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Katherine Pukinskis

Cambridge, MA            

Katherine Pukinskis is a composer-scholar based in Cambridge MA. She is currently a Preceptor in Music at Harvard University.

As a composer and educator, her projects and methods are rooted in the premise that no music exists in a vacuum; Pukinskis thus feels a deep responsibility to consider the ways in which outside influences of theory, history, cultural context, and current events exert force upon our compositions and research. She gravitates toward writing vocal works and chamber music, favoring the intimacy of the voice as an instrument of the body, and an ensemble performing without a conductor reliant on one another to shape performance. Her education was rooted in performance, first as a chorister and then surrounded by performance majors during undergraduate studies in composition. The dynamism of humans making music is ingrained into how Katherine creates a new piece. She takes into great account what it feels like for the performer to realize sounds, and what it does to the audience to watch musicians play or sing. Physicality of performance often drives the craft of gesture.

Dr. Pukinskis earned her PhD in Music Composition in 2016 from the University of Chicago. Pukinskis has had works premiered by eighth blackbird, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, Akron Symphony Chorus, and the Spektral Quartet, as well as by members of the San Antonio Symphony and the Chicago Symphony Chorus. She has been commissioned to write works for the Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago, the Junior Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh, musicians of the San Antonio Symphony, Red Star Brass, and many ensembles nationwide. Dr. Pukinskis’s scholarly research revolves around notions of nationalism and cultural identity, diaspora, traditional folk and choral music, and the twentieth-century histories of Latvia and the Baltic nations.

We Are

This piece was commissioned for La Caccina’s concert entitled “Open Book.” The premise of the concert is that the women of La Caccina wanted to bring to life texts that were never intended to be sung, or even further, heard. I asked my female friends to submit to me statements that had been directed at them by men that called into question their value or worth based on their gender. The phrases that I set are a tapestry of value judgments, assumptions, accusations, and charges either said directly to and about my colleagues.

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Aijā žūžū

My paternal grandparents left Latvia in the autumn of 1944. My father was born in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany in 1948. In the 1980s and 1990s, my parents sang “Aijā žūžū” to me every night before I went to bed; I grew up hearing my older family members speak Latvian, but developed an interest in my heritage only after my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. The majority of her life’s stories passed with her in 2010.
Mathew Lake, Baritone. Amy Briggs, Piano

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