Archive for the “Commissions” Category
A year ago at this time, Susan McMane, Artistic Director of the San Francisco Girls Chorus, had no idea what a hot-button issue immigration would be in June 2010. For her, the works of immigrant composers formed a compelling programmatic mix for her five-time Grammy-winning ensemble’s concert series, which she’d entitled A New Land, A New Song.
Now, in the midst of nonstop political debate and a deployment of additional National Guard troops to the border, SFGC will celebrate the contributions of immigrant composers to the choral music oeuvre. Composers come literally from all over the map, from Russia with Igor Stravinksy and his Four Russian Peasant Songs, from Cuba with Tania Léon and her work May the Road Be Free; and Austria with Ernst Krenek’s Three Madrigals. The Cypress String Quartet, SFGC’s 2010 Artists in Residence, will contribute Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 12 in F Major, Op.96, “American”. Choral pieces by Kurt Weill, Vernon Duke, and colonial Moravian composers are also on the bill.
But the centerpiece of the series will be a world premiere, commissioned by the Chorus from Chinese-born Chen Yi. The new work, Angel Island Passages, commemorates the 100th anniversary of Angel Island Immigration Station, known as “the Ellis Island of the West,” and evokes the experiences of Chinese immigrants. Artistic Director McMane came up with the idea for the work in 2009, and sent the book “Island, poetry and history of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island, 1910-1940” — by Him Mark Lai, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung — to Dr. Chen for her reference as she began work on the commission.
The piece is written in three movements for treble voices and string quartet. The first movement, entitled “1882,” refers to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 passed by Congress to halt Chinese immigration into the United States. The music is based on a Cantonese folk ensemble piece, “Prancing Horses”, and contains a traditional scale in a sorrowful mode. Dr. Chen expands and develops the melody, and uses it horizontally and vertically throughout the movement. The second movement, “Longing,” continues in a slow, agitated and melancholy mood. The third movement contrasts small groups with the larger ensemble to symbolize the experience of assimilation into American culture. The text of the three movements includes nonsense syllables to convey emotional pain, and the words “We are America” sung in Cantonese, Mandarin and English.
Dr. Chen has already written for the San Francisco Girls Chorus – her piece, Chinese Poems, received its world premiere as part of the Chorus’ 20th anniversary season in 1998. Twelve years later, she says, “My experience writing…for the San Francisco Girls Chorus in 1998 convinced me that it is a world-class performing arts organization whose singers can handle any repertoire. I am confident that these young women have what it takes to bring this powerful subject matter to life.”
Angel Island Passages may officially be a piece for treble chorus and string quartet, but a compelling visual accompaniment, commissioned by the Chorus from documentary filmmaker Felicia Lowe, will be integral. Ms. Lowe’s past films include Carved in Silence, a documentary about the experience of detainees on Angel Island; and Chinatown, a short film about the history of the Chinese in San Francisco. She shared both films, along with her video production Road to Restoration, with Dr. Chen as Angel Island Passages was being written.
Dr. Chen relates the experience of the Angel Island immigrants to her own personal history. “I was born and raised in China and went through the dark period of Cultural Revolution 40 years ago, during which general education was interrupted and Western music was prohibited for 10 years,” she says. “My passion and hard work helped me overcome this hardship and to become the first woman to earn a masters degree in music composition in China. I’ve painfully learned about the history of Chinese immigration through Angel Island. Along with SFGC and Cypress String Quartet, I want us to use our music to share the true history, to voice our belief in equal rights, to improve our society, and to look forward to a brighter future.”
Performances of A New Land, A New Song will take place at 8:00 p.m. on June 4th and 5th at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, located at 50 Oak Street, San Francisco. Tickets are priced $18-$32 and are available for purchase by phone from City Box Office, by phone at 415-392-4400 and online at www.cityboxoffice.com.
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Posted by Steve Layton in Canada, Chamber Music, Commissions, Composers, Concerts, Contemporary Classical, Electro-Acoustic, Experimental Music, Music Events, Performers, Post Modern
A few of the of the unusual and interesting events coming up soon, soon soon:
Victoria, B.C. : Wednesday May 12th, 8pm at Knox Presbyterian Church (2964 Richmond Road, Victoria / $10), LaSaM (Luminosity and Sounds by adventurous Musicians) is presenting a program titled “And Beethoven Heard Nothing“. As they tell it, the show will be “exploring Beethoven’s inherent belief systems, his deafness and the sonorities of his later work. Sonic phenomena; tinnitus and deafness; acoustic space, climax and stasis; memory and silence… The ensemble has pulled experiences of Beethoven’s thought and music through the filters of contemporary soundscape and performance practice into an evocative environment of dancing shadows, image and light.” Directed by musicologist Dylan Robinson and composer Tina Pearson, with technical direction by George Tzanetakis and live video projections by Tim Gosley. Besides Pearson (flute, voice, glass) and Tzanetakis (clarinet, saxophone) collaborating musicians include Chris Reiche (piano), Cathy Lewis (voice, percussion), and Alex Olson (bass). Island Deaf and Hard of Hearing Society will be on hand with information; the performance will be followed by a discussion about the project, and about how we use our ears in contemporary urban life.
. . . . .
Baltimore, MD : Friday May 14th is the kick off for the 2010 edition of the Megapolis Audio Festival, running all the way through Sunday the 16th. Right from the horse’s mouth, there’ll be “circuit bending /noisemaker constructions, sonic slumber parties, free-form audio editing sessions, kickass musics, interactive demonstrations, urban sonic explorations, experimental musical practice and theory, film with funfun sounds, musical performances, subversive audio tours, (un-boring) lectures, and moremoremoremore.”
The line up
is mind-boggling in its scope, filled not only with listening but workshops, installations, player participation and likely wild parties hither and yon. A special shout-out to my composer friend Erik Spangler
, who in his alter-ego known as DJ Dubble8
will be working with Baltimore’s intrepid Mobtown Modern
. . . . .
Toronto, ON : Saturday, May 15th is the day to catch Contact Contemporary Music: Six Team League at the Music Gallery (197 John St., Toronto / 416-204-1080 / $20).
In celebration of Canada hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics with a nod to the National Hockey League’s “Original Six,” Contact Contemporary Music is pitching in with an ambitious attempt to connect the country through music. Six ensembles across the country will simultaneously present and perform a concert of six new works by six composers from six regions of the country in a musical sweep from sea to sea to sea.
The participating ensembles are the Motion Ensemble (Fredericton, NB) who have commissioned composer Joel Miller; Bradyworks (Montreal, QC) who have commissioned composer Michel Frigon; St. Crispin’s Chamber Ensemble (Edmonton, AB) who have commissioned Dave Wall; Redshift Music (Vancouver, BC) who have commissioned Jordan Nobles; and Contact Contemporary Music who have commissioned Juliet Palmer..
Six composers. Six ensembles. Six cities. Six concerts. Six Team League.
. . . .
Saint-Gilles, Belgium : Also on Saturday, May 15th, 8pm but half a world away (Maison du Peuple de Saint-Gilles, Parvis de Saint-Gilles, 37-39), the brilliant pianist Stephane Ginsburgh will be joining many other wonderful musicians, in a free concert titled “Constellations-Figure“. A clumsy translation:
What is a constellation? A design, a network. Links forged between the points seen from afar, but apparently close. They are a familiar and enigmatic. A graph that tells us about relationships, geometric and experienced. Paths traced between places and individuals symbolic or real. What form a constellation? The proximity of the points or the path of truth? Twenty artists are encouraged to draw their constellation, while participating in the figure which will rise by the force of things. Do you like the Milky Way?
Did I mention many other wonderful musicians? It’s a “Night of Soloists”: Jean-Michel Agius (voice), Primitiv (beatbox), Laurence Cornez (piano), Tom De Cock (percussion), Fabian Fiorini (piano), Stephane Ginsburgh (piano), Philippe Liénaert (piano), Céline Lory (piano), Barbara Mavro Thalassitis (voice/dance), Laurence Mekhitarian (piano), Gerrit Nulens (percussion), Isabelle Roeland (voice), Jessica Ryckewaert (percussion), Jan Rzewski (saxophone), Johanne Saunier (voice/dance), Laurence Vielle (voice), Gilles Wiernik (voice). It’s a cryptic but promising event, in a beautiful and historic location.
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Posted by Christian Carey in Commissions, Composers, Contemporary Classical, File Under?, Minimalism, tags: Bang on a Can, Boosey, Composers Now, Merkin Hall, New Sounds, Q2, WQXR
I really enjoyed Q2’s broadcast tonight of New Sounds Live, a concert at Merkin Hall by the Bang on a Can All Stars that featured works by Nik Bartsch, Oscar Bettison, Christine Southworth, Michael Nyman, and David Longstreth. The first in a hopefully ongoing series of collaborations between Q2 and Merkin Hall, it was also a featured event in this week’s Composers Now festival.
I particularly enjoyed the Bettison work, The Afflicted Girl, in part because it’s quite affecting; but it also helps that I was able to study in advance and follow along with a perusal score sent over by the kind folks at Boosey. Funded by BoaC’s Peoples’ Commissioning Fund, the piece is what Bettison calls an “anti-pastorale.” Its based on a quote from Peter Ackroyd’s London: the Biography. It describes an afflicted girl frequently found in a busy thoroughfare, seemingly oblivious to the cacophony around her. Or, as in Bettison’s posits in his piece, perhaps she found a kind of music amidst the chaos.
Clangor is Bettison’s daily bread: many of his works employ junk metal percussion. The Afflicted Girl involves copious percussion batteries, prepared piano, a keyboard tuned a quarter tone flat, taped echoes of the ensemble, plenty of electric guitar harmonics, and a Shapey-esque scordatura tuning of the cellos C string – down to G for rumbled slackening. What’s more, all the players double on bicycle bells!
Alternately assaultive and contemplative, rhythmically charged and, briefly, eerily reposeful, its a demanding, challenging, harrowing, and memorable work.
Bang on a Can. Photo: Christine Southworth
Sad you missed out on the Q2 broadcast? Fear not: the performance will be featured on a March broadcast of New Sounds.
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I have the utmost respect for Eighth Blackbird as musicians and new music advocates. In fact one of my fondest dreams as a composer would be to have them perform my chamber Sextet. But I was very disappointed to learn that the ensemble’s new Call for Scores requires composers to pay a $50 application fee to have their scores considered. While, as one of my colleagues put it, this may convince composers to be ‘a bit self-selective’ in their submissions, it’s also a handy way to self-fund the commission of a new work for the ensemble.
As much as I’d like to have Eighth Blackbird consider my work, I don’t want to participate in a process that feels exploitative.
Thoughts on application fees? The comments section is open!
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Does anyone remember the early August announcement that the American Composers Orchestra was going to begin a partnership with LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton to “Commission and Premiere New Music by Emerging American Composers”? Well, whether you can wrap your head around that pairing or not, the first concert is happening on Monday night (November 30th) in Zankel Hall with Erin Gee’s Mouthpiece XIII: Mathilde of Loci, Part 1. Erin is the lucky recipient of the first commission through this new partnership.
There are two other world premieres on the program:
1) Donal Fox: Peace Out for Improvised Piano and Orchestra. Mr. Fox was the first African-American composer-in-residence with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and he will perform as soloist, improvising his part along with a fully composed score for the orchestra.
2) Curt Cacioppo: When the Orchard Dances Ceased. The work includes parts for Native American folk voice and percussion instruments, both of which will be performed by the composer.
And, of course, there’s more… there will also be two New York premieres:
1) Huang Ruo’s piece, Leaving Sao, is written for soprano or high male voice in folk style and chamber orchestra in memory of his grandmother. Sao in Chinese means sorrowful predicament. I’m not totally sure, but I think he will also be the one singing this vocal part.
2) Charles Ives: Tone Roads Nos. 1 & 3. It looks like this will be the only piece on the program in which the composer is not also performing. Couldn’t the ACO find a way to get Charles there as well?!
You can also find lots of video and audio content about all of these works here.
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I’ve just been informed via press release, that our s21 blogging regular Lawrence Dillon is a “mid-career composer.” It’s nice to know that he’s only half-done making great music and not already washed-up!
Said release was about the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts LINKS Commissioning Awards, and the four composers who’ll be getting premieres thanks to it, at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) in Winston-Salem — whose composer-in-residence just happens to be… yes, Lawrence Dillon. And one of which is by… yes, Lawrence Dillon. But since his is the odd man out location-wise and not first up, I’ll hold off that one to tell you about a couple others:
First up is Laura Kaminsky‘s Wave Hill, in Watson Hall at UNCSA Saturday, November 7, 2009 with pianist Allison Gagnon and Violinist Kevin Lawrence. The composer writes: “Wave Hill is a multi-movement work inspired by the eponymous 28-acre public garden and cultural center in the Bronx overlooking the Hudson River and Palisades. Wave Hill’s mission is to celebrate the artistry and legacy of its gardens and landscapes, to preserve its magnificent views, and to explore human connections to the natural world through programs in horticulture, education and the arts. Celebrating this special place through music, the piece evokes the garden’s changing landscape at different times of day and throughout the four seasons.”
Then on January 12, 2010, again in Watson Hall, David Maslanka will offer up an as-yet-untitled new work for two pianos and percussion, to be performed by The CanAm Piano Duo (Christopher Hahn and Karen Beres).
OK, now we can take a quick jaunt out of town and meet up with… yes, Lawrence Dillon. On January 15th, 2010 his brand-spanking-new String Quartet No. 4: The Infinite Sphere will be heard in Wolf Trap, Virginia, performed by The Daedalus String Quartet. The latest in Dillon’s Invisible Cities string quartet cycle, the fourth takes its inspiration from Pascal’s reference to an “infinite sphere, whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.” The piece taps the potentials of classical circular forms and techniques to create an exuberant, wheels-within-wheels showcase for a virtuosic ensemble.
Leaving… yes, Lawrence Dillon… and rounding out this little tour of “mid-career” folk, we need to get back to Winston-Salem and then the Stevens Center by May 21, 2010, when Randall Woolf‘s new work Native Tongues will see light of day under conductor Ransom Wilson, the UNCSA Symphony Orchestra and “beatbox flutist” Greg Pattillo. Even the orchestra will be getting their chance to rap & scratch on this one, so it promises to be one lively affair.
To purchase tickets for these UNCSA concerts, or for more information, call (336) 721-1945 or visit www.uncsa.edu/performances.
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