Tag: new orchestra music

The Notation of Friendship and Formality

Over the summer, I spent a lot of time thinking about notation. (Preparing parts for a full orchestra according to MOLA standards will do that to a person.). The process of slogging through an excruciating amount of notational detail brought into focus the idea that, beyond notions of “over-notation,” “under-notation,” or what is or is not called for in different styles of notated music, it seems to me that in many cases music notation serves as a measure of the level of familiarity shared between composers and performers.

Music notation is a language—it is intended to communicate information to musicians, who will then translate that information to the listener. It’s a great big old-school game of telephone. In speaking or in writing any language, there is a tendency to speak differently to friends and family than to a stranger or a professional colleague. With friends one might use more slang or more colloquial phrase structures than the more formal language we kick into gear with say, a potential boss or someone we have just met at a dinner party. The same applies to music. If a composer is writing a piece for his or her own ensemble, or for musicians with whom s/he is friends, the notation could be minimal, or graphic, or even ridiculously over-the-top complicated (or maybe there wouldn’t be any notation at all), because everyone knows one another, and presumably there is at least some time to work out the details of the music, ask questions, experiment, and so forth. An ensemble that is larger and has less firmly established relationships between composer and performers has different notational needs in order for the music to be communicated effectively. With an orchestra there are a multitude of issues at play, but add to those the fact that the composer may be a stranger to the orchestra—and a stranger bearing strange music at that—and that there is usually frighteningly little rehearsal time to prepare that strange music. If the notation isn’t crystal clear and presented for those musicians in a way that they can translate effectively within the scope of the available rehearsals, chances are the music will not come out according to the composer’s wishes.

For example, I don’t know the third horn player who will be playing my orchestra piece personally. Chances are I will not meet the third horn player. If s/he has a question during a 30-minute rehearsal that stops things for even ten seconds on the clock, that is rehearsal time lost. It won’t carry on ten seconds longer than scheduled. It’s just…poof. So am I going to notate very clearly the dynamic and the type of attack and the specific mute needed for the third horn player’s first note? Yeah, you bet I am, and everything about every other instrument at every necessary point in time. Because if I don’t, someone may ask about it. And unfortunately, that exchange, as much as it will be helpful and establish at least some tiny bit of personal connection between myself and that musician, doesn’t fit into the timetable of an orchestra rehearsal.

On the other hand, this same orchestra piece has a significant part for drum set, and I happen to know my drummer quite well. Because this drummer does not read music (it’s complicated), we have spent time together working out his part. We have also met one another’s families, drunk beer together, shared car rides—the line has crossed into friendship. His part (as it is) for the same piece conveys a totally different kind of information. It includes some extra data, like clock times so he can follow along with a mockup recording of the piece. In some spots there is much less detail than one might expect, such as a predetermined “skeleton” beat structure upon which he can expound as he sees fit, or one short passage with a basic rhythmic structure over which I have noted, “As far as I’m concerned you can go completely nuts here!” We have established a musical connection, we trust one another, and we have already dealt with questions and explorations, so that by the time we get to rehearsal, all there is to do is play the thing.

Whatever type of notation we use—minimal, maximal, standard practice, or completely made up from scratch—it is not only a road map to bring sounds to life, but it also often tells a parallel story of the lives communicating those sounds.

Open Minds Take on the Closed Door

It was as a devoted (if occasionally disillusioned) member of the blogosphere that I first took note of a new program called the Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute (JCOI), whose first “Phase II” orchestral readings were recapped for NPR’s A Blog Supreme by Lara Pellegrinelli last summer. The idea of granting jazz composers greater access to the orchestra stuck me as a potentially fruitful one, and the audio clips seemed to back up that assessment. By sheer luck, my impending relocation from Minneapolis to Southern California was to put me within a short commute of this year’s JCOI Phase I, a week-long, nuts-and-bolts workshop through which selected composers become eligible to apply for next year’s Phase II readings with orchestras across the country. After being selected for Phase I, I was asked and agreed to share some thoughts on the overall experience. (Detailed, day-by-day accounts of the week’s events were also written by composer-participants Samantha Boshnack and Michael Dessen and can be found on the American Composers Orchestra’s Sound Advice blog.)

A joint venture of the American Composers Orchestra and the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, the current JCOI cycle marks the second iteration of the program. Phase I took place August 7-11, 2012, hosted for the first time by the Herb Alpert School of Music at UCLA. Applicants submitted one score, an audio recording, a resume, a letter of recommendation, and a personal statement speaking to their interest, accomplishment, and potential as jazz and orchestral composers. From the pool of applicants, a panel of JCOI faculty selected 37 composers with a wide variety of aesthetic orientations and backgrounds. Composers who attend a Phase I intensive remain eligible to apply for future Phase II readings if they have not previously been selected.

Brian Walsh of wild Up

Bass clarinet performance resource session with wild Up member Brian Walsh. Photo courtesy of ACO.

Phase I is labeled “intensive” for a reason: most days featured close to 12 hours of tightly packed presentations of faculty and participant work, instrumental lecture-demos by members of resident ensemble wild Up, and lectures on a variety of both artistic and pragmatic topics. Animated discussions often extended well into scheduled breaks and continued throughout their truncated durations, with many faculty members becoming eager students as well. Sleep was at a premium, and much sugar and caffeine was consumed during the breaks despite the ever-shrinking timeframe in which to do so. As both a commuter and a brass player, I felt the sleep crunch particularly acutely, waking around dawn most days to beat the worst of the LA traffic and arrive at UCLA in time for at least a cursory maintenance session. (It could have been worse: participant Randall Reyman was preparing to play first trumpet on Mahler’s Sixth!)

To be blunt, the proximity of the event, the line on my resume, the potential networking opportunities, a sense that my work was particularly well-suited to the application criteria, and—most of all—a desire to become eligible for Phase II readings going forward, all played greater roles in my initial decision to apply than did any particular Phase I offering. I was an orchestral composer before I was a jazz composer, and while that is certainly not to say that I’ve had an ideal or even adequate amount of experience writing for and working with orchestras, I did have a certain amount of trepidation about fighting for a spot in a competitively selected pool under those circumstances. Would it be worth my time and money? Would I be taking a spot away from a composer who might benefit more from the experience? And did I really want to have to practice at 8:00 a.m. all week just to stay in shape?

Those fears were quickly allayed, though not in any of the ways I had anticipated they might be. For one thing, the contact list we received shortly beforehand was chock full of recognizable names and far-flung addresses, indicating to me that there were highly accomplished musicians willing to travel great distances in order to attend; and for another, the “UnCutting” sessions, where participants presented short bits of their own music, revealed a staggeringly high degree of accomplishment and sophistication in big band, concert band, and orchestral writing. Clearly, the bulk of these musicians would be refining substantial existing skills more so than developing new ones from scratch, and while much useful information on instrumental capabilities, notation, and engraving was indeed shared, this was clearly to be first and foremost a week of moral uplift, finding common cause, and yes, good old networking. (Funny, I think, how many business cards were exchanged despite the prior distribution of the aforementioned contact list!) Suddenly, just being there was not merely inspiring but also truly an honor.

Percussion Performance Resource

Percussion performance resource session. Photo courtesy of ACO.

The JCOI Phase I application guidelines state that “any instrumentation, aesthetic, or style” is acceptable for submitted scores—in my experience a rather unusual tack for such an event, not to mention one with the j-word as part of its name. When asked by a participant what it was that set the selected composers apart, George Lewis offered simply that we were all “open-minded” and left it at that. If one might legitimately assume there to be slightly more to it than that, there’s certainly no question that the panel achieved this objective nonetheless. And as for the faculty themselves, from James Newton’s atonal piano music to Paul Chihara’s Ellington transcriptions to Derek Bermel’s odd-meter rapping, there certainly was no shortage of eclecticism on display in the composition seminars either, and more importantly, never any question that these musicians “own” these styles rather than merely dabbling in them, a lesson of paramount importance for any budding eclecticist.

Paul Chihara and James Newton

Composition seminar with Paul Chihara and James Newton. Photo courtesy of ACO.

In my eyes, the most remarkable and fruitful consequence of this unusually pluralistic orientation was the time and care devoted to teasing out streams of influence between jazz and classical music, two musical cultures whose staunchest traditionalists remain more eager to take credit for each other’s contributions than to acknowledge their shared history. As the week progressed, it became clear that JCOI is not merely about “jazz composers tak[ing] on the classical orchestra,” as has become the program’s slogan, but in fact about finding justification, perhaps even necessity, for this task in the two musics’ inextricable bonds with each other. Even as a firm devotee of this aesthetic from long before I understood the depth of its implications, I would never hope to live in a world where such eclecticism itself is enforced as dogma in the manner of dodecaphonic or post-bop orthodoxies of the recent past; and yet it is hard to understate how refreshing it was for someone with my background and predilections to experience a conscientious exploration of the subject that never once threatened to descend into cultural land-prospecting or style wars.

In closing, therefore, and perhaps at the risk of belaboring the point, I want to momentarily take this particular issue as a microcosm of larger questions about musico-stylistic and musico-cultural change, and propose two divergent but not necessarily contradictory conclusions one might draw from events like JCOI. On one hand, it was hard to experience the week without developing a newfound sense of optimism regarding the resolution of many frustrations that new musicians from minimalists to microtonalists to metalheads have dealt with vis-à-vis the institution that is the orchestra, not for years, but for decades. Being utterly surrounded for five days not only by like-minded composers but also performers, conductors, and even…administrators (!) is enough to give one new hope. On the other hand, when a good many of these people are your parents’ age and older, this optimism becomes harder to maintain, for if the efforts of such an esteemed group over that period of time have not yet succeeded in prying open more than a few orchestral minds, one must wonder if more powerful forces are not at work.

For me, it was Stephen Biagini, a music librarian for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who (inadvertently, I suspect) crystallized this point in his talk when he pointed out that orchestral musicians become so notoriously picky about style, notation, and engraving because they see so much of the same music on their stands for so long, and that when it costs upwards of $300 a minute to rehearse an ensemble, efficiency rather predictably comes to trump process. The consequences of such an unfortunate condition remain much clearer than the solutions. There is a well-documented void in our musical infrastructure which JCOI now ably fills a very tiny part of, and for that we can all be thankful. From where I sit, however, in spite of the overwhelmingly positive and uplifting experience I’ve just emerged from, it would be disingenuous for me as someone who holds a de facto orchestral performance degree myself and has spent years working with orchestral and orchestrally minded musicians (and even taken a few auditions) to proclaim the existence of a bold new world based on five days of meticulously planned activities with a cherry-picked cast of fantastic like-minded musicians.

So, at the risk of ending an amazing week on a downer, I’ll just say that an exceedingly tempered optimism is the most my experiences will allow me to muster for the moment, which is less than might be hoped for but more than I entered the week with. At the very least, I can say as a veteran of a few too many -JFs and -TECs (if you don’t recognize the acronyms, thank your lucky stars*) that an explosion of -COIs would in fact be a wonderful thing. I wouldn’t necessarily count on a concurrent explosion of open-mindedness, though it would certainly be nice if it happened.

* But if you have to know, the acronyms stand for “jazz festival” and “tuba-euphonium conference.” Some jazz festivals are actually really cool. Tuba-euphonium conferences are never cool.


Stefan Kac is a tuba player and composer of jazz, classical, and improvised music. Originally from Minneapolis, Minnesota, he recently relocated to the greater Los Angeles area to pursue a
performer-xomposer M.F.A. at the California Institute of the Arts. He
blogs irregularly, though often at great length, at here.

Sounds Heard: Sergio Cervetti—Nazca and Other Works

I was delighted when earlier this year when Navona Records released Sergio Cervetti’s Nazca and Other Works, since it was finally an opportunity for me to hear an entire disc of music by a composer whose music I have been intrigued with since the early 1980s. Thirty years ago I fell in love with a 10-minute piece for solo guitar called Guitar Music: The Bottom of the Iceberg that I heard at the Columbia University Music Library when I was an undergrad there. It was on an LP issued by CRI, a label which then had a reputation for primarily releasing austere modernist pieces by composers based in academia. (This was a decade before CRI launched the Emergency Music Series, which redefined the label in its final years.) I religiously listened to everything put out on CRI even though most of it was very different from the music I personally wanted to write. But Guitar Music: The Bottom of the Iceberg was music I very much wanted to write—its relentless minimalism felt inevitable as well as bit subversive, although admittedly the latter was heightened by its appearing in the same catalog alongside Roger Sessions, Seymour Shifrin, Mario Davidovsky, et al. Who was this composer, Sergio Cervetti? There was an additional piece of his on the same side of that LP which involved a multi-tracked solo clarinet in textures that can best be described with decades of hindsight as proto-ambient. But, as far as I could tell, nothing else of his had ever been recorded. The notes on the LP offered very little information, not even a photo. He was born in Uruguay in 1940, moved to the United States in 1962 to further his composition studies, and his recent music explored “restricted pitch classes.” (How’s that for a serial explanation of minimalism?)

Fast forward several decades. I briefly met Cervetti at some composer gathering in New York City and told him how much I loved that guitar piece. Not long after that he very kindly mailed me a score of it. Returning to the piece so many years later, after all the uptown vs. downtown battlegrounds had lulled to a cease fire at least in my own personal purview, it still stood out and sounded every bit as exciting as when I had first heard it. (An audio file of the piece is on our online library, so you can listen to it, too.) I also managed to track down a few other recordings of Cervetti’s music. There are three captivating and idiomatic yet completely contemporary sounding solo harpsichord pieces on a disc issued by Vienna Modern Masters in 1999. Another VMM disc issued that same year featured an exciting Latin-tinged orchestra piece of his called Candomble II. Some of his music was used in the motion picture Natural Born Killers and the commercially released soundtrack for it includes an edit of his Fall of the Rebel Angels scored for a virtual orchestra. Nevertheless, even after learning about all this other music, having only a handful of short pieces on compilations led to aesthetic experiences with his music which were ultimately unfulfilling. Each of them created such an evocative sonic universe; I found it extremely frustrating every time I was jolted into another reality when someone else’s music, no matter how satisfying it too might have been in its own right, appeared on a subsequent track.

So it is such a pleasure to listen to Nazca and Other Works, the Navona CD devoted exclusively to the music of Sergio Cervetti. I’ve since learned that there are several additional discs of Cervetti’s music for virtual orchestra floating around in the world, so my journey with his music is apparently far from over. Nevertheless, Nazca is a great destination. The disc opens with an evocative single movement work for soprano and orchestra composed in 1991 called Leyenda which uses as its text an excerpt from Tabaré, an 1888 epic by Uruguay’s national poet Juan Zorrilla de San Martín (1855-1931). It is extremely lush and expansive, very far removed from the insistent austerity of Guitar Music: The Bottom of the Iceberg. But if that early guitar piece is comparable to pieces like Steve Reich’s Violin Phase or Philip Glass’s Music in Similar Motion, Leyenda is comparable to the music of post-Wound Dresser John Adams.

Next comes the brief Chacona para el Martirio de Atahualpa (“Chaconne for the Martyrdom of Atahualpa”) composed the following year. Composed on a commission to write a work commemorating the quincentenary of the “discovery” of the Americas from the International festival of Contemporary Music in Alicante, Spain, Cervetti chose to create music inspired by the forgotten native peoples of South America. Scored for harpsichord and 11 instruments, the Chaconne evokes the demise of the last Inca emperor Atahualpa (1497-1533) through a wild, relentless and occasionally polytonal conga which eventually peters out, leaving only a jagged monotone on the harpsichord, which to my ears sounds like a great sonic metaphor for the flat line that streams across a vital life signs’ monitor in a hopsital when someone dies. Cervetti’s music here also reminds me at times of the great Manuel De Falla Harpsichord Concerto from 1926, the work that proved that the harpsichord, rather than being a relic of a by-gone era, still had a lot to say in contemporary music. But the Chaconne is only one of four movements which altogether comprise a harpsichord concerto entitled Los Indios Olvidades (“The Forgotten Indians”), which, if the remainder is as exciting as this, would be an extremely worthy heir to De Falla. The total timing of the disc is already over 67 minutes so there would have been no way to include the entire piece and everything else that’s on the disc and I wouldn’t want to lose any of the other works. Still, I’m disappointed to only hear part of the piece, especially since I know from those three Cervetti solo harpsichord pieces how effectively he writes for the instrument.

The majority of the disc is devoted a very recent work by Cervetti, a monumental five-movement tone poem for string orchestra from 2010 entitled Nazca. Nazca is also inspired by indigenous South American traditions. The Nazca civilization flourished in what is now modern day Peru for over a thousand years, from roughly 300 B.C.E. until about 800 C.E. Nazca civilization is mostly known to the rest of the world because of a series of mysterious geoglyphs rediscovered in 1927 which some folks have touted as being an attempt at communication with extraterrestrials. In more recent times, the modern city of Nazca was almost completely destroyed by a 6.4 earthquake in 1996; miraculously only 17 people died and the city has since been completely rebuilt. Cervetti’s music evokes the seeming timelessness of this place as well as its amazing ability to endure. Sections of this piece are somewhat reminiscent of the music of the so-called “Holy Minimalists,” folks like John Tavener or the Eastern Europeans like Arvo Pärt, Peteris Vasks, or the late Henrik Górecki. The work’s finale, “Las Manos, Himno” (“The Hands, Hymn”) additionally conjures, to my ears at least, the angel series of orchestral pieces by contemporary Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. But all is not peace and serenity. The penultimate movement, “Sueños Del Extraterrestre” (“Dreams of the Extraterrestrial”) evokes the unattainable other through music filled with ghostly harmonics, somewhat amorphous low register pulsations and occasionally frenetic rhythms.

Pre-Columbian culture is also the inspiration behind the final work featured on the disc, Madrigal III, which is a gorgeous setting for two sopranos and chamber ensemble of a text by Nezahualcoyotl (1402-1472), a non-Aztec Nahuan poet who ruled the city-state of Texcoco in the Central Mexican plateau region. Madrigal III is also the earliest of Cervetti’s works on the present disc; it was composed in 1975, merely one year after that solo guitar piece of his that first intrigued me about his music. It is clearly also the by-product of his then minimalist sensibility. When a full assessment of the breadth and depth of the minimalist movement in music is made one day, hopefully Cervetti’s important contributions will not be overlooked. Now that there is finally some adequate documentation of his music we can be hopeful.

Finally, a word about the documentation that accompanies this new recording: at first glance, the three-panel digipack which the CD is packed in, though attractive, seems to offer only the most perfunctory of notes about the pieces and a very short bio, albeit this time with a photo of the composer. But upon putting the CD into the disc drive of your computer, you’ll discover, as I did, a seemingly endless array of additional materials. I usually prefer listening to CDs in actual CD players rather than through my computer’s audio system since I associate my computer with work and my audio component system with play, but this disc forces me to change my tune. Not only are there a longer biography and detailed program notes for every single piece on the disc, in both English and Spanish, there’s also an extensive video interview with Cervetti filmed on a street in the Czech city of Olomouc (presumably recorded during the sessions for the present disc) in which he talks candidly about the need for composers to take charge of recordings of their own music as well as his lack of interest in Donizetti and Puccini. Though marred by frequent street noises, it’s an invaluable document. If that’s not enough, there are also full scores for every piece that appears on the disc, several of which are also printable off-line, as well as two ringtones based on Cervetti’s music. He’s made quite a journey from those restricted pitch classes!

David Froom: Trusting the Connections

David Froom: Trusting the Connections from NewMusicBox on Vimeo.

The musical life of composer David Froom is steeped in a sense of community. In the course of our conversation, he referred often to the musical activities of his friends and colleagues, and recalled words of advice from former teachers and mentors. At one point he stopped and acknowledged, “I’m mentioning my friends again! But that’s how it works; if you’re friends with someone whose music you respect, you want to share it.”

A native of California, Froom completed his early musical studies on the West Coast at UC Berkeley and University of Southern California, and then migrated to the East Coast, where he ultimately ended up staying. After earning a doctorate at Columbia University, he eventually landed at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (about 65 miles southeast of D.C.) where he is professor and chair of the music department.

Living outside of a major urban area can be challenging for musicians, and while Froom admits to some initial struggles, he has tended his musical garden well, developing a strong community of musicians and music-making opportunities. As a self-described extrovert who derives energy and inspiration from the company of other composers and musicians, he has created a support system of musical friends and colleagues in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area, as well as in his St. Mary’s City, Maryland home. Included in this group is the resident ensemble of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The 21st Century Consort, for which he has written numerous works and made several recordings. However, perhaps the most enthusiastic contemporary music community has developed in his own backyard, through the popular summertime River Concert Series. Run by music director Jeffrey Silberschlag conducting the Chesapeake Orchestra (a fully professional union orchestra), the series is held on the grounds of St. Mary’s College and is funded by the surrounding community. Drawing over 5,000 people per concert, the River Concert Series features numerous premieres of contemporary orchestra works by composers such as Chen Yi, Kenji Bunch, and Scott Wheeler as well as Froom.

What catches the ear in Froom’s music is the ebullient energy that translates even in the slowest of passages, beautifully fluid melodies, and a sense of rhythmic propulsion that keeps the listener wondering what will come next. The music is completely “serious” in regard to its construction, but it also has a glow of whimsy and humor that can’t be denied.

Froom cites as major inspirations Roger Sessions (“A composer that people need to pay a lot more attention to”) and Arnold Schoenberg, and he speaks about his experiences studying with Schoenberg scholar (and Schoenberg student) Patricia Carpenter.

I learned what it was that Schoenberg saw in Beethoven, and drew from, which was this idea of the motive as a unifying force that controls small and large scale harmony and melody, and the piece setting out an initial idea and developing it. It’s the link between the Schoenbergian twelve-tone system and tonal music. I deeply admire the system as a means for creating motivic and harmonic unity. It’s a way of thinking that I find very attractive.

Although Froom has never written a twelve-tone composition, he found in Schoenberg’s music connections to his own creative process.

This was also something I got from Schoenberg’s writings; he proceeded pretty much intuitively and then he’d go back and check what he’d done…and when he found the connections he has this lovely line where he would say that discovering a connection is like a gift from the Supreme Commander. What it said to me is that he would put it down before he understood how it connected, and just simply trust his ear—that his ear would tell him that there is a connection.

While one might not immediately perceive such affection for Schoenberg in Froom’s catalog of chamber, vocal, and orchestra music, what does translate is the concept of motivic unity, and of musical material that is deeply connected in compelling ways. The music often takes surprising twists and turns, yet nonetheless makes sense—in both cerebral and emotional terms—from beginning to end. Indeed, one of Froom’s main goals is to create music that is, in the words of Roger Sessions, “inevitable without being predictable.”

Sounds Heard: Paul Lansky—Imaginary Islands

For almost 40 years, composer Paul Lansky has been using computers to generate some of the most magical as well as immediately appealing electronic music around. Part of the excitement in listening to the pieces he creates this way has always been in how he takes material from the acoustic realm (e.g. the sound of a human voice speaking or singing, a piano) and then does things with it that are just slightly beyond the edge of human possibility. The results have been simultaneously otherworldly and completely down to earth.

While Lansky’s computer music compositions have always very effectively exploited the extended timbre possibilities of electronically generated sound, all of his pieces have still first and foremost been about melody, harmony, and rhythm. At one point he even did a series of computer arrangements of classic folk tunes (which are collected on the disc Folk-Images). Even Lansky’s earliest computer piece, the heady, hard-core mild und leise created at the Columbia Princeton Electronic Music Center in 1973, channeled Wagner and, as a result, somehow seemed more approachable than most of the music created there at that time. (Decades later it remains an extremely appealing piece, so much so, in fact, that 27 years after Lansky composed it, Radiohead wound up sampling a portion of it on their song “Idioteque” released on their 2000 album Kid-A.) Some of my personal favorite Lansky compositions have been the 1978-79 Six Fantasies on a Poem by Thomas Campion which creates psychedelic layers of myriad timbres all from a brief recording of a woman reciting a poem (his wife, actress Hannah McKay), and a series of pieces collected on the 1994 Bridge CD More Than Idle Chatter which take recorded fragments of conversation and render them incomprehensible as language yet make them utterly compelling as music. As technology improved over the decades, the level of Lansky’s manipulations seemed increasingly subtler. Parts of the compositions collected on the 1998 disc Conversation Pieces really are not terribly far away from symphonic music in the breadth of timbre combinations that sound remarkably like winds, brass, and a giant string section. In the notes for that recording, Lansky coyly acknowledges this remarking that “any impression that this is an attempt to emulate the luxurious sound of a large orchestra is entirely justified.”

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that the new Bridge CD Imaginary Islands, the latest entry in their now rather extensive Lansky discography, is composed expressly for and performed entirely by a symphony orchestra with no electronic elements whatsoever. Throughout his life, Lansky actually has composed for corporeal performers on acoustic instruments, or—as he jokingly describes them in his notes for the present CD—“carbon-based life forms,” even though his reputation as a composer was established almost exclusively on the basis of his electronic music. The three compositions collected on this new disc, all of which were composed within the last five years, nevertheless reveal a remarkable new compositional direction for him. They are his very first compositions for orchestra, despite sounding like they were written by someone who has had a lifetime of experience taming this behemoth ensemble!

It opens with Shapeshifters, a double piano concerto composed between 2007 and 2008 for the Colorado-based duo Quattro Mani (Susan Grace and Alice Rybak) for whom Lansky previously created his duo piano suite, It All Adds Up. During a conversation with Justin Brown, conductor of the Alabama Symphony, Lansky proposed the idea of writing a work for Quattro Mani and orchestra and thus the new piece was born. The opening minute of the first movement is actually a remarkable sonic metaphor for going from creating chamber music to working with a full orchestra. At the onset, a single pianist is heard joined shortly thereafter by the second pianist; they continue to play together without anyone else for about half a minute. Then suddenly the strings enter, seemingly out of nowhere, and soon thereafter the flutes. It is not until roughly a minute in that a glockenspiel suddenly chimes in and then we realize we’re in the midst of something really large. Layers continue to build on top of each other, somehow all seamlessly fitting together. The entire first movement feels like it is constantly expanding, the relentless momentum never letting up, but then it just as suddenly ends. (The whole arc of this movement, which is called “At Any Moment,” is somewhat reminiscent of Lansky’s similarly titled 1997 computer piece For the Moment, a piece with electronically generated timbres that suggest the sound world of a piano concerto.) While the orchestral music of the second movement, “Florid Counterpoint,” moves much slower overall, Lansky rarely gives a break to the pianists whose interlocking runs require a real feat of virtuosity. The next movement, “Confused and Dazed,” as its title suggests, is rather amorphous not only in terms of its tempo—which seems to be always changing—but also in its kaleidoscope of instrumental combinations. (Knowing that at the work’s premiere it would be performed alongside a string orchestra composition by Radiohead’s lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, Lansky includes a four chord sequence from his mild und leise about a third of the way through.) The real showstopper, however, is the finale (called “Topology”) in which Lansky pits seeming Latin rhythms against percussive pentatonicisms resulting in a strangely Gershwinesque gamelan mambo that could only be possible in the 21st century.

With the Grain, a 2009 concerto for guitarist David Starobin, also opens with the soloist unaccompanied, setting the sonic stage for the orchestra which is the exact opposite of the relationship between soloists and orchestras in the earliest European classical concertos. Also like Shapeshifters, With the Grain is in four movements, again atypical for concertos. Each of its four movements—“Redwood Burl,” “Karelian Birch,” “Quilted Beech,” and “Walnut Burl”—are named after wood grains; Lansky carries over the kinetic qualities of these different types of grains into the music he fashions for each of the movements. The opening is slow and features circular melodies that are constantly evolving. The second showcases longer wavy lines. The third is much softer and more introspective. The concluding movement is aggressively busy.

The most recent piece on the disc, Imaginary Islands from 2010, is the only piece herein which does not involve a soloist. It is collection of three movements, each of which is a self-contained sonic island. According to Lansky, his titles for the three movements “tell all”: “Rolling Hills, Calm Beaches, Something Brewing”; “Cloud-shrouded, Mysterious, Nascent”; and “Busy, Bustling, With a Heartbeat.” Most people associate the word island with isolation and tranquility, but it’s important to remember that Manhattan, Montreal, Hong Kong, and Singapore are also all islands. While Lansky’s second island offers opportunities for reflective contemplation, his first and especially his third are sprawling urban soundscapes that offer many reasons for numerous return trips. I have already come back to this piece, as well as the others on this disc, several times; one listen through them all should make you want to do the same thing.

EarShot Orchestra Readings Blog 4: The Last Day

The Buffalo 4

The four participating composers in the Buffalo EarShot readings—Daniel Schlosberg, David Marenberg, Stephen Gorbos, and Elizabeth Lim—go over their scores one more time after hearing their pieces.

To close out our experience in Buffalo, we spent around three-and-a-half hours with the mentor composers picking through our scores and the revisions we made, making some attempt to evaluate the successes and failures of our efforts. This was the session where the gloves came off: we all felt like this was the most pointed criticism we had received from them to date. What made this different, and a bit more personal perhaps, was that the mentor composers were finally commenting on and asking questions about aesthetics. Most of the comments prior to the last read through had more to do with the mechanics of orchestration: whereas on days 1-3 someone might look at your cello ostinato in terms of how it sounded in a particular moment in time, today it was very much about the effectiveness of the cello ostinato over the form of the piece, or, should we even be writing cello ostinatos. (To be fair to our mentor composers, we weren’t talking about something as basic as cello ostinatos: much of this conversation actually centered around the aesthetics of quotation and allusion.)

Though some personal biases definitely shone through, the words of our three mentors were still very supportive, and I do think that in most cases they were definitely working with us to plunge deeper into some idea or concept that we ourselves had articulated. That said, it seems to me that while there are some objective truths about timbral combinations, it sometimes just comes down to subjective personal taste. In that everyone was being so candid, it was interesting to watch these three heavy hitters occasionally disagree with each other: it’s a testament to their professionalism and self-confidence that, despite some differences of opinion, a collegial and friendly tone was kept throughout. I should also add that I think that it was really generous of them to treat us this way: all of us have heard “great piece—lovely” enough by this point in our brief careers. How useful is a generic complement, even if it feels good because it comes from someone you admire? Having some experience as a teacher now at Catholic University, I can recognize how difficult and mentally taxing it is to tell a student, particularly one that’s doing something different than you, what you really think of how they executed their intentions. While it certainly has something to do with the mix of personalities in the room, I think that this level of comfort being achieved also has a lot to do with the unique program that the American Composers Orchestra staff has put together.

The EarShot readings are an incredibly unique opportunity for emerging composers to hear and work on their orchestra pieces. Simply saying that a great orchestra read our pieces would be an oversimplification of it, though: at the heart of the EarShot experience is dialogue—ialogue between a composer’s ideas, an ensemble of quality musicians, and several different sets of eyes and ears, all determined to make this a very solid experience. What makes it an instance of, to borrow a line from the ACO’s website, “the best orchestration lesson ever” is several trips around the circle of dialogue I described above. Given all of that dialogue over a compressed amount of time, perhaps “an orchestration lesson on steroids” would be a more appropriate summation. (Hopefully the next person I show my revised score of Bounce to won’t accuse me of doping.) And, added to that, are the efforts of the various seminar presenters to show us the very practical ways, through community engagement, that one can gain entry into the orchestral world at a local level. So, while we were brought to Buffalo for the privilege of having an amazing group play our music, great pains were taken to show us how we could possibly interact with a world like this one in our own communities.

In addition to the mentor composers and workshop presenters that I’ve typed about at length in these posts, a big thank you needs to go out to four individuals I haven’t mentioned yet who were really the architects behind this amazing EarShot experience: on the Buffalo side of things, Dan Hart, executive director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, and Robin Parkinson, director of education for the Buffalo Philharmonic; on the American Composers Orchestra side of things, Michael Geller, executive director, and Greg Evans, operations director. Michael and Greg really shepherded us all through this week. Like a trip to orchestrational Disney World, I think it’s largely thanks to these people that we had such an amazing trip, barely ever noticing the seams behind this wonderful experience they created that ran like clockwork. To extend the Disney metaphor a little further, it was a completely immersive musical sensory experience: we all stayed awake for the electric light parade, but by the time they closed the door on the plane home I was out like a kid in a stroller.

Speaking of airplanes, with the weather turning a little sour we all ended up hanging around the airport for a bit. Here are some lighthearted parting thoughts from the participant composers:

EarShot Orchestra Readings Blog 3: The Reading

The first bit of our second EarShot day was spent finalizing any edits. The orchestra had set an 11:00 a.m. deadline for corrections and changes to be emailed to the library staff. Some of our edits necessitated a whole new part being generated, while other corrections could just be fixed via the infamous errata sheet: an itemized list of smaller things written as concisely as possible, such as “vln 1: m 4 beat 3 = F#”. Each of us had a fair amount of changes and adjustments, and at least one new part to print out in the case of major orchestrational shifts. In my own piece, the decisions I chewed on most had to do with some of my brass writing. What I had written for the trumpets at a particular 12-bar passage was certainly in their range, but it just wasn’t cutting through the orchestra. After talking with the player, he brought it to my attention that it was too low to have any carrying power, and that the horns could project it out much better (I ended up swapping the trumpet and horn materials in that section, to much better effect). Another issue in my trumpet writing had to do with selection of mutes: a passage I wrote for a trumpet with harmon mute seemed not to be speaking. In this case, the section was timbrally exposed enough that a switch to straight mute made it much clearer.

Between noon and 6:00 p.m., we were in a series of professional development seminars, with many local composers from the area in attendance (at least three local university composition departments were represented). Bill Holab gave two engaging presentations: one on engraving and the other on copyright and publishing. Bill is an authority in both of these areas, with years of experience at places like Schirmer publishing and running his own company (Bill Holab Music Publishing). Jesse Rosen, president of the League of American Orchestras, gave an overview of the orchestra industry, speaking about the ever-changing ways in which composers and orchestras have been working together over the last 25 years. John Nuechterlein, president of the American Composers Forum, and Ed Harsh, president of New Music USA, participated in a panel discussion with our mentor composers on community engagement. Each member of the panel spoke about their own experiences interacting with their local communities of musicians and audiences. The common theme here could be summed up as no (successful) composer is an island: the panel members, whether talking about working with a major orchestra or starting your own chamber music series, hammered home the necessity of connecting and interacting with a community. Particularly in this last session, but in the earlier ones as well, the questions and stimulating discussion between panel and audience could have kept going for at least another hour.

At 6:00 p.m., we met individually with conductor Matthew Kraemer. This was to check-in on our changes, and also provide a chance to develop a plan of attack for the final reading session. Starting at 7:00 p.m., each composer got around 25 to 30 minutes with the orchestra. After an introduction by the composer for the assembled audience, Matthew spent a generous amount of time touching up a few choice sections, and then ran the piece down from start to finish. It was striking how much the pieces changed over the 30-hour period between the two readings: everyone’s score was in sharper focus; the forms and overarching reach of each piece were much more comprehensible. Part of this is obviously the excellent level of musicianship in the group shining through after an initial sight-reading, but I think the opportunity for editing really made a world of difference. As works in progress, many things still needed to be fleshed out in each piece, but the audience response was overly positive. A brief on-stage post-concert discussion, led by Derek Bermel, elicited some thoughtful reactions and questions from the assembled crowd.

In lieu of recordings, which haven’t been made available yet, I’m posting a page from each composer’s score below as an example of their work.

Disharmony of the Spheres

From Elizabeth Lim’s Disharmony of the Spheres

The Abyssal Zone Full Revised Score

From David Marenberg’s The Abyssal Zone

Grosse Concerto (Buffalo version)

From Daniel Schlosberg’s Grosse Concerto

Gorbos Bounce Excerpt

And a page from my own score, Bounce

After the show, we composers headed out to the Anchor Bar with ACO Operations Director Greg Evans, where we sampled a few different types of perhaps the best-known comestible innovation from our fair host city: the Buffalo wing.

Buffalo Wings Party

Stay tuned for my final post, which will be an EarShot Readings postmortem: one final look around the scores with our mentor composers, one final look around the program with the composer participants.

EarShot Orchestra Readings Blog 2: Nuts and Bolts

Early Wednesday morning we were all shuttled over to the beautifully historic Kleinhans Music Hall, designed in 1940 by the father-son firm of Eliel and Eero Saarinen. The morning was spent going over our scores in one-on-one sessions with BPO Associate Conductor Matthew Kraemer and in three-on-one sessions with mentor composers Derek Bermel, Margaret Brouwer, and Sebastian Currier. I was very impressed with how intimately the conductor knew each of our scores: Matthew had clearly spent time learning the intricacies of our music. My session with him was a tour through the piece, with him talking through how he might navigate a particularly dense section, or preparing me for what he thought might be problematic in the orchestra. Our sessions with the mentor composers (which we were able to listen in on for each of our colleagues) were likewise focused on spots that they thought might be opaque. Various solutions for some iffy orchestrational moments were suggested, and a few technically impossible passages on some of the instruments were found. Having all three of those very experienced sets of eyes on our scores was an intense orchestration lesson, yet was incredibly reassuring for what lay ahead: our first read-through with the orchestra.

Talking with my fellow EarShot participants throughout the morning, it seemed that we all had a similar time frame to prepare our performance materials. Once we were notified that we had been selected, and with everything else going on in our lives, this was really only around a little over a week. (To be fair, the quick turn-around time is something that is warned about in the application instructions.) After we happily committed ourselves to the EarShot program, however, the maddening reality of a quick window on a task that should ordinarily take a composer a much longer interval of time to do set in. I’m dwelling on this particular pre-Buffalo-but-very-recent moment to point out something that may often be overlooked by my non-composer readers. Composers will often finish a score, but wait to do the parts until they secure that important premiere, particularly with large ensemble scores that don’t have an immediate performance opportunity. Most of us had finished our pieces in the window of 5 to 10 months before our pieces were accepted. Digging back into a score to prepare parts is a bit like getting reacquainted with an old friend, like a college roommate or someone you met on an extended backpacking excursion. (Hey! Remember when we stayed up all night together, trying to decide how to orchestrate that crazy canon at Rehearsal I?) I personally find it a lot of fun to rediscover everything I packed into a piece, but the quick turnaround felt a bit like rolling up the welcome mat on said friend before getting one’s fill of remembering things past. My own greatest worry for today’s activities was finding something that would grind my valuable time with the orchestra to a halt. Another little-known fact in the non-composing civilian world is how quickly your rehearsal can deteriorate into chaos if enough little things are out of place: the larger the ensemble, the quicker the rebellion can start. Once you’ve lost that important trust of the ensemble, even the things that are clear can be performed flatly and devoid of life: it’s like running out of gas three miles short of the next service stop.

Thankfully, nobody’s piece broke down like that today.

Although billed as a reading, the Buffalo EarShot program actually gives their composers a pretty significant chunk of time before the performance day with the orchestra. We each had about 30 minutes with the ensemble this morning, which was enough time to run the pieces from top to bottom and work on several sections. I was struck by how, although only a first read through, the character of each work was brilliantly displayed. Even reading the pieces for the first time, the orchestra already had a command over each sound world. Elizabeth Lim’s Disharmony of the Spheres, written as an orchestral Scherzo that’s actually a movement in her Second Symphony, had crisp and vivid textures set in an ironic Mahlerian patchwork. Daniel Schlosberg likewise made a connection with the past in his Grosse Concerto, pairing elements of a slinking jazz shuffle with baroque gestures. The orchestra did a fantastic job shifting back and forth between Schlosberg’s two performance styles. Over the course of 30 minutes, the orchestra gradually got comfortable with the contrapuntal textures in my own piece, Bounce: the shifting timbres started to materialize as the conductor isolated a few sections. David Marenberg was inspired by the area 13,000 feet below the surface to create The Abyssal Zone, a swirling mass of sound where, like underwater explorers viewing bioluminescent creatures through a submarine window, listeners are subjected to exotic musical ideas swinging in and out of our focus in their aural field of vision.

After a break, representatives from the various sections of the orchestra joined us for lunch and, over the course of three hours, we got feedback on our parts and scores directly from the ensemble, conductor, and mentor composers.

The orchestra filled out comment sheets, all of which were placed in our laps after the session. It was a humbling experience to be sure, but, considering we were given the opportunity to fix any mistakes between the session today and the recorded reading tomorrow, well worth it. Having the performer representatives there to explain some of the comments on each piece was another extra step the EarShot program took that was so helpful. Anything ambiguous could be cleared up right away by the performer who would be playing the piece tomorrow. For me, this helped to make a more personal connection with the musicians who were playing my music. (The intrepid library staff was very enthusiastic about helping us implement anything we needed to make the piece better, from suggesting how to phrase a comment to helping print out a new part.) Robin Parkinson, education director for the BPO, then gave an interesting presentation on the administrative side of running an orchestra. She followed this up with a very thorough tour of the historic concert hall (joined by Maggie Shea, operations director). Day one concluded with a happy hour sponsored by the BPO at a local watering hole: members of the board and executives from the administration, all of the composers, and several members of the local Buffalo new music community were in attendance. After relaxing for an hour, we reluctantly headed back through some light snow to our hotel for a long night of editing.

EarShot Participants

Seated, l – r: Daniel Hart, BPO executive director; Earshot composers Daniel Schlosberg and David Marenberg. Standing l – r: Robin Parkinson, BPO eductation director; Michael Geller, American Composers Orchestra Executive Director; Earshot mentor composer Margaret Brouwer, Earshot composers Stephen Gorbos and Elizabeth Lim; Earshot mentor composer Sebastian Currier; American Composers Orchestra Operations Director Greg Evans, and Earshot mentor composer Derek Bermel.

Tomorrow’s post: the Big Day, or, did those edits really fix anything.

EarShot Orchestra Readings Blog 1: Climbing The Ladder Towards Yes

[Ed. Note: Last year, the Buffalo Philharmonic held a reading session of works by four emerging composers as part of EarShot, a national program that helps orchestras coordinate such readings. We’ve previously featured participants’ accounts of this vital program; most recently composer Michael Rickelton wrote about his experiences during the 2010 EarShot readings with the Nashville Symphony. This week the Buffalo Phil is about to embark on a second series of EarShot readings just one year after their first foray into the program. They’re actually the first orchestra thus far to participate in the program twice and plans are already underway for them to do a third series of readings in 2013! So given all this activity in Buffalo, we asked Stephen Gorbos, one of the four participants this year, to share his adventures there with us.—FJO]

Despite having arrived at my hotel in the late evening, I’m completely wired for our first day of the EarShot Readings with the Buffalo Philharmonic. The orchestra goes into labor at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow: along with a first rehearsal of the piece, tomorrow’s highlights for me definitely include meeting my fellow EarShot composers Elizabeth Lim, David Marenberg, and Daniel Schlosberg; meeting the mentor composers Margaret Brouwer, Sebastian Currier, and Derek Bermel; and having some one-on-one time with conductor Matthew Kraemer to go over the score. If all goes according to plan, the orchestra will be giving birth to a healthy litter of four new pieces by Thursday night. I’ll be treating these posts as a window into the goings on of the readings, and as a way to get to know the various people involved. As we get going with the week, I’m eagerly anticipating seeing the myriad ways one can approach writing for and working with an orchestra (with four different participants and three mentor composers, we’ll have a variety of perspectives). As a way to exercise my own nerves and demons (and to remind myself how I got here), I thought I’d use this first post to talk about the genesis of my own piece, Bounce.

For me, it was a stretch even writing Bounce: like many of my friends, in the years since finishing graduate school (years that composer Steven Mackey affectionately calls “the lean years…where people are no longer paid to care about your music”), most of the projects that I’ve worked on have been in the realm of solo and chamber works, written for friends who are at a similar place in their careers. A lot of what provides the creative spark for these pieces is my relationship with the particular performer or group: when sketching ideas for, say, a new piece for my friend the bassoonist, ideas for that piece are inextricably linked to that particular bassoonist. In composing that piece, I’m usually helping to coordinate some string of performances for it as well: I might be thinking of the performance space for the premiere as deeply as I’m thinking about my pitch collections and rhythmic grooves.

Managing the various aspects of my life (composing, work, personal relationships, a modicum of physical fitness) is a precarious balancing act of rationing precious bits of time. Even with the healthy living wage that comes with my academic job, I feel a pressure on my creativity to not only maximize the potential of every artistic endeavor, but to engage only in those endeavors that will bring maximum creative and professional benefit. After a few years of writing music to order for various smaller configurations of instruments, writing a piece for orchestra, without a definite performance opportunity (or even a definite ensemble or conductor) felt like a pretty significant, perhaps irrational, deviation from the path I’ve been on in my personal musical wilderness. Even once I established a satisfying pace writing Bounce, the specter of never hearing the piece loomed large in the background.

So, what motivated me? Well, the siren song of what I believe to be one of the greatest cultural inventions of Western civilization: the orchestra. Despite the baggage of a few centuries of repertoire, the politics of tradition, and the economics of reality, I think there is an inexhaustible potential in this resource for new ideas and fresh sounds. The orchestra is a completely different medium than chamber or solo music, a force to reckon with that can be at once monolithically brutal and preciously fragile. The choreography that goes into coordinating sound events is remarkably precarious, the possibilities for timbral nuances are staggering, and the challenge to convey some intimacy in a medium that can inherently be impersonal—if only due to the sheer number of musicians involved in producing the sound—sets a composer up for an interesting ride on the roller coaster of creativity. When considering things from these angles, I can’t help but feel attracted to the drama and adventure of composing for orchestra, like I’m climbing Yoko Ono’s ladder towards “yes.”

With the long break between spring and fall semesters, I had enough time on my hands to write; I also had enough projects lined up on either end of this time so that, if I did have to wait several years to hear this beast, I could psychologically deal with it and focus my attention on other work. Surprisingly enough, the gamble paid off: I get to hear Bounce a mere five months after hitting my double bar line. In this respect, I feel incredibly lucky to have been selected. I’m sure there are lots of reasons that Bounce is being included here, some of which I’ll understand by the end of this coming week, and some of which will remain a mystery. For now, I’m focused on honing in on the details in my score, sharpening my aural reflexes to the music so that I can get the most out of rehearsal tomorrow. In tomorrow’s post, expect details on the rehearsal and editing process, and an introduction to the other composers involved in this week’s readings.


Stephen Gorbos navigates a wide palette of genres and influences, creating a unique synthesis between styles as diverse as American rhythm & blues, Western classical music, and Javanese gamelan. His music has been performed in concert halls across the U.S. and in Europe by organizations such as the Minnesota Orchestra, the New England Philharmonic, and the Cuarteto Latinamericano. Recent commissions have come from the Strathmore Music Center in Bethesda, Maryland (Highway Music, for violist Wendy Richman and electronics), and the University of Houston Percussion Ensemble (Push, which was released on Albany Records in January 2012). Active as an educator, Stephen also teaches composition, theory, music technology, and music history, having served as a visiting instructor at the College of the Holy Cross and, since the fall of 2008, as assistant professor of composition and theory at the Catholic University of America’s Benjamin T. Rome School of Music in Washington, D.C.

Subito Music Names Brian Ciach as Subito Composer Fellow

Brian Ciach

Brian Ciach, photo by Paolo Vairo

Subito Music Corporation has chosen Brian Ciach to be the first participant in the Subito Composer Fellowship program, developed in partnership with the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute. The Fellowship will provide professional promotional efforts for Ciach’s work, along with the opportunity for him to cultivate a practical knowledge of today’s publishing industry with on-site, hands-on training.

“Following the recent success of our new partnership with the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute,” states Subito Music founder and CEO Stephen Culbertson, “we’re pleased to welcome Brian Ciach as our inaugural Subito Composer Fellow. The Composer Institute is a celebrated training program for young symphonic composers; and this year, it presented Brian’s work Collective Uncommon. Brian possesses a unique way of connecting with listeners through his use of orchestration and intense sonorities to create a visceral, musical montage. We created the Subito Composer Fellowship as a mentoring program so that composers could gain an in-depth understanding of the classical music publishing world, and we look forward to working with Brian as he gains the insights and tools that relate the business of music to the art of creating music.”

Collective Uncommon: Seven Orchestral Studies on Medical Oddities was inspired by Ciach’s visit to Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum, a medical oddities branch of The College of Physicians which was founded in 1787. “The Mütter Museum,” Ciach explains, “contains a host of specimens of various odd afflictions…[and it’s] goal is to inspire research into the successful treatments and cures of various unusual disorders. I was fascinated by the collection and thought ‘What kind of piece would these relics inspire?’ [These] artifacts, as unusual and as macabre as they may seem, were once part of a living human being…[and] as museum personnel reminded me ‘there is a terrifying beauty in the spirits of those forced to endure these afflictions’. [So] I set out to create a sensitive, chiarascuro-balance between light and dark, macabre and humanitarian.” Written for Ciach’s doctoral dissertation, Collective Uncommon explores seven medical oddities using specific compositional genres.

A native of Philadelphia, Brian Ciach (pronounced “SIGH-ack”) is an internationally performed composer and active new music pianist. He studied at Temple University and holds a doctorate from Indiana University. Ciach has taught at West Chester (PA), Temple and Indiana Universities, and is currently an Adjunct Instructor at Ball State University. He served on the piano faculty at Delaware County Community College, the Settlement Music School in Philadelphia, and at the Darlington Arts Center. Upcoming Ciach premieres include two commissioned works: Blank Slate for the Square Peg Round Hole for percussion quartet, and The Einstein Slide (an appendix to Collective Uncommon) written for the contemporary group Alarm Will Sound who will premiere the work during the composer’s residency at the 2012 Mizzou New Music Summer Festival.

Subito Music Corporation (SMC) provides a wide range of production and distribution services for both composers and publishers, including engraving, printing, rental, sales, and copyright administration. Under the Subito and Notevole imprints, SMC also publishes a select roster of composers including Michael Abels, Kenneth Frazelle, Nancy Galbraith, Dan Locklair, Steven Mercurio, Paul Moravec, Daniel Bernard Roumain (DBR), Roberto Sierra, and Judith Lang Zaimont. In addition SMC represents the music of composers published in the catalogs of Seesaw Music, Association for the Promotion of New Music (APNM), Columbia University Press, Canadian Brass Collection, Ben Rena Music, Sorom Editions, Dunstan House, and Zimbel Press.