Category: Headlines

The Big Man with the Big Sound–Remembering Arthur Blythe (1940-2017)

Big Arthur Blythe, the big man, with the big sound.

That’s the way I will always remember him: big sound / big heart / big laughs / big personality.

I can hear him now, saying playfully, “You’re good, but you’re not that good.”

He had many phrases of playful wisdom, but this is the one I remember most. A reminder of his humility, he was not only saying that to who ever he was speaking to, he was also reminding himself to keep searching, HUMILITY TO THE END.

He inspired me and many, many others, a great man, with the great sound.

He will be missed!

Ed. Note: This Spotify playlist of recordings by Arthur Blythe is but a small taste of his output. But whether he’s playing his own compositions or finding new ideas in a standard, you can always clearly hear his big sound.


Arthur Blythe and Oliver Lake wearing matching outfits and holding saxophones.

Arthur Blythe and Oliver Lake

30 Fellows Selected for Inaugural Blackbird Creative Lab

In addition to award winning and boundary breaking, Eighth Blackbird is adding some serious mentoring to their activities. Thirty early-career musicians have been chosen to receive fellowships to the Blackbird Creative Lab, a newly launched two-week summer training program taking place Ojai, California, this June. The selected fellows will focus on the process of creating new work, including “developing a performance aesthetic, nurturing one’s curatorial vision, and building an entrepreneurial foundation,” all of which will culminate in a pair of public concerts, June 23 and 24, at the Besant Hill School’s Zalk Theater.

In addition to Eighth Blackbird ensemble members, the faculty will include composers Jennifer Higdon and Ted Hearne, as well as director/filmmaker Mark DeChiazza. During the session, an array of guest artists will complement the faculty: composer Steve Reich, composer/performer Pamela Z, flutist/composer Ned McGowan, and from the Ojai Music Festival, curator Tom Morris and producer Elaine Martone, who also serves as director of the Blackbird Creative Lab.

More than 200 candidates applied from around the world; the 30 selected will attend tuition-free, inclusive of room and board.

They are:

Justine Aronson, soprano
Erika Boysen, flute
Dan Caputo, composer
Danny Clay, composer
Viet Cuong, composer
Jordan Curcuruto, percussion
Fjóla Evans, composer
Robert Fleitz, piano
Bryan Hayslett, cello
Molly Herron, composer
Invoke, string quartet
Molly Joyce, composer
Matt Keown, percussion
Tamara Kohler, flute
Sammy Lesnick, clarinet
Kaylie Melville, percussion
Benjamin Mitchell, clarinet
Kate Outterbridge, violin
Passepartout Duo, piano + percussion duo
Evan Saddler, percussion
Jeff Stern, percussion
Michiko Theurer, violin
Dylan Ward, saxophone
Aaron Wolff, cello
Phoebe Wu, piano
Jocelyn Zelasko, soprano

Read more about the Blackbird Creative Lab and the inaugural class of fellows here.

Du Yun Awarded 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music

Angel’s Bone by Du Yun has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music. The annually awarded $10,000 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. Angel’s Bone, which features a libretto by Royce Vavrek, received its premiere on January 6, 2016, at the Prototype Festival, 3LD Arts and Technology Center, New York City. The Pulitzer jury described it as “a bold operatic work that integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world.”

Here is Abigail Fischer singing Mrs. X.E.’s Mirror Scene from the opera:

Here is what Du Yun posted on Facebook upon learning she had received the award:

In 2014, NewMusicBox did a Spotlight of Du Yun in which she talked about Angel’s Bone and her other compositions.

Also nominated as finalists for the 2017 music prize were: Bound to the Bow by Ashley Fure which premiered on June 5, 2016 in David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City; and Ipsa Dixit by Kate Soper which premiered on December 9, 2016 at The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. For the first time in the history of the prizes, all three music finalists were women and all three were under 40 years old.

The jury for the 2017 Pulitzer Prize was: Carol Oja (Chair), William Powell Mason Professor of Music, Harvard University; Jennifer Higdon, composer and recipient of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Music; Evan Ziporyn, composer, clarinetist, and Director, Center for Art, Science & Technology and Kenan Sabin Distinguished Professor of Music, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; John V. Brown, Director of the Jazz Program and Associate Professor of the Practice of Music, Duke University; and Alex Ross, author and Music Critic for The New Yorker.

Smooth Sailing: Remembering Francis Thorne (1922-2017)

When Francis Thorne’s daughter Wendy called to tell me of Fran’s passing, she said that when she read my last note to him—which I had sent a few months earlier when his memory was nearly gone—he responded, “Oh yes. I’m F and she’s R.” Here I must admit that I’m paraphrasing his comment and will not be held accountable for any factual errors herein, due to my own aging memory. In fact, when asked to write a memorial essay about F—a.k.a. FT, Franny, or Fran to me and his many friends and acquaintances—I initially refused for fear that my memory would forsake me. But it didn’t take long for me to relent.

I hadn’t even met Francis Thorne when, as general manager of American Composers Alliance (ACA), I fought against his being hired as executive director and had to be talked into accepting the inevitable—primarily by Joan Tower during some lengthy phone conversations, as I recall. Having gone through three EDs in almost the same number of years, I was more than reluctant to have another boss running the place while the staff was doing just fine on its own. (In hindsight, perhaps I wanted the job for myself, which eventually did come to pass, but that was not part of my argument at the time.)

We met over lunch, with Joan, I think. In any case this handsome, charming, composer/administrator/businessman won me over within the hour, and it was smooth sailing after that. In Fran’s case, smooth sailing isn’t a cliché. He was in the Navy during WWII and had a tattoo on his arm to prove it.  (I never did get used to seeing him in short sleeved shirts.) Come to think of it, he wasn’t all that much of a businessman: having received a sizeable inheritance, he fled Wall Street and proceeded to set up the Thorne Fund, giving away the bulk of his money to needy composers. But he was well-connected, which came in handy later on when he founded the ACO. Meanwhile, he was good for ACA, and it was good for him. The only time I ever felt that Fran was my boss was when he summarily fired our bookkeeper, whom I had hired and considered a friend. There was no discussing it with him.

To celebrate ACA’s 50th anniversary, Fran decided to mount a concert of contemporary chamber music by ACA composers. It was a huge success, and we all agreed that what the city needed now was a group dedicated to contemporary orchestra music—the now-famous American Composer Orchestra (ACO). Since F was still ED of ACA at the time, the two operations were closely connected. I was appointed a member of the ACO board, and the ACA secretary took the notes at its meetings. Until Fran left to take full-time care of the infant orchestra, he shuffled between ACA’s office and outside appointments with potential funders. He knew well the value of visibility, and sometimes he got totally wrapped up in it. On several occasions when I went with him to a party or some other affair, looking to establish or strengthen connections, we’d enter together, but long before the evening was over—having seen and been seen—F would just leave me there without a goodbye. I got used to it eventually.

Despite the fact that Franny was a composer of serious concert music (jazz-inflected as it often was), he cherished his time as a performer in the New York jazz clubs, and he continued to play piano and sing the American songbook whenever and wherever he had an opportunity. In our phone conversations during his last years in an assisted living community, he often said that performing for his friends there was one of his joys in life, even when he had forgotten the words.

Francis Burritt Thorne, my friend, my colleague, and for a while my client, there are some things my memory will always retain.

Francis Thorne

Francis Thorne, photo courtesy American Composers Orchestra


Cut off before the double bar
Like an unfinished composition
You take your final bow
And leave us in the dark
About what might have been.

The empty stage, the silent hall,
May indicate the concert’s done
But oh, dear friend, the encores never end,
For we are the singers
Who remember your song.

—Rosalie Calabrese

ASCAP Announces 2017 Morton Gould Young Composer Award Recipients

ASCAP Foundation President Paul Williams has announced the recipients of the 2017 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards which encourages talented young creators of concert music. The composers will be recognized at an ASCAP event later this year.

Below are details for the nineteen award recipients whose works were selected from approximately 550 submissions and, wherever possible, a complete recording of the award-winning work. (The youngest recipients are listed only by state of residence, as per ASCAP’s policy.)

  • Julia Adolphe of Los Angeles, CA (b. 1988 in New York, NY):
    Unearth, Release (concerto for viola and orchestra) (2016) [19:00]
  • Eugene Birman of Oakland, CA (b. 1987 in Moscow, Russia):
    State of the Union for 12 voices (2015-16) [37:45]
  • Yuri Boguinia of Princeton, NJ (b. 1997 in Stavropol, Russia):
    Path to Kailas for chorus, string quartet, and percussion (2016) [27:30]
  • Ryan Chase of Hamilton, NY (b. 1987 in Port Jefferson, NY):
    come iri da iri for double wind quintet (2016) [12:30]
  • Chen Yihan of New York, NY (b. 1994 in Changzhou, China):
    Phantasms for chamber orchestra (2015) [21:00]
  • Tommy Dougherty of Los Angeles, CA (b. 1990 in Pittsburgh, PA):
    Three Dances for Orchestra (2015) [8:00]
  • Michael-Thomas Foumai of Honolulu, HI (b. 1987 in Honolulu, HI):
    Manookian Murals for flute, cello, and piano (2016) [25:00]
  • Paul Frucht of New York, NY (b. 1989 in Danbury, CT):
    Dawn for orchestra (2013) [10:30]
  • Saad Haddad of Northridge, CA (b. 1992 in Augusta, GA):
    Takht for sinfonietta (2016) [12:00]
  • William Healy of Brooklyn, NY (b. 1990 New York, NY):
    Kolmanskop for orchestra (2016) [11:30]
  • Alexander Hurvitz of CA (b. 2003):
    The Trail of the West for violin and piano (2016) [6:00]
  • Tengku Irfan of New York, NY (b. 1998 in Malaysia):
    Vivacity for orchestra (2016) [15:00]
  • Egemen Kesikli of Boulder, CO (b. 1989 in Diyarbakir, Turkey):
    Movement III “Yaz” from Concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Concert Band (2015) [10:00]
  • Scott Lee of Durham, NC (b. 1988 in St. Petersburg, FL):
    Vicious Circles for orchestra (2016) [9:30]
  • Li Qi of Bloomington, Indiana (b. 1990 in Beijing, China):
    Music Diary for soprano, flute, clarinet. violin, and percussion (2014) [9:00]
  • Patrick O’Malley of Los Angeles, CA (b. 1989 in Detroit, MI):
    Loneliness in a Beautiful Place for string orchestra (2016) [9:30]
  • Jules Pegram of Ann Arbor, MI (b. 1991 in Richmond, VA):
    CRUSH for eight cellos (2016) [20:00]
  • J. P. Redmond of NY (b. 1999):
    Wilt Thou Therefore Rise for soprano and chamber orchestra (2016) [13:30]
  • Dale Trumbore of Los Angeles, CA (b. 1987 in Chatham, NJ):
    How to Go On for unaccompanied SSAATTBB chorus (2017) [35:00]

In addition, the following composers received Honorable Mention:

  • Jake Bean of Puyallup, WA (b. 1995 in Ellensburg, WA)
  • T. J. Cole of Philadelphia, PA (b. 1993 in Athens, GA)
  • Alistair Coleman of MD (b. 1998)
  • Juan Pablo Contreras of Los Angeles, CA (b. 1987 in Guadalajara, Mexico)
  • Gabriel Crist of NC (b. 2003)
  • Nathan Fletcher of Staten Island, NY (b. 1992 in New Haven, CT)
  • Andrew Guo of IL (b.1998)
  • Natsumi Osborn of TX (b. 1999)
  • Ivan Specht of NY (b. 2001)
  • Felipe Tovar- Henao of Bloomington, IN (b. 1991 in Manizales, Colombia)
  • Vu Dang Minh Anh of Rochester, NY (b. 1994 in Warsaw, Poland)

The award-winning composers share cash prizes including the Leo Kaplan Award, in memory of the distinguished attorney who served as ASCAP Special Distribution Advisor, and the Charlotte V. Bergen Scholarship for a composer 18 years of age or younger.  Additional funding is provided by The ASCAP Foundation Irving Caesar Fund and The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth Fund.  (Irving Caesar was best known as the lyricist of “Tea for Two” and “Swanee”; Jack Norworth wrote such standards as “Shine On Harvest Moon” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”)  Established in 1979, with funding from the Jack and Amy Norworth Fund, The ASCAP Foundation Young Composer Awards 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 US Student Visas. To honor his lifelong commitment to encouraging young creators especially during his 1986-1994 tenure as President of ASCAP and The ASCAP Foundation (as well as the fact that his own music was first published, by G. Schirmer, when he was only six years old), the Young Composer program was named the Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, following his death in 1996. 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.

The judges for the 2017 ASCAP Morton Gould Awards were ASCAP member composers Samuel Adler, Valerie Coleman, Daniel Felsenfeld, Martin Kennedy, Lowell Liebermann, Daniel Trueman, Matthew Van Brink, and Aleksandra Vrebalov.





Trump Budget Proposal Eliminates NEA

Last night reactions to President Trump’s proposed budget began circulating, which includes a call for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

In response to the proposal, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) underlined that the “administration makes recommendations, but Congress does budgets.” Arts groups are urging their constituents to contact their representatives.

The NEA has made the following statement via its website:

Statement from National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu

Today we learned that the President’s FY 2018 budget blueprint proposes the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. We are disappointed because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities, large, small, urban and rural, and in every Congressional District in the nation.

We understand that the President’s budget request is a first step in a very long budget process; as part of that process we are working with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to prepare information they have requested. At this time, the NEA continues to operate as usual and will do so until a new budget is enacted by Congress.

We expect this news to be an active topic of discussion among individuals and organizations that advocate for the arts. As a federal government agency, the NEA cannot engage in advocacy, either directly or indirectly. We will, however, continue our practice of educating about the NEA’s vital role in serving our nation’s communities.

2017 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards Announced

The ASCAP Foundation has announced the recipients of the 2017 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awards. The recipients, who receive cash awards, range in age from 15 to 30, and are selected through a juried national competition.

The 2017 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award recipients are listed with their age, current residence and place of birth. The youngest winners are listed with their age and state of residence:

Composers receiving Honorable Mention this year are: Lucas Apostoleris, age 23 of Miami, FL (New Milford, CT); Mario Castro, age 28 of New York, NY (Humacao, Puerto Rico); Andrew Leung, age 15 of California; Gina Ramirez, age 19 of Los Angeles, CA; Jordan Seigel, age 28 of Sherman Oaks, CA (Los Angeles, CA); Sara Sithi-Amnuai, age 22 of Los Angeles, CA (Australia); and Andrew Van Tassel, age 28 of New York, NY (Short Hills, NJ).

The Newport Festival Foundation will feature one of the recipients of the Herb Alpert Awards during the 2017 Newport Jazz Festival in August. The awards were established in 2002 to encourage young gifted jazz composers up to the age of 30 and carry the name of the great trumpeter and ASCAP member Herb Alpert in recognition of the Herb Alpert Foundation’s multi-year financial commitment to support this program. Additional funding for this program is provided by The ASCAP Foundation Bart Howard Fund. The ASCAP composer/judges for the 2017 competition were: Anat Cohen, Keyon Harrold, and Yosvany Terry.

2017 Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Awardees

Daugherty’s Tales Of Hemingway Dominates New Music Grammy’s

59th annual grammy winners

Adele’s album of the year win and Beyoncé’s transfixing awards ceremony performance have captured Grammy recap headlines, but Michael Daugherty and the team behind the Naxos release Tales Of Hemingway were yesterday’s big new music winners during the 59th annual awards celebration. The disc captured wins for Best Contemporary Classical Composition (Tales Of Hemingway), Best Classical Compendium (the album also includes Daugherty’s American Gothic and Once Upon a Castle, featuring the Nashville Symphony conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero), and Best Classical Instrumental Solo (performed here by cellist Zuill Bailey).

Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance went to Third Coast Percussion for their recording of work by Steve Reich on the Cedille label. Third Coast performed the third movement of Mallet Quartet with Ravi Coltrane during performances before the televised broadcast. Video is available here.

Best Opera Recording went to John Corigliano’s The Ghosts Of Versailles (Pentatone Music; LA Opera, James Conlon conducting), which also won for Best Engineered Album, Classical (Mark Donahue, Fred Vogler, and David L Williams, engineers).

Ted Nash Big Band’s Presidential Suite: Eight Variations On Freedom (Motema Music) was named Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album with its “Spoken At Midnight,” composed by Nash, picking up the Best Instrumental Composition nod.

David Frost was once again lauded as Producer Of The Year, Classical.

The Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media went to Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Walt Disney Records), composed by John Williams. The Color Purple (Broadway Records) won for Best Musical Theater Album.

More about these albums and the winners in all 84 categories is now posted on the Grammy website.

Third New Music Gathering Announces May Line-Up

Composer/Performer Speed Dating

Percussionist Steven Schick, the International Contemporary Ensemble, New Music Detroit, and Michigan’s Grand Valley State University New Music Ensemble have been announced as the headlining performers for the third annual New Music Gathering, this year slated for May 11–13, 2017, on the campus of Bowling Green State University in Ohio.

Co-founded by musicians Lainie Fefferman, Daniel Felsenfeld, Mary Kouyoumdjian, Matt Marks, and Jascha Narveson, this practitioner-led conference has become a much-praised space for new music colleagues from across the country to meet face-to-face and discuss challenging issues and exciting trends. The full three-day schedule of panels, performances, and lectures built around this year’s theme of “Support” is now available on the NMG site. Topics will range widely, spanning the use of technology and electronic elements in new music to concerns over the level of diversity in the field. Installations and demonstrations, composer/performer speed dating, and even career-oriented “therapy” will be on offer.

audience at NMG panel

Audience at NMG panel in 2016

Being clear that he was speaking on behalf of all the founders, Daniel Felsenfeld acknowledges the growth of the grassroots event but redirects credit for its success back on the wider new music community.

“Our first year was a bit of a nail-biter—would anyone come?—and we were pleasantly surprised, dazzled even, by the enthusiasm, even more so the second year,” he admits. “And we cannot even take credit for this because the community did all of that heavy lifting: we just gave it space. So as we prepare for year three the usual challenges present themselves, just in greater numbers. Also we have, because of some gracious funding help, significantly lowered the price to welcome more people to NMG.”

Registration is now open at the rate of $50/advanced full-3-day conference pass ($60 at the door); $20/day pass. Complimentary passes are available to BGSU students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

The Curiosity Cabinet

The Curiosity Cabinet in performance, part of the NMG in Baltimore in 2016

Previously held in San Francisco and Baltimore, the Bowling Green location takes the festival into the country’s heartland. Felsenfeld explains that the location was chosen for two reasons. “The first was the school’s legendary commitment to new music,” he acknowledged. “And the other the fact that we’ve been on both coasts and need to look elsewhere—and so much is happening either at the college or in neighboring cities that it seemed like an ideal hub for so much excellent music making. One of the principal missions of New Music Gathering is to never be in the same place twice, which means we get to experience more of the musical landscape.”

Part of that experience means getting out of urban hubs. “In a way, the surprise is part of the fun,” Felsenfeld suggests. “We do not know exactly how things will work in Bowling Green, but we do know it will be different and that, to us, is critical.” Conference attendees who may not have met yet or know each other only via social media can look to share transportation and housing through the event’s couch and ridesharing program.

And the 89th Academy Award Composer Nominees Are…

The nominees for the 89th Academy Awards have been announced, including nods in the category of best original score to composers Mica Levi, Justin Hurwitz, Nicholas Britell, Thomas Newman, and the team of Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka.

In December 2016 it was noted that scores such as Jóhann Jóhannsson’s notable contribution to Arrival would not be eligible.

Winners will be awarded during a ceremony at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood on Sunday, February 26, 2017.


Mica Levi
Justin Hurwitz
Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka
Nicholas Britell
Thomas Newman


from La La Land; Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
from Trolls; Music and Lyric by Justin Timberlake, Max Martin and Karl Johan Schuster
from La La Land; Music by Justin Hurwitz; Lyric by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul
from Jim: The James Foley Story; Music and Lyric by J. Ralph and Sting
from Moana; Music and Lyric by Lin-Manuel Miranda


Sylvain Bellemare
Wylie Stateman and Renée Tondelli
Robert Mackenzie and Andy Wright
Ai-Ling Lee and Mildred Iatrou Morgan
Alan Robert Murray and Bub Asman


Bernard Gariépy Strobl and Claude La Haye
Kevin O’Connell, Andy Wright, Robert Mackenzie and Peter Grace
Andy Nelson, Ai-Ling Lee and Steve A. Morrow
David Parker, Christopher Scarabosio and Stuart Wilson
Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Mac Ruth