Life in Alto Clef Blog

New Music Monday – Hong-Da Chin

Welcome to another installment of New Music Monday, where I feature pieces by living composers that you might not have heard of yet. This week’s featured composer is Hong-Da Chin.

Originally from Kajang, Malaysia, Chin has spent a significant amount of time the United States, completing degrees at Del Mar College (Corpus Christi, TX), the University of Houston, the University of Louisville, and Bowling Green State University. In addition to composing, he is also an active performer on flute and Chinese flute. In Fall 2018, Chin will be joining the faculty at Western Illinois University, serving as Assistant Professor in Music Theory/Composition.

The piece I am featuring today is called Snowflakes. The orchestral work is an expansion upon an earlier piece for piano trio, Snowflake. The original piano trio was composed in 2013 in collaboration with Caroline Calouche, a Charlotte-based dancer and choreographer. While the similarity of the materials between the two versions is perceptible, Snowflakes feels like an entirely separate work through of combination of the larger performing forces, and the reworking of the material necessary to expand the piece length by about three minutes. I very much enjoyed what Chin describes as the “icy atmosphere” of the work, particularly in the beginning with the focus on higher registers, the metallophone & plucked string articulations, and the musical spaces that allowed the sustain & long decays to ring through. There is a definite sense of fragility evoked that fits well into the imagery of ice and snowflakes. I have included a SoundCloud streaming player below with a recording of Snowflakes, as well as an embedded YouTube video with the original performance of Snowflake with piano trio and dance. Snowflakes has also been read by the Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and a recording is available on Chin’s website. As always, be sure to check out the links at the bottom of the page for more information on Hong-Da Chin.


 

More of Hong-Da Chin:
HongDaChin.com
SoundCloud
YouTube

New Music Monday – Lauren Spavelko

It’s New Music Monday again, and this week I’m sharing a piece by Lauren Spavelko. Lauren is a composer, musician, educator, artist, painter, and terrific person, based in Columbus, OH.

Lauren’s song cycle, Baby Book deals with issues of pregnancy, motherhood and loss, and is a work about women, for women, and by women. Setting poetry by Chloe Yelena Miller, this poignant cycle creates space for a dialogue about a difficult and stigmatized facet of the female experience: miscarriage.

Baby Book has also won the Young Composers Competition dedicated to Gian Carlo Menotti in Spoleto, Italy, founded by the Monini Foundation with Casa Menotti. In addition to the complete recording from Spoleto, there is also a video below performed by soprano Natasha Foley with the composer at the piano, a perusal score on Lauren’s website, and even an Italian-language version of the movement, “Objects.” Be sure to check out the links below the embedded players for even more of Lauren Spavelko!

More of Lauren Spavelko:
LaurenSpavelko.com
SoundCloud
YouTube
Facebook
Instagram

New Music Monday – Evan Williams

It’s New Music Monday again! I’m currently in Texas so, it is still Monday here even if it’s Tuesday EST. This week I’ll be sharing a piece by Wisconsin-based composer, Evan Williams.

I was lucky enough to meet Evan at the 2013 fresh inc festival in Kenosha, WI, for which this week’s featured piece was composed. GRIME is written for what Fifth House Ensemble refers to as the “real string quartet”–violin, viola, ‘cello, and double bass. In addition to being performed at fresh inc, GRIME was performed at the Grand Finale of Make Music Chicago 2013. There are some very neat timbral effects throughout the piece, using the acoustic instruments to emulate the sounds of a distorted electric guitar.

In addition to composing, Williams is also a conductor and an all-around wonderful person. Check out the recording of GRIME below, and be sure to check out the links below the embedded player for even more of Evan Williams!

More of Evan Williams:
EvanWilliamsMusic.info
SoundCloud
YouTube
Twitter
Facebook

New Music Monday – Elainie Lillios

Happy Monday, all! This week I’m excited to share a piece by Ohio-based composer, Elainie Lillios.

I’ve had the privilege of operating the electronics on three separate recitals for her flute and electronics piece, Sleep’s Undulating Tide. The piece is based upon a poem by Margaret Atwood, Variations on the Word Sleep. In addition to playing in the typical manner, the flutist also sings and recites fragments of text taken from the poem. The result is a stunning soundscape that makes uses of both pre-recorded sounds and live-processing.

The Max patch is also beautifully constructed, and it was one of the most intuitive Max interfaces I’ve ever worked with. (For comparison, I performed electronics for a concert where neither I nor the performer were entirely sure what the patch was supposed to do, let alone how it was supposed to be operated. Lillios’s piece was on the same recital, and those two pieces were as different as night-and-day in effectiveness and ease of operation.)

This really is a cool piece, and any flutists interested in expanding into the realm of flute and electronics should consider programming this piece. Without any further ado, here is a video of Lindsey Goodman performing Elainie Lillio’s Sleep’s Undulating Tide.

More of Elainie Lillios:
ELillios.com
SoundCloud
Elainie Lillios discusses Sleep’s Undulating Tide

New Music Monday – Rachel Whelan

This week’s New Music Monday features music by Rachel Whelan!

In addition to composing, Rachel is also a flutist and she is also assistant director of Treefalls: New Music Series (501c3) in Spartanburg, SC, which is dedicated to the presentation of contemporary chamber music written by living, active composers.

The piece featured this week, mountain • water • traveler (山水客), is a three-movement flute sonata based on Whelan’s experience in an open-air teahouse in Maokong, Taipei, Taiwan. Each movement makes reference to each of the three characters in the teahouse’s name: 山, 水, and 客. The first movement, 山 (mountain) draws inspiration from the stunning mountain-top view from the tea house. 水 (water) refers to both the misty mountain rain and pouring of water to prepare tea. The final movement, 客 (traveler) draws from the many possible interpretations of the character, that could mean traveler, customer, guest, or visitor, depicting how Whelan “made [her] way through in this lovely little island as a traveler, open to the joy and wonderment that travel and adventure can bring.”

 

More of Rachel Whelan:
RachelLWhelan.com
SoundCloud
Treefalls: Contemporary Chamber Music Series

New Music Monday – Stacy Garrop

This week’s New Music Monday features music by Chicago-based composer, Stacy Garrop!

The piece I have selected is her “Frammenti,” which is a set of five movements where each movement elaborates one or more musical fragments. I am particularly fond of the second movement for it’s compelling use of silences in the opening coupled with the outward pitch expansion from a tutti unison. (I also have a completely biased fondness for viola features, which this movement has!) The entire set is excellent, and Fifth House Ensemble performs it very well in the recording below.

Stacy Garrop additionally maintains a blog, Inklings, which is a treasure trove of advice and suggestions for professional development as composers.

More of Stacy Garrop:
Twitter
Garrop.com
Inklings Blog

New Music Monday – Emily Cooley

This week’s New Music Monday features music by Philadelphia-based composer, Emily Cooley!

Her String Quartet No. 1, “Etched” was premiered by the JACK Quartet in 2011, and was also selected for the 2012 PARMA Recordings Anthology of music and as the winner for the 2012 Tribeca New Music Young Composers Competition. It is a cool piece that makes effective use of many of the colors of the string quartet. I have a particular fondness for string harmonics, so it’s perhaps unsurprising that I find the use of artificial harmonics appealing.

In addition to being a composer, Emily is the co-founder of the New York City-based presenting organization Kettle Corn New Music, which is definitely worth checking out.

More of Emily Cooley:
EmilyCooley.com
SoundCloud
Twitter
Kettle Corn New Music

New Music Monday – Quinn Dizon

I apologize for the short hiatus from New Music Monday! Throwing together an orchestra, being a grad student, and teaching were all vying for my time this month, and something had to give. But enough excuses! Let’s hear some music!

Today’s piece is “Concertante” by D.C.-area-based composer Quinn Dizon. In addition to being a composer, Quinn is also a conductor, having earned masters degrees in Composition and Orchestral Conducting from the University of Louisville before continuing onto the University of Maryland for his doctorate. This piece was composed for the UMD University Orchestra to be performed on a concert featuring Elgar’s Enigma Variations. Enjoy!

 

More of Quinn Dizon:
QuinnDizonComposer.com
SoundCloud

New Music Monday – Jabez Co

Welcome to the Halloween edition of New Music Monday! In honor of the day, I present a piece that I feel fits the Halloween spirit: the Jabberwock by Jabez Co.

The piece sets the poem “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll, which comes from Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Although the poem is often viewed as non-sense, a very dramatic story can be unpacked from the invented language. Co’s setting of the text maintains some of the whimsy often associated with the poem (Hello–flute, viola, harp, bass, and mezzo-soprano? That’s at least kind of odd. But wait until you hear the ‘trumpet sounds’ from the flute too!), but he also infuses it with a sense of drama that helps make more sense out of the gibberish.

Streaming audio of the whole piece is below, as are links to social media, etc.

More of Jabez Co:
JabezSamuelCo.com
SoundCloud
Twitter

New Music Monday – Jennifer Jolley

For the second iteration of New Music Monday, I present Spielzeug Straßenbahn by Jennifer Jolley! With Baroque music being close to my heart, it is not all that surprising that a piece that re-imagines Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 stood out to me. There’s also something about the fusion of Baroque and Post-Minimalist idioms that just works. (Also, have I mentioned I love harpsichord?)

In addition to composing, Jolley maintains a blog where she shares her adventures in composing, including her successes and failures. I particularly appreciate the humor and honesty with which she shares the many “Composer Fails” it takes any artist before the next “Composer Win.”

Streaming audio of the whole piece is below, are are links to social media, Jolley’s website, and her blog.

More of Jennifer Jolley:
JenniferJolley.com
Why Compose When You Can Blog?
SoundCloud
Twitter