The descendants of the Polish, Irish, and Czech immigrants who were murdered at the Homestead Massacre, the black Pittsburghers that were displaced from the jazz mecca that once was Hill District, and the immigrants who happen upon this beautiful city to pursue some version of the American dream—this is the canvas upon which this city’s artists create.
Life can be unpredictable at times, and that is how I came back to playing baritone saxophone after twenty years of the horn collecting dust in my attic. It was the most unlikely course of events, but I am a firm believer that those are the times to make adventurous choices.
After nearly a quarter century of continuous work as the Editor of NewMusicBox and also eventually as Composer Advocate for what was originally the American Music Center and which in 2011 became New Music USA, I am resigning from full time work for this organization to devote more of my energies to being an educator.
No matter how little training or “talent” we have, something speaks to us to foster the need to create. The big question is how to find the inspiration and courage to compose music.
Growing up in Soviet-era Lithuania where people were often afraid to express their real feelings, Žibuoklė Martinaitytė discovered early on that music was safer than language and a realm where she could express her innermost feelings unedited. Now an international-acclaimed composer who spends a great deal of her time in the United States, she understands that music “surpasses words; it surpasses the meaning of words because it can go to unknown places and unexplainable places.”
I understand that you are only 16 months old, and so your ability to fully comprehend this letter may take some time. Writing about you is as hard as writing about music. What if you yourself were music? What would you be? You would be a formless soundscape of abrupt shifts and prolonged repetition, never truly starting or ending.
I’ve been a violinist for forty years and I have made a living from it since completing school twenty years ago. I’ve also been afflicted with chronic neurological Lyme Disease and co-infections for thirty-three years, and boy oh boy, does it get in the way. So, how do I deal with it, you ask? Well, write a trio about it, of course.
Formerly pretty solitary when I was still a Bay Area urbanite, the reality of the climate crisis has had me creating more local community than I have ever done. That’s not necessarily comfortable for me but I think the crisis will only be effectively addressed en masse.
inti figgis-vizueta likens her compositions to plants and creates music that carefully balances experimentation and practicality.
Those with a lawn are encouraged to mow less, and to not mow at all in the month of May, a critical time especially for butterflies, bees and other bugs to feast on wild flowers. Sadly, we seem to be the only people participating in our neighborhood. Next year, I hope we can have a #NoMowMay sign put in our yard, both to let the neighbors know why our house looks like a meadow, and to spread the word and hopefully encourage others to consider doing the same.
As a musician I feel that I have been cultured to believe in hard work, achievement, etc. “Become an excellent musician so that you can receive attention, money, respect, or even more dire so that you can survive, make a living, not have to work a side hustle that (potentially) crushes your soul.” The artistic purpose of “personal-achievement” seems divisive and destructive to me.
Writing music gave me great joy, but I questioned if there was a purpose for it that was equally wholesome. The question lingered, could composing music enact change as a doctor treating a patient, an attorney representing a client, or a senator voting for public policy?
I’ve been compiling a list of questions that I’ve received over these past 18 months in various interviews, panels, etc., since I began publicly communicating my environmental alarm in earnest, not just casually.
I have come to think of my life as a mixing board. There are a number of different channels. Mine are labeled composing, score producing, entrepreneur, teaching, community work. But the levels on those different channels are constantly changing as I move through my life.
My earliest memory is December 1982, my second birthday, which we celebrated at the Dandridge Road home. Hillman Estates was a come-home-before-the-street-lights-come-on type of neighborhood.
I had a hard time accepting my name when I was younger because it felt so White and so old on my young, Black frame. Amongst my classmates—Brittney, Takeisha, Kimberly, Latoya, Michelle—I felt like an oddball. I’d only met old White women named Donna. The day I met a young Black Donna at an IHOP was the day I met with a major symphony orchestra timpanist to talk about an unfair situation that affected my career as a percussionist.
Louisville’s exceptional and dynamic music scene has always flown a bit under the radar from a national perspective. This is a microcosm of life in Louisville generally; we are deeply proud of the talent in our own backyard but somewhat baffled by the lack of positive attention to our city from outside media.
I think the idea of telling a story with images alone reminded me of the challenge that composers face when writing instrumental music: how can we weave a narrative without words?
Until now, everything that has gotten performed under the rubric “symphonic Ellington” was overseen by relatively conservative orchestrators. It was all more practical than anything else. Working with a full symphonic orchestra may have been a good way to remain “beyond category,” but there is little to suggest that Ellington treated the submitted orchestrations as more than an easy way to fulfill commission requirements.
If you use your time well on the first day of the year, that may just give you the momentum you need to make it through the rest of the year.
Brandee Younger has carved out a very unlikely music career for herself, a classically-trained harpist who went from making her jazz debut over a decade ago to being an in-demand leader and collaborator in a wide range of musical genres.
ASCAP Foundation President Paul Williams has announced the recipients of the 2023 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, which are eligible to young creators of concert music ranging in age from 13 to 30. Established as The ASCAP Foundation Young Composer Awards in 1979 with funding from The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth… Read more »
Christmas was already a day or two past, and I didn’t immediately follow when Mom gave me an old shoebox, nonchalant-like. The contents rattling around inside turned out to be Maxwell cassette tapes, the kind from the 70s with the extra boxy cases and orange stripes. For years, I had been nagging my folks to find home audio recordings from my girlhood… I remembered my Dad’s old player, still functioning from his college years pre-Peace Corps and Perú where he met Mom, and how Dad would casually slip in a tape when he thought things were about to get good.
Like most longstanding formal ceremonies, the annual American Academy of Arts and Letter Ceremonial is an extremely tradition-bound event, but this year’s iteration had more noticeable differences than most.