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The Music of Speech

Program Notes
Composer Bios
Performer Bios
Staff Bios

June 4, 2022 8pm | June 5, 2022 7pm

in collaboration with the Cambridge Chamber Singers

June 4, 8pm at University Lutheran Church
66 Winthrop St, Cambridge, MA 02138

June 5, 7pm at Pilgrim Congregational Church
55 Coolidge Ave, Lexington, MA 02420

Andrew Davis* - On the Nature of Things
Ania Vu° - Strange Birds
Josef Rheinberger - Die Nacht
Antônio Carlos Jobim - Double Rainbow
Claudio Monteverdi - Hor che'l ciel
Libby Larsen - Dance Set
Emerson Voss^ - whereas
Gunter Gaupp^ - those who watch
Derek Douglas Carter§ - a bite of chocolate milk
Kian Ravaei§ - Writing a Book

*winner of our 7th Annual Commissioning Competition
°winner of our 9th Annual Commissioning Competition
^presented on June 4 only
§presented on June 5 only

Presented by the Boston New Music Initiative core ensemble conducted by John Masko and the Cambridge Chamber Singers conducted by Ray Fahrner

These concerts were sponsored in part by grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Get Tickets June 4Get tickets June 5

Program Notes

On The Nature Of Things is inspired by the work of the same name (De rerum natura) from the Roman poet and philosopher Lucretius. This sprawling poem divided into six books explains Epicurean thought on issues such as atomism, the role of the mind, soul, and thought, and the nature of the world. Lucretius explicitly attempts to describe the world in terms of physical principles and not through the will of the Roman deities. I was attracted to Lucretius’s reasoned attempts to explain physics and was amazed at how many of those ideas have since been proven true. Moreover, Lucretius’s work fights against the notion of vengeful deities and moralistic fearmongering through logic and science. In our age of disinformation, his work resonated with me deeply, and many of his points ring true today.

In my setting, I selected only small excerpts from this large work that touch on a subset of Lucretius’s ideas. The first two movements contain excerpts from his first book that detail how the physical world operates. The first movement Substance explains that the world is created from tiny, indivisible particles. It is a fast-paced, energetic movement that mimics the assertiveness and boldness of Lucretius’ claim. The second movement Space explains that between these atoms is void. Lucretius states that if there were not void, “by no means could things move.” The music consists of fractured motives separated by space. The final movement Sleep, which is the crux of the work, sets part of Lucretius’ third book, dealing with the nature of death. In this book, he uses his explanations of the physical world to proclaim that death is not something to be feared. The text for Sleep pieces together several excerpts of the more moving imagery from his third book, and the music mimics the calmness with which Lucretius frames his discussion of death.

On The Nature Of Things was a joint commission between the Boston New Music Initiative and the Cambridge Chamber Singers.

Strange Birds is the third scene from my opera in-progress, Through the Doors. It’s an original story about a young girl, Odessa, and her father, a metronome-maker, that live together remotely. One day, he is drafted to war, but promises Odessa that he will return home. Until then, he asks her to promise him to not leave the house. However, years go by and she doesn’t hear anything from him. As she grows older and begins to question the meaning of her existence, she decides one day to break her promise to go search for him and discover the outside world. She then embarks on an exciting but disorienting adventure traveling through different “universes”. The first stop is the world of Strange Birds, where birds talk and behave like humans.

whereas (2020) invites listeners to experience voice within a liminal space betweenmusic and speech. In whereas voice’s attributes are separated, remixed and/or dissected. What does a voice without a body look and sound like (and vice versa)? What does speech look and sound like? How does music feel different than speech? What can music say that speech can’t (and vice versa)? Within all these questions voice remains central as the linchpin of speech as well as our first music maker. My hope is that listeners will (beyond contemplating these questions) feel these questions.

Those Who Watch: In the last few years, my experience of the world has been colored by a dull but constant sense of anxiety in regards to climate change. That sense of doom flames dramatically, however, whenever I encounter clips of news pundits actively spreading misinformation and openly mocking the efforts of environmentalists. Accordingly, Those Who Watch attempts to present four distinct perspectives in the spread of climate change denial through the lens of my own anxiety while also trying to critically examine my engagement with misinformation as a distraction from forward progress.

In the piece’s electronic accompaniment, voices of news anchors and billionaires who profit from fossil fuel consumption swirl in a cacophonous cloud of mischaracterizations and misquoted statistics. Meanwhile, the voices of scientists and activists like Wallace Broecker form the bedrock of the piece’s sonic landscape, distorted beyond understanding and only truly audible in moments of quiet sincerity. The soloist, then, serves as a mouthpiece for my anxiety as the piano stews in its own angst, screams into the void, and ignores a path to meaningful change.

Writing a Book was written to introduce children to the joys of instrumental music through the familiar act of playing pretend.

a bite of chocolate milk is dedicated to anyone that feels the labels given to them by society limit them, and seek to transcend them.

Composer Bios

Andrew Davis

Andrew Davis is a composer and electric guitarist from Boston, MA who has written for a variety of media both acoustic and electroacoustic. Davis' early experiences in music were in local concert bands where he played trombone and in rock bands where he played electric guitar. Fused with a strong background in popular music, his music seeks to explore a variety of different genres and musical aesthetics.
His works have been performed by groups such as the JACK Quartet, PRISM Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, Daedalus Quartet, the Argento Ensemble, loadbang, the Boston New Music Initiative, the Luna Nova Ensemble, the University of Texas Wind Ensemble, the Yale Concert Band, the Florida State Wind Ensemble, and the University of Texas New Music Ensemble. He has received honors from ASCAP, BMI, The Lyra Society, and ISCM-Texas among others. Additionally, his music has been heard at a variety of festivals including the TUTTI Festival, RED NOTE Music Festival, Mizzou New Music International Composers Festival, New Music on the Point, and SEAMUS. He has held residencies at Atlantic Center for the Arts and ACRE.

He earned a B.A. in music from Yale University, an M.M. in composition from the University of Texas at Austin in 2012, a PhD in composition from the University of Pennsylvania in 2017, and M.S. in computer science from Stanford University in 2018. He currently teaches at Wellesley College.

Ania Vu

Polish of Vietnamese descent composer and pianist, Ania Vu (née Vũ Đặng Minh Anh) writes music that explores the interplay between the sound properties of the words and their meanings, musical energy related to form, and varied notions of time. She also enjoys crafting her own text—often in Polish—that serves as a sonic, formal, and expressive guiding reference in her musical writing process.
As the winner of the Boston New Music Initiative's 9th Annual Commissioning Competition (2021) and prize recipient of the Megalopolis Saxophone Orchestra's Call for Scores (2020), Ania has worked with leading new music ensembles and musicians, including the Daedalus and Mivosstring quartets, Sō Percussion, the TAK, International Contemporary and Kamratōn Ensembles, theIridium Saxophone Quartet, pianist Eunmi Ko, percussionist Robert McCormick, and sopranos Rose Hegele and Paulina Swierczek. She has received recognition and fellowships from ASCAP, the American Opera Project, Tanglewood, the I-Park Foundation, and her music has been featured at festivals and conferences, including Tanglewood, the Research on Contemporary Composition Conference, ISCM's Virtual Collaboration Series, Tage Neuer Musik in Regensburg (Germany), Society of Composers, College Music Society Regional Conferences, International New Music Festival at the University of South Florida, Red Note New Music Festival, Newburyport Chamber Music Festival, Valencia International Performance Academy (Spain), and soundSCAPE (Italy).
Currently, Ania is a Ph.D. candidate on the Benjamin Franklin Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania where she studies with Anna Weesner, and took lessons with James Primosch,Marcos Balter, and Amy Williams. She is also a Composer Fellow at the Composers & the Voice, a two-year training program that provides experience writing for the voice and opera stage. In 2017, she received her B.M. in composition and theory from the Eastman School of Music, where she studied with Robert Morris, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, Oliver Schneller, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, and David Liptak. Her first composition teacher was her mother, Đặng Hồng Anh. In 2022-23, Ania will be appointed as the Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Chicago's Center for Contemporary Composition.
Together with pianist Eunmi Ko, they started an initiative called The Music She Writes, a series of four virtual concerts featuring works by 26 Asian Female composers. This project aims to highlight the diversity and significance of music by a very large, yet underrepresented community.
Ania is also an actively performing pianist and a passionate music educator. For more information about her piano background, performances and teaching, please scroll down to Piano.
Outside of music, Ania has a deep interest in languages, and speaks fluent English, Polish, French, and Vietnamese, in addition to having studied Latin and German; currently, she is learning modern Greek. She also enjoys traveling - having visited 30 countries so far -, wandering in all kinds of museums, and ballroom dancing.

Josef Rheinberger

The composer, organist and teacher, Josef [Joseph] Gabriel Rheinberger, was unusually gifted as a child and acquired considerable fame when only 5 years old. He received at about this time lessons in theory, pianoforte and organ from Sebastian Pohly, a retired schoolmaster at Schlanders (a special pedal-board being made for him. When 7 years old, he already served as organist in his parish church, and at the age of 8 composed a mass for three voices. After enjoying for a short time the instruction of Choir-master Schmutzer in Feldkirch, he attended the conservatory at Munich from 1851 to 1854, and finished his musical education with a course under Franz Lachner.
In 1859 Josef Rheinberger was appointed professor of the theory of music and organ at the conservatory, a position which he held until a few months before his death. Besides his duties as teacher he acted successively as organist at the court Church of St. Michael, conductor of the Munich Oratorio Society, and instructor of the solo artists at the Royal Opera. In 1867 he received the title of royal professor, and became inspector of the newly established royal school for music, now called the Royal Academy of Music. In 1877 he was promoted to the rank of royal court conductor, which position carried with it the direction of the music in the royal chapel. Honored by his prince with the title of nobility and accorded the honorary degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the Munich University, Rheinberger for more than forty years wielded as teacher of many of the most gifted young musicians of Europe and America, perhaps more influence than any of his contemporaries.
As a composer Josef Rheinberger was remarkable for his power of invention, masterful technique, and a noble, solid style. Among his two hundred compositions are oratorios (notably Christoforus and Monfort); two operas; cantatas for soli, chorus, and orchestra (The Star of Bethlehem, Toggenburg, Klãrchen auf Eberstein, etc.); smaller works for chorus and orchestra; symphonies (Wallenstein), overtures, and chamber music for various combinations of instruments, Most important of all his instrumental works are his twenty sonatas for organ, the most notable productions in this form since Felix Mendelssohn. Rheinberger wrote many works to liturgical texts, namely, twelve masses (one for double chorus, three for four voices a cappella, three for women's voices and organ, two for men's voices and one with orchestra), a requiem, Stabat Mater, and a large number of motets, and smaller pieces. Rheinbergen's masses rank high as works of art, but some of them are defective in the treatment of the text. Joseph Renner, Jr., has recently remedied most of these defects, and made the masses available for liturgical purposes.

Antônio Carlos Jobim

Antônio Carlos Jobim, in full Antônio Carlos Brasileiro de Almeida, byname Tom Jobim, (born January 25, 1927, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil—died December 8, 1994, New York, New York, U.S.), Brazilian songwriter, composer, and arranger who transformed the extroverted rhythms of the Brazilian samba into an intimate music, the bossa nova (“new trend”), which became internationally popular in the 1960s.
“Tom” Jobim—as he was popularly known—first began playing piano when he was 14 years old, on an instrument given to his sister by their stepfather. He quickly showed an aptitude for music, and his stepfather sent him to a series of highly accomplished classically trained musicians for lessons. During the course of his studies, Jobim was particularly inspired by the music of Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959), whose Western classical works regularly employed Brazilian melodic and rhythmic materials. When it came time to choose a career, Jobim initially showed no interest in pursuing music professionally, opting instead to become an architect. He soon became disenchanted with the choice, however, and left the field to devote himself fully to music.
Jobim subsequently performed in the clubs of Rio de Janeiro, transcribed songs for composers who could not write music, and arranged music for various recording artists before becoming music director of Odeon Records, one of the largest record companies in Brazil. In 1958 he began collaborating with singer-guitarist João Gilberto, whose recording of Jobim’s song “Chega de Saudade” (1958; “No More Blues”) is widely recognized as the first bossa nova single. Although the song itself met a cold reception, the bossa nova album that bears its name—Chega de Saudade (1959)—took Brazil by storm the following year. Also in 1959, Jobim and composer Luís Bonfá became noted for their collaboration with lyricist Vinícius de Moraes on the score for Orfeu negro (Black Orpheus), which won an Academy Award for best foreign film. By the early 1960s, Jobim’s music was being played around the world.
Jobim maintained a second home in the United States, where bossa nova’s fusion of understated samba pulse (quiet percussion and unamplified guitars playing subtly complex rhythms) and gentle, breathy singing with the melodious and sophisticated harmonic progressions of cool jazz found a long-lasting niche in popular music. In 1962 he appeared at Carnegie Hall with his leading jazz interpreters, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and guitarist Charlie Byrd. Jobim collaborated on many albums, such as Getz/Gilberto (1963) and Frank Sinatra & Antonio Carlos Jobim (1967). He also recorded solo albums, most notably Jobim (1972) and A Certain Mr. Jobim (1965), and composed classical works and film scores. Of the more than 400 songs Jobim produced in the course of his musical career, “Samba de uma nota só” (“One-Note Samba”), “Desafinado” (“Slightly Out of Tune”), “Meditação” (“Meditation”), “Corcovado” (“Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars”), “Garota de Ipanema” (“The Girl from Ipanema”), “Wave,” and “Dindi” were particularly popular.

Claudio Monteverdi

Claudio Monteverdi, (baptized May 15, 1567, Cremona, Duchy of Milan—died Nov. 29, 1643, Venice), Italian composer. The first of his nine books of madrigals appeared in 1587, the second in 1590. He visited the court of the Gonzagas in Mantua, and his next book (1592) shows freer use of dissonance and close coordination of music and words. He married in 1599 and settled in Mantua. Attacked in 1600 for the even freer dissonance in his newest works, he replied that music now had two “practices,” the stricter first practice for sacred works and the more expressive second practice for secular music. It was his first opera, Orfeo, performed in 1607, that finally established him as a composer of large-scale music rather than of exquisite miniature works. In 1610 he completed his great Vespers. Having long tried to obtain his release from Mantua, he was finally granted it in 1612, and the next year he was put in charge of music at San Marco Basilica, Venice. After the first opera house opened in Venice (1637), he wrote his last three operas, including Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (1640) and the remarkable Incoronazione di Poppea (1643). Monteverdi is the first great figure of Baroque music, a remarkable innovator who synthesized the elements of the new style to create the first Baroque masterpieces of both sacred and secular music.

Libby Larsen

Libby Larsen(b. 1950, Wilmington, Delaware) is one of America’s most performed living composers. She has composed over 500 works including orchestra, opera, vocal and chamber music, symphonic winds and band. Her work is widely recorded. An advocate for the music and musicians of our time, in 1973 Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composer’s Forum. Grammy Award winner and former holder of the Papamarkou Chair at John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, Larsen has also held residencies with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony. As Artistic Director of the John Duffy Institute for New Opera (2014-2020 ), she guides a faculty of practicing professional artists in nurturing and production of new opera by American Composers. Larsen’s 2017 biography, Libby Larsen: Composing an American Life, Denise Von Glahn, author, is available from the University Illinois Press.

Emerson Voss

Emerson Voss(b. 1991) is a composer as well as video and installation artist based in Pittsburgh. He’s interested in the total experience of both performer and listener. Underlying his work is the knowledge that performance and listening are embodied, meaning that all our senses can be engaged in an artistic experience. His work often intersects with theater and film. Recently, he’s written works of musicked theater that highlight theater and music performance’s shared avenue to meaning-making—bodies in motion. Emerson’s music has been performed by the Da Capo Chamber Players, Julia Den Boer, Miranda Cuckson, Dolce Wind Quintet, Duo Cortona, TAK Ensemble, Peter Bloom, and many others. Emerson’s film installation windows was premiered at the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination in Pittsburgh in Fall 2021. He’s currently a PhD candidate at the University of Pittsburgh in music theory/composition. He holds an MM in theory/composition from East Carolina University and a BA in piano and music theory/composition from Campbell University.

Gunter Gaupp

Gunter Gaupp is a composer and music teacher based in Memphis, Tn who’s work combines interests in noise composition and genre music. His recent work utilizes folk melodies, chaotic textures, and improvisation to explore themes of interpersonal connection and accessibility. Recent premiers include collaborations with Hypercube, the Julius Quartet, Four Corners Ensemble, and Ensemble PHACE to present pieces in Chicago, Dallas, New York, and Vienna. In addition to composing, Gunter teachers music technology and instrumental music at Memphis Rise Academy.

Derek Douglas Carter

Derek Douglas Carter (b.1994, he/him) is a composer, conductor, and artist currently residing in Kentucky. His music has been performed across the Midwest, New England, the South, as well as in Canada, Poland, and Spain. Carter has been a festival participant in the Charlotte New Music Festival, Synthetis Summer Courses, the Valencia International Performance Academy, the Loretto Project, and Domaine Forget. He has worked with ensembles and soloists including the Illinois State Symphonic Winds, University of Louisville Symphony Orchestra, University of Louisville Sinfonietta, Orchestra Enigmatic, Ensemble Dal Niente, Beo String Quartet, E-Mex Ensemble, Ensemble Paramirabo, Longleash Trio, Durward Ensemble, Orlando Cela, Parker Ramsey, Mieko Kanno, and a plethora of student performers.

While pursuing a BM in Music Composition and Theory at Illinois State, Carter collaborated with poets, directors, choreographers, and improvisors to create new interdisciplinary works of art while also founding a music ensemble to promote music from living composers to foster an interest in contemporary music in the local community. Through his work with the composers collective/experimental trio AmiEnsemble, Carter has continued to collaborate with more artists of many disciplines to create experimental new work, often incorporating text and speech in concert settings as well as theatrical elements in solo and small chamber pieces. In each piece there is a focus on the abstract, ineffable, and dreamlike nature of communication, emphasizing the role of a living human performing the work as well as the musically noisey sounds they make. After finishing an MM in Music Composition at the University of Louisville in 2019, Carter continued his studies of music, obtaining an MM in Orchestral Conducting under the supervision of Kimcherie Lloyd in 2020.

Kian Ravaei

Kian Ravaei composes music that delivers heartfelt directness, bold melodies, and visceral power. His growing body of work has often been praised for combining rigorous compositional technique with naturalness and penetrating emotion. Born in 1999 of Iranian immigrants, Ravaei spent his childhood playing jazz, producing electronic dance music, and singing in a rock band when he should have been practicing piano sonatas. Ravaei's music has been performed by leading musicians and commissioned by notable organizations such as the Canadian Music Centre and Salastina. He makes his home in Los Angeles, where he serves as a Composer Teaching Artist Fellow for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and studies music composition with Richard Danielpour — one of his favorite living composers — at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music.

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