Spring 2018 Listening List

Each semester, I assign a series of weekly listening assignments to my composition students. The last few semesters, I’ve had a goal of making at least half of the list women and composers of color. One of the challenges of this is that I only get 14 weeks in the semester, and that means if I’m going to address this concern, I have to remove some of the composers and works that I found important and that I was taught when I was a student. We talk a lot about curriculum reform, not just in representation in the repertoire, but also things like technological and entrepreneurial skills. Often, we don’t address the fact that we can’t just keep adding things without taking other stuff away.

I have to trade a William Walton for an Olly Wilson. Good trade, IMO; but you’re free to disagree. Here’s my semester list if you’re curious. Hat-tip to the Women Composers Database and the Composers of Color Database, both projects organized by composer and inveterate list-maker Rob Deemer.

(Where possible, recordings are available in the Spotify playlist. Otherwise, there are links to listen elsewhere.)

  • Week 1
  • Week 2
    • Pauline Oliveros: No Mo (2001)
  • Week 3
    • John Adams: Chamber Symphony (1992)
    • optional, Son of Chamber Symphony (2007)
  • Week 4
    • George Walker: Lilacs (1995)
  • Week 5
    • Pierre Boulez: Le marteau sans maître (The hammer without a master, 1955)
  • Week 6
    • Christopher Cerrone: Memory Palace (2012)
  • Week 7
    • Dorothy Hindman: The Road to Damascus (2010)
  • Week 8
    • Nico Muhly: Mothertongue (2008)
  • Week 9
    • Anna Thorvaldsdóttir: In the Light of Air (2015)
  • Week 10
    • Olly Wilson: A City Called Heaven (1988)
  • Week 11
    • Mary Ellen Childs: Ephemeral Geometry (2012)
  • Week 12
    • Raven Chacon: The Journey of the Horizontal People (2016)
    • score
    • recording
  • Week 13
    • Aaron Copland: Piano Variations (1930)
  • Week 14
    • Sofia Gubaidulina: String Trio (1988)

New Sounds: Stumpery

Last weekend, I got to hear a wonderful performance of a new work of mine for wind quintet. The title refers to the new Stumpery Garden at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in my hometown of St. Louis. Stumpery was on the program along with four other excellent works by members of the Central Florida Composers Forum, performed by the recently formed new music chamber collective Alterity.

Orlando is where it’s at.

There is usually an artist creating work live on stage during performances at Timucua. It’s a total coincidence that the paintings this night were tree stumps! You can hear the full concert on this YouTube playlist.

Oh, and just because it’s cool. Here’s a photo from the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Stumpery.

 

Eclipse

Happy Eclipse Day!

In 2007, I set a poem by Archilochus1 about a total eclipse visible in Greece in the seventh century BCE.

Nothing can surprise me now, nothing can astonish
or alarm me now the god of gods has galled the midday
into night and trimmed the light of the westering sun.
Surely anything can happen now, anything at all,
so brace yourselves for the sight of milk cows grazing
the dolphin-crowded seas, of sure-footed deer
and mountain goats crossing the talus of a cresting wave.

The performance above is by Joseph Baunoch, bass-baritone; Marissa Olin, alto flute; and Kawai Chan, piano.

 


  1. Translated by American poet Sherod Santos in his collection Greek Lyric Poetry 

Fall 2017 Semester Listening

Where possible, recordings are available in the Spotify playlist. Otherwise, there are links to listen elsewhere.

  • Week 1
    • Du Yun: A Cockroach’s Tarantella (2010) – Soundcloud
    • Du Yun: an empty garlic (2014) – YouTube
  • Week 2
  • Week 3
    • Tristan Perich: Surface Image (2014)
  • Week 4
    • Olivier Messaien: Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time, 1941)
  • Week 5
    • Steven Mackey: It Is Time (2010)
  • Week 6
    • Chen Yi: Tu (2008)
  • Week 7
    • Ken Ueno: On A Sufficient Condition For The Existence Of Most Specific Hypothesis (2008)
  • Week 8
    • Augusta Read Thomas: Jubilee (2010)
  • Week 9
    • Julia Wolfe: Dig Deep (1995)
  • Week 10
    • Andrew Norman: Play (2013)
  • Week 11
    • George Crumb: Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale, 1971)
  • Week 12
    • Luciano Berio: Sinfonia (1968)
  • Week 13
    • Jennifer Higdon: On A Wire (2010)
  • Week 14/15 (Includes Thanksgiving break)
    • Missy Mazzoli: Tooth and Nail (2011)

Husa Rememberance

I’m not big on naming favorites of things. Having said that, Karel Husa—who died last week at age 95—is one of my favorite composers. His inventiveness in orchestration, rhythm, and texture combine with a keen sense of dramatic gesture in works that are as creative as they are approachable. I met him once at the University of Missouri as an undergraduate student and heard him speak about his music. He signed my copy of the third trumpet part I was playing on his monumental Music for Prague 1968. I recall that he seemed to think that while the Pulitzer committee actually awarded his String Quartet No. 3 in 1969, they really intended to honor Music for Prague, and weren’t quite sure about taking the wind band seriously as a medium for serious music. I won’t offer an obit here, as I’m sure your Googlemachine can connect you to some much better writing. I will simply conclude by sharing the opening of Karel Husa’s beautiful Les Couleurs Fauves from 1996. I often say half-jokingly that every time I write a piece of slow music, I’m trying to rewrite this.