The East Bay based California Symphony just announced its 2014-2017 Young American Composer in Residence program, open to all American composers under 40. YACR is a pretty remarkable initiative that remains somewhat under the radar, especially given the the press that similar programs receive. Some of the notable features include multiple commissions, paid travel and copyist expenses, and recorded rehearsals of in-progress works.
The California Symphony, founded in 1986, has a well-established history of promoting young composers, something newly minted Music Director Donato Cabrera plans on continuing. "I certainly want to continue the tradition of performing works by living American composers," Cabrera said in a recent interview with San Francisco Classical Voice. "Aside from the California Symphony’s tradition of promoting composers who have become well-known — Chris Theofanidis, Mason Bates — there are many composers I went to school with who have gone on to major careers — Nico Muhly, for example. The California Symphony has a great openness to living composers, and I want to celebrate that."
One of the things that sets this residency apart is that because of its extened length, composers and players have the opportunity to really get to know one another as they work together from season to season. At a recent rehearsal several orchestra members greeted and chatted with current composer in residence D. J. Sparr prior to reading through the first section of his new work Dreams of the Old Believers. Sparr is in the third and final year of his residency but his first encounter with YACR was back in 1997 when his college roommate Kevin Puts was in the program. “I saw what a great opportunity it was to be able to work with the orchestra in the reading sessions, where you really get a chance to fine-tune your craft and ideas so that in the future your works can go into intense rehearsals and come off with as much polish as possible."
I stole the title of this post from composer Jonathan Newman. It's the name of a swaggering barn-burner of a piece with a great, one-sentence program note.
If the system isn't working anymore, then do what Guy Fawkes tried and go anarchist: Blow it all up, and start again.
That title was the first thing that popped into my head when I read this opinion piece in the Star-Tribune. In it arts consultant Lawrence Perelman lays out a drastic and brilliant course of action for the Minnesota Orchestra musicians.
Follow Maestro Vänskä’s lead and resign from the Minnesota Orchestra Association. Immediately announce the creation of the Minnesota Symphony, a self-governing orchestra modeled on the Vienna Philharmonic. Find a charitable organization to give temporary use of its tax status (while you establish a new nonprofit) so you can receive donations from foundations and corporations and from your audience. Govern yourselves, and assign responsibilities to yourselves. Make history by setting an example for other orchestras to follow, and end the labor-management paradigm that leads to these kinds of disputes.
Now there's a thought. Maybe some of the orchestra's younger members took one of those entrepreneurship classes in conservatory that everyone's talking about now!
To say the original Star Wars (that is, Episode IV: A New Hope) is iconic is to say that the sky is blue. But as a kid swept up by its bold newness, two things always really captivated me most: the stellar (ha!) soundtrack by John Williams and the vivid sound world created by legendary sound designer Ben Burtt.
FilmSound, a site "dedicated the art of film sound design and film sound theory," features this great page on Burtt's work in the original film. Check it out.
(Seriously, have you never wondered how, exactly, that great blaster sound was made in 1977? Or that TIE Fighter screech?)
I love the current trend of music animations. We posted the superlative Rite of Spring animation below, but this simple one I especially love, because it not only helps the aural patterns make more sense (we are visually dominant in our perceptions, after all), but reveals a little bit of the actual compositional process, too.
Anyone who has studied tonal counterpoint knows that the all-time undisputed master craftsman is J. S. Bach, and The Musical Offering (BWV 1079) is a pretty clear example why. Here its most essential idea is presented in way that helps one hear and understand the nature of a so-called 'crab canon':
Now here is the music in context--try and notice if the little animation above helped you better hear the process Bach is putting the thematic material through:
The London Sinfonietta had a composition contest recently, except that each piece had to fit on the back of a postcard. Seriously. And the results are are fantastic. From their blog:
On Sunday, 15 September, the London Sinfonietta will be performing a selection of composer James Tenney’s Postal Pieces as part of Kings Place Festival.
Inspired by Tenney’s innovative work, we held an open call asking for
compositions written on the back of a postcard and the response was
phenomenal. A total of 355 RSVP compositions from 170 composers were
sent in from 20 countries on 5 continents.
Also be sure to check out the brochure for their new season. So much good programming and terrific, innovative presentation modes. "This is not a museum" indeed.
So Igor Stravinsky's inimitable The Rite of Spring was famously premiered to some discontent 100 years ago today. For me, like so many other musicians, it is a work that is absolutely seminal. In tribute and to facilitate more vivid listening, here it is animated in extraordinary fashion.
(And don't forget that other new music riot 100 years ago last March...probably more deserved, honestly. Expressionism can be some provocative stuff.)
The Living Frobius Octet - an unholy combination of the Living Earth Show, Mobius Trio, and Friction Quartet - capped off the Hot Air New Music Festival with a fantastic, beer-fueled show at the Hotel Utah Saloon, which has to be the tinest venue in the world to still have a balcony. The concert featured works by Adrian Knight, Brendon Randall-Myers, Aaron Jay Kernis, Danny Clay, and Nick Benavides.
If anyone needed a clear, message-on-the-mountain kind of symbol for how fundamentally the creation, consumption, sharing, and general experience and means of culture have radically changed (and continue to change), here it is:
A Kickstarter page to make a movie version of TV show Veronica Mars (which ended its TV run in 2007) raised its goal of TWO MILLION DOLLARS in less than a day. So now not only is the movie that fans want definitely getting made, it still has four weeks to raise even more money to increase production quality significantly.
Think about that: fans are willing to fund on a large scale the creation of work they love, and we now have easy mechanisms for allowing them to do so. The corporate and institutional hierarchies that have controlled the creation and dissemination of creative work for decades are being fundamentally, radically disempowered. The implications are staggering.
...like, refreshingly great and focused on modern and contemporary music. You must check out the full season here. Just a quick tally of the highlights:
13 commissioned works
11 world premieres
4 U.S. premieres
4 West Coast premieres
Revival of the Minimalist Jukebox Festival (including a new Death of Klinghoffer)
Salonen conducting Zappa
A little bit of commentary on this delightfully present- and forward-looking programming here, here, and here. It almost makes me wish I lived in Los Angeles.
commissioned works, 11 world premieres, four U.S. premieres and four
West Coast premieres during the season. Among the world premieres will
be Frank Zappa's "200 Motels," a multidisciplinary work featuring 15
soloists, dancers, a rock band and symphony orchestra, and never
performed in its entirety. Conductor laureate Esa-Pekka Salonen will
lead the performance on the 10th anniversary date, Oct. 23. - See more