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Discover This! 5 Pieces by Libby Larsen

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Libby Larsen

December 24, 1950 – Wilmington, DE, USA

“Libby Larsen (b. 24 December 1950, Wilmington, Delaware) is one of America’s most performed living composers. She has created a catalogue of over 500 works spanning virtually every genre from intimate vocal and chamber music to massive orchestral works and over 15 operas. Grammy award-winning and widely recorded, including over 50 CD’s of her work, she is constantly sought after for commissions and premieres by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world, and has established a permanent place for her works in the concert repertory.

As a vigorous, articulate advocate for the music and musicians of our time, in 1973 Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composer’s Forum, which has become an invaluable aid for composers in a transitional time for American arts. A former holder of the Papamarkou Chair at John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, Larsen has also held residencies with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony.” – libbylarsen.com

Discover This! 5 Pieces by Mary Ellen Childs

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Mary Ellen Childs

April 13, 1957 – Lafayette, IN, USA

“Mary Ellen Childs has been acclaimed for creating both rhythmic, exuberant instrumental works and bold, kinetic compositions that integrate music, dance and theater in fresh and unexpected ways. She has created numerous “visual percussion” pieces that embody the concept of music in motion, for her ensemble CRASH. Her repertoire includes Click, a fast-paced, game-like work for three stick-wielding performers; DrumRoll, for four drummers on wheels; Sight of Hand, based on uniquely American forms of body percussion—girls’ clapping games, hamboning, and baseball coaching signals —and Crash, a full-evening work for 6 crash cymbal players on rollerstools and various other rolling means of transportation. The Village Voice deemed Click “a newly born classic, like Steve Reich’s Clapping Music, only a thousand times more virtuosic. Myself, I can’t whistle, but afterward everybody who could, did.” Her output also includes multi-monitor video pieces A Chording To and the award winning Still Life, which captured first place awards at the International Multi-Image Festival and at the American Film and Video Festival.

She writes for a variety of ensembles, including solo accordion, string quartets, chamber groups, and vocal groups. She has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Opera America, the Dale Warland Singers, The Kitchen, the Walker Art Center, Other Minds, Live Music for Dance NY/NJ, Meet The Composer’s commissioning programs, and the MAP Fund.  Her full-length works include Dream House for string quartet (written for ETHEL) and multi-image video, based on images of destruction and construction, cycles of time, and rhythms of construction work; Stone Steel Wood Glass Light, written for the Chicago Architectural Biennial and performed at the Farnsworth House (a glass house designed by Mies van der Rohe); and Wreck, created for the Black Label Movement Company, for which she won a 2008 Sage Award.  Other recent projects include Now, for Anthony de Mare’s LIAISONS project; Scry for trombone quartet Guidonian Hand, through a commission from Chamber Music America; and an orchestra piece, Sweep, commissioned for GTCYS. She has composed two works for concert band, Green Light and Zephyrus (published by Boosey & Hawkes). Her opera Propeller, commissioned with funds from Opera American and the MAP Fund, received additional developmental support at the Duffy Composers Institute in 2015. One of her favorite instruments to write for is the accordion, and as a result of her close working association with accordionist Guy Klucevsek, she has created nearly a dozen works that include the instrument. “Mary Ellen Childs’s quiet pointillistic Oa Poa Polka had notes peeping from all over the accordion,” observed the New York Times of one performance, “with the oompah just barely winking into view.”

Over the last thirty years she has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a 2011 United States Artist Friends Fellowship, two Bush Foundation Fellowships, five McKnight Foundation Fellowships, a fellowship in support of her interdisciplinary work from Intermedia Arts, and seven Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Awards. Childs has received support from the NEA’s Composer-in-Residence program, Meet The Composer, and the American Composers Forum (Jerome Commissioning awards), a Creative Explorations award from Creative Capital.

Her music has been performed in Europe, Eastern Europe, Japan, and Australia. Her percussion group CRASH traveled to Russia three times, and recently performed in Cuba at the invitation of the Havana International Theater Festival. She has received artists fellowships from the McKnight Foundation, the Bush Foundation and the Minnesota State Arts Board. Compact discs of her work include Kilter (XI label) and Dream House (innova), a remix of Dream House, titled Chamberhouse (Sugarfoot Recordings), Wreck (innova), Documerica(string quartet ETHEL, innova), Liaisons: Re-imagining Sondheim, among others.” – maryellenchilds.com

Discover This! 5 Pieces by Evan Ziporyn

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Evan Ziporyn

December 14, 1959 – Chicago, IL, USA

“Evan Ziporyn (b. 1959, Chicago) has composed for the Silk Road Ensemble, the American Composers Orchestra, Brooklyn Rider, So Percussion, Maya Beiser, Wu Man, Sentieri Selvaggi, and Bang on a Can. He studied at Eastman, Yale & UC Berkeley with Joseph Schwantner, Martin Bresnick, & Gerard Grisey. He is Inaugural Director of MIT’s new Center for Art, Science and Technology, where he has taught since 1990. His work – informed by his 30+ year involvement with traditional gamelan. He received a Fulbright in 1987, founded Gamelan Galak Tika in 1993, and has composed a series of groundbreaking compositions for gamelan & western instruments. These include three evening-length works, 2001’s ShadowBang, 2004’s Oedipus Rex (Robert Woodruff, director), and 2009’s A House in Bali, which was featured at BAM Next Wave in October 2010. Awards include a USA Artist Fellowship, the Goddard Lieberson Prize from the American Academy, Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship, the MIT Gyorgy Kepes Prize, and commissions from Carnegie Hall, Kronos Quartet, Rockefeller Multi-Arts Program, and Meet the Composer. He co-founded the Bang on a Can All-stars in 1992, performing with the group for 20 years. He has also recorded with Paul Simon, Steve Reich Ensemble (sharing in their 1998 Grammy), and Matthew Shipp, and he currently performs with Iva Bittova and Gyan Riley as the Eviyan Trio.” – ziporyn.com

Discover This! 5 Pieces by Florent Ghys

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Florent Ghys

Bordeaux, France

“Double Bassist and Composer Florent Ghys’s music has been described as ”highly contrapuntal, intelligent…and inventive…” (WQXR); a ”thrilling breed of post-minimal chamber music” (Time Out NY).

His “pieces blend elements of minimalism, pop music and a dose of extravagant wit” (John Schaefer, WNYC).

Ghys has been commissioned by some of today’s most influential and exciting new music ensembles and soloists including the Bang on a Can All-­Stars, Jack Quartet, Kathleen Supove, So Percussion, Nicholas Photinos, Dither Electric Guitar Quartet, and Vicky Chow, and his music has been performed at Lincoln Center, BAM, the Barbican Center, M.I.T., Sydney Opera House, San Martin Theater in Buenos Aires, and the Muziekgebouw in Amsterdam. Films he has scored have won honors from Sacem and the Cannes Festival, and appeared on television in France and Germany. He has also worked as an arranger, producer, and MAX MSP programmer with and for artists from a variety of different genres, including French singer-songwriter François Cha, broadway singer John Lloyd Young, and Steve Reich.

As a double bassist, Florent has performed with the Paris Opera Orchestra, the Wordless Music Orchestra, and the ensemble Ear Heart Music, and has released three solo albums on the Cantaloupe label. His new low string quartet, Bonjour, will release their self­titled debut album Cantaloupe Records in August 2016.

Florent holds multiple degrees in Performance, Composition, and Ethnomusicology, has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Norton Stevens Fellowship, and is currently a Ph.D candidate in Composition at Princeton University.” – florentghys.com

Discover This! 5 Pieces by George Antheil

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George Antheil

July 8, 1900, Trenton, NJ, USA
February 12, 1959, New York City, NY, USA

“George Antheil (1900-1959) was an American composer—born in Trenton, New Jersey—who began his professional career in Europe, where he was friends with, among many others, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Ernest Hemingway, Eric Satie, and Igor Stravinsky. In the early ’20s, he lived at the literal center of English-language culture in Europe: above Sylvia Beach’s legendary Shakespeare & Co. bookstore on the Rue de l’Odéon, in Paris’s Latin Quarter. (Beach was the original publisher of Joyce’s controversial and groundbreaking Ulysses.)

Antheil wrote over 300 musical works in all major genres, including symphonies, chamber works, film music, and operas. He was extremely outspoken and articulate, and wrote numerous articles, as well as an autobiography, Bad Boy of Music, which is still in print.

As a young composer, he considered himself to be quite the revolutionary, and his music, especially in his early career, employed many unusual sound sources and combinations of instruments. In many ways, both musical and technical, he was far ahead of his time. His concerts routinely caused riots all over Europe, which at the time was considered a sign of genius.

Besides composing, Antheil was an excellent writer, an inventor, and a student of many disciplines, including endocrinology, criminal justice, and military history. He was co-holder of a remarkable patent (with actress Hedy Lamarr) for a “secret communications system” which is today in wide use and known as “spread-spectrum technology” — although neither he nor Lamarr ever received a dime for it.

Antheil left Paris in the late ’20s and went to Berlin, and then as German society began to fall under the influence of the Nazis, returned permanently to America. He settled in Hollywood, where he enjoyed a reasonably successful career as a composer for film and television. He died in 1959.” – antheil.org

Discover This! 5 Pieces by Jonathan Harvey

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Jonathan Harvey

May 3, 1939 – Sutton Coldfield, United Kingdom
December 4, 2012 – Lewes, United Kingdom

“Jonathan Harvey was born to Noel and Gerald Harvey on 3 May 1939 in Sutton Coldfield. Gerald, his father, was a keen amateur musician and composer which gave both Jonathan and his brother Brian a taste for music from an early age. At the young age of six he already knew that he wanted to be a composer.

Jonathan was a chorister at St. Michaels Tenbury and from there went to Repton School where he continued his musical education. At Repton he won a scholarship to St. Johns Cambridge to study music, and then subsequently moved to Glasgow with his wife Rosaleen to complete his PHD, where they lived in a caravan through the winter of 1963. Following the advice of Benjamin Britten he was tutored by Erwin Stein and then Hans Keller.

Their daughter Anna was born in 1964 and Jonathan took up the post of lecturer at Southampton University. In 1969, two years after the birth of his son, Dominic, he won a Harkness fellowship to study at Princeton University where he composed his first electronic piece “Timepieces”, subsequently travelling around twenty four states in one year with his young family.

They spent more time abroad in 1972 when Jonathan took a sabbatical in Menorca, staying in a beautiful whitewashed farmhouse belonging to some friends, and it was here that Jonathan wrote “Inner Light”.

In 1975 his son Dominic became a chorister at Winchester Cathedral, and Jonathan composed several choral works encouraged by his friends Martin Neary the Cathedral Organist and the Reverend John Taylor the Bishop. One of these pieces was “I Love The Lord” which was written in memory of his mother, as it was a psalm that she often asked Jonathan to read to her towards the end of her life. Jonathan’s choir music is very much rooted in the Church of England tradition, which is in sharp contrast to most of his instrumental works which have mainly been played in Europe.

In the early eighties Jonathan started working at Ircam in Paris where he could fully explore his passion for electronic music. This fruitful relationship lasted for many years and resulted in some of his best works. By this time he had moved to Lewes in East Sussex, and held the post of Professor of Music at Sussex University. He took up Transcendental Meditation and became more and more interested in Buddhism and eastern religion.

Ten years later he accepted the post of Professor of Music at Stanford University and it was here that he first imagined a composition using the bird song that he heard in the Californian hills which would later become his Bird Concerto.

After Stanford, Jonathan travelled more and more promoting his music and explaining the complex philosophies behind it, which helped to achieve the success that he enjoyed in the latter part of his life.

Jonathan was a member of Academia Europaea and held Honorary Doctorates at Southampton, Sussex, Bristol, Birmingham and Huddersfield Universities, as well as being an Honorary Fellow of St. John’s College Cambridge. He was also a keen sportsman enjoying tennis, skiing and snorkelling until late in life.

Jonathan wrote three books, the first one being “The Music of Stockhausen” published in 1975, and then two more in 1999 which are entitled “Music and Inspiration” and “In Quest of Spirit”” – jonathanharveycomposer.com

Discover This! 5 Pieces by Galina Ustvolskaya

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Galina Ustvolskaya

June 17, 1919 – Saint Petersburg, Russia
December 22, 2006 – Saint Petersburg, Russia

Galina Ustvolskaya’s entire life (17.VI.1919—22.XII.2006) is tied up with one and the same city. She was born on June 17, 1919 in Petrograd (now Saint Petersburg). From 1926 to 1936 she studied composition and cello at the Leningrad Capella. Then for two years she was taking composition lessons in the College. In 1939 she entered Dmitri Shostakovich’s composition class at the Leningrad Conservatory. In August 1941, together with the most of the members of the Conservatory she was evacuated to Tashkent, then went to her mother and sister in Komi ASSR where she was getting combat rations serving as a sentry. In 1944 she returned to Leningrad and continued her studies. Ustvolskaya particularly wanted to study under Shostakovich as she thought him the only composer able to teach her anything. As the years went by, however, and she came to know the man and his music better, her opinions were dramatically revised.
Her composition teacher, who seldom praised his students, valued Ustvolskaya’s work very highly and said of her: “I am convinced that the music of G. I. Ustvolskaya will achieve worldwide renown, to be valued by all who perceive truth in music to be of paramount importance”. He sent some of his own as yet unfinished works to Ustvolskaya, attaching great value to her comments. Some of these pieces even contain quotations from his pupil’s compositions; for example, he employed the second theme of the Finale of her Trio throughout the Fifth String Quartet and in the Michelangelo Suite (no. 9).

On graduating from the conservatory Ustvolskaya was at once admitted to the Composers’ Union and from 1947 until 1950 honed her skills as a graduate student. In September 1947, Ustvolskaya began teaching composition at the Leningrad Rimsky-Korsakov College of Music, and continued to do so till February 1977. According to the composer, she taught “only to subsist on it”, and did not see herself as the creator of any of well-regarded composers: “They were educated at the Conservatory”. In general, she expected her students to work to the same high standards she set for herself and, despite reports to the contrary, she never singled out any of her students for special praise.

Ustvolskaya’s first compositions were a considerable success and were performed by leading musicians at the most prestigious concert halls of the city (for example, Stepan Razin’s Dream, a composition for bass and a symphony orchestra was deemed fit to open four successive seasons at the Leningrad Philarmonic’s Grand Hall). But already by the 1950s her name had begun to disappear from the concert bills, to be replaced by those of the socially connected and the officially sanctioned; premieres of her music became increasingly rare, and many of her works were published decades after their composition. Ustvolskaya started to become more and more isolated, since she did not want to participate in social and political life, and her music was too far from the Soviet ideals. And although there were occasional performances of her works (about once a year), the state-owned record label “Melodiya” was releasing some of her records, and Leningrad’s musical critics praised her talent, the author herself was dissatisfied with the level of performance available at the time.

Ustvolskaya lived in constant poverty. In 1950s she attempted to improve her financial situation and composed a number of contract works as well as music for several documentaries, works which much later she strived to exclude from her Catalog, going to considerable lengths to locate them, in order to destroy all traces of their existence. On the few manuscripts which did survive, she later wrote “for money”, thus defining her attitude towards them. From 1961 onwards, despite the catastrophic lack of money, Ustvolskaya’s life was devoted exclusively to “the true, spiritual, not religious creativity”.

Ustvolskaya’s music is unique and does not resemble any other. It is exceedingly expressive, high-spirited, austere and full of tragic pathos attained with modest expressive means. Ustvolskaya’s musical thought is distinguished by its intellectual power, while a keen spirituality occupies the core of her work. The choice of instruments for her symphonic and instrumental compositions is always ingenious (she never took formal orchestration lessons). Viktor Suslin, with whom Ustvolskaya maintained friendly relations for many years, once called her “a voice from the “Black Hole” of Leningrad, the epicentre of communist terror, the city that suffered so terribly the horrors of war”. Although she was not interested in either history, politics or society, Ustvolskaya liked the scientific metaphor of the black hole, so she started to refer to her music as “Musik aus dem schwarzen Loch”. The only thing she was interested in was her own music. And it was more than an interest — the constant and intensive process of composing occupied all of her thoughts.

Genuine recognition came to the composer only in the late 80’s when a concert in Leningrad was attended by Jürgen Köchel, the director of the largest music publishing house “Sikorski” and Elmer Schönberger, the Dutch musicologist. Mr. Schönberger was so stunned by the music that he did everything in his power to ensure that this concert was heard in Europe. Soon, a series of international Ustvolskaya’s music festivals was organised (1995, 1996, 2005, 2011 – Amsterdam, 1998 – Vienna 1999 – Bern, 2001 – Warsaw, 2004 – Båstad), and Mr. Köchel acquired the rights to publish her works. She unambiguously dismissed subsequent proposals that she should emigrate from Russia: all her life had been connected with St. Petersburg, which she left only a few times in order to attend festivals of her music. Galina Ustvolskaya led a solitary life, thinking over the new works until her last days. “My music is my life” – she said.” – ustvolskaya.org