featuring the BNMI Core Ensemble and conductor Patrick Valentino
Sang Mi Ahn (b. 1979) | i(dash) (2011, rev. 2014)
Sang Mi Ahn is a composer whose blend of electronic and acoustic works have garnered numerous international awards. Her recent awards include winner of the 2014 Indiana University Dean's Prize in Composition, the 2013 Heckscher Composition Prize, the 31st Republic of Korea Composition Prize, the Judith Lang Zaimont Prize at the 2013 Competition of The International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM), winner of the 2011 Women Composers Festival of Hartford International Composition Competition, and second prize at the Sixth International Musical Composition Contest held by the Long Island Arts Council at Freeport. Her compositions have been featured in festivals and conferences across the United States as well as in Europe and Asia— at the 2014 International Trumpet Guild Conference, the 2014 Australasian Computer Music Conference, the 2013 and 2012 International Computer Music Conference, Symposium on Acoustic Ecology, OLE.01 Festival, and at the 2012 North American Saxophone Alliance Biennial Conference. Ahn completed a Doctor of Music degree in Composition from Indiana University, where she also earned her Master of Music in Composition and served as an Associate Instructor in Music Theory.
After losing all of data in my hard drive because my laptop had been infected with an evil virus, I decided to compose a piece on technology. We take for granted all the technology we use in our daily lives – phones, television sets, cars, mp3 and DVD players – especially when they are continually updated with new versions. While these inventions have made things much more convenient in our lives, they also cause us unnecessary stress and grief when they break down. For me, “i” represents all the high technology that has been merged with the self (just as Mac devices are all signified by the use of “i”). And “dash” represents our identification with and inseparability from high technology. There are a few dichotomies representing technology’s double-edged sword in the piece. Even though we may feel empowered as users of machines, we become controlled by these machines as we grow to rely on them. In this piece, I wanted to explore the emotions of anxiety, unease, disorientation, and frustration aroused by our encounters with malfunctioning machines. Machines can break down for a number of reasons and in a number of ways. The two that I explore in this composition is the sudden breakdown and the gradual breakdown. The second section of the piece depicts the process of having to start over from scratch to recover or remember all the data that has been lost. I hope that my work will communicate the intersections of loss and recovery within our ambivalent relationship with technology.
Maurizio Azzan (b. 1987) | Città Della Memoria (2012)
Maurizio Azzan studied composition with Alessandro Solbiati at the Conservatory of Milan and with Salvatore Sciarrino. He attended master-classes and courses held by Pierluigi Billone, Stefano Gervasoni, Frédéric Durieux, Francesco Filidei, Joshua Fineberg and Tristan Murail. He holds a bachelor and a master in Philology and Ancient Literature from the University of Turin. His music has been performed in Italy and abroad by Ensemble Intercontemporain, Divertimento Ensemble, Nieuw Ensemble, Ex Novo Ensemble, Ensemble L’arsenale and musicians such as Marie Ythier, Marco Fusi, Enzo Porta and Paolo Beltramini, during Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival (UK), MITO SettembreMusica, Milano Musica, Time of Music Festival (FI), Budapest Music Center concert season (HU), Festival Pontino, Lo spirito della Musica di Venezia (Teatro La Fenice, Venice), among others. Prize-winner in several international composition competitions, in 2012 he received the National Prize of Arts from the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research. Currently he is one of the finalists of Feeding Music – International Composition Contest (Expo Milano 2015). Selected in 2012 for the European Composers’ Professional Development Programme, in 2013-14 he took part at PROTOTYPE, project devoted to contemporary dance and music promoted by the Royaumont Foundation. His works are published by Edizioni Suvini-Zerboni, Milan.
Recalling a memory from the past or the face of someone is something that we all do quite often, more or less consciously. But if we try to grasp the precise details, immediately all contours fade into one another, secondary elements jump to the foreground and gradually, without realizing it, the object/situation, settled down memory lane, becomes something alive and altered, independent of us. We can consider it as a sort of unreal place, which does not exist anymore neither in reality nor in our memories. First step of a project focused on imaginary places of the mind, Città della memoria is my personal effort to focus on these metamorphic processes, looking for their archetypes.
Sungji Hong (b. 1973) | Black Arrow (2005)
Sungji Hong graduated from Hanyang University in Seoul (BA), the Royal Academy of Music in London (MMus) and the University of York (PhD). Her creative output includes works ranging from solo instruments to full orchestra, as well as choral, ballet and electroacoustic music. Her music has been described as “a work of iridescent freshness” (BBC Music Magazine), “the sound is utterly luminous” (Fanfare Magazine), “it had fantasy, colour and drive” (Nottingham evening post), “outbursts of rhythmic energy” (The Irish Times), and "a virtuoso exploration of the technical and sonorous possibilities” (Daily Telegraph). Sungji’s music has been performed at international festivals and in major concert series by leading ensembles and orchestras in over 41 countries and 149 cities at such venues as Carnegie Hall (New York), the Kennedy Center (Washington DC), Gewandhaus (Leipzig), Konzerthaus (Berlin), Flagey (Brussels), Queen Elizabeth Hall (London), Merkin Hall (New York), Megaro Musiki (Athens) and the Muziekgebouw (Amsterdam). Her music has been widely broadcast in more than 17 countries (35 channels) around the world and has been recorded and released on the Atoll, Dutton label and by ECM Records. Her music is published by M.A.P. Editions in Milan and SEEMSA in Madrid.
In Black Arrow, written for bass clarinet and electronics, bass clarinet solo part consists of three ideas as follows: the quiet timbral trills, abrupt slap tongues in low register, and ghostly fleeting key slap scales. The whole piece develops around or between these three gestures turning on themselves or going through transformations. The latent energy seems to waver in a very low register but gradually the sounds creates a space filled with a strong directional kinetic energy. The succession of rising scales, lofty multiphonics and huge intervallic portamenti intensify the energy and constantly keep up the extreme tension. The source of the sound comes only from bass clarinet in order to create unified sonic world between the electronic part and instrumental part. The electronic part of the piece realized at the electroacoustic music studio at the University of York and at the composer’s home studio. Black Arrow was completed on the Greek island of Crete in early 2005 and received its first performance on 11 March 2006 at the International Electroacoustic Music Festival Spring in Havana, Cuba. It lasts about 7 minutes. The piece is dedicated to Sarah K Watts.
Christopher LaRosa (b. 1990) | Sextet (2014)
Christopher LaRosa’s music has been hailed by Literary Magnet as “Amazing and innovative… variegated and fascinating, by turns vicious and lovely… [it does] what art should do: change things.” Born and raised in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, Christopher’s small town upbringing provides his music with an intimate and American style.
Sextet's first movement examines the contradiction between the definition and constituent parts of the word "disquiet." The prefix "dis-" negates its consequent; therefore, the literal meaning of "disquiet" is "not quiet." However, the quietest moments often induce unease (or disquiet). The piece begins with wispy sounds and fricatives depicting the hushed external surroundings-- perhaps an abandoned street in the middle of the night. Rustlings and unexpected sounds startle the psyche, and an inner dialogue begins with a plaintive flute solo. An increasingly frenzied bass clarinet solo provokes its textural environment, inducing psychological agitation. The paranoia builds through the movement's ultimate crescendo and creates anticipation for a capping event. Instead, all sound momentarily vanishes and then returns to the wispy sounds and fricatives from the beginning. A chorale in the winds and strings provide temporary closure while maintaining the crescendo-induced anxiety. The wisps dissipate to nothing. The moto perpetuo "Grit" springs out of the first movement's emptiness with immediate aggression and verve, the delayed consequent of the previous movement's crescendo. The opening section, three phrases of pyramid chords, returns in the movement's middle and end, creating three pillars that support the entire movement. The intervening sections alternate internally with tape-splice chase scenes and passages of static dynamism. The instrumentalists wrestle through the tumultuous coda and crash in a shrieking halt.
João Pedro Oliveira (b. 1959) | Timshel (2007)
João Pedro Oliveira began his music studies at the Gregorian Institute of Lisbon where he studied organ performance. From 1985 to 1990 he moved to the US as a Fulbright student, with a fellowship from Gulbenkian Foundations, where he completed a PhD in Music at the University of New York at Stony Brook. His music includes one chamber opera, several orchestral compositions, a Requiem, 3 string quartets, chamber music, solo instrumental music and electroacoustic music. Recently he has been exploring the possibilities of interaction between instrumental and electroacoustic sounds, and most of his recent works use both media. He has received numerous prizes and awards, including three Prizes at Bourges Electroacoustic Music Competition, the prestigious Magisterium Prize in the same competition, the Giga-Hertz Special Award, 1st Prize in Metamorphoses competition, 1st Prize in Yamaha-Visiones Sonoras Competition, 1st Prize in Musica Nova competition, etc.. He is Professor at Federal University of Minas Gerais (Brazil) and Aveiro University (Portugal). He published several articles in journals, and has written a book about analysis and 20th century music theory.
This work was composed at the same time I was reading Steinbeck’s romance East of Eden. Timshel (Hebrew word that means "thou mayest…") occupies a basic place in this romance and relates to the capacity of choice given to human beings. In the process of composing we are confronted with many choices, and the final work is the result of the options we made. The same happens in life. Choices made in one specific moment influence the future of our existence. Timshel is a composition where I manifest joy and gratefulness for the choices I made correctly, and sadness for those where I failed.
Carl Schimmel (b. 1975) | Roadshow for Otto (2012)
Carl Schimmel is a composer based in Iowa and Illinois. Praised by The New York Times as “vivid and dramatic,” his recent music is dense with literary and musical references, often humorous, and combines intensity of expression with a structural rigor which draws upon his mathematics background. In infusing his music with extra-musical influences such as poetry, art, and even unusual words, he strives to construct nexuses of experience which reflect both the inner life of emotions and the outer physical world which shapes us and is shaped by us. Winner of Columbia University’s Joseph Bearns Prize and the Lee Ettelson Award, Schimmel has received honors and awards from many organizations, including the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Copland House, New Music USA, and ASCAP. His works have been performed in Carnegie Hall’s Weill Hall, Merkin Hall in New York, Severance Hall in Cleveland, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, St. Martin-in-the-Fields in London, Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis, and at other venues throughout North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. He has received performances and commissions from the California EAR Unit, the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the Minnesota Orchestra, North/South Consonance, saxophonist Taimur Sullivan, the Da Capo Chamber Players, Lucy Shelton, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and many others. A graduate of Duke University (Ph.D.), the Yale School of Music (M.M.), and Case Western Reserve University (B.A. Mathematics and Music), he is currently Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition at Illinois State University in Normal, IL.
This piece was written for my little boy. I’ve selected a few toys featured on the hit PBS show Antiques Roadshow, and in each of the five movements I imagine how he might play with them. In “The Silver Atom Ray Gun,” the opening riff is stolen from the Warner Brothers cartoon “Duck Dodgers in the 24th 1⁄2 century.” The atom ray gun conjures up images of old sci-fi movies, so the music is appropriately melodramatic – therefore it can be compared perhaps to the music of Herrmann and Schoenberg. Here, Otto envisions himself as a daring adventurer, stalking and zapping his alien enemies. In “The Clown Mandeville,” I’ve used the actual music of the mandeville featured in Antiques Roadshow – in the central section of the movement, the music becomes circus-like and fantastical before returning again to the thoughtful and beautiful music-box melody. In “Pedaling the Spirit of America,” Otto is racing around in the little pedal plane, soaring high at some moments, and at other times, struggling with the testy engine of his early aeroplane. The brief melody subtly references the old tune “Come Josephine in My Flying Machine.” In “Camel and Monkey,” Otto leads his camel through the steppes and deserts of China and Mongolia – the usual habitat of the (stuffed) domestic two- humped camel appraised on Antiques Roadshow. Accordingly, the rhapsodic cello part references Mongolian morin khuur music. On the camel’s back, a mischievous monkey rides, mocking the camel with snippets of the children’s song “Alice the Camel.” In “The Revolving Flashing Robot,” the texture created by the flute, clarinet, and cello simulates the intonation of a colossal robot, broadcasting its enemies’ doom. After a quieter passage of subterfuge, the devastation unleashed by the robot dissipates into the clockwork clicking of a little toy.
Nicola Straffelini (b. 1965) | Labyrinth Song (2015)*
*world premiere performance
Born in Riva del Garda, Nicola Straffelini studied piano with Temenouchka Vesselinova and composition with Armando Franceschini. He received a Diploma in Composition from the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. His teachers were Franco Donatoni at Siena’s Accademia Chigiana and Sandor Veress.
Nicola’s compositions have won prizes and honors in several competitions, including first prize in the Rassegna internazionale di composizione pianistica (Rome), the first international composition prize “Musica Riva”, and the Premio Valentino Bucchi (Rome). His music has been performed in Italy and internationally on stage, radio and television, including his first opera, La Leggenda dei rododenri, and Dies natalis, which was recorded by Accademia I Filarmonici e Quadrivium. His chamber opera Desert Games has recently won the Director’s Award at the Boston Metro Opera Composition Competition. He currently teaches composition at the Conservatory of Castelfranco Veneto.
Nicola Straffelini, 2013 winner of The Boston New Music Initiative Commissioning Competition, has composed Labyrinth Song for flute (doub. piccolo), clarinet (doub. bass clarinet), violin, cello, piano and percussion. Tonight's performance with BNMI is the world premiere.