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2022 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Awards Announced

ASCAP Foundation Logo with Morton Gould Awards header

The ASCAP Foundation has announced the 23 recipients of its 2022 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards as well as 15 additional composers who received honorable mentions. The awards, which encourage talented young creators of concert music ranging in age from 13 to 30, are selected through a juried national competition. These composers may be American citizens, permanent residents or students possessing U.S. student visas. The 38 compositions of the composers recognized in 2022 were among the more than 500 scores that were seen by this year’s judges (who are all ASCAP-member composers): Svjetlana Bukvich, Daniel Felsenfeld, Yotam Haber, Felipe Lara, Fang Man, Jessica Mays, Shawn Okpebholo, and Jorge Sosa.

Below is a complete alphabetical list of the 2022 Morton Gould Young Composer Award recipients and their award-winning works (with links to audio recordings of them and additional information where available):

Benjamin Thoreau Baker (b. 1998 in Pleasant Plain, OH; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Primordial (2019) for saxophone and live electronics [ca. 9′];

Alex Berko (b. 1995 in Cleveland, OH; currently based in Houston, TX): Oh Me! Oh Life! (2021) for unaccompanied chorus [ca. 11′];

Paul Berlinsky (b. 1994 in Miami Beach, FL; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Book of Birds (2021) for flute and electronics [ca. 27′];

Anuj Bhutani (b. 1993 in Houston, TX; current based in Austin, TX): On Letting Go (2020-21) for solo cello and live electronics [ca. 16′];

Aiyana Braun (b. 1997 in Ardmore, PA; currently based in Philadelphia, PA): Refractions (2019 rev. 2022) for orchestra [ca. 6′];

Cao Shengnan (b. 1992 in Beijing, China; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Fantasia Nirvana (2021) for full orchestra [ca. 11′];

Bryn Davis (b. 1992 in Richmond, VA; currently based in St. Paul, MN):
☞︎□︎❒︎ ❄︎□︎❍︎ 👍︎◆︎❒︎❒︎⍓︎ (2019) for tuba septet [ca. 10′];

Baldwin Giang (b. 1992 in Malvern, PA; currently based in Chicago, IL): roses (2021) for sinfonietta [ca. 15′];

Soomin Kim (b. 1995 in Uijeongbu, South Korea; currently based in Minneapolis, MN): star / ghost / mouth /sea (2021) for full orchestra [ca. 9′];

Joel Kirk (b. 1996 in Manchester, United Kingdom; currently based in Buffalo, NY): update status, always (2021) for solo violin [ca. 7′];

Cheng Jin Koh (b. 1996 in Singapore; currently based in New York, NY): Luciola singapura (Singapore Firefly) (2021) for sinfonietta with blended yang qin [ca. 6′];

Sam Kohler (b. 1996 in Eugene, OR; currently based in New Orleans, LA): sun-splash color-room (2021) for flute, clarinet, violin, piano, and percussion [ca. 10′];

Daniel Leibovic (b. 1995 in Richmond, VA; currently based in Houston, TX): Padamu Jua (2020) for 16 voices and small gongs [ca. 9′];

Maxwell Lu (b. 2002 in Dayton, MD; currently based in New York, NY): shatter (2021) for full orchestra [ca. 6′];

JP Merz (b. 1992 in Janesville, WI; currently based in Los Angeles, CA): gun, fire (2021) for full orchestra [ca. 15′];

Celka Ojakangas (b. 1992 in Springfield, MO; currently based in Pasadena, CA): Bantam Winds (2021) for oboe, bass clarinet, and French horn [ca. 10′];

Siddharth Pant (b. 2004 in California): Dodecahedron (2021) for string quartet [ca. 5′];

Marco-Adrián Ramos Rodríguez (b. 1995 in Betonville, AR; currently based in New Haven, CT): Five O’Hara Songs (2020) for soprano and piano [ca. 13′];

Lucy Shirley (b. 1997 in Indianapolis, IN; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Stretch Marks (2021) for soprano voice, clarinet, and piano [ca. 7′];

Sage Shurman (b. 2005; based in Los Angeles, CA): what’s left behind (2021) for string orchestra [ca. 9′];

Tian Songfeng (b. Daqing City, Heilongjiang Province, China; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Winter Solstice for string quartet [ca. 6′];

Meilina Tsui (b. 1993 in Almaty, Kazakhstan; currently based in Orlando, FL) Nomadic Trails (2021) for chamber orchestra [ca. 14′];

Casey Weisman (b. California): Beasts of the Seven Seas for full orchestra and instruments from Asia and Africa [ca. 15′].

Baldwin Giang was further recognized by the panel with the 2022 Leo Kaplan Award, created in memory of the distinguished attorney who served as ASCAP Special Distribution Advisor. The award is funded by the Kaplan Family.

Below is a list of the additional composers who received Honorable Mention and their works:

Orkun Akyol (b. 1992 in Istanbul, Türkiye; current based in Davis, CA): uneasy in my easy chair (2021) for oboe, harp, percussion and electronics [ca. 6′];

KiMani Bridges (b. 2002 in Louisville, KY; currently based in Bloomington, IN): Healer (2021) for 2 voices, spoons, and cardboard box [ca. 6′];

Victor Cui (b. 1998 in Beijing, China; currently based in Baltimore, MD): Onyx is the Color during the Silence of Järvenpää for flute and electronics [ca. 10′];

Matthieu Foresi (b. 2005 in Geneva, Switzerland; currently based in Washington): The Monster in the Closet (2019) for full orchestra [ca. 6′];

Aidan Gold (b. 1997 in Seattle, WA; currently based in New York, NY): Ripple the Ocean of Eyes (2022) for full orchestra [ca. 15′];

Camilo Gonzalez-Sol (b. 1999 in Takoma Park, MD; currently based in Austin, TX): Four Brainscapes (2021) for fixed media in stereo [ca. 9′];

Liu Yizhang (b. 1995 in Hunan, China; currently based in Kansas City, MO): Phanstasmal (2021) for string quartet [ca. 5′];

Chuyi Luo (from New York): In The Conversation… for full orchestra [ca. 6′];

Quinn Mason (b. 1996; based in Dallas, TX): Symphony No. 4 ‘Strange Time’ (2019-21) for expanded wind ensemble [ca. 20′];

Jordan Millar (b. 2006; based in New York City): Masquerade (2021) for flute, violin, viola, and classical guitar [ca. 7′];

Chris Neiner (b. 1994 in Burnsville, MN; currently based in Cleveland Heights, OH): Many Universes (2019) for chamber orchestra [ca. 14′];

Luca Pasquini (b. 2004; based in Denver, CO): Where am I in the Sublime? for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion [ca. 7′];

Grant Shueh (from New Jersey): Arrival for string quartet [ca. 6′];

Eunike Tanzil (b. 1998 in Medan, Indonesia; currently based in New York, NY): Veni Vidi Vici (2020) for clarinet and orchestra [ca. 8′];

Isabelle Tseng (from Florida): Ringlorn for violin and cello [ca. 10′].

Established as The ASCAP Foundation Young Composer Awards in 1979 with funding from The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth Fund, the program was dedicated to Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Morton Gould’s memory following his death in 1996 to honor his lifelong commitment to encouraging young creators. A child prodigy himself, Gould’s first composition was published by G. Schirmer when he was only six years of age. Gould served as President of ASCAP and The ASCAP Foundation from 1986 to 1994. Founded in 1975, The ASCAP Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to supporting American music creators and encouraging their development through music education and talent development programs. Included in these are songwriting workshops, grants, scholarships, awards, recognition and community outreach programs, and public service projects for senior composers and lyricists. The ASCAP Foundation is supported by contributions from ASCAP members and from music lovers around the world.

Photos of all the winners and honorable mentions in the 2022 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards

Winners of the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards Announced

BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.), in collaboration with the BMI Foundation (BMIF) has announced the seven winners and three honorable mentions in the 70th Annual BMI Student Composer Awards. Each year these awards recognize superior musical compositional ability with educational scholarships totaling $20,000. For the first time in three years (due to the pandemic), the awards were once again announced in person in a live ceremony yesterday evening at Tribeca 360. The ceremony was presided over by Deirdre Chadwick, BMI Executive Director for Classical Music and BMI Foundation President, along with composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, the permanent Chair of the Competition, who announced each of the winners.

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich announcing the winners of the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich announcing the winners of the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards (photo by FJO)

The seven winning composers and their works are:
Ábel Esbenshade a.k.a. Ábel M.G.E. (b. 1994): Sadie’s Story for flute and fixed media (2021)

Cheng Jin Koh (b. 1996): Luciola singapura for sinfonietta and yang qin (Chinese dulcimer) (2021)
(Ms. Koh was also the recipient of the William Schuman prize which is annually awarded for the score deemed most accomplished in the competition.)

Oliver Kwapis (b. 1997): Dreams of Flight for full orchestra (2021) [10′]

Alan Mackwell (b. 1998): Remains of a Permian Gas Station for string trio (2021) [c. 20′]

Sehyeok (Joseph) Park (b. 2003): String Quartet no. 1 (2021)
(Mr. Park also received the Carlos Surinach Prize which is annually awarded to the youngest winner in the competition.)

Nina Shekhar (b. 1995): Hate The Sin, Love The Sinner for orchestra and fixed media (2021) [20′]

Kari Watson (b. 1998): of desire for voice and percussion (2021)

Group photos of the 7 winners in the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards with BMI Foundation President Deirdre Chadwick

(L-R) BMI’s Student Composer Award winners Alan W. Mackwell, Ábel M.G.E., Sehyeok (Joseph) Park, Nina Shekhar, Kari Watson, Cheng Jin Koh and Oliver Kwapis pose with BMI Foundation President & BMI’s Executive Director- Classical Deirdre Chadwick at Tribeca 360 on May 17, 2022, in New York, NY. (Photo by Jennifer Taylor for BMI; courtesy BMI)

The three composers who received an honorable mention were:

Lucy Chen (b. 2005): Muse for orchestra (2021) [10′]

Apoorva Krishna (b. 1996): Merging Parallels voice and ensemble (2020) [3′]

Malcolm Xiellie (b. 2007): The Voyage for solo piano (2021)

During the ceremony there were also presentations of two of the 2021 winning works: Elizabeth Gartman‘s [Weight] for soprano and fixed media in a live performance by Shannyn Rinker (which was its world premiere in front of a physical audience) and Elliot Roman‘s orchestral work Tzirklshpitz which was shown on video. In a poignant speech during the ceremony, Chadwick acknowledged previous recipients of the award who were present at the event as well as this year’s winners, but also pointed out that “there are excellent composers who’ve never won a competition.”

Deirdre Chadwick congratulates all the composers in the room.

Deirdre Chadwick congratulates all the composers in the room. (Photo by FJO)

The ten composers who were honored in the 2022 BMI Student Composer Awards were among 450 applicants in this year’s competition which are all judged anonymously through a rigorous two-panel process. The preliminary judges were BMI member composers Alexandra DuBois, Carlos Carrillo, and Jeremy Gill. The final judges were BMI member composers Oscar Bettison, Hannah Lash, Jose Serebrier, and Matthew Evan Taylor. Further details about the awards, including individual photos of each of the 10 composers who received awards and honorable mentions, are available on the BMI website.

Raven Chacon Wins 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Music

Raven Chacon and a segment of one of his musical scores.

Raven Chacon has been awarded the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Voiceless Mass. The annually awarded $15,000 prize is for a distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the previous year. The work, which premiered on November 21, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was commissioned by WI Conference of the United Church of Christ, Plymouth Church UCC, and Present Music and composed specifically for the Nichols & Simpson organ at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee. The Pulitzer citation describes it as a “mesmerizing, original work for organ and ensemble that evokes the weight of history in a church setting, a concentrated and powerful musical expression with a haunting visceral impact.”

“I’m absolutely honored that this work was awarded,” said Chacon (b. 1977), a Diné artist born in Fort Defiance, Navajo Nation, Arizona, and currently based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He is the first Native American composer ever to receive the prize. Chacon also serves as a member of New Music USA’s Program Council. “Thank you to Present Music of Milwaukee for commissioning Voiceless Mass, and making a live performance and recording possible when the relentless obstacles of the pandemic were preventing collaborations across all communities. The composition was a site-specific commission for Present Music’s annual Thanksgiving concert. As an Indigenous artist, I make a point not to present my work on this holiday, but in this case I made an exception.”

Also nominated as finalists for the 2022 music prize were: Seven Pillars, an 11-movement evening-length work for percussion quartet by Andy Akiho created for Sandbox Percussion which received its premiere at Emerald City Music in Seattle, Washington, and with eyes the color of time, a 32-minute work for string orchestra by Anne Leilehua Lanzilotti, which was commissioned by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn which premiered on August 6, 2021 at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York, N.Y. (You can watch and read a NewMusicBox conversation with Akiho here and read a series of NewMusicBox articles written by Lanzilotti here.)

The jury for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Music was: Alex Ross (chair), Patrice Rushen, and previous Pulitzer Prize winners John Luther Adams, Du Yun, and Tania León.

The announcement of this year’s Pulitzer Prizes was made online by Pulitzer Administrator Marjorie Miller via a stream posted on the Pulitzer website which can also be streamed on YouTube.

Hearing Beyond The Categories of the 64th Annual Grammy Awards

Grammy Award

As per every year, the Grammy Awards, which more than two months after a pandemic-related postponement were presented yesterday in Las Vegas, are a mixed bag. It is tempting to think of these awards as the great equalizer, since there are awards presented to recordings of such a diverse range of music. There are prizes for everything from hip-hop and heavy metal to gospel, new age, Latin jazz, musical theater, global music (an equally meaningless term that now replaces “world music”) and contemporary classical music (an oxymoron that we’re unfortunately stuck with). But sadly, there is a clear pecking order to these accolades; some recordings have been deemed more important than others.

Of course, theoretically any album could win Album of the Year and any recording artist could win Best New Artist, which is how it should be. Back in 1963, The First Family, a spoken word comedy LP by JFK impersonator Vaughn Meader–who?–walked away with Album of the Year! In more recent times, with the rare exception of jazz pianist Herbie Hancock, who received the 2008 Album of the Year for a recording mostly of renditions of songs by Joni Mitchell, and Esperanza Spalding, a musician also primarily associated with jazz, fetching Best New Artist in 2011 (which shocked many viewers, most of all the hordes of fanatical “Beliebers”), only certain kinds of recording artists–inevitably those whose music is mainstream and commercial–typically receive one of the Grammy’s most visible accolades.

Even though a great deal of so-called “popular music” is worthy and deserving of praise, it is not the only music that is, but that’s how it usually goes. Thankfully, the 2022 Album of the Year was awarded to We Are, by the Juilliard-trained Jon Batiste, which is a remarkably fluid compendium of styles incorporating rap, R&B, jazz, and even New Orleans brass bands that is at times reminiscent of Stevie Wonder’s evergreen polyglot masterpiece Songs in the Key of Life (which was awarded Best Album back in 1977). But don’t expect a specifically “contemporary classical” or “jazz”-oriented record to be designated as Album of the Year any time in the foreseeable future. Plus, to add insult to injury, for several years now, awards for categories deemed less consequential by the Recording Academy (including all those “classical” music awards) have no longer been doled out during the official televised ceremony, a tactic that the Academy Awards unfortunately emulated last month when it announced the award for composer of the best soundtrack off camera. (It would have been preferable to have seen this being announced live, even if it was for yet another award for Hans Zimmer.)

Still, there are many people to celebrate among the recipients of the 64th Annual Grammy Awards, and since several that we care about deeply were excluded from the TV show and, as a result, you might have missed them, we’re shining some light on them here.

The Grammy Award that is typically a headliner for NewMusicBox, that for Best Contemporary Classical Composition, this year did not disappoint as it was awarded to a composition by Caroline Shaw (who has previously been featured on these pages). Her winning work is a five-movement percussion quartet called Narrow Sea, which was recorded on Nonesuch in a performance by Sō Percussion who are also heroes in the new music community. (This recording also received a New Music USA Project Grant.) Of course, among the other nominees for that category this year are also folks we treasure: Andy Akiho (whom we’ve also featured in NewMusicBox), the late Louis Andriessen (who, in addition to being the most influential Dutch composer, was a beloved teacher of many Americans), and an album of works composed by prior New Music USA Project Grant recipient Clarice Assad, her father Sérgio Assad, and the four members of another maverick percussion quartet Third Coast Percussion (with whom we also spoke back in 2020).

We would have also been thrilled with a win by the remaining nominee, John Batiste, who to the chagrin of some “classical music purists” was under consideration for this award for a two-minute instrumental track from We Are called “Movement 11′.” It was exciting to see that it was nominated here, a step toward breaking down the obsessive categorization of music that winds up being so exclusionary, ironically mostly toward music that falls in categories that are so rigidly defined. The Recording Academy annually gives another award called Best Instrumental Composition, for which any music except that which is deemed “classical” seems to be eligible; this year it was awarded to the late Lyle Mays, a multi-Grammy-winning pianist and composer who had worked extensively with Pat Metheny. It’s interesting as well as encouraging that Batiste was nominated for the “classical” composition award rather than this one. But it might have been even more interesting and more encouraging if, say, Shaw or Akiho had been nominated for Best Instrumental Composition.

Another encouraging sign within the Classical Grammy Awards for several years now has been a preponderance of recordings devoted to new music among the nominees and this year was no exception. It was extremely gratifying to see Jennifer Koh be recognized with the Best Classical Instrumental Solo award for her performances of solo works that she commissioned from 20 different composers during the pandemic and has made available in performances online. Although I was disappointed that Christopher Cerrone‘s terrific album The Arching Path didn’t win Best Classical Compendium, awarding the prize to Women Warriors – The Voices of Change, a live to picture symphony orchestra soundtrack to a celebration of global social justice activists featuring arrangements of music by a group of Hollywood female composers and songwriters, was another notable genre bending moment. Plus the orchestrations were done by Catherine Joy, who is a grantee of New Music USA’s Reel Change Film Fund, a five-year grants and mentorship program for composers of diverse backgrounds who have been marginalized in film composition.

It was also nice to see the Metropolitan Opera receive the Best Opera Recording for its release of Akhnaten by Philip Glass, one of the few living composers whose works have been staged there and hopefully something that will encourage the Met to present works by more living composers. And although it is not the music of a living composer, giving Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Philadelphia Orchestra the Best Orchestral Performance Award for their Deutsche Grammophon CD devoted to two symphonies by Florence Price makes an important statement about the importance of this early 20th century African American female composer, the first black woman to have a composition of hers played by a major orchestra and whose output is finally getting recognition nearly 70 years after her death. For this same reason, though, it was disturbing that Yo Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax, two undeniably significant musicians, received the Best Chamber Music Award for yet another recording of the Beethoven’s oeuvre for cello and piano when all the other nominated recordings were devoted to music by living composers. Maybe it’s the best recording eve made of these five sonatas and three sets of variations, but it has a lot of stiff historic competition whereas none of the music on any of the other nominated recordings in this category has ever been previously recorded.

As for jazz, the late Chick Corea received yet another posthumous Grammy for Best Improvised Jazz Solo, the second year in a row that he has gotten this accolade. While Chick Corea was unarguably one of the finest keyboard soloists, the other (still living) nominees–Jon Batiste (there he is again), Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Kenny Barron, and Terence Blanchard (another member of the exclusive club of living composers whose music has been presented by the Metropolitan Opera)–are equally worthy musicians. And so are countless others who were not even nominated for this category which this year, along with Best Jazz Instrumental Album (given to Skyline, a trio effort by Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette and Gonzalo Rubalcaba), seemed to be only eligible to male musicians. At least an album by 2015 Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition winner Jazzmeia Horn was among the nominees for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, though it lost out to For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver, an album by the Christian McBride Big Band, and Brazilian pianist/composer Elaine Elias captured Best Latin Jazz Album award for Mirror, Mirror, an album of duets with (again) Chick Corea and Chucho Valdéz (who completed the remaining tracks after Corea died). All the more reason why there need to be initiatives like Next Jazz Legacy, a national apprenticeship program for women and non-binary improvisers in jazz that was launched earlier this year by New Music USA the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice.

The Grammys at least are aware that women are great jazz singers and this year’s award for Best Jazz Vocal Album was given to Songwrights Apothecary Lab, the eighth studio album by Esperanza Spalding, who plays bass and piano on this album in addition to singing. Again, though it’s wonderful to see Spalding repeatedly recognized for vital work (it’s her fifth Grammy), categorizing this music limits her identity and also pigeonholes this album (a collection of 12 pieces of music that Spalding calls “formwelas” rather than songs), ultimately diminishing the significance of her ongoing post-genre accomplishments.

Several other category-defying artists were also honored, albeit through awards in specific categories. Best Folk Album was awarded to They’re Calling Me Home, the latest recording by Rhiannon Giddens, who is equally versed in bluegrass, blues, R&B, gospel, and Celtic music, and co-composed an opera that will receive its world premiere in May at the Spoleto Festival. And Arooj Aftab, whose music is a fascinating amalgam of post-minimalist classical music, jazz, electronica, and traditional Sufi music, was awarded the amorphously worded Best Global Music Performance award for “Mohabbat,” a track from her New Amsterdam album Vulture Prince. (Note: Giddens serves on New Music USA’s Advisory Council while Aftab serves on the Program Council.) One final awardee also worth mentioning here is Béla Fleck who received an award for Best Bluegrass Album even though his stylistic proclivities are rarely straightjacketed into any single genre.

So a lot of recordings of great music did get recognized yesterday, but hopefully if more people hear them as a result of this attention they will realize that these recordings contain music that is so much more than the category names that have been placed on them in order to honor them.

 

2022 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award Winners Announced

ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Awards Logo

The ASCAP Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2022 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards. The recipients, who receive cash awards, are selected through a juried national competition. All in all, 21 composers were awarded and an additional 6 received honorable mention. Through a partnership with the Newport Festivals Foundation, one of this year’s Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards recipients will be featured by the Newport Jazz Festival.

A montage of photos of all the winners and honorable mentions in the 2022 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composers Awards

Photos of all the 2022 ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award Recipients and Honorable Mentions. Top row pictured from left to right: Evan Abounassar, Ben Beckman, Sonya Belaya, Max Bessesen, Gabriel Chakarji, Jessica Curran, Sebastian de Urquiza;
Second row pictured from left to right: Michael R. Dudley Jr., Joseph Durben, Quinn Dymalski, Conner Eisenmenger, Eliana Fishbeyn, Kira Daglio Fine, Brandon Goldberg;
Third row pictured from left to right: Vicente Hansen, Ennis Suavengco Harris, Daiki Nakajima, Yu Nishiyama, Robert Perez, Gary (Kaiji) Wang, and Griffin Woodard;
Last row pictured from left to right: Claire Dickson, Michael Echaniz, Amanda Ekery, Chase Elodia, Peyton Nelesen, and Malcolm Xiellie.

Below is a complete list of the 2022 Recipients along with information about their award-winning compositions which, where possible, are linked to sites where you can hear them.

Evan Abounassar (b. 1999 in Yorba Linda, CA and currently still based there):
Nischala (Unwavering) for trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, synthesizer, bass, and drum set [4’10”];

Benjamin Beckman (b. 2000 in Los Angeles CA; now based in New Haven CT): Voyage for jazz combo [46′];

Sonya Belaya (b. 1994 in Russia; now based in Brooklyn, NY):
sympathetic, nervous, ladder for piano, string quartet, drums/percussion, tenor saxophone, and guitar [8’52”];

Max Bessesen (b. 1994 in Denver, CO; now based in NYC):
Bakkam for alto saxophone, piano, acoustic bass, and drum set [7’20];

Gabriel Chakarji (b. 1993 in Caracas, Venezuela; now based in Brooklyn, NY):
Voices for full orchestra [4’31”];

Jessica Curran (b. 1993 in Sandwich, MA; now based in Boston, MA):
Returning for voice, guitar, piano, bass, and drums [5’25”];

Kira Daglio Fine (b. 1996 in Boston, MA and still based there):
The Towers for big band [6’19”];

Michael R. Dudley Jr. (b. 1994 in Cincinnati, OH; now based in Potsdam, NY):
Overture to The Before And After Times (“Tendrils”) for big band [8’11”];

Joseph Durben (b. 2004 in Buffalo, MN and still based there):
Tachyon for jazz big band with 2 flutes [10’27”];

Quinn Dymalski (b. 1998 in Park City, UT; currently based in Los Angeles, CA):
Buried for big band [5’43”];

Conner Eisenmenger (b. 1992 in Louisville, KY; currently in Seattle, WA):
Choice Paralysis for trombone, tenor saxophone, piano, acoustic bass, and drum set [4’26”];

Eliana Fishbeyn (b. 1996 Chapel Hill, NC; now based in NYC):
Unknown Knowns for big band [7’12”];

Brandon Goldberg (b. 2006 in Florida and still based there):
Authority for trumpet, saxophone, piano, bass, and drums [7’04”];

Vicente Hansen (b. 1992 in Santiago, Chile; now in Brooklyn, NY):
Reptilian for piano, bass, and drums [6’32”];

Ennis Suavengco Harris (b. 1998 in Exeter, CA; now in Los Angeles, CA):
Portrait Poem for chamber orchestra plus jazz septet [8’06”];

Daiki Nakajima (b. 2002 in Tokyo, Japan; now based in San Jose, CA):
Nostalgic Already for big band [7’54”];

Yu Nishiyama (b. 1994 in Yokohama, Japan; now based in Hawthorne, NJ):
Retrospections for 17-piece big band [10′];

Robert A. Perez (b. 1993 in Chino Hills, CA; now in Los Angeles, CA):
The Flowers Bloom for organ and piano [10’46”];

Sebastián de Urquiza (b. 1992 in Boston, MA; now in NYC):
The Ordeal (Suite) for trumpet, alto and tenor sax, trombone, guitar, piano, piano synth, double bass, drums, and vocals [40’20”];

Gary (Kaiji) Wang (b. 1996 in Miami, FL and still based there):
Souvenir for 13-piece big band [11’26”];

Griffin Woodard (b. 1998 in Bethlehem, PA; now based in Boston, MA):
Kyrie for big band [6’43”].

Composers receiving Honorable Mention this year are:

Claire Dickson (b. 1997 Medford, MA; now in Brooklyn, NY):
Thrill of Still for voice, trumpet, electronic drums, synths, bells and other found percussion [2’47”];

Michael Echaniz (b. 1994 in Oakland, CA; now in Los Angeles, CA):
Clockwork (Un Carillon De Musique, Dans La Fumeé Poétique) for tubular bells, 2 violins, 4 female vocal layers (soprano), electric piano, B3 organ, piano, double bass, and drum set [12’25”];

Amanda Ekery (b. 1994 in El Paso, TX; now in NYC):
Three Days for voice, viola, alto sax, oud, piano, bass, and percussion [4’13”];

Chase Elodia (b. 1994 in Norwalk, CT; now in Brooklyn, NY):
Portrait Imperfect for voice, EWI, keyboard, electric bass, and drums [5’46”];

Peyton Nelesen (b. 2007 in Chicago IL; currently based in California):
Wouldn’t You Like to Know? for big band with a second piano and a guitar [8’44”];

Malcolm Xiellie (b. 2007 in California and still based there):
Tribute to George for solo piano [8’18”].

The ASCAP composer/judges for the 2022 competition were: Fabian Almazan, Chuck Owen and Camille Thurman. Established in 2002, the program recognizes gifted young jazz composers up to the age of 30. It carries the name of composer, trumpeter, arranger, and bandleader Herb Alpert in recognition of The Herb Alpert Foundation’s multi-year financial commitment to the program. Additional funding for the program is provided by The ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund.

 

Ukraine’s Musical Front

A guitar and fiddle duo performing.

What happens to music and its makers amidst the terrors of war? Does art become more profound or utterly irrelevant to the survival of the moment? Can one keep making music under such stress? As Western orchestras, choirs, chamber groups and soloists scramble to find music by Ukrainian composers, and record renditions of the Ukrainian anthem, what is happening to the musicians who must live through this nightmare firsthand?

Life as I knew it ended on the night of February 23, 2022. My parents, my sister, and I had just sat down to celebrate some good news. We were happily raising our wine-filled glasses when my mom’s phone rang. It was her brother calling from Slovenia, at 5 am his time, voice cracking, “Zhenya, it started. They are bombing Kyiv. They are bombing every city.” His wife back in Kyiv was hearing explosions. I had never heard him cry before. Slavic men rarely cry. Still holding our wine glasses, we began frantically calling our loved ones. I can never erase from my memory the nightmare conversation with my cousin back in Kherson, a small city in southern Ukraine which is now famous all over the world because its civilian population rose up against the Russian occupying forces. Sobbing, she asked me to take care of her 18-year-old son, who is studying in Slovakia. This is not a request I ever want to hear again.

This is the unique horror of witnessing an invasion of your homeland from afar in this modern age of connectivity. By the time a piece of news hits the newspapers, we have already heard it from our relatives and friends, or through the various Viber and Telegram channels which post a constant stream of updates from all over Ukraine. I spent the first several days endlessly scrolling through them looking for mentions of the neighborhoods where my loved ones live. Air raid siren in Kyiv. Residential building hit in Brovary. Video of a stolen tank being pulled by an old tractor, the tank driver running after it. Fierce fighting for control over a major bridge to Kherson. Pictures of burned out buildings in Kharkiv. Video of civilians throwing Bandera Smoothies (formerly known as Molotov Cocktails) at a tank from the windows of a speeding car, hair almost catching on fire. Explosions. Explosions. Explosions. You are completely informed every minute of every day and utterly powerless.

This nightmare is of course nothing compared to what Ukrainians are living through back there, in Ukraine. We cheer on the Ukrainian soldiers who appear to be superhuman as they wipe out entire columns of Russian troops. We laugh in amazement at the extraordinary creativity and bravery of ordinary people who are disabling military equipment by the most ingenious means. But casualties are mounting and the destruction is catastrophic. I have never been more proud to be Ukrainian. I have never been in this much pain. It makes my muscles spasm and glues my kidneys to my ribcage. I am mostly running on adrenaline, trying to frantically do whatever I can to help from afar. There’s not much time for crying, but sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the question, “How is this our life right now?” I take a jar of soup from the fridge and after staring at it for a while, I think: “I made this before the war.”

Taras Kompanichenko in a Ukrainian military uniform with a bandura.

Here’s a photo of Taras Kompanichenko in the uniform of the territorial defense, the volunteer forces of largely ordinary people helping to protect the cities and towns of Ukraine. Taras, who is holding a kobza (a lute-like instrument that is probably the most recognizable symbol of Ukrainian culture), is officially enlisted as a musician offering psychological aid and morale boosting for the troops. He’s one of the men you see performing in the cellar in the photos below. Taras, a multi-instrumentalista National Artist of Ukraine.

Iryna Danyleiko is a folk singer and ethnomusicologist who works for the Ivan Honchar Museum in Kyiv and the Kyiv Laboratory of Ethnomusicology. She is also a cofounder of ЕГЕ Films, a grassroots effort to document and preserve Ukrainian rural culture. I met her in 2012 during a trip funded by the Canada Council for the Arts to reconnect with my Ukrainian roots. She took me on expeditions to villages in the regions surrounding Chernihiv, where we recorded elderly women, the last carriers of the oral singing tradition. The city itself has been bombed. There’s fighting all over that region now. I hope these women, some of whom have lived through WWII, are okay.

In addition to her extensive field work in the Chernihivshchina region, Iryna has also traveled through the areas surrounding the Chernobyl nuclear power station, which is currently under the control of utterly insane Russian troops. Iryna and I were only a year old when the Chernobyl nuclear reactor exploded in 1986. I suffered some health consequences during the following year. The implications of Russia’s control over the still active remains is terrifying for the whole world. What kind of evil, what kind of stupidity shoots at a nuclear power station? Ukraine has multiple stations like this, including the largest one in Europe, Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, all of which are being targeted. Do those watching from afar even realize what this means?

Iryna and her singing partner Halyna Honcharenko, a doctor who is continuing to work in a hospital in Kyiv, recorded this folksong in a Chernobyl forest a few years ago. Iryna’s Facebook post from March 4, 2022 reads, “I will always remember the Chernobyl silence. The silence, which inhabited this place and enveloped it over the last 35 years, has lulled and preserved everything that surrounds it. Absolute peace. Today it’s been 9 days since this silence has been shattered. Suddenly, brutally, horrendously, foully. We will never forget. We will never forgive.”

Two women are facing each other in the middle of a forest in this still from a video posted on Iryna Danylejko's Facebook wall
The video is posted in a public Facebook post.

Iryna was among the millions of Kyiv residents who woke up to the sounds of explosions on the morning of what for them was February 24. The next day, she grabbed her three children and fled to her parents’ home in Chernivtsi, a beautiful city close to the Romanian border. A few days ago, I received a chilling voice message from her. For more than four minutes, all I could hear was the wail of an air raid siren, the relentless ringing of a bell, dogs barking, her breathing. We exchanged the following messages:

Iryna: …this is even beautiful…the first time I’m hearing it. I’m hiding my children.

Me: I love you all. Hang tight.

(a little later)

Me: I heard something similar in a small town in Kansas where every Monday they test their tornado siren.

Iryna: Good for them! Ours just got fixed 🙂 🙂

Me: Glad no one fixed the roads in the villages. Now [Russian] equipment gets stuck on them.

Iryna: Oh…our poor Chernihivshchina…I will try calling the ladies tomorrow…no more expeditions…

Even amidst this extreme tension, her musician’s soul was able to appreciate the sonic beauty of this terrifying sound. Her Ukrainian mentality noted the humor of my comparison to the American town. Her ethnomusicologist’s habits made her reach for her recorder. She’s doing a different kind of field work now. She’s documenting a different legacy. When I reached out to her asking if the last 11 days have changed her relationship to music, she sent me another recording of the air raid siren, her voice now marking the date and location: March 7, 2022, Chernivtsi.

Two musicians performing on traditional Ukrainian instruments near shelves of preserves.

Taras Kompanichenko and Oleh But singing and playing bandura and fiddle while sheltering in a cellar bunker located in a house outside Kyiv during an air raid. You can see the stereotypical Ukrainian homemade preserves behind them. People are always prepared!

Meanwhile in Kyiv, the Ukrainian-American musician and instrument maker Jurij Fedynskyj is performing with a group of musicians in the metro, at railway stations and in bomb shelters to raise the spirits of local civilians and fighters. Jurij’s family emigrated from Ukraine to the United States several generations ago. In his early twenties he felt moved to return to his ancestral homeland, to relearn the language, and to dedicate his life to the restoration of the kobzar tradition, which was deliberately destroyed by the Soviet government. Originating in the 16th century as a form of resistance to Russian imperial expansion, kobzars were itinerant musicians, often blind, who accompanied their singing with bandura, kobza, or lira. The repertoire is often spiritual, historical, or political in nature, reminiscent of some genres of the troubadour tradition in medieval France. The words to the song “A cloud rises,” which Jurij recorded in late 2019, are eerily fitting for this moment, speaking to hundreds of years of Ukraine’s fight against imperial control and oppression.

A cloud rises over the estuary,
Another from the field.
Ukraine has sunk in sorrow,
Such is its fate.

Sunk in sorrow, weeping,
Like a little child,
No one is coming to rescue her.
The cossacks are dying.

Since his arrival in Ukraine, Jurij has been preparing for this invasion. Given Russia’s current and historical stance towards Ukraine, he saw it as inevitable. Russian propaganda has been relentlessly preparing Russia’s population to accept this atrocity. Jurij and his wife settled in Kryachkivka, a village in the Poltava region, famous for its traditional singing. There they set up a workshop dedicated to rebuilding traditional instruments, scouring museums and archives for drawings and examples of instruments which had largely ceased to exist, while planting vegetables on their plot of land. Every summer, enthusiasts from all over the world gather at the Kobzarskiy Tabir-Kryachkivka (Kobzar Camp) to make instruments and share music. Year after year, I keep meaning to go. I hope there’s still somewhere to go when this is all over. Jurij formally invited me when we talked several days ago.

Jurij managed to send his wife and four children to the U.S. just days before the invasion began, but decided to stay behind to defend his homeland with music. He is with a group of musicians who perform both traditional and contemporary repertoire, creating new, living developments of this 500-year-old practice. Jurij could have ran to the safety of his birthplace, but he chose to stay in his spiritual homeland in order to continue his work. When I spoke to him several days ago, he was filled with optimism and spiritual fervor. Yes, he said, the first couple of days were terrifying and some moments of active shelling are still scary, but once he realized that he is exactly where he needs to be, doing what he needs to do, his fear vanished. “Anna, we feel amazing!” He is convinced that he is guided by God. Every day his group drives to Kyiv from their rented house in a town on the outskirts. They have a mission, in the Biblical sense. They believe that Ukraine will prevail.

A little over 300 km (208 miles) west of Kyiv in the small city of Rivne lives another modern-day kobzar or lirnyk, Andriy Lyashuk. Andriy primarily plays the lira, the Ukrainian version of the hurdy-gurdy, a stringed instrument bowed with a rosined wheel operated by a crank. In addition to several drone strings, the instrument has one or more melody strings operated by a basic wooden keyboard. Most Ukrainian examples are diatonic.

A song that Andriy recorded in 2020 also has an unsettling resonance in the current invasion. This version of the traditional spiritual song “How St. Georgiy defeated the snake” was recorded in the village Krupove in the region surrounding Rivne. It details the legend of St. Georgiy who defeated a giant man-eating snake that lived in the sea. On the first day of the invasion, a small island in the Black Sea, Zmiinyi or Snake Island, became famous the world over after the 13 border guards stationed there refused to surrender to a Russian warship, telling it to “f*ck off.” This final phrase, “Russian warship, f*ck off,” has become the rallying cry for Ukrainians all over the world.

Andriy’s wife Natalka managed to flee to Warsaw, Poland with their one-year-old son Bohuslav. “The Poles are holy people doing more for them than we could have imagined,” wrote Andriy in a text message to me. Ukrainian men between the ages of 18 and 60 are forbidden from leaving the country according to martial law imposed hours after the invasion began. So Andriy has stayed behind to do what he can for his homeland. He owns a print shop, which normally prints advertising banners and posters. Now he’s printing humorous and motivational posters, banners, and stickers aimed at boosting Ukrainian morale and depressing the Russian occupying forces. The Ukrainian government has issued an official call encouraging businesses to replace their regular advertising with banners telling the Russian troops where to go, usually back to Russia in not very polite terms.

A series of stickers with illustrations and commentary in Ukrainian.

Stickers that Andriy Lyashuk is currently printing. Some translations, clockwise from top left:
1. “Love is…when the Russian tanks burn”
2. “What to do when a Russian occupant wants to surrender” (legitimate information)
3. “Ukrainian Armed Forces, hang in there! I still have to marry one of you.”

In the evenings, Andriy picks up his instrument. Like Jurij, he believes that music can be a weapon against the occupiers, acting as Ukraine’s moral-psychological front. “Many musicians have joined the ranks of the territorial defense and various volunteer organizations. In addition to that, they are using music as a powerful motivational tool, which unites us and gives us strength.” Videographers from Kyiv are currently turning one of the songs Andriy performs into a video to add to a collection of Ukraine’s heroic tradition. “Music is our front, our resistance, our future victory.” Slava Ukraini. Heroyam Slava.

If you want to offer financial support directly to Ukrainian musicians, or simply to make connections with musicians working in your sphere, please contact Anna Pidgorna at [email protected] or reach out over Facebook. Anna and her friends are currently sending money through direct transfer to Ukrainian musicians in need. Her network is mostly focused on artists working in folk, contemporary classical, and experimental electronic music.

Zori Ameliko sitting on a street in Kyiv playing a kobza.

Zori Ameliko playing a bandura on a street in Kyiv on March 4, 2022

Tania León Orchestral Work Stride Awarded 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music

Tania León has been awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her orchestra work Stride which received its world premiere in a performance by The New York Philharmonic conducted by Jaap van Zweden in David Geffen Hall in New York City on February 13, 2020. According to the Pulitzer Prize guidelines, the annually awarded $15,000 prize is for “a distinguished musical composition by an American that has had its first performance or recording in the United States during the previous year.” The Pulitzer citation describes Stride as “a musical journey full of surprise, with powerful brass and rhythmic motifs that incorporate Black music traditions from the US and the Caribbean into a Western orchestral fabric.” Published by Peermusic Classical, Stride was one of 19 commissions of the New York Philharmonic as part of its Project 19 initiative commemorating the centenary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the United States constitution which established that women have the right to vote.

“I don’t know what to say!” said Tania León during a telephone conversation minutes after the announcement. “All the women that motivated me to do this: I am the product of my grandmother. My mother and my grandmother were both maids when they were eight years old. And Susan B. Anthony and all the suffragettes inspired me. I think of all these women and I want to honor them.”

The announcement of the Pulitzer Prizes, which traditionally take place in the Columbia University Journalism Building and are scheduled on the third Monday of April, were delayed again this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, this year’s announcement was made online by Pulitzer Prize co-chairs Mindy Marqués and Stephen Engelberg via a stream posted this Friday afternoon on the Pulitzer website and on YouTube.

Also nominated as finalists for the 2021 music prize were: Place by Ted Hearne (released on New Amsterdam Records on April 3, 2020) which is described in the Pulitzer citation as “a brave and powerful work, marked by effective vocal writing and multiple musical genres, that confronts issues of gentrification and displacement in Fort Greene,” and Maria Schneider’s Data Lords (a recording released by the Maria Schneider Orchestra on July 24, 2020 via ArtistShare), which is described in the citation as “an enveloping musical landscape of light and shadow, rendered by the many personalities of a large jazz ensemble, reflecting the promise of a digital paradise contrasted by a concentration of power and the loss of privacy.”

Tania León was the very first individual composer featured in conversation in NewMusicBox back in August 1999. You can read a complete transcript of that conversation here. Tania León is one of the eight composers involved in New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program and Stride is one of the six works submitted by New Music USA in consideration for performance during the 2021 International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) World New Music Days in Shanghai scheduled for September 2021.

The jury for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize in Music was: John V. Brown, Jr. (Chair), Vice Provost, Arts, Duke University; Regina Carter, Jazz Violinist, Maywood, N.J.; Ellen Reid, Composer/Sound Artist, New York City (and prior winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Music, in 2019); John Schaefer, Host, “New Sounds,” WNYC Radio; and Christopher J. Washburne, Composer/Trombonist; Professor of Music, Columbia University.

2021 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Awards Announced

The ASCAP Foundation has announced the 21 recipients and 17 honorable mentions of the 2021 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, which encourage talented 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 Fund, the program grants cash prizes to concert music composers up to 30 years of age whose works are selected through a juried national competition. These composers may be American citizens, permanent residents or students possessing U.S. student visas. The annual ASCAP Foundation Young Composer program was renamed to honor the memory of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Morton Gould, who served as President of ASCAP and The ASCAP Foundation from 1986 to 1994, following his death in 1996 to honor his lifelong commitment to encouraging young creators and his own start as a child prodigy. The 2021 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards composers/judges were: Chen Yi, Anthony Cheung, Jonathan Bailey Holland, Caroline Mallonee, James Matheson, Matt Van Brink, and Dalit Warshaw.

The 21 recipients of the 2021 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards and their award-winning works are listed below with the composers’ place of origin and current residence. Recipients under the age of 18 are listed by state of residence:

Alex Berko (b. 1995 in Solon, OH) of Houston, TX: Among Waves for full orchestra [12′]
Paul Berlinsky (b. 1994 in North Miami Beach, FL) of Kansas City, MO: The Inner Light for wind quintet [9′]
Alistair Coleman (b. 1998 in Washington, D.C.) of Philadelphia, PA: Sonata for trombone and piano [16′]
Julián Fueyo (b. 1996 in Tampico, Mexico) of New Haven, CT: Serpiente de Turquesas for violin and orchestra [12′]
Brittany J. Green (b. 1991 in Raleigh, NC) of Durham, NC: Rencontras for string quartet [8′]
Moni Guo (b. 1993 in Taiyuan, Shanxi, China) of Los Angeles, CA: Rays of the After-rain Evening Sun for full orchestra [8′]
Patrick Holcomb (b. 1996 in Fairfax, VA) of Ocean View, DE: The Harvest of the Amulet of the Deer for mezzo-soprano and sinfonietta [11′]
Soomin Kim (b. 1995 in Uijeongbu, South Korea) of New Haven, CT: THE EIGHTH SONG for three violas [13′]
Chelsea Komschlies (b. 1991 in Appleton, WI) of Montreal, Canada: Hexactinellida for chamber orchestra [8′]
Piyawat Louilarpprasert (b. 1993 in Bangkok, Thailand) of Ithaca, NY: scattered bones for full orchestra [13′]
Wenbin Lyu (b. 1994 in Liaoning, China) of Cincinnati, OH: Germination for chamber orchestra [10′]
Jorge Machain (b. 1993 in Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico) of Henderson, NV: The Espresso Express, a drum set concerto with wind orchestra [17′]
Christopher O’Brien (b. 2002 in Los Angeles, CA) of Pacific Palisades, CA: LETHE for full orchestra [17′]
Marco-Adrián Ramos (b. 1995 in Springdale, AR) of Gravette, AR: Guadalupe o Retablo for chamber orchestra [18′]
Ben Robichaux (b. 1991 in Thibodaux, LA) of Thibodaux, LA: As the Lights Go Out for wind ensemble and quadrophonic electronics [15′]
Ari Sussman (b. 1993 Elkins Park, PA) of Ann Arbor, MI: Higaleh Nah for solo soprano, solo viola, SATB chorus, and piano [8′]
Siqi Wang (from Henan Province, China) of Kansas City, MO: Three Bagatelles for wind quintet [11′]
Emily Webster-Zuber of Los Angeles, CA: Ocean Waves for string quartet [9′]
Brady Wolff (from Kansas City, MO) of Lake Winnebago, MO: String Quartet [32′]
Elizabeth Younan (b. 1994 in Sydney, Australia) formerly from Philadelphia, PA and currently in Australia: Woodwind Quintet No. 2 ‘Kismet’ [6′]
Hao Zou (from Huaibei, Anhui, China) of Kansas City, MO: Song on the Wind for full orchestra [6′]

Photos of all the composers who have either won or received an honorable mention in the 2021 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards.

The following 16 composers received Honorable Mention (recipients under the age of 18 are listed by state of residence):

Hannah A. Barnes (b. 1997 in Geneva, IL) of Chicago, IL: five images for clarinet/bass clarinet, violin/viola, harp, and percussion [9′]
Olivia Bennett (b. 2002 in Springfield, MO) of Houston, TX: Mass for string quartet [7′]
Luke Blackburn (b. 1992 in Ocala, FL) of Seattle, WA: Menagerie of Spectacular Creatures: Insecta for flute (doubling piccolo and alto flute), clarinet (doubling bass clarinet), violin, violoncello, and harp [25′]
Lucy Chen of MD: The Magic Forest at Night for 14 musicians [8′]
Emily DeNucci (from Springfield, MA) of Somers, CT: The Evolution of Climate Change for trombone, tuba, and piano [12′]
Joe Jaxson (b. 2000 in New York, NY) of Staunton, VA: Perservering for flute, clarinet, violin, violoncello, piano, and percussion [10′]
Marco Jiminez (from Miami, FL) of St. Petersburg, FL: Requiem Mass “de Angelis” for large mixed ensemble [28′]
Quinn Mason (b. 1996 in Dallas, TX) of Dallas, TX: A Joyous Trilogy for full orchestra [17′]
Sophie Mathieu (from Bedford, TX) of Austin, TX: moons for full orchestra [12′]
Celka Ojakangas (b. 1992 in Springfield, MO) of Los Angeles, CA: Sploopy for sinfonietta [29′]
Luca Pasquini (b. 2004) of CO: Danse Orphique for string quartet [16′]
Yash Pazhianur of NJ: Impulses for orchestra [17′]
Aaron S. Ricucci-Hill (b. 1992 in Troy, MO) of Kansas City, MO: Colors of Pride for wind quintet [10′]
Daniel Sabzghabei (b. 1992 in Denton, TX) of Ithaca, NY: At any rate II. “what remains” for singing string quartet and record player [9′]
Winston Schneider of NE: Expiculating Quintet for clarinet, bassoon, violin, viola, and violoncello [8′]
Sami Seif (b. 1998 in Keserwan, Lebanon) of Cleveland, OH: Orientalism for string quartet [14′]
Danae Venson (from Austin, TX) of Houston, TX: Riot! I. Peace for 2 pianos, contrabass, Drums, Congas, Rainstick, Shaker, Tambourine, Den-Den, Daiko, and drums [4′]

Additionally, Paul Berlinsky was recognized by the panel with the 2021 Leo Kaplan Award created in memory of the distinguished attorney who served as ASCAP Special Distribution Advisor. The award is funded by the Kaplan Family.

In addition to The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth Fund, The ASCAP Foundation Irving Caesar Fund also provides financing for the Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. Caesar was best known as the lyricist of “Tea for Two” and “Swanee,” while Jack Norworth wrote such standards as “Shine On Harvest Moon” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

New Music USA Submissions for the 2021 ISCM World New Music Days

The logo of ISCM

New Music USA has submitted six works for consideration in the call for scores for the 2021 International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) World New Music Days which, pandemic willing, is scheduled to take place in Shanghai and Nanning from September 17-25, 2021. Each of these six works is by a composer who was chosen to participate in New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program, which was launched in January 2020 to promote marginalized voices in orchestral music and now involves a consortium of 35 American orchestras. Since orchestral music is only one of 12 categories in this year’s call for scores, and each of these composers has created vital work in a wide range of instrumentations, New Music USA has submitted three orchestral scores and three works scored for other combinations. The six composers are Valerie Coleman, Tania León, Jessie Montgomery, Brian Raphael Nabors, Nina Shekhar, and Shelley Washington.

Every year since 1923, with the exception of hiatuses during World War II (1943-45) and the global COVID-19 pandemic (2020), there has been a festival of new music presented somewhere in the world under the aegis of the ISCM, which is a global network of organizations devoted to the promotion and presentation of the music of our time. Some now canonical contemporary music compositions which have received their world premiere performances during these annual ISCM festivals include Alban Berg’s Violin Concerto (posthumously), Pierre Boulez’s Le marteau sans maître, Hindemith’s Clarinet Quintet, György Ligeti’s Apparitions, George Perle’s Six Etudes for solo piano, Stockhausen’s Kontakte, Isang Yun’s Third String Quartet, and one sixth of Anton Webern’s published output. These festivals have also had a laudable track record in embracing a wide diversity of new music aesthetics and have been historically way ahead of the curve in showcasing tons of emerging composers, in particular, some significant female composers relatively early in their artistic trajectories: Joan La Barbara, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Ruth Crawford-Seeger, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Canada’s Barbara Pentland, Chile’s Leni Alexander, Serbia’s Ljubica Marić, Korea’s Unsuk Chin, etc. Zwilich and Chin have both credited the ISCM for helping to launch their compositional careers.

For each year’s festival, member organizations submit six pieces of music for consideration in a call for scores. If the member’s submissions follow the ISCM guidelines (the six works must be in at least four different categories of instrumentation, which varies each year), then at least one work must be selected for performance in the festival to ensure that new music from all over the world is presented each year. Many member organizations hold specific competitions to select their six submitted works. Each year New Music USA, which has been a member of the ISCM since 2014, submits six works which have been previously vetted through our various grant programs or through various initiatives for which New Music USA has served as a partner (e.g. EarShot, the Minnesota Orchestra’s Composer Institute, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s Edward T. Cone Composition Institute). Composers whose New Music USA submitted works were previously performed during the ISCM World New Music Days include Katherine Bergman, Chen Yao, Saad Haddad, Geoffrey Hudson, and Missy Mazzoli.

New Music USA’s submissions for the 2021 ISCM World New Music Days are three orchestral compositions and three works scored for other combinations.

A composite of photos of Valerie Coleman, Tania León, Jessie Montgomery, Shelley Washington, Brian Raphael Nabors, and Nina Shekhar.

The six composers whose works have been submitted by New Music USA in the 2021 ISCM World New Music Days call for scores: (top row) Valerie Coleman, Tania León, Jessie Montgomery; (bottom row) Shelley Washington, Brian Raphael Nabors, and Nina Shekhar.

Valerie Coleman (b. 1970): Seven O’Clock Shout for orchestra (2020)
Seven O’Clock Shout is a declaration of our survival,” says composer Valerie Coleman. “It is something that allows us our agency to take back the kindness that is in our hearts and the emotions that cause us such turmoil. … We cheer on the essential workers with a primal and fierce urgency to let them know that we stand with them and each other.” Seven O’Clock Shout was commissioned by The Philadelphia Orchestra which is the consortium lead for a future commission by Valerie Coleman as part of the Amplifying Voices program. Seven O’Clock Shout, which received its world premiere in a physically-distanced performance by The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by music director Yannick Nézet-Séguin during the League of American Orchestras’ Virtual Conference in 2020, has become the orchestra’s anthem in response to COVID-19. In addition to honoring frontline workers, this special commission celebrates the strength of human connection even during times of isolation. (Read and/or listen to a conversation with Valerie Coleman.)

Valerie Coleman: Seven O’Clock Shout
Performed by The Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin

Tania León (b. 1943): Stride for orchestra (2019)
Stride is a single-movement orchestral composition which was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and the Oregon Symphony as part of the New York Philharmonic’s “Project 19,” an initiative commissioning new works by 19 female composers in honor of the centennial of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which extended voting rights to women. It was first performed by the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Jaap van Zweden in David Geffen Hall at New York City’s Lincoln Center on February 13, 2020. The piece is dedicated “In honor of Susan B. Anthony and to the visionaries Deborah Borda and Jaap van Zweden.” Composer Tania León, who will create a new work for the Arkansas Symphony as the lead commissioner in the Amplifying Voices consortium, has acknowledged that Stride was also inspired by her progressive grandmother. The work’s title refers to the action of moving forward. (Tania León was the very first individual composer interviewed for NewMusicBox back in 1999; you can read a complete transcript of that interview here.)

Tania León: Stride
Excerpts from a rehearsal by the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Jaap van Zweden.
There is no publicly available performance of the entire composition online currently, but at least there is some rehearsal footage of the New York Philharmonic posted on their YouTube page.

Nina Shekhar (b. 1995): Lumina for orchestra (2020)
According to composer Nina Shekhar, who was recently selected by the Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA) to compose a new orchestra work for which they will serve as the lead commissioner in the Amplifying Voices program, her work Lumina “explores the spectrum of light and dark and the murkiness in between. Using swift contrasts between bright, sharp timbres and cloudy textures and dense harmonies, the piece captures sudden bursts of radiance amongst the eeriness of shadows.” The work, which was written for the USC Thornton Symphony and premiered by that orchestra under the direction of Donald Crockett at USC Thornton’s Bovard Auditorium in Los Angeles, California on February 28, 2020, was awarded the 2021 ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Prize.

Nina Shekhar: Lumina
Performed by the USC Thornton Symphony conducted by Donald Crockett
Bovard Auditorium (University of Southern California) Los Angeles CA
February 28, 2000

Shelley Washington (b. 1991): Middleground for string quartet (2016)
About her string quartet Middleground, Shelley Washington writes: “MIDDLEGROUND: the space grounded, the between, the center. The Heartland. The prairie, the grasslands, Konza, Flint Hills, Manhattan, Emporia, Salina. Where we gathered. Home of the heart, heart of the home. The years spent in cars, daydreaming, scooping handfuls of wheat, racing out into amber fields, cycling together, water wheel ice cream, fireworks and apples. The stories shared, books read sprawled in the yard, family prayers over anything, late evening walks, quiet nights. Open arms, open hearts, humble and extraordinary. Together, with our wonder, our joy, we created an incredible painting with abounding colors. The kinds of colors that linger in the mind’s eye long after they are out of sight and cradle you long after goodbyes are spoken and car doors closed. The kinds that find you counting the days until the next birthday, the next holiday, the next bike ride, the next Camp, the next anything just so you can see them again. When you close your eyes you feel their warmth. They stay. The middle ground: my refuge born from the land living in my heart. Where my home is, living and breathing outside of my body, thousands of miles apart. This hallowed ground. For my family.” Middleground was first performed by the JACK Quartet in New York City in 2016 and has subsequently been performed by the Jasper String Quartet as well.

Shelley Washington: Middleground
Performed by the Jasper String Quartet
(J Freivogel and Karen Kim, violins; Sam Quintal, viola; and Rachel Henderson Freivogel, cello)
Live in concert, Jasper Chamber Concerts 2019

Jessie Montgomery (b. 1981): Duo for Violin and Cello (2015/18)
Jessie Montgomery’s Duo for Violin and Cello, also known as Three Pieces for Violin and Cello, was written for the composer’s friend and cellist Adrienne Taylor. The piece is meant as an ode to friendship with movements characterizing laughter, compassion, adventure, and sometimes silliness. Montgomery will compose an orchestral work for the Amplifying Voices program which will receive its premiere performance by its lead commissioner, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. (Jessie Montgomery was featured in a conversation on NewMusicBox in 2016.)

Jessie Montgomery: Duo for Violin and Cello
Performed by Airi Yoshioka (violin) and Alexis Gerlach (cello)

Brian Raphael Nabors (b. 1991): Énergie for flute and electronics (2015)
According to composer Brian Raphael Nabors, whose Amplifying Voices commissioned orchestral work will be premiered by its lead commissioner, the Berkeley Symphony, his 2015 work Énergie for flute and fixed-format electronics, “encompasses the very nature of energy and its purpose throughout the universe. It also uses its musical material to depict life’s everyday movements, as well as forces of nature such as wind and gravity. The flute is written in a way that captures a very expressive range of tone and timbre throughout the piece; to enhance the expressive nature of the electronics.” The electronics were created from synths using various effects such as phasing, reverb, granulation, and more. Processed vocals, educational material on the subject of energy, as well as recordings of President Barack Obama’s comments on green energy were also utilized. The work was first performed by Brittany Trotter on the Fresh Perspectives new music series launch concert at Lab Studios by Glo in Cleveland, OH in 2018.

Brian Raphael Nabors: Énergie
Performed by Timothy Hagen
Amplify, Concert No. 1, Virtual Concert
September 9, 2020

New Music USA’s Amplifying Voices program was kick-started with a generous contribution from The Sphinx Organization which selected this initiative to shift the canon for future generations as a Sphinx Venture Fund (SVF) recipient for 2020. Additional funding from the Sorel Organization and industry partners ASCAP and Wise Music Trust has enabled the program to further expand. Through a national call, New Music USA asked orchestras to come forward with proposals for co-commissions and a commitment to promote existing repertoire that deserves further performances. There are now a total of eight orchestras serving as consortium leads in the program. The other two composers involved are Tyshawn Sorey and Juan Pablo Contreras who will work with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the Las Vegas Philharmonic respectively. Other partner orchestras involved in the program include the Aspen Music Festival and School, Auburn Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, Boston Landmarks Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, California Symphony, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic, New Jersey Symphony, New World Symphony, Richmond Symphony, ROCO, and Seattle Symphony.

New Music Ushers In The Inauguration of the Next President and Vice President of the USA

The United States Capitol

UPDATED Lots of new music will usher in a new American administration on January 20, 2021. The musical selections being performed during tomorrow’s inauguration of Joseph R. Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President of the United States of America will include newly composed works for the United States Marine Band “The President’s Own” under the direction of Col. Jason K. Fettig by Kimberly K. Archer and Peter Boyer. Other works performed during the hour-long music program preceding the official swearing include pieces by Adolphus Hailstork and Julie Giroux, the subject of the most recent interview on NewMusicBox.

Kimberly Archer, Peter Boyer, Julie Giroux, Adolphus Hailstork, Kendrick Lamar, James Stephenson, and Joan Tower.

Among the composers whose music will serve as a soundtrack to the 46th U.S. Presidential Inauguration are Kimberly Archer, Peter Boyer, Julie Giroux, Adolphus Hailstork, Kendrick Lamar, James Stephenson, and Joan Tower.

Archer’s Fanfare Politeia celebrates our traditions of a free and fair election, and of a peaceful transfer of power. “This is an incredible honor,” Archer said. “If you had told my 20 year old self that someday the Marine Band would play my music, much less for a presidential inauguration, I would never have believed it.”

Boyer’s new work, Fanfare for Tomorrow, began as a brief piece for solo French horn, originally commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra last year, as part of their Fanfare Project in response to the pandemic. Boyer significantly expanded and developed that music for a full concert band for this commission. Boyer said, “In these extraordinarily challenging days for our country, I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute some optimistic music to an historic occasion, at which Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will take their oaths of office as the next President and Vice President of the United States. This commission represents one of the greatest honors of my life as an American composer.”

Hailstork’s Fanfare on “Amazing Grace” is scheduled to be performed as the second piece during the USMB’s inaugural program. This marks only the second time that music by a contemporary African American composer has been selected to be part of the repertoire performed at a presidential inauguration, according to Africlassical.com, a website on African heritage in classical music. Hailstork is working on a requiem cantata for George Floyd titled A Knee on the Neck.

Julie Giroux’s Integrity Fanfare and March is the first movement of her 2006 composition No Finer Calling which was jointly commissioned by The United States Air Force Band of Flight, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio (Lieutenant Colonel Alan Sierichs, Commander and Conductor), The United States Air Force Academy Band, Peterson AFB, Colorado (Lieutenant Colonel Steven Grimo, Commander and Conductor), and The United States Air Force Band of Liberty, Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts (Lieutenant Colonel Larry H. Lang, Commander and Conductor.

Giroux has written about the work: “Integrity, Virtue, Morality, Truthfulness, Accountability and Pride. When I thought of these words as a composer, I heard a fanfare, a processional and a march. Not all at the same time, but more of a melding of all three—a fanfare that states ‘We are here,’ a procession that states ‘We are prepared,’ and a march that states ‘Lets GO!’”

The Marine Band has also put together an “Inaugural Soundtrack” which they have posted on YouTube featuring a range of historical curiosities including marches composed for the inaugurations of Abraham Lincoln and James A. Garfield, the latter of which was composed by John Philip Sousa, as well as the newly composed Fanfare for Democracy by James Stephenson. Stephenson wrote a series of articles for NewMusicBox in 2016.)

In addition, Classical Movements, a concert touring company, has formed the Hope & Harmony Ensemble, a group consisting of 14 professional musicians from orchestras and conservatories across the country, to give a virtual brass and percussion performance in honor of the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris under the direction of conductor Marin Alsop. As stated on the Classical Movements website, “the ensemble performs two masterpieces of American classical music that perfectly represent our President- and Vice President-Elect: Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland and Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1 by Joan Tower.” The stream was posted live to YouTube exactly 24 hours before the inauguration ceremony is scheduled to take place.

Finally, last Friday, the Biden-Harris transition team released a new 46-song Inaugural playlist curated by The Raedio and D-Nice on Spotify which features tracks by A Tribe Called Quest, Beyoncé, Bruce Springsteen, The Staple Singers, Bob Marley, and Kendrick Lamar, who along with Aaron Copland is a past recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music.