Arlene Zallman Paul Lansky
Scott JohnsonAnthony Korf
Morris RosenzweigAnna Weesner
Every year, the International Society for Contemporary Music invites each of its member sections to submit works by six different composers as candidates for performance on the ISCM World Music Days (WMD) festival, which is hosted each year by a different section. The 2018 festival will take place in Beijing. At least one of each section’s submissions is promised to be selected for performance.
It is the artistic mandate of Roger Shapiro Fund/ISCM Mid-Atlantic Section to support the work of worthy composers with no concern for national or geographic boundaries. However, the ISCM Mid-Atlantic section is located in the US, so as far as submission of works for WMD is concerned, all of its submissions must be by US nationals or residents. This year, the selections were made by a team of three: William Anderson (composer, guitarist, and RSF Artistic Director and Trustee); Wayne Shirley (musicologist and RSF Trustee); and Frank Brickle (composer). This team has a collective history with WMD going back to 1976. Furthermore, Anderson and Brickle participated for a number of years in soliciting and selecting WMD submissions for the ISCM US section. These experiences have helped shape a joint sense of what kind of pieces would make the strongest representation at the WMD. RSF has cultivated a ready pool of US candidates in its growing list of international composers advocated by the Fund. Most, though not all, of the composers who were selected by RSF for Beijing were already among its roster of composers receiving RSF awards and support. These are not young or emerging composers. They are all accomplished and experienced artists, having achieved a level of ability that speaks well for the depth and range of compositional achievement in the US. The selection committee carefully assembled a collection of works meant to strike a balance of their artistic strengths, in order to increase the likelihood of selection.
For the upcoming festival in Beijing, RSF/ISCM Mid-Atlantic has proposed works by: Scott Johnson, for The Illusion of Guidance; Anthony Korf, for Combo; Paul Lansky, for As If; Morris Rosenzweig, for The League of Notions; Anna Weesner, for What Gathers, What Lingers; and Arlene Zallman, for Vox Feminae: Huc usque, me miseram.
Scott Johnson has been a pioneering voice in the new relationship being forged between the classical tradition and the popular culture that surrounds it. A forerunner of today’s “postclassical” styles, he has played an influential role since the early 1980’s in the trend towards incorporating rock-derived instruments, electronics, and musical materials into traditionally scored compositions. His music has been presented worldwide by some of the most prominent of today’s ensembles, and he has multiple honors for his work.
The Illusion of Guidance was written in 2002. Johnson writes, “Sometimes a piece will seem to write itself, and when this happens I’m always happy to alter my plans and obey orders. From its beginnings as a sketch for an electric guitar quartet, this piece led me off at unexpected angles without hesitation, and snapped quickly back into focus after numerous interruptions. Artists having this experience will often talk about feeling like a conduit or a vehicle; a passive delivery system for their work. That’s how this piece felt, and it set me wondering where that kind of feeling comes from. A superstitious interpretation might take the usual charming but child-like approach: a big strong Something is downloading data into my small (but apparently rather worthy!) self. But a person can be a repository without help from a ghostly Depositor. Even our most personal creations are dependent on an intricate substructure of learned and inherited patterns, and most of our attitudes are individualized copies of the shared ideas of our culture. Just as we are the temporary vessels of our DNA, so we are hosts for ideas. They travel between us like viruses, replicating themselves in the stream of individual minds that flows towards the future.
“And so an artist, like anyone else, is quite literally a channel for accumulated knowledge, as well as the carrier of a unique and particular version of the world. Thus a feeling of being guided is not a metaphor, or evidence of otherworldliness: it’s actually quite accurate for a social primate to feel like a conduit. This worldly, naturalistic, and physical way of viewing creativity gives me a sense of mystery and pleasure that mysticism can’t provide. The music is arriving from a mental wildlife refuge that may be incompletely mapped, but is unquestionably real.”
Anthony Korf, born in 1951 in New York City, has written extensively for orchestra as well working in chamber, vocal, and solo media. His honors include two citations from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship and commissions from the The Howard Hanson Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Koussevitsky Foundation, the San Francisco Symphony and The National Endowment for The Arts. Korf studied at Manhattan School of Music, where he earned a Masters Degree in Performance in 1975. That same year he formed Parnassus, which he led as conductor and artistic director for 27 years. In 1981 he co-founded Riverside Symphony, for which he presently serves as Artistic Director and Composer-in-Residence. His music can be heard on Bridge, CRI, New World and Summit records.
Combo is a three-movement chamber work lasting about 15 minutes. The title confirms it as a piece in which the composer’s affinity for jazz is fully at the surface, heard immediately at the outset through the familiar device of call and response, from the solo trumpet to the ensemble. While this opening interlude initially suggests the possibility of a lengthy development, the unexpected appearance of a lively ostinato-grounded passage in the final “response” confirms the first movement’s real function as an introduction. A blue-tinged descending line in variant forms characterizes the moody inner movement, but nowhere is the invocation of jazz more evident than in the finale, a concerto grosso delivered in the guise of a series of solos very much in the manner of that quintessentially American genre. Here, Korf’s ecumenical leanings are redoubled by the gestural evocation of numerous jazz sub genres, which, in their original form would be mutually inhospitable, but here, reconciled through the composer’s unique harmonic sound world.
Paul Lansky is probably best-known for his ground-breaking and far-reaching computer music. His work exploits the computer as an instrument for creating and processing sound. As part of this work he has made significant advances in purely technical areas, especially applications and extensions of Linear Predictive Coding for transforming recorded voices and instruments, which he explored extensively in his earlier pieces; and later, Cmix, a set of programs for general-purpose sound processing which he has made freely available. Lansky also collaborated closely with his teacher George Perle in developing the Perle’s ideas of “twelve-tone tonality,” a way of combining serial techniques with pitch-centered motion. In the last decade he has turned increasingly to traditional instruments, producing a substantial body of often-performed work for orchestra, chamber ensembles, and solo instruments.
Lansky is a thoughtful and articulate writer and speaker, and has written engagingly on his own music. He has often described his musical employment of the computer is as an “aural microscope,” or, sometimes, a “camera” with which he tries “to make the ordinary seem extraordinary, the unmusical, musical. I try to find implicit music in the worldnoise around us.” Much as photographs do, he finds, “recordings of real-world sounds…create a nostalgic ache in that they almost capture events which are, in reality, gone forever.” Lansky’s music can be extremely affecting.
As If for string trio and prerecorded tape is Lansky’s submission. It was commissioned by the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center for Speculum Musicae in 1981. It comprises four movements which explore the resonance of real instruments and processed ones. Three of the movements contrast the live performers with synthetic violin; one movement adds processed saxophone. The electronic parts use Linear Predictive Coding of a recording of an original piece performed by the violinist Cyrus Stevens.
Morris Rosenzweig was born in New Orleans in 1952. He grew up among the tailors, merchants, and strong-willed women of an extended family which has lived in southern Louisiana since the mid 1890s. His works have been widely presented throughout the United States and Europe, and in Japan, Argentina, Mexico and Israel. His music appears on many recordings; he has received many of the most prestigious honors; he has been commissioned by some of the most prominent performing organizations. Rosenzweig is Distinguished Professor of Music at the University of Utah.
The League of Notions was commissioned by the League of Composers-ISCM US Section for its orchestra to premiere in spring 2015. The work, 11 minutes long, is in one movement, divided into 4 sections: Introduction/Fantasy, Scherzo, Clouds/Shadows, and Vivace.
Anna Weesner’s music has received many notable performances (American Composers Orchestra, Counter)induction, Sequitur and more) and awards (Guggenheim, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Pew). She is Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania.
Weesner writes, “What Gathers, What Lingers was composed while I was a visiting artist at the American Academy in Rome during the spring of 2003; revisions were made in 2009. It was premiered in Rome by Veronica Kadlubkiewicz and Richard Trythall on May 26, 2003. The piece was helped along through conversations with my friend, composer/violinist Andy Waggoner. The piece dwells in a variety of places, moving, perhaps, through many different rooms of a single house. The world contains a multiplicity of musics, all of which surround and influence me, sometimes whether I know it or not. What happens, I wonder, when music that feels like a private memory of a classical piano sonata follows on the heels of something raucous and pounding? What happens when a thick and complex harmony finds itself as neighbor to a straightforward melody with a simple accompaniment? This piece occupies a sound-world in which many stylistic impulses gather, a world, I think, in which memory may be portrayed alongside the current moment. This piece has distinct sections, whose respective personalities are meant to stand in vivid, even stark, contrast. Played without pause, these sections occupy a single, overarching movement, gathering—I hope—connections and momentum, and leaving what lingers as they bounce off of each other and go.”
Arlene Zallman (1934-2006) was a Professor of Composition at Wellesley College for over thirty years, and before that taught at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music, and at Yale University. She was a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music and the University of Pennsylvania. She studied with Vincent Persichetti and Georg Crumb. A recipient of a Fulbright grant in 1959, she worked for two years with Luigi Dallapiccola in Florence, Italy. Her work was supported by the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mellon Fundation, and others. She was a 2000/2001 fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a frequent fellow at the MacDowell Colony. Her work is published by the Association for the Promotion of New Music and C.F. Peters.
Huc usque, me miseram from Vox Feminae for soprano and piano features a text from the Carmina Burana collection. This text possesses a distinctly feminine voice. It is a fragment of a miniature monodrama, to which the composer intended to add other poems from the same source.
Slated for Submission for ISCM World Music Days in Tallinn, Estonia, 2019 are works by Sheree Clement, Jonathan Dawe, Matthew Greenbaum, and Alice Shields.
Sheree Clement studied at the Peabody Conservatory Preparatory Department, The University of Michigan, and Columbia University. Her principal composition teachers at Michigan were William Albright and George Balch Wilson; at Columbia she studied with Mario Davidovsky.
Clement’s chamber works have been performed widely in the US. by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Atlantic String Quartet, the Canyonlands Ensemble of Salt Lake City, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston, and at the Composers Conference in Vermont. The League of Composers Orchestra premiered her work for chamber orchestra, Stories I Cannot Tell You, in May 2017. Upcoming works include a commission from APNM for soprano, pierrot quintet, recorded sound and video, Swimming Upstream. Round Trip Ticket, a set of variations for ‘pierrot + 2 percussion’ was recently recorded by the Washington Square Contemporary Music Ensemble and will be available later in 2017on APNM’s new house label.
Her awards include the Goddard Leiberson Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Tanglewood Fellowship and three composer fellowships at the Composers’ Conference.
The highly innovative and conjured world of composer Jonathan Dawe joins Baroque imagery with a modernist mix, cast with dynamic dramatic flair. Cited for his “quirky, fascinating modernist variations on earlier styles” (Time Out) his music involves the recasting of energies and sounds of the past into decisively new expressions, through compositional workings based upon fractal geometry. Recent pieces and productions have been described as “music of such vitality and drama” (New York Times) “a brake-squealing collision of influence” (Boston Globe) and ” bound to be provocative.” (Time Out) Described as “one of our most talented and distinctive – yet little-known – contemporary composers,” (Seen and Heard International) Dawe is the youngest composer to have been commissioned by James Levine and The Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Matthew Greenbaum studied privately with Stefan Wolpe, and with Mario Davidovsky at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He holds a Ph.D. in Composition from the City University of NY Graduate Center (1985), and has served as a professor of music composition at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance since 1998.Since 1999 Greenbaum has worked with computer animation to create hybrid works of visual music, as well as chamber music with a video component. Greenbaum has also written on Debussy, Schoenberg and Varèse in relation to Wolpe’s dialectical and “cubist” approach to musical structure. He is the curator of Amphibian, a new music and video series in the HiArt Gallery in New York.
Alice Shields is a respected composer particularly known for her electronic music and also cross-cultural work in opera. As a performer, Shields has been a professional opera singer, performing both traditional and modern roles with the New York City Opera, Metropolitan Opera At-The-Forum, Washington National Opera, Wolf Trap Opera, the Lake George Opera Festival and other opera companies in the U.S. and Europe.
During the 1990s she intensively studied and performed South Indian Bharata Natyam dance-drama as a vocalist, performing nattuvangam, a form of South Indian rhythmic recitation with the Swati Bhise Bharata Natyam Dance Company, at venues including the United Nations, Asia Society and Wesleyan University. All Shields’ compositions since 2000 reflect her immersion in Indian classical music and drama.
Shields earned three degrees from Columbia University including the Doctor of Musical Arts in music composition, studying with Vladimir Ussachevsky, Jack Beeson, Otto Luening and Chou Wen-Chung. She served as Associate Director of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center and Director for Development of the Columbia University Computer Music Center.
Shields’s work is published by the American Composers Alliance and is recorded on Koch International Classics, New World, CRI, Tellus, Opus One and Albany Records.