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Composer Assistance Program for Recording Awardees

December 20, 2012

New Music USA’s third annual round of the Composer Assistance Program for Recording proved to be our most competitive round of applications to date, with a 140% increase in applicants from 2011, requesting over $2 million dollars in support. Our peer panelists had their work cut out for them, but after weeks of remote review and an intensive 2-day, in-person meeting here at our offices in New York City, we were left with an immensely talented final group of composers, performers, and artists who represent a tremendously diverse range of musical and aesthetic styles. Our final mix of awardees includes DVDs, video companions, CDs, digital releases, and works incorporating jazz, voice, multi-media, opera, film, string quartet, Partch instruments, thermin and shakuhachi, juststrokerods and zoomoozophone, instructional compositional videos for percussion, works for solo bass and electronics, among many other creative compositions and performances, all listed below.

Without giving too much away, we think it’s safe to say that the 2012 Composer Assistance Program for Recording awardees are some of the more unique – and extraordinary – artists that define and pioneer our field today.

Please feel free explore, enjoy, and share with your friends this prolific group of artists:

Brooklyn Babylon

Brooklyn Babylon, premiered as a multimedia work featuring original music by composer Darcy James Argue with animation and live painting by artist Danijel Zezelj, was commissioned by the BAM Next Wave Festival, where it had its premiere run from Nov. 9-12, 2011.  The score for Brooklyn Babylon is an hour-long, thematically integrated composition, performed by Argue’s 18-piece ensemble Secret Society. Argue has developed a long-form, structurally-integrated score that vividly conveys the emotional weight of the visual narrative, but is able to stand on its own as a solely musical work. The work combines influences from many aspects of Brooklyn’s musical culture, including contemporary jazz, post-minimalism, dance-punk, hip-hop, doom metal, indie rock, and the folkloric music of the Balkan diaspora (as interpreted by Brooklyn-based groups), as well as period styles: marches, waltzes, fairground music. These influences are filtered through Argue’s own individualistic voice and synthesized into a coherent, rigorously structured, vividly evocative musical narrative that celebrates Brooklyn’s polyglot identity. The CD and digital recording will be released in late April of 2013 by New Amsterdam Records.


In 2010-2011, composer Ken Thomson wrote two major works for string quartet. Thaw (2011) is a 4-movement, 29-minute work for string quartet which will be recorded by and was first premiered by JACK Quartet in Summer 2012.  Written for the group, the work presents the ensemble in all its virtuosic extremes, from high-pitched pianissimos to full-bore lower exhortations; from edge-of-the-seat unisons to interlocked complexity. Perpetual, for string quartet and bass clarinet, was premiered by Todd Reynolds and Nick Photinos (Eighth Blackbird) with Ken Thomson and members of the Bang on a Can Summer Institute at the Bang on a Can Summer Festival, July 2010.  Perpetual is intended to match the bass clarinet to string quartet in a new way — both as a featured instrument and buried among the textures — making use of the wooden timbre of the bass clarinet to match the warmth of the strings, as well as taking advantage of the full and oft-unexplored range of the instrument to pair with different instruments of the quartet. The CD will be a full-length disc of these pieces on the Naxos label, distributed by Cantaloupe Music in September of 2013.


“Home” is a self-released, ongoing commissioning project founded by bassist Eleonore Oppenheim in 2006, aiming to inspire talented emerging composers to create exciting repertoire for the upright bass. The works featured on this album are of composers Florent Ghys, Wil Smith, Angélica Negrón and Jenny Olivia Johnson. These composers offer a range of compelling techniques, unique sonic textures, and genre-defying idioms for upright bass.  Johnson places the instrument in a rock setting, adding guitar effects to create a sound world akin to noise rock; while Negrón utilizes the performer’s voice, a gamelan-like electronics track, and the body of the bass as a resonating chamber for music box. Ghys, a bassist himself, creates beautifully interlocking melodic lines by layering sounds of the instrument with speech samples and live singing. Smith includes distorted, manipulated electronic samples of the bass while challenging the instrument’s extended percussive capabilities. The CD is virtuosic without sounding difficult, stylistically varied, but with a cohesiveness of aesthetic: to explore and experiment with the boundaries of the physical instrument, the player, and the genre associated with each work. Oppenheim will release the album in April of 2013.

To hear Eleanore Oppenheim perform Home by Jenny Olivia Johnson, listen here (rough mix):

To hear Eleanore Oppenheim perform Crocodile by Florent Ghys, listen here (rough mix):

To hear Eleonore Oppenheim perform Heavy Beating by Wil Smith, listen here (rough mix):


About her project, composer/performer Elizabeth Brown remarks, “Years ago at the Coney Island Aquarium, watching seahorses gliding quietly and swaying in the currents, I was reminded of what it feels like to play theremin, adrift on the etherwaves. When Dean Drummond asked me to write a piece for the Montclair University Harry Partch Ensemble, I realized that this would be the ideal instrumental environment for my seahorse theremin. {…} This proposed recording of Seahorse, with Newband, will be part of a CD of my music on New World Records. Though I’ve written extensively for unusual and non-western instruments, and play shakuhachi and theremin, my one previous solo CD, released almost 10 years ago, doesn’t reflect this at all. Seahorse is scored for solo theremin, Partch instruments (harmonic canon 1, guitar 1, chromolodeon 1, diamond marimba, bass marimba), and Dean Drummond instruments (juststrokerods, and zoomoozophone).” The upcoming New World CD will include Seahorse and many other of the composer’s works, written for theremin, shakuhachi, traditional Japanese instrument orchestra, and recorded/electronic soundscapes. Brown adds, “and I’m performing in all but one piece.” The CD will be released in December of 2013.

To view the score of Seahorse, click here.

American Works for Violin and Piano

This disc of American duos for violin and piano represents fifteen years of collaboration between the violinist Jennifer Frautschi and pianist John Blacklow and their composer-colleagues. Repertoire will include Barbara White’s Before I was released I was in many things; Stephen Hartke’s Netsuke: Six Movements for Violin and Piano; Steven Mackey’s Sonata for Violin and Piano; Dan Coleman’s Sad and Ancient Phrases; and Elena Ruehr’s Rumengling. As frequent performers of contemporary music, Frautschi and Blacklow have given serious attention to composers of their generation. They are particularly enthusiastic about individualistic and fearless composers whose visions are largely untethered to identifiable styles of the past. A common thread among these works is the composers’ incorporation of their visceral inspiration of life experiences directly into their music – whether it is White’s conversion of her own study of Celtic mythology or of Qi Gong practice into a musical embodiment; Ruehr’s melding of jazz and gamelan, taking a Chinese poem as a departure point; or Hartke’s exotic tonal palette, inspired by tiny Japanese carved figures. Their passion for this kind of inspired creativity is the motivating force behind this project, to be released in October of 2013 by Albany Records.


Five-time GRAMMY® nominee BMOP/sound will release a CD of three concerti by composer David Stock: Concierto Cubano, with Andrés Cárdenes, Violin; Oborama with Alex Klein, oboe family; and Percussion Concerto, with Lisa Pegher, percussion. All three pieces will be performed alongside Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gil Rose. The works were specifically written for these three virtuosic soloists, tailored to each of their respective [and extraordinary] musical abilities. The recording will be released by BMOP/sound and distributed by Albany Music Distributors in September of 2014.

Listen to Concierto Cubano with Andrés Cárdenes, violin, and the Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Orchestra (Daniel Meyer, Conductor):

Listen to Oborama with Alex Klein, oboe family, and the Sunflower Festival Orchestra:

Listen to the first movement of Percussion Concerto with Lisa Pegher, percussion, and the Louisiana Symphony (Maximiano Valdés, Conductor)

String and Vocal Works with JACK Quartet (working title)

Chamber works featuring the JACK Quartet will highlight composer Laura Schwendinger‘s first String Quartet (in three movements), a Harvard Association Commission that was premiered by the Arditti Quartet as part of MIT’s “Great Quartets” Series, and has since been performed by JACK several times; along with her second String Quartet,written specifically for JACK. In addition, JACK Quartet will record Schwendinger’s Sudden Light (for mezzo and string trio), with Jamie Van Eyck (premiered at New Music on the Point Festival 2012), and Song for Andrew (a memorial work to her teacher Andrew Imbrie) with pianist Christopher Taylor. The work will be released and distributed by the University of Wisconsin School of Music CD Project in September of 2014.

To listen to or download excerpts of any of the above pieces, select “Sound Files” on http://www.lauraschwendinger.com/.

ENJO Wake Up Call

This project will be the first recording project of composer/conductor/trombonist Ed Neumeister’s larger works and the debut recording of ENJO (Ed Neumeister Jazz Orchestra). Ed Neumeister is offering a fresh approach to composing, bringing his experience from the highest levels of creative Classical, Jazz, R & B, Funk, World, Pop and Commercial music. Neumeister freely mixes the various styles and has consequently developed an individual voice in the creative music world remaining, so far, under the radar with most of the listening public and music press, but highly regarded within the creative music community. The tracks on the album will include Wake Up Call Parts 1-3, Processize, Reflection, and Dog Play, all performed by ENJO. The album will be released in September of 2013 on Neumeister’s label, MeisteroMusic Productions.

Want to know more about his sound? Here’s a clip of Ed improvising at the Budapest Big Band Festival:

Song From the Uproar

Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt is a 75-minute chamber opera featuring music by Missy Mazzoli and a libretto by Royce Vavrek and Missy Mazzoli. This work is scored for one mezzo-soprano soloist, a five-person chorus, flute, clarinet, piano, electric guitar, double bass and electronics. A fully-staged version featuring mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer and NOW Ensemble was premiered during a sold-out, five show run at New York City venue The Kitchen in February, 2012. This performance featured stage direction by Gia Forakis and original films by Stephen S. Taylor, as well as elaborate set design, costuming and lighting. Song from the Uproar is based on the life and writings of early 20th century Swiss adventurer Isabelle Eberhardt. From 1900 to 1904 Eberhardt traveled extensively through the North African desert on horseback. She defied conventions of her time; she dressed as a man, drank, smoked, and even joined a Sufi brotherhood that typically excluded women. At age twenty-seven she drowned in a flash flood in the desert, and pages from her journals were pulled from the water. Song from the Uproar immerses the audience in the surreal landscapes of Eberhardt’s life; we watch her describe the thrill of her arrival in Africa, her joy at falling in love, the elation of self-discovery and the mystery of death. To emphasize the multi-media nature of the work, Ms. Mazzoli produced, in addition to a run of 1000 CDs, a limited edition of 500 DVDs featuring original films by Stephen Taylor created specifically for the opera. Both the CD and DVD were released in November of 2012 by New Amsterdam Records.

Watch “You Are the Dust” From the DVD release of Song from the Uproar:

American Voices

Seraphic Fire, Miami’s GRAMMY®-nominated professional chamber choir, will record American Voices, a new recording of American choral music featuring the world-premiere recordings of four works by young and mid-career American composers. The disc will be produced by GRAMMY®-winning producer Peter Rutenberg. American Voices will be released on Seraphic Fire’s own label, Seraphic Fire Media, and will be distributed internationally through a just-announced (July 2012) three-year partnership with Naxos. American Voices will feature the world-premiere recordings of works by Jake Runestad, Shawn Crouch, Colin Britt and Frank Ticheli alongside new recordings of early works by American choral music masters Morten Lauridsen and Jeffrey Van.

Barnson: String Quartets with Arditti & JACK Quartets.

Composer Matthew Barnson expresses deep enthusiasm regarding his upcoming album, to be released on the Tzadik label, “Arditti. JACK. Tzadik. Zorn. Can you imagine a more auspicious debut recording for an emerging composer? Can you imagine more ardent champions? In April, Tzadik will release a disc of my first three string quartets played by the Arditti and JACK Quartets. {…} I believe strongly in the project and in the music that I have written; my string quartets are my best work.” The release will include Barnson’s Sibyl Tones (String Quartet No. 1) and String Quartet No. 2, both performed by the Arditti Quartet, and String Quartet No. 3, in six movements, performed by the JACK Quartet. The album will be released in April of 2013.

To listen to any one of Barnson’s first three string quartets, click here.


Virtues, by composer Joseph Daley, is a seminal work that sets this composer apart and reflects his life experience and influence by the many jazz masters that he has worked with and been inspired by since the beginning of his musical career over 40 years ago. Through his latest work, Mr. Daley demonstrates his abilities as a composer well-versed in both traditional and innovative jazz composition, as well as contemporary Western Classical music. His totally singular vision embraces original principles that are innovative and inventive. While evoking the modernism of Gorecki and Penderecki, but never sacrificing the beauty of Strayhorn and Dameron, the overall context is rooted in the genre-defying thrust of Mingus, George Russell and Gil Evans – and still utterly unique and emotionally compelling. Clearly African-American in the essence of his music, Joseph Daley is an original American musical voice that is deservedly placed in the upper realms of contemporary music in the Jazz tradition. The album will be self-released in February of 2013, and includes performers Jason Kao Hwang, Curtis Stewart, LaFayette Harris, Jr., Warren Smith, Elektra Kurtis, Sarah Bernstein, Ken Filiano, and Benjamin F. Brown.

Listen to Humility from the forthcoming album:

How to Write for Percussion: Video Companion

These video recordings will be a part of the Video Companion to the second edition of composer/performer Samuel Solomon‘s book, How To Write For Percussion: a Comprehensive Guide to Percussion Composition. The self-published first edition of HTWFP was released in 2004 and has since become the standard percussion reference for collegiate composition programs and individual composers across the United States and abroad, having sold more than 2750 copies. It is published in a Catalan translation (Dinisc Publicacions Musicals, Barcelona 2008), and a Chinese translation is in progress (People’s Music Publishing House, Bejing 2013). The second edition will be published by Oxford University Press in 2014-2015. The book’s extensive Video Companion will be hosted on Oxford’s website and will feature video demonstrations, interviews, and performances from a variety of percussionists, composers, and ensembles. Solomon will personally record many of the demonstrations, with contributions of recorded repertoire from SŌ Percussion, Third Coast Percussion, 8th Blackbird, Colin Currie, Alarm Will Sound, among others. The companion will also include solo repertoire, performed by Solomon, by Marcos Balter, Judd Greenstein, Nico Muhly, Michael Early, with quartet music by Nico Muhly and Ryan Streber. The completed video companion will be released in January of 2014.

Delights and Dances

Delights and Dances (titled after Michael Abels’s Delights and Dances) is a collection of works between the Chicago Sinfonietta and the Harlem Quartet. The Mission of the Chicago Sinfonietta is to serve as a national model for inclusiveness and innovation in classical music through the presentation of the highest quality orchestral concerts and related programs. The Chicago Sinfonietta, whose motto is “Excellence through Diversity,” aspires to remove the barriers to participation in, and appreciation of classical music through its educational and outreach programs that expose children and their families to classical music. In June 2012, the Sinfonietta performed with the Harlem Quartet. The Quartet was founded in 2006 by the Sphinx Organization, a national non-profit focused on building diversity in classical music and providing access to music education in underserved communities. This program was recorded (over two days of recording sessions immediately following the concert dates) by The Chicago Classical Recording Foundation’s Cedille Records label and featured original CD- and world-premieres of works by American composers Michael Abels, Benjamin Lees, and Randall Fleischer. Also included on the recording is a short work by composer An-Lun Huang. The album was released in May of 2013.

Watch the 2007 World Premiere of Delights and Dances with the Harlem Quartet and the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra: