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.

Sunday, December 09, 2007
Stockhausen: an appreciation

I think Stockhausen was the composer most responsible for getting me into the whole European avant-garde scene.

I remember coming across his music when I took my first 20th Century music course as an undergraduate. I'm sure I dismissed it, as I did most of the other things I heard then. I do recall, however, secretly liking Webern's music, even though on the outside I had no idea what it was all about.

Fast forward a few years; I'm still an undergraduate, this time as a composer. I'm learning all I can about the 20th Century, and so I'm saturating myself with as much music as possible. Stockhausen's name comes up; some of the other students say how his music scares them. I say "cool!", and go listen. The electronic pieces impressed me, but Kontakte just blew me away. I listened, over and over to that piece! I'm not sure exactly what it was: the blend between ordered and somewhat random elements, the way the electronics and instruments mesh so well, or the cool-looking manuscript score. Or maybe it was the booklet that accompanied the score, showing how much work went into making the tape part (including, making the sounds spin in space using a speaker mounted on a turntable, as shown on the right). The work is a masterpiece - I even wrote a piece using similar instrumentation in 1986 (Serigraphs, which was played on the Florida State New Music Festival in 1987, and has been withdrawn). I firmly believe that this piece was a beginning, a new fertile ground.

Of course, I've enjoyed Stockhausen's other works as well. Hymnen remains another masterpiece of the electronic tape era. There's even an almost post-modern moment, when we're suddenly in the studio with Stockhausen and his assistant, wondering how we're going to get across the Atlantic. Try listening to that piece with the lights off!

More recently, I had a wonderful experience with programming Kontakte, on a concert sponsored by SEMI in Hartford, CT. We invited the now-defunct Auros Group for New Music, to play a concert of electro-acoustic works: two Davidovsky pieces, Kontakte, and the premiere of my own "I'll Have an Electric Mahabharata, Please". The concert started off horribly, as sound was not set up for the planned dress rehearsal. The musicians were pissed! However, when it came time to play, I had never heard them play better! Hearing Kontakte live was an unbelievable experience! I remember getting the tape part going, and standing in the back, thinking I'd sit down as soon as things settled down. Instead, I was riveted to my spot, by the power of this music. I stood for the entire piece, in the back of the hall, with the sound moving all around me. It was an amazing experience, one I'll never forget. I'll also never forget how well that piece has aged, especially since it was the oldest piece on the program!

You can't be a composer of electronic music without feeling some bit of indebtedness to Stockhausen. I think Holger Czukay called him the first "mixmeister", in reference to Hymnen. His work paved the way for the way a lot of us approach electronics, as a sound object in and of itself - not trying to replicate an instrument or even act like one!

One closing thought, which has also remained with me since I first heard it. When talking about musical analysis, Stockhausen once remarked that we are always searching for ourselves in the music. It's an interesting thought.

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