Fifth Symphony for the first time and, in addition to expanding their traditional repertoire, Orpheus has commissioned a staggering four world premieres this season! (Gabriel Kahane is their composer in residence.)

The season begins with the world premiere of Augusta Read Thomas‘s Earth Echoes, a piece commissioned by Orpheus and written to commemorate the death of Gustav Mahler.

John Clare spoke to Augusta about the new work. The two discuss Mahler, orchestration and the magic of Carnegie Hall. Listen to their conversation on soundcloud.

It will be performed October 10th in Easton, PA; Carnegie Hall on October 11th; and in Storrs, CT at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts October 12th.

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Paul Jacobs

Paul Jacobs performs at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City this Wednesday, November 16 at 7:30 PM. Famed as an “evangelist for the organ”, Jacobs will play a 20th/21st century program that highlights not only the instrument’s traditional grandeur and sublimity, but also its range of emotion and insight.
John Clare spoke to Paul about the program, teaching organists new music plus composers about the organ, and some new works by Mason Bates and Michael Daugherty: mp3 file
An extraordinarily expressive performer and an intensely intelligent musician, Grammy Award-winning organist Paul Jacobs is helping the King of Instruments retake its rightful place in classical music. He is known for his marathon performances, which sometimes last up to 18 hours, of the complete works of J.S. Bach, Messiaen, and other composers, as well as his presentations of new works and core repertoire. Jacobs was invited to join the faculty of the Juilliard School in 2003, and was named chairman of the organ department in 2004, one of the youngest faculty appointees in the school’s history. He received Juilliard’s prestigious William Schuman Scholar’s Chair in 2007. Jacobs has played with numerous orchestras around the country, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Jacobs’ most recent album is a recording of Copland’s Organ Symphony with the San Francisco Symphony under the baton of Michael Tilson Thomas.
“Sacred Music in a Sacred Space” at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in New York City is committed to presenting the finest sacred choral and organ repertoire spanning over 1,000 years of music history. Known for their artistic excellence, the renowned Choir and Orchestra of St. Ignatius Loyola present exhilarating performances of large-scale choral masterpieces as well as more intimate and reflective settings by lesser-known composers. Internationally-acclaimed organists may also frequently be heard on the Church’s magnificent N.P. Mander Pipe Organ, the largest tracker organ in New York City. General admission is $20, with tickets for students and seniors at $15.

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Here’s a contest for pianists with the music of David Lang. Read all about it here.
David explains more in this video:

Between November 15, 2011 and December 31, 2011, download the score to wed from David Lang’s memory pieces without charge from
Learn the music and make a video of yourself playing it.
Post the video on by midnight (Eastern Standard Time) on December 31, 2011.
**IMPORTANT** you must tag the video with the following phrase: David Lang Piano Competition 2011

I spoke with David when he was in South Texas just last year about composition:

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Composer Paul Moravec

Composer Paul Moravec

No doubt if you have participated or read any of the chats below for Spring For Music concerts, you are pretty excited. If you haven’t heard about Spring for Music, it starts tomorrow night with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra at Carnegie Hall!
Orpheus has a wonderful resource about their New Brandenburgs project, but I was curious to talk with Paul Moravec about the idea of hearing his Brandenburg Gate with the other commissions. Here is our chat from Sunday night at his apartment: mp3 file
Concerts continue through May 14th at Carnegie including the Dallas Symphony in Steven Stucky’s August 4th, 1964; the Albany Symphony in a Spirituals Re-Imagined project; and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra in Maria Schneider’s Carlos Drummond de Andrade Stories with Dawn Upshaw. Ticket prices are reduced, and I love the idea there will be hometown sections for the visiting orchestra fans!

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Jennifer Higdon and John Clare in Dallas for her Violin Concerto performance in May 2010

It is a huge day for new music new releases tomorrow, Tuesday, September 21st. Last month you might remember I interviewed Nico Muhly about his new releases before he spoke in LA about the works on the Decca label and featured an in-store performance. Tomorrow those discs will hit the stores as well as two major works by another composer, Jennifer Higdon.

What is astounding about Higdon’s cds are that they are by two different labels (Telarc & DG) and by two different violinists (Jennifer Koh and Hilary Hahn) of two different violin concertos, written closely together: The Singing Rooms and the Violin Concerto. I was curious about how all of this came together for Jennifer.

Listen to the interview: mp3 file

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By now, you’ve surely heard about Project 440 at Orpheus/WQXR, and the next round of cuts will take the composers to just a dozen (to be announced September 9th on WQXR). So I thought it would be interesting to talk to the remaining 30 before the cut about this process.

Q: “You all have probably been involved in a group lesson or masterclass at some point – some sort of public forum – with a teacher, composer or perhaps an ensemble and conductor. Project 440, however, involves not only a selection committee, but comments on the internet. How do you view the critiques and praise, both positive and negative – and how does it differ from a masterclass/learning situation?”

David T. Little:
As always, comments on one’s music should be understood for what they are: opinions. While a composer certainly can (and should) learn something by considering other people’s thoughts on their work–especially, say, in the case of a master class–they ultimately, for better or worse, answer only to themselves. When the time comes to sit down to write, I try put all of this aside and just create the best and most honest music possible.

Zibuokle Martinaityte:
Orpheus Project 440 offers young composers three main ingredients, which solidify the recipe of becoming a successful composer in the world and make it complete: exposure, the opinion of a larger audience and the critical judgment of a highly competent selection committee. The integration of these three things distinguishes it from other projects and learning environments such as master classes or public forums for composers. These usually incorporate one or two of the above-mentioned components, but have a non-worldly aspect used for isolated learning where only professionals of the field contribute their qualified opinions or honest advice. This is very useful for analysis and explanations of complex music and perhaps even improving compositional skills, but has little to do with the important relationship of composer to audience.

Due to its presence on the Internet, Project 440 is a unique and useful “reality check” with listeners who are in fact the audience whether one realizes it or not. This framework creates more vulnerability for the composer who becomes completely exposed to others not only through the sounds they create which would be typical for a composer, but also through the verbal interpretations of the listener. People have the freedom to speak candidly about the music and regardless of how we feel, it is posted and available for others to read. Furthermore, it is going to influence other listeners as well. It is my first time participating in a web-based public project and I’ve been very curious and stimulated by reading all the comments. Both positive and negative feedback is equally valuable for me, giving me a glimpse of what the listener is actually experiencing when encountering my music.

Chen Yao:
I am open to different critiques and praise, as these comments are based on the listeners’ different listening experiences on my music. I can tell that the critiques and praise I have received for my Glowing Autumn come from the listeners who are from all kinds of backgrounds. They take my music to various perspectives and levels. I deeply appreciate their individual thoughts and comments. I am very happy that my music can offer the listeners a little sound pleasure as well as an angle by which they can get to see and think what today’s young composers are creating.

It definitely differs from what you can hear and learn from a masterclass. The internet offers a no-personal interaction inviting listeners from a broader level of society, and mostly the comments you receive on line present a wide range of aesthetic levels and unfold what your music means to others. A masterclass provides a situation in which a composer can share his/her music ideas with other professional and experienced colleagues, and often the comments you receive at a masterclass deal with the composers’ understandings of what music composition is, and what might improve your composition.

Clint Needham:
I applaud the idea and effort behind Project 440 and I am honored to be selected to the next round of the competition. However, the major issue is that most comments for each composer come from friends of the composer (myself included). In an open forum where anyone can comment there is really no way of being “fair” and totally objective. That being said, I am fine with the way things are being run and I am happy the final decision comes from the committee. I would also add that I don’t think most of us would get such glowing reviews (or overly harsh ones) in a room where people, who were asked to be objective, spoke to us directly.

Christopher Lee:
I view comments I receive from the Internet not at all like those I would get at a masterclass, or even from a newspaper review, though that’s closer. Comments from online listeners represent feedback one would get from a concert audience, made up of people with very diverse backgrounds and degrees of experience with music. As such, I think this is important feedback to have, and represents “the last stop” our music makes on its journey into the world, but I would expect composers to take the same attitude towards it as they do to reviews: some will care, and others will not. This seems to be an interesting new direction for the reception of concert music however, and puts the music back into the public arena in a way reminiscent of the 1930’s and early 40’s with Copland and other populist composers.

Alex Mincek:
The comments have been fun and interesting to read. However, because many of the people who have commented perhaps feel as though they are in some way directly voting, there has been some amusing hyperbole. This project has been a unique experience and so I don’t really find it has much in common with a masterclass situation. While it is certainly informative to hear feedback, I don’t think the dynamic between myself and an anonymous commenter has much in common with any teacher/student relationship I have encountered. I think the project has more in common with a post-concert situation, where, after hearing my work people sometimes share their reactions and opinions without necessarily intending to be pedagogical in any way.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Nico Muhly is set to appear at the Santa Monica Apple Store on the Third Street Promenade Wednesday, September 8th to mark two new releases from Decca. “A Good Understanding” will be released exclusively on iTunes on September 7, with physical copies available on September 21 alongside “I Drink the Air Before Me”.

Composer Nico Muhly

Muhly along with Los Angeles Master Chorale conductor Grant Gershon will take part in a Q&A session – where Muhly will demonstrate how he creates his compositions with GarageBand on his MacBook Pro. The talk will end with a performance by members of the Los Angeles Master Chorale featuring two works from “A Good Understanding” and two related works, “Like as the Hart” and “Wayfaring Stranger”.
John Clare spoke with Muhly about the works and event: mp3 file
Nico Muhly and Los Angeles Master Chorale conductor Grant Gershon appear at the Santa Monica Apple Store on Wednesday, September 8, 7:00 p.m.
Bonus – listen to the rest of the conversation as Muhly interviews Clare: mp3 file

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Dr. Dick

Dick Strawser

What to enjoy on those flights to festivals, composing on the beach or just to unwind this summer reading? Dick Strawser has been busy writing the sequel to “The Schoenberg Code” over on Thoughts on a Train – another pun filled parody called “The Lost Chord.”
Fans of Dan Brown beware, Strawser outdoes the fiction writer and adds unbelievably hilarious names to a modern composition based thriller.
(You might also enjoy his “Stravinsky’s Tavern” as well!)

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