April 2013 Composer Assistance Program Awardees
Twice a year our Composer Assistance Program accepts applications from composers all over the country to help support preparations and travel expenses for premieres of their new work. This round, we awarded $33,245 to 28 talented composers – all of whom are hard at work in the early and middle stages of their careers, and all of whom are contributing meaningful works to the field of new music through these tireless efforts.
The supported projects below celebrate a vast expanse of artists creating and performing equally unique works in a wide variety of styles. From an opera broadcast live through wireless headphones in LA’s Union Station; to a contemporary classical performance on the shores of Homer, Alaska; to integrated collaborations with dance companies, Carnegie Hall debuts, international premieres, and a world premiere by an 87-year old Wisconsinite: this pool of awardees celebrates the diversity and perseverance of composers weaving the fabric of today’s new American music.
Going forward, our Composer Assistance Program is part of our new approach to supporting new music by reconfiguring five of our preexisting grant programs into one, comprehensive program with a wide net of support. Through this new strategy, talented composers like the 28 listed below – alongside organizations, presenters, and musicians – will be able to apply for an even wider range of activity to help realize their envisioned artistic endeavors.
Look below to see a list of the awardees, and keep scrolling to learn a little more about each of their individual projects:
Brooklyn-based composer and pianist Timothy Andres was commissioned by pianist Jonathan Biss and the Elias String Quartet to write a piano quintet for performance around the US and Europe. Inspired by his and Biss’s shared love of Schumann, Andres based the piece around a four-note figure taken from Schumann’s Op. 12 Fantasiestücke (no. 6, “Fabel”). He will use his CAP award to defray copying and travel expenses.
Gustavo Casanave will return to his hometown Montevideo, Uruguay, to present his first ever work performed by a professional symphonic orchestra (the National Symphony Orchestra of Uruguay). He describes the style of his piece, Piano Concerto #1, as “contemporary classical music with jazz and tango influences,” drawing on his three major musical backgrounds. Casenave himself will be the piano soloist, and his part will be completely improvised.
Christopher Cerrone is a Brooklyn-based composer of dramatic, orchestral, chamber, and electronic music. He has teamed up with The Industry, L.A.’s home for new and experimental opera, and the Los Angeles Dance Project to produce his newly revised opera, Invisible Cities. The ensemble consists of four principle singers, a four voice chamber choir, and six dancers, accompanied by an eleven piece chamber orchestra. The work was premiered in a conventional concert setting, but its new incarnation will be performed in LA’s Union Station, with audience members listening to the work through wireless headphones, allowing them to roam freely through the station and experience the piece as “a highly personal and meditative event.”
Alan Chan’s awarded work, Winter News, is multi-movement work for six jazz musicians—voice, tenor sax, vibes, guitar, bass and drums. The piece is based on the poetry collection of the same title by Alaskan poet John Haines (1924-2011), with the poems either drawn upon for musical inspiration or incorporated into the music as either sung or spoken text. Trained in the classical tradition, Chan is eager to delve further into the jazz idiom. In particular, Winter News is his first attempt to “incorporate improvisation as a major component for [a] large-scale work.” The piece will also mark Chan’s New York City debut.
Anthony Cheung, a composer and pianist from San Francisco, wrote SynchroniCities for the New York-based Talea Ensemble for which he is artistic director and pianist. The work, scored for instruments, live electronics, and recorded playback, aims to “confirm and challenge our sonic perceptions of time, place, and cultural practices.” Cheung makes use of instruments and recorded sound from a wide variety of cultures, geographic locations, and musical traditions. Additionally, he brings different realms of music into conversation through simultaneous use of multiple tuning systems, juxtaposing contemporary Western tuning (equal temperament) with ancient and non-western tuning practices such as just intonation and gamelan tunings.
In recent years, composer, musician, and director Gene Coleman has used his work to explore global culture and music’s relationship with architecture, video and dance. His new work Spiral Network, which received its world premiere in Berlin in March 2013, is a typical example of his interdisciplinary and cross-cultural style. Besides the music played by the ensemble, the piece includes a film and soundtrack directed by Coleman. The ensemble is an eclectic mix of instruments from the Western classical, Western pop, and Eastern traditions: the piece is scored for baritone voice, alto voice and koto (a Japanese plucked string instrument), shō (a Japanese reed instrument), bass clarinet, electric guitar, and cello, as well as recorded sounds and video. The texts sung in the piece were written by Coleman himself.
Inventions on Relevance and Propaganda was commissioned by the Milano Musica Festival and will be premiered by Ensemble RepertorioZero in November 2013 at the Piccolo Teatro Studio in Milan. Scored for cello, percussion, and electronics (sound sculpture, visual and sound), the work is part of the ‘Three Rooms Project’ (which includes works from Mauro Lanza and Filippo Perocco). The project will not only be Coll’s first performance in Italy, but also his first proper commission.
Paul Dooley was commissioned by the New York Youth Symphony First Music Program, consisting of new orchestral works from young composers around the country, to write the concert opening for the 2013 festival. The result of this commission was Run for the Sun, a piece which “evokes an urban chase scene dashing towards the setting sun as it beams down long boulevards, interrupted by skyscrapers.” Dooley has composed for orchestra before, but this is his first orchestral commission, and with a premiere at Carnegie Hall, will greatly increase his visibility.
Based in Boston, Ryan Edwards has made a career of composing music for dance. He has received a CAP award for his new piece Mantises, produced in collaboration with Teresa Fellion, choreographer and artistic director of NYC dance company BodyStories. The majority of Edwards’s dance music has been, in his own words, “functional,” designed for the contract rather than free and experimental. With Mantises, Edwards will have the opportunity to explore his own creative potential with a work unconstrained by contract and practicality. Additionally, Mantises will receive an international premiere in Edinburgh, Scotland, a first for Edwards and an important career milestone.
Indiana native Keith Fitch currently heads the Composition Department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and has had his works performed throughout the U.S, Europe, and Japan. His new work for chamber orchestra, In Memory, was commissioned by the Orchestra of the League of Composers and premiered in June 2013 at the Miller Theater at Columbia University. The piece is dedicated to the memory of Fitch’s long-time teacher and mentor, Frederick Fox, who passed away at the age of 80 shortly before the League contacted Fitch to commission a new work.
Moonlight: Fantasy on a Chinese Folk Song received its Chinese premiere in March 2013, by Hawaiian-born composer Michael-Thomas Foumai. The work was performed by a subgroup of the Punahou School Symphony Orchestra, which traveled from Hawaii to China to perform the work at educational partner schools in Beijing and Shanghai. Foumai used CAP funds to attend the premiere.
Native to Dubuque, Iowa, this ambitious composer recently completed a three movement Guitar Concerto, commissioned by the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra for guitarist Benjamin Pila. The work was premiered in February 2013 at the The Herbst Theater in San Francisco, CA, and funds from CAP were used to underwrite costs for producing a professional set of parts for full chamber orchestra, alongside travel expenses to attend the premiere.
Composer Geoffrey Gordon spent many years of his childhood in Buffalo, NY, and had a chance to return to his roots there for his latest project, a concerto for flute and orchestra performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic and dynamic soloist Carol Wincenc (herself a Buffalo native). Money from CAP will help defray the sizable costs of this project including copying and printing of score and parts, and travel and lodging fees for Gordon to attend the premiere.
Chris Jentsch is a Brooklyn-based composer, bandleader, and guitarist working primarily in jazz and contemporary improvisational forms. CAP funding will assist Jentsch with the music preparation, editing, proofreading, and reproduction of a book of his compositions commissioned by NYSCA and premiered this past December at ShapeShifterLab. The collection was written for the Jentsch Group No Net, a cleverly named nine-musician subgroup of his full-size jazz group, Jentsch Group Large. The smaller size of the group allows for the “charm and intimacy” of a chamber ensemble, and in addition is imminently more practical, in terms of concert logistics, than a 17-musician ensemble.
Born in Georgia and currently based in Wisconcon, composer Ben Johnston is 87 years old and still actively writing. His oeuvre includes chamber music; works for dance, chorus, solo, orchestra; a rock opera; a Noh play; and two pieces for microtonal piano; ranging from serial to neoclassical to aleatoric. With the assistance of CAP, Johnston was able to travel to Germany to be present for a concert of his music, consisting of multiple European premieres and in the case of this grant, a world premiere. Johnston is especially grateful for the ability to work with the musicians during the rehearsal process, to answer the performers’ questions and collaborate with them to find the best interpretations of his work.
Singer/songwriter-turned-composer Amy Beth Kirsten will make her Carnegie Hall debut in February 2014 with her new work, strange pilgrims, for string orchestra and chorus. The piece will be performed by the American Composers Orchestra and The Crossing, an adventurous choral ensemble hailing from Philadelphia, PA. The two striking features of the work are its accompanying video, produced by artist and director Mark DeChiazza, and the fact that it features voices without text.
CAP is backing yet another multimedia project, this one by composer and writer Angel Lam. Lam’s wind band piece In the wandering garden (working title) will be premiered at the Interlochen Arts Academy in April 2014, alongside an accompanying original film created by the Interlochen film department. The film and the music are tied together by their shared source material; both will be realizations of one of Lam’s own short stories.
Bay Area composer Hugh Livingston creates multimedia installations drawing on ecological sources and composes exploratory music. He has been working in collaboration with Russian Riverkeeper (Sonoma, California) to produce multiple projects along the River since 2009. Stages of the Russian River is the latest work in this series: an outdoor opera to be performed along the River and “connect the audience with ecology and art.” Closer to an installation than a traditional opera, the work is “immersive and interactive,” involving instrumentalists, dancers, and singers situated all around and on the river, with the audience making their way along the River as the scenes unfold before them.
German duo leise drohnung (guitar, cello) has proposed a project to commission young composers to write companion pieces to Austrian composer Helmut Oehring‘s Foxfire Eins, a piece which can be played by either solo guitar or solo cello. Brooklyn-based composer and bassist Michelle Lou has been selected as one of these composers. Lou’s piece white (working title) will consist of Oehring’s piece played once and simultaneously recorded, and then played back with distortion, “a kind of strange, disembodied accompaniment” to the live music played over it by the musicians. This concert provides Lou a valuable opportunity to maintain her presence in Europe, and specifically in Germany, where her work has been especially well-received.
Peri Mauer’s Life on Earth received its premiere in June 2013 at Music With a View, a New York City new music festival for emerging and mid-career composers. Mauer, a composer and cellist who has composed for solo instruments, chamber music ensembles, orchestra, and theater, presents “a multi-faceted, eclectic performance piece for chamber ensemble with recorded samples of real sounds of the natural earth.” In addition to instruments and recorded sound, the piece incorporates lighting and spacial relationships, yielding an immersive, cross-disciplinary musical experience.
Currently based in Boulder, CO, Jeffrey Nytch has built a diverse career as a composer, teacher, performer, arts administrator, and consultant. His new work Symphony No 1: Formations was commissioned by the Boulder Philharmonic, along with the Geological Society of America, for performance in the Boulder Philharmonic’s 2013/2014 season and at the GSA’s international conference in Denver. The piece gives Nytch a rare opportunity to combine his geology background (a bachelor’s degree and masters-level coursework) with his composition career. Formations is no superficial work inspired by landscapes and imagery, but rather reflects “the actual geologic processes that created the spectacular landforms of the Rockies.”
Kala Pierson’s new work Radiate (for solo piano) was performed twice in quick succession in Austria in February 2013: first its premiere at the 21st Vienna Days of Contemporary Piano Music (in a concert of works shortlisted for the Mauricio Kagel Composition Competition), and then in a reading by pianist Ian Pace at the impuls Festival. Pierson came away from these performances with a high-quality recording, detailed and valuable feedback from the Kagel jury and Ian Pace, and “unusually useful” musical contacts and connections. CAP will help her retroactively finance this professionally and musically stimulating tour.
Judith Sainte Croix writes opera as well as chamber, orchestral and electronic music. Her latest project is Vision V, an orchestral composition for the American Composers Orchestra and the Sonora Trio, of which she is a member. The piece was written for the orchestra’s coLABoratory:Playing it UNsafe program, and received three public work-in-progress workshops/readings before premiering in April 2013 at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. At each workshop, Sainte Croix led the orchestra in creative improvisations in which they responded to electronic sounds and poetic images of light; Sainte Croix then recorded and notated this material, and synthesized it into a final piece.
Daniel Sonenberg began work on his opera The Summer King in 2003 while participating in the American Opera Project‘s “Composers and the Voice” program, and finished the score in 2011 during a residency at Yaddo. The opera considers the life and legacy of Negro League baseball player Josh Gibson, nicknamed “the black Babe Ruth,” and will be premiered in a full concert performance by Portland Ovations in Portland, ME in May 2014.
Seth Stewart is a composer, performer, professor, and music director. He was commissioned by renowned European cellist Ivana Grahovac to write her a new solo work to be premiered at the REX Cultural Center in Belgrade, Serbia, in February 2014. The two collaborated closely, and eventually Stewart produced the piece Life Awakening, “an in-depth study of modern and extended cello technique, and more particularly, Ivana’s striking, personal performance style.” This concert represents a pivotal moment in Stewart’s career, and with CAP funds, he will be able to personally attend and actively participate in the premiere, further increasing his visibility throughout Europe.
New York City-based composer Alex Weiser was awarded a CAP grant for copying, printing, and recording of his new multi-movement work, Music for 4 Trombones, written for the Guidonian Hand Trombone Quartet as part of Weiser’s residency with the group. The piece consists of three contrasting movements, and Weiser describes it as his his “biggest project to date, [as] reflected in its length and compositional scope.”
Now based in Brooklyn, Conrad Winslow is co-founding a new festival of contemporary chamber music, Wild Shore Festival for New Music which will take him back to his birthplace of Homer, Alaska. The centerpiece of the mainstage program (to be performed twice) will be the premiere of Winslow’s new chamber work, A Portrait of the Cosmic Hamlet. Winslow describes the piece as a “three-movement meditation on major aspects of life in Homer, Alaska,” his largest chamber work to date, and also his most deeply personal.
Born in Erie, PA and since transplanted to Brooklyn, Scott Wollschleger calls his String Quartet no. 2: White Wall a “major milestone in [his] compositional career,” his “first mature string quartet” to date. The work will be premiered by the MIVOS Quartet, and conceptually structured around the idea of hearing the sound of an instrument before it is played: “imagine if you put a violin up to your ear, like it’s a seashell: what do you hear?” Because of the intricate, idiosyncratic nature of the score, engraving the full score and parts will be even more delicate a task than usual, one only possible because of funding from CAP.