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Tawnie Olson

New Haven, CT         

The music of Canadian composer Tawnie Olson draws inspiration from politics, spirituality, the natural world, and the musicians for whom she composes. She is the winner of the 2018 Barlow Prize and the 2015 Iron Composer Competition, and in 2018 her Three Songs on Poems by Lorri Neilsen Glenn took second prize in the NATS Art Song Competition. In 2017 she received an OPERA America Discovery Grant to develop a new work about Hildegard of Bingen and Eleanor of Aquitaine with re:Naissance Opera (libretto by Roberta Barker), and a Canada Council for the Arts Professional Development Grant to study field recording at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. In 2018 she was the Composer-in-Residence of the Women Composers Festival of Hartford, an American Composers Forum BandQuest Composer-in-Residence at E.C. Adams School in Guilford, CT, and she received a Connecticut Artist Fellowship.

Olson has received commissions from the Canadian Art Song Project, Third Practice/New Music USA, the Canada Council for the Arts, Mount Holyoke College/The Women’s Philharmonic, the Blue Water Chamber Orchestra, Ithaca College, the American Composers Forum, and the Yale Institute of Sacred Music’s Robert Baker Commissioning Fund, among others.

Olson’s music is performed on five continents; it can also be heard on recordings by Parthenia (with bass-baritone Dashon Burton), percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum, the Canadian Chamber Choir, the Chronos Vocal Ensemble, soprano Magali Simard-Galdès, bassoonist Rachael Elliott, oboist Catherine Lee, and Shawn Mativetsky, McGill University professor of tabla and percussion. Her scores are available from the Canadian Music Centre, Galaxy Music, Hal Leonard’s BandQuest and Mark Foster series, and E.C. Schirmer.

Scel lem duib

I love the poem “Scel lem duib” because the elegant spareness of this medieval Irish poem celebrates winter as a thing-in-itself, as yet another instance of nature’s awful beauty, rather than as a metaphor for aging and death. The text inspired a certain amount of text-painting, including a clear evocation of migrating geese toward the end of the piece. “Scel lem duib” was commissioned by the Yale Institute of Sacred Music and is dedicated to Marguerite Brooks and the Yale Camerata, with special thanks to Kristan Toczko.

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Meadowlark

This is the first movement of a work for marimba and electronics composed for Ian David Rosenbaum. All musical materials in the piece are derived from a two-second snippet of birdsong, which is stretched to last almost five minutes. The work calls for some virtuosic playing; the marimbist must perform diminuendi with one hand and crescendi with the other in a kind of transcription of the slowly shifting, overlapping pitches of the original birdsong.
Meadowlark is dedicated to Ian Rosenbaum, and to my mother.

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Something to Say

John Cage once famously declared “I have nothing to say, and I am saying it.” As I was writing this piece, I wondered what the opposite of Cage’s statement would be, and thought it might be “I have something to say, but I am not saying it.”

When I composed this piece I wrote down some things said to me by family, friends, and colleagues, and asked other people to record themselves saying them. If you listen closely, you’ll hear Shawn Mativetsky imitate these spoken sounds on the tabla. This piece is dedicated to Shawn, and to Equality Now.

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