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Program Notes
Composer Bios
Performer Bios
Staff Bios

Bon Appétit | June 20, 2021 – 1:30 pm ET

Livestream Event

Benjamin Beckman*light pours through the quiet interstices and we measure this transient world
Melika FitzhughWhispered Love Across Skin
Alissa VothTo Be Most Itself
Bernie WalsavageShots
Ronald Hannah – "Fish," "Game," and "Coffee" from The Dinner Party
Blair WhittingtonLate Night Gumbo
Angélica NegrónQuimbombó

* winner of the 6th Annual Young Composer's Competition

A brunch presentation of food and drink themed music.

Presented by the Boston New Music Initiative's core ensemble conducted by Tian Hui Ng.

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Program Notes

For our 2018 Fall Project in the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Nancy and Barry Sanders Composer Fellowship Program, I was asked to write a string quartet with the prompt of 'contrasts'. While concurrently reading John Milton's Paradise Lost in my school philosophy class, the contrast between 'Heaven' - light, spacious, airy texture - and 'Earth' - warmer, rougher, darker sounds - forms the backbone of this work. The title is an amalgamation of two quotes: "light... in the quiet interstices" is from the last chapter of William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, and Adam says to the Archangel Michael in the final pages of Paradise Lost "thy... measured this transient world". I thought of an image of light 'pouring through the quiet interstices' - moving from a divine realm, through some intermediary space, to ours, so that we have the ability to live and experience reality - to 'measure this transient world'. Each movement's title is a snippet of the work's title as a whole. The first movement, 'light pours through', reflects that aforementioned otherworld. The second movement, 'the quiet interstices', is quite literally an interstice ("an intervening space, usually a very small one", as defined by the dictionary) for the work, serving as a transition into the third movement 'we measure this transient world', which reflects our own. (Notes from the composer).

Whispered Love Across Skin is minimalist, and a touch gritty...bass and percussion keep a groove whilst the other instruments manifest flitting, fleeting touches here and there, which occasionally turn sinuous and serpentine. (Notes from the composer).

Shots is a meta-programmatic exploration of hard drink and excessiveness. The instruments drunkenly stumble over each other. Arguing and partaking in an overdose of glutinous jollity, the duet charges onward complete with trips, slips, and hiccups. Wedged in the middle is an ominous cantabile foreshadowing the danger yet to come.

Despite this being an early work, I still consider The Dinner Party among my best. This is in large part due to my discovery of Amy Lowell's poetry. Every composer looks constantly for texts to set, perhaps finding many wonderful works in a given volume of poetry, but few or none that lend themselves to a musical setting. When I found Ms. Lowell for the first time, I could not believe what I was reading. She is my poet, and my hands were shaking as I read: I could set everything she wrote! In fact I have gone a long way toward doing just that over the years.

Another impetus came from a fellow student and clarinettist (with whom I was somewhat enamored), who promised me a performance if I wrote something for this combination (we had just heard Schubert's Shepherd on the Rock). What more could a composer ask? An exciting poet, Schubert's wonderful example, and an attractive performer...

The cycle is in six parts (three performed today) entitled "Fish", "Game", "Drawing Room", "Coffee", "Talk", and "11 O'clock". Amy was a Boston Lowell, very wealthy and privileged (her family included an astronomer and a president of Harvard University), and each section offers a scathing commentary on the spoiled society in which the poet found herself, delivered in powerfully evocative images. The style is freely tonal, quite dissonant in spots, and requires good rhythmic control. It was premiered, as promised, by my lovely clarinettist in 1975 as part of my Master's recital at the University of Alberta, and has been performed by several other sopranos since. (Notes from the composer)

I wanted to write a one movement piece using the colorful Pierrot ensemble instrumentation. The piece was inspired by my wife’s wonderful gumbo recipe. It’s a very expressive piece with a solid form and accessible to audiences. (Notes from the composer)

Quimbombó evokes distant personal memories through a festive and celebratory perspective presenting and deconstructing different rhythms and melodic gestures from the Afro-Caribbean tradition of Puerto Rico. The title Quimbombó makes reference to the Puerto Rican stewed okra (a dish introduced to Puerto Rican cooking by African slaves) and also serves as an onomatopoeic reference to a distinctive rhythmic pattern persistently used in the composition. The work explores the percussive possibilities of the melodic instruments of the ensemble as well as the voices of the performers as an extension of their playing and as a direct reference to the vocal gestures of the dancers in the performance of bomba, which articulate the spiritual significance of this dance. The piece is dedicated and written for Cadillac Moon Ensemble.

Composer Bios

Composer Benjamin Beckman (b. 2000) is an undergraduate at Yale University hailing from Los Angeles, California. Ben’s music has notably been performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, Boston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists Orchestra, Frost School of Music Ensemble Ibis, Triton Brass, the Lyris Quartet, Opera Elect, and the Thornton Edge in venues such as the Walt Disney Concert Hall, Royal Albert Hall in London, Amsterdam’s Royal Concertgebouw, and the Koussevitzky Music Shed and Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood. Ben counts among his most formative teachers and mentors Andrew Norman, Sarah Gibson, and Sean Shepherd. He currently studies with Kathryn Alexander. Ben is a 2017 YoungArts Winner, won the 2017 Ensemble Ibis International High School Competition, the 2019 Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra Composition Competition (senior division), and the 2020 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. He has received honorable mentions in the 2018 and 2019 American Composer’s Forum Nextnotes Competition and the 2019 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. As a Composition Fellow, his orchestral work ascendance, descendance was premiered in 2018 by the Los Angeles Philharmonic with by Ruth Reinhardt conducting. His and the wind, and the waves… was the first student-composed piece ever to be performed by the BUTI Young Artists Orchestra, led by Ken-David Masur. Ben’s piano quartet Three Views was featured on the NPR’s “From the Top”, broadcast nationally. As part of his summer 2019 apprenticeship with the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, his piece Occidentalis was performed by the orchestra with Antonio Pappano at Tanglewood, on the BBC Proms, and at the Royal Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. The performance from the Proms was televised nationally in the UK and featured on the BBC world service’s “Arts Hour”. His chamber opera The Basement Among the Stars, given its premiere in summer 2019 by Opera Elect, will be the first student-written opera to be produced and performed by the Opera Theater of Yale College in the spring of 2020. Upcoming projects include an hour-long work for solo piano inspired by the Californian landscape in collaboration with the Yale Environmental Studies department and a new work for the Yale Symphony Orchestra. Ben is an ASCAP composer and publisher.

A native of Stafford, Virginia, Melika M. Fitzhugh (A.B. Harvard-Radcliffe, M.M. Longy School of Music) studied conducting and composition with Thomas G. Everett, Beverly Taylor, James Yannatos, Julian Pellicano, Roger Marsh, Jeff Stadelman, and, most recently, John Howell Morrison and Osnat Netzer. Mel’s compositions have been commissioned by John Tyson, Catherine E. Reuben, John and Maria Capello, Laura and Geoffrey Schamu, and the Quilisma Consort, and have been performed in the US, South America, and Europe by those artists as well as the Radcliffe Choral Society, Berit Strong, Miyuki Tsurutani, Libor Dudas, Aldo Abreu, The PHACE Ensemble, Quarteto Larianna and B3: Brouwer Trio. Mel, who has composed music for film and stage, was a member of Just In Time Composers and Players and is currently a member of world/early music ensemble Urban Myth, in addition to playing bass guitar with acoustic rock singer songwriter Emmy Cerra, the ambient rock band Rose Cabal and the Balkan folk dance band Balkan Fields.

Alissa Voth composes experimental music within the classical music tradition. Her music explores the narrative and informative capabilities of composition through the intersections of music, data, and language. She is interested in the vast spectrums between performer and character, singer and speaker, and activity and stasis. She mostly composes for soloists and small ensembles, working closely and collaboratively with performers. Alissa graduated from the Boston Conservatory at Berklee in 2019 and received the Roger Sessions Memorial Award for composition. Her music has been performed at the Cortona Sessions for New Music and Longy’s Divergent Studio, and she has received commissions from the Rivers School Conservatory and pianist Lucy Yao. She currently has commissions from flutist Sarah Brady and the Nightingale Vocal Ensemble, and will premiere a full theatrical production of the play/musical/drag show Nosferatu, the Vampyr in collaboration with playwright Sloth Levine. Alissa is originally from Tulsa, Oklahoma and currently resides in Boston, Massachusetts.

Bernie Walasavage (*1989) is a Midwestern composer originally from the Pennsylvania coal country. He received music degrees from Mansfield University of PA (B.M. 2012) and Western Michigan University (M.M. 2015). Described as innovative and imaginative, Bernie’s music is texturally inspired with special consideration for motion and form. His work has been performed by ensembles such as The Russell Brown Quintet, Quartetto Indaco, Quartet Metadata, cellist Jordan Hamilton, and saxophonist Megan Gullone. In 2019, Bernie won the AddAMovie Film Scoring Competition for W.W. Young’s Alice in Wonderland in New York City. Upcoming performances include Fanfares by The Aero Brass/N.E.O. Sound at the 20th Annual Akron New Music Festival, Oiseaux by Duo Artina in Berlin, Germany, and Tuning in Fast Motion by the Mansfield University Saxophone Ensemble.

Canadian composer Ron Hannah was born in 1945. His already eclectic musical interests were broadened by having spent several years teaching English and backpacking in various parts of the world. At present he resides in Austria. He has Bachelor of Science (Chemistry) and Bachelor of Music degrees, and a Master of Music (1975) degree (student of Violet Archer, Manus Sasonkin and Malcolm Forsyth) from the University of Alberta. He is a member of SOCAN (performing rights organization), a composer affiliate of the Canadian Music Centre and of the Österreichisches Komponistenbund (Austrian Composers Association). His catalog is extensive - over 100 works: choral, chamber, solo, and orchestral, song cycles, ballets, operas and theatre pieces, the most recent being an opera on of the life of St. Gregory of Armenia, called "The Illuminator" - premiered in Yerevan in 2017. His works have appeared at the London Festival of Contemporary Church music, and increasingly his chamber and vocal music is coming into demand in Vienna and other parts of Europe. His music tends toward the conservative with a streak of Romanticism, a style that he describes as "dissonant pan-tonality", but elements of the atonal, of textural writing, of minimalism, and of randomness can also be found, with the unending intention of being understood and enjoyed by an audience. He has received commissions from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Alberta Choral Federation, the Anahit Foundation (Yerevan, Armenia) and many individuals.

Blair Whittington is a composer and Los Angeles native. Guitar was his first serious instrument but he now spends most of his free time composing. He studied composition with Byong-kon Kim. For the last two decades he has worked as music librarian at the Brand Library & Art Center and also directs the Brand Library chamber music series on behalf of the non-profit Brand Associates. His music has been performed by pianist Mark Robson, cellist Maksim Velichkin, pianist Yumi Suehiro, the UK Guitar Quartet, the Bateira Trio (flute/viola/bass), Nautilus Brass, and Trio Emporte (flute/oboe/piano). He also has composed many miniatures that have been performed across the United States and Europe as part of Fifteen-Minutes-of-Fame, 60x60 and the Vine Orchestra.

Puerto Rican-born composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón writes music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys and electronics as well as chamber ensembles and orchestras. Her music has been described as “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative” (WQXR/Q2) and “mesmerizing and affecting” (Feast of Music) while The New York Times noted her “capacity to surprise” and her “quirky approach to scoring”. Angélica has been commissioned by the Bang on a Can All-Stars, loadbang, MATA Festival, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Sō Percussion, the American Composers Orchestra, and the New York Botanical Garden, among others. Her music has been performed at the Kennedy Center, the Ecstatic Music Festival, EMPAC, Bang on a Can Marathon and the 2016 New York Philharmonic Biennial and her film scores have been heard numerous times at the Tribeca Film Festival. She has collaborated with artists like Sō Percussion, The Knights, Face the Music, and NOVUS NY, among others and is a founding member of the tropical electronic band Balún. Angélica holds a Master’s degree in music composition from New York University and pursued doctoral studies at The Graduate Center (CUNY) under the guidance of Tania León. She's a teaching artist for New York Philharmonic's Very Young Composers Program working with young learners on creative composition projects. Angélica has composed numerous film scores, including Landfall (2020) and Memories of a Penitent Heart (2016), in collaboration with filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo. Upcoming premieres include works for the LA Philharmonic, Dallas Symphony Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Girls Chorus, and NY Philharmonic Project 19 initiative. Negrón continues to perform and compose for film.

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