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.

Friday, March 27, 2009
When times go bad...

Curiously, I wasn't planning on tying together my last two postings into an odd trilogy. Nonetheless, I find myself rather dismayed at events taking place at William Paterson University.

The other day, I got an email from Pete Jarvis saying that his position will not be renewed for next year. Now, I'm well aware that we're in a global financial mess, and that universities are certainly feeling the crunch. And, I know that adjuncts often get thrown under the bus. Every university is being asked to trim its staff.

But, in this case, we're losing a direct tie to Ray DesRoaches, the founder of the New Jersey Percussion Ensemble. For many of us, the NJPE is the grand-daddy of percussion groups in the US. Sure, there have been groups like this before. But, Ray founded the group in the 1960s, and has been steadily performing and commissioning new works since. It's my understanding that freshmen students would show up, mostly drummers, and Ray would toss them a part from Ionization - something fairly uncomplicated. They'd rehearse this part for a semester, and perform it. Then, they'd learn another part in the score. By the time they left, the students may have played almost all the parts in Ionization. And, they'd be playing other pieces as well - almost all of them by living composers, who often came to the campus and worked with the students. Varèse was there, as was Cage, Babbitt, Wuorinen, Reich, and a whole bunch more. This year, they're trying to bring out Carter, as they present his new piece for percussion sextet, Tintinnabulation.

Most impressive was the attitude of the students. You'd go there, and there was an excitement in the air. I remember being there on a Sunday morning, and the practice rooms were full of musicians practicing. When Ray retired, Pete Jarvis took his place as director of the NJPE. And, from what I see, he carried on the tradition. And that's what's lost.

The school may rightfully argue that they have a percussion teacher in Payton MacDonald. Sure, he's an excellent percussionist, and he has a fine grasp of the literature. I don't know if he conducts the percussion ensemble, but I wouldn't be surprised if he's good at it (many excellent new-music conductors are percussionists - Brad Lubman, Jeff Milarsky, and Pete). However, I'm a bit upset at their decision.

Hopefully, there are solid reasons for his dismissal. It's quite possible that they were ordered to cut all adjuncts. But I'm certain that Shea Auditorium will be a sad place for some time.

In a somewhat related note, I'm still outraged at the UConn basketball coach. You may recall his obnoxious reply when asked about his salary, which makes him the highest paid employee of the state. Connecticut is facing similar problems, and he sees no problem with his salary. Most likely, we'll be having to make cutbacks. Yet, Calhoun will most likely not be asked to do the same - as if he couldn't more than make up the difference with his numerous advertising endorsements. It makes me actually root against UConn basketball these days.