Our Commissioning Music USA program continually proves to be one of the most competitive and talented pools of artists we see come through the doors here at New Music USA. Historically, the program alternates between concert works (works that take place in a traditional concert hall setting, deadlines on odd years) and collaborative works (those that involve collaborations between interdisciplinary artists, deadlines on even years).
2012 was a collaborative works year, and we received 120 applications from organizations representing hundreds and hundreds of artists. Sound designers, choreographers, librettists, visual artists, directors, glass sculptors, and photographers are just a few types of creators that teamed up with composers for some amazing projects in this past pool. When our panel process was all said and done, and the decisions were made, we were left with a group of extraordinary projects consisting of 14 organizations representing 14 pairs of composers and collaborators from 17 cities, 9 states, and 4 countries. Without further ado, get to know New Music USA’s 2012 Commissioning Music USA awardees:
Strings & Serpents (working title) is a multi-cultural, multi-layered collaboration between pianist/composer Andy Milne and animator Saki Murotani. The music will be composed for two kotoists (Japan-based TsuguKaji-KOTO duo) and two pianists (Milne’s Crystal Magnets Piano Duo with French pianist Benoit Delbecq). The thematic substance for the project is based on the Rainbow Serpent mythology, to which the koto owes its origin. The goal is to create an interpretation of this legend, merging musical and visual forms into a unified 60-minute presentation featuring projection of an animated video, and live performance of the combined piano and koto duos. The work is set to premiere in the fall of 2013 at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) in Los Angeles.
Librettist and writer Ellen Frankel and composer Andrea Clearfield bring life to The Golem at MIT, a two act, 180 minute opera revolving around four computer scientists competing to win a lucrative research contract from DARPA, the Defense Department’s special project division. The challenge is to be the first to create a computer that passes the Turing Test, a thought experiment devised by British scientist Alan Turing during World War II. To pass the Turing Test, a computer would have to defeat all human efforts to expose it as an artificial intelligence. The four scientists embark on this challenge but experience radically different outcomes that address many of the classic dilemmas facing science: the dangers of flying too close to the sun, the revenge of the gods for stealing their fire, the limits of the human mind. The audience itself will participate in the Turing Test, interacting with the scientists in the theater and through the use of digital devices. The work is set to premiere in June of 2015 at the Prince Music Theater in Philadelphia.
Choreographers Janice Garrett and Charles Moulton will collaborate with composer Dan Becker on the creation of Giants, an evening length dance theater work set to premiere at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum from June 12-23, 2013. Giants is the story of the last remaining mythical creatures of the earth—pixies, giants, elves—and their struggle to survive the challenges of the 21st century. The piece will examine the impact of modern life (the proliferation of technology and the current information explosion) on our ability to experience states of wonder and enchantment. Garrett and Moulton will work closely with Becker to create a score in which the musicians will be an integral part of the dramatic action. Capitalizing on the versatility of the Yerba Buena Forum to accommodate a multi-sided, theater-in-the-round, seating configuration, the performers—dancers, musicians, and narrator—will inhabit multiple locations in the venue, flooding the space with movement, music, image, and sound.
ONE (working title) is a cutting-edge audiovisual and multilingual opera that embraces humanity and global solidarity while celebrating the vast achievements of the modern world. Revolutionary violinist/composer Mari Kimura will work with award-winning Japanese movie director Tomoyuki Kato to create this 30-40 minute work using state-of-the-art “Augmented Violin” motion-sensor technology, developed at IRCAM in Paris. With Kato, who regularly creates large-scale theme park projects, expo presentations and commercials in Asia, the pair will create a stunning audio/visual interactive project that serves as a global plea and celebration for ourselves to love one another and to prepare a better world for our children and the future. The work is set to premiere in June of 2013 at the Atlantic Music Festival hosted at Colby College in Waterville, Maine.
To acknowledge the recent reclamation of the Negro Burial Ground in Richmond Virgina, a 45 minute continuous musical work entitled Reclamation will be composed for quiet reflection and contemplation during 5 public performances with griot Sekou Shebaka and composer Ashby Anderson. The instrumentation will be for a 20 piece Jazz Orchestra and African Drum ensemble. Through the stories of the griot, the work will pay homage to the past, acknowledge the present and prepare the the future through memorable music that leaves the story of the griot for future generations. A tone parallel from a horrible past to a great future will serve as the general tone of the composition and narrative.The work is set to premiere at the recently reclaimed burial grounds in Richmond, VA, in April of 2013.
Composer Devin Maxwell and choreographer Jessica Gaynor will create a 10-15 minute work, performed by members of Jessica Gaynor Dance and a small chamber ensemble for clarinet, viola, cello, and acoustic guitar. The music and the dance will be on artistically equal footing and will be developed concurrently, with input from one influencing the development for the other. Both the composer and choreographer will explore their shared aesthetic, including repetition, focus, silence, intention of movement, and beauty, to create a work that is truly collaborative and truly meaningful. Their work is currently in creation, and is set to premiere in Brooklyn in November of 2013.
Digital Sanctuaries is a soundwalk with the music of Electric Kulintang (Susie Ibarra and Roberto Rodriguez) and visual art of Makoto Fujimura to be performed as a one hour concert and installed as a soundwalk of 12 sites in Lower Manhattan. The music features percussion music of the Philippines (kulintang gongs, xylophones, bamboo instruments) mixed with Western percussion, guitar , brass, electronics, field recordings, and guest Indigenous artists on vocals, flute and percussion. The project invites the public on a virtual pilgrimage, finding meditative spaces marked by ever-changing music. With the combination of music, sculpture and place, participants are encouraged to discover the world without while taking time to contemplate the world within. A mobile app map will be provided, giving participants a chance to visit all of the “sanctuaries” in sequence, or follow their own paths. Digital Sanctuaries is conceived as a modular, adaptable installation to be re-imagined for each city. The piece is set to premiere in June of 2013 as part of the River to River Festival.
Composer/performer Pamela Z and media artist Christina McPhee will collaborate in the creation of Carbon Song Cycle, a work in five movements (biosphere, pedosphere, geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere) for a new music chamber ensemble within a spatialized environment of multichannel sound and multiple channels of live interactive video. For the premiere, the work will have five projection surfaces of varying sizes and shapes that will be awash in McPhee’s vibrant images, and Z’s live sonic material will be projected through multiple speakers surrounding the space with scored material performed by five live musicians placed in careful relationship to the projections, resulting in a tapestry of sound and image that envelops the audience. Using sensor technology and visual and sonic capture techniques, the actions of the live performers will have visible effects on the projected media. Likewise, changes in the visuals will initiate changes in the sonic performance. The work is set to premiere in the Summer of 2013 in the Berkeley Art Museum.
Music for emptiness/Music for empty chairs is a multimedia collaboration between composer Frances White and visual artist Karen LaMonte. It is a 20 minute work for flute, viola, harp, and electronic sound with video, and will exist both as a live performance and an installation. Writes LaMonte: “The objective is to create a visual experience that parallels the phenomena of echo and sound as it travels toward silence. The chairs will be composed of drapery: sensual and human. They will be scanned creating a wealth of information in the form of a 3d map. I will decimate the data in stages, rendering each stage as a sculpture, stripping away information until the point of abstraction and unrecognizability like the dissipation of ripples from a drop of water.” The work is set to premiere in October of 2013 at Church of Christ and St Stephens as a part of the New York Viola Society’s series, “Collegial Concerts”.
Song of the Jasmine is a collaboration of dancer/choreographer Aparna Ramaswamy and innovative saxophonist/composer Rudresh Mahanthappa. This evening-length suite will be created for seven dancers and a musical ensemble of alto saxophone, Carnatic flute, guitar, and mridangam (Carnatic percussion). In conceiving this work, they were inspired by the Bhakti poets of medieval South India, who used the metaphor of Varna (‘color’ in Sanskrit) to subvert the strict social hierarchies of their day. Rebelling against an oppressive framework of subjugation based on color, Varna was re-conceived as a language of transformation. Myriad hues were employed in their assertion of spiritual equality, providing a new context in which marginalized people could supersede the burden of class and caste and instead color themselves in the image of the divine. The work is set to premiere in March of 2014 at the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis, MN).
River North Dance Chicago is pleased to commission an original score by renowned African-American composer Orbert Davis for a new work that explores the origins and evolution of Cuban jazz music and the music of the Afro-Cuban Diasporas. Along with Davis’ score, the piece will marry jazz dance and jazz music performed live onstage, with choreography by Frank Chaves, who will meld his jazz music background and jazz/contemporary dance vocabulary with his Cuban heritage. The artists plan to create a unique, accessible work – easily relatable to the human experience – that will serve as a strong vehicle for expanding jazz, world music, African-American, Latino, and Cuban-American audiences both locally and on tour. Diverse groups of young people and adults will be invited into the artistic development process through open rehearsals, talkbacks about movement/music, dialogues about connections between the piece’s movement and music following rehearsals, and integration into RNDC/CJP/ATRU education/outreach programs for under-served public school students. The work is set to premiere at the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University in Chicago in April of 2013.
Like Lazarus Did is inspired by the mythology of resurrection. Recurring themes of sacrifice, death, and transformation stretch from pagan culture to the contemporary world and are rich source material for this work. Choreographer Stephen Petronio, composer Ryan Lott (aka Son Lux), visual artist Janine Antoni, and longtime lighting designer Ken Tabachnick will bring Like Lazarus Did to life. For its premiere at The Joyce Theater in New York in April 2013, the music will be performed live by yMusic ensemble and include The Young People’s Chorus of New York City. Composer Son Lux will employ a range of spiritual music, from the drones of eastern mystical traditions, to the songbooks of early American slavery. These traditions of music and song are laced with emotional release from worldly pain and oppression. In effect, they are hymns of mystery and empowerment and Petronio and Lott reference them as historical springboards to find similar states of contemporary transformation.
Nick Brooke will compose a 20-30 minute work for the percussion group Talujon, in collaboration with the Javanese choreographer Mugiyono Kasido. The piece, tentatively entitled Six Kotekan, is a multi-movement work that will highlight Mugiyono’s innovative solo dance, while exploring the innately visual aspect of percussion. The work will be inspired by “kreasi baru” (loosely, “new music”), drawing on gamelan and other Javanese influences, and will be developed in a series of transnational workshops with Talujon and Mugiyono. The set-up will be transportable here and abroad, using a visually configurable “table” of devices for each performer, amplified by small Honeytone amps. Mugiyono and Brooke will collaborate on the visual set-up, which will include the musicians in the theatrical sight-line, something like kabuki, and not incidentally, gamelan. The work is set to premiere in the United States in early 2013, closing in 2014 with a Tour of Java and Bali.
Choreographer John Jasperse and composer Jonathan Bepler will create a new evening-length dance and music work, Beyond Otherness (working title), which will premiere at New York Live Arts in Winter/Spring 2014 and will be available for touring through 2015. The work examines the subjective nature of perception in the self-identification as “different,” “special” or “other;” it seeks to manifest difference as a given context but not as an obstacle to shared experience. The core project themes will be explored in both the music & the dance within the domains of compositional issues of form and content as well as instrumentation and casting. Composer Jonathan Bepler has a long practice of mixing material from diverse genres and origins, where the disparate sources retain their individual identities and yet manage to interact together within one composition. This method of working is particularly pertinent to the creation of this new project.