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DRAMATIC TENSIONS | April 5, 2018 – 8 pm

with guest artists Yuga Cohler, conductor and Erin M. Smith, soprano

The Arts at the Armory - 191 Highland Ave, Somerville

Missed it? See the full concert here.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Somerville Arts Council, a local agency which is funded by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. 

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Brendan McMullenSeven Cicadas
Adrienne Steely – Green 311.13
Gabrielle Owens – Three Folk Songs
Jonathan Russ – Eat Your Vegetables
Nemanja Radivojević  Courants II
Harrison Birtwistle9 Settings of Lorine Niedecker
William Toutant Bagatelle 1
Guillaume Connesson  Techno-Parade
Charles Peck* – Kindling

*winner of our 5th Annual Commissioning Competition

Presented by the Boston New Music Initiative Core Ensemble and guests

Recommended donation $10.

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Program Notes
Composer Bios
Performer Bios
Staff Bios

Program Notes

I composed Seven Cicadas for the Norfolk New Music Workshop in 2013 in Norfolk, Connecticut. That year there was a species of seventeen-year cicada returning to area. This piece contains various imitations of insect-like sounds, created with string tremolos and maracas. There is a melodic motive that contains a minor second interval which is often displaced by an octave to create a wide minor ninth interval and a disjunct melodic line. The piece has a slow ending with a violin solo and more insect sounds. B.M.

Green311.13 was created by using computer programs Logic Pro X and Max MSP. Through Logic, the electronic track was created by altering prerecorded solo cello sounds. Max MSP was used to create the sequence of lighting effects that includes shades of green, white light, and strobes. 

The pitch center of the entire work is E-flat. The composer of this piece associates certain colors with certain pitches. In this case, the composer associates the pitch class of E-flat with the color green. The title indicates this by including the Hertz value of E-flat above middle C: 311.13hz. 

The composer creates three different atmospheres with the color green. The first atmosphere refers to the greens found in nature, and is shown by various loops and graceful figures. The second atmosphere refers to green in human nature, such as greed and envy. Thus, the second atmosphere contains harsher sonorities and textures. The third and final atmosphere is representative of the green in nature again, but altered by negative human impact. Thus, the final section sounds meditative, but simultaneously hollowed and empty. The dramatic tension between nature and the impact of humanity is represented by the outcome of the piece. 

Three Folk Songs, a song cycle for voice and piano, is a triptych on three faces of love. The work finds its inspiration from traditional folk song melodies which I have paraphrased and deconstructed in my own voice, taking liberty with both melody and harmony. I have stretched the melody into new tonalities on a bed of intuited harmony and counterpoint that engage these familiar songs in an uncanny way. The third of these, The Water is Wide, most freely deviates in rhythm and meter from the original setting to express the listless liminal state and acute emotions conveyed in the text. – G.O.

Eat Your Vegetables is my first piece for solo melodic instrument. As such, it represents a new approach for me: the goal was to make texture out of melody. My primary tool in doing so is rhythm, and each section of the piece has its own rhythmic language. The large-scale form emerges from strange juxtapositions between material, much of which flirts with crassness. 

This piece was composed for Stanley Drucker, longtime first clarinetist of the New York Philharmonic—its bright cheekiness is in honor of him and his inimitable playing. I knew when composing the piece that he would make it his own, and he certainly has. J.R.

Courants II: Unreality of all things is the second of five pieces that treat a theme of possible co-existence of parallel narratives. The harmonic-temporal structure was pre-established and is entirely based on a five notes sequence, its permutations, multiplications and symmetries distributed through loose isorhythmic patterns for each instrument. Harmonic fields as a result of the form resolved in this way, permit a relatively great degree of liberty in a final choice of gestures. The gestural character of the piece invokes my fascination by rock music and my attempt to reconcile to the phenomenon of rhythm.

9 Settings of Lorine Niedecker. In 1998 several composers were asked to write short tributes in honour of Elliott Carters ninetieth birthday to be published in Tempo magazine. I contributed the first three of these settings of poems by Lorine Niedecker, and extended the collection to feature nine poems to a commission for the Nash Ensemble in 2000.

Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970) was born and spent most her life on Blackhawk Island on the Rock River in Wisconsin. Her poems are mostly short and their haiku-like intensity reminded me of the fragments of Sappho's poetry that I set in my Entr'actes and Sappho Fragments, Cantata and ... agm ... I was attracted to the intimate, fragile quality of the verse, which should be reflected in the performance.

I think of this sequence of vocal miniatures, starting with my offering for Carter, as being like a bunch of flowers. H.B.

Bagatelle I was written in 1994 at the request of composer/flutist Daniel Kessner. It is constructed as a loose rondo with the opening exchange between the two instruments functioning as the refrain. The flute writing includes harmonic, quarter tones and two types of key clicks. The normal click produces a percussive version of the pitch ordinarily produced by the key. The other requires the performer to block the embouchure hole with the tongue. This technique produces a pitch a major seventh below that of the key.

Kindling is a reflection on the spontaneous, yet repetitive motion of fire. From the outset of the piece, the ricochet bowing of the cello and the steady pulse of the kick drum stoke the flame, while the violin flickers and flares in response. As the piece builds, a flurry of tremolos and natural harmonics are used to express motion that is both active and static. Eventually, the ensemble, led by the piano and strings, conjures a steady orange glow with a series of phrases that quickly appear and dissipate. The rapid alternations between these distinct phrases coalesce to form a continuous, burning texture.

Composer Bios

Seattle composer and clarinetist Brendan McMullen holds a BM degree from Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music where his primary teachers where Anthony Brandt, Karim Al-Zand, Richard Lavenda, and Shih-Hui Chen. Brendan is an alumnus of Roosevelt High School and the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra. He studied for three years in the Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop of the Seattle Symphony under the direction of Composer in Residence Samuel Jones. He was a New Music Workshop Fellow at the 2013 Norfolk New Music Workshop with Martin Bresnick. In 2014, Brendan studied with Steven Stucky, George Tsontakis, and Sydney Hodkinson as a Composition Fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and School. He has attended the HighSCORE Contemporary Music Festival in Pavia, Italy twice, and Music Composition at FUBiS in Berlin with Samuel Adler. Upon graduating Rice, Brendan was awarded the Farb Family Award for Outstanding Achievement. He has presented in master classes with John Adams, Gabrielle Lena Frank, Brett Dean, and John Corigliano. His music has been performed in the United States, Germany, Luxembourg, and Italy.

Adrienne Steely is a recent graduate of the Baylor School of Music. She received her undergraduate degree in cello performance, and her master’s degree in composition. She studied composition under Dr. Scott McAllister and Dr. Edward Taylor. Her recent works include sonatas, string quartets, and a full orchestra piece. In addition to composing, Adrienne maintains a private cello studio and plays with the Waco Symphony Orchestra. 

Gabrielle Rosse Owens is an award-winning composer of music for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensemble and solo voice and piano. 

Her works are performed in the U.S. and abroad. Among her most recent works are The Prophecy of Daniel (2016), a monodrama for soprano and chamber orchestra, premiered at Ostin Music Center by mezzo soprano Danielle Bayne and conducted by Maxim Kuzin. She is currently writing an orchestral work titled When the Evening Comes, which incorporates the composer’s own poetry as spoken text for the musicians. Song cycles include Three Folk Songs (2016), recorded in November 2016 by soprano Kathryn Lillich and mezzo soprano Danielle Bayne with pianist Thomas Feng at Ostin Music Center. Other song cycles include Seven Songs (2012) and Psalm Cycle (2008), which enjoy repeat performances from Rock Hall in Philadelphia to Scott United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, most notably at Lancaster State Penitentiary, a maximum security prison in California. She is passionate about bringing contemporary music to underprivileged communities, organizing benefit concerts for Houston’s homeless with the Open Door Mission and joining forces with the Lowell Edward Band to bring a fusion of rock, jazz and contemporary classical music to Los Angeles area Missions. 

In addition to being a full-time composer, Gabrielle Rosse Owens is a soprano, pianist and flutist. She has been praised by the Broad Street Review as an “extraordinary soprano,” and has premiered the works of such contemporary composers as Alexander Devaron and Pauline Oliveros as a soprano soloist with the Mendelssohn Club Chorus of Philadelphia under the direction of Alan Harler. 

She is a recipient of the Samantha Deglin Memorial Award. Other awards include scholarships for study at the Sorbonne University in Paris and Temple University in Philadelphia and a nomination for the Tess Sandra Singer Award. She received her BA in English from Temple University in 2005, where she received the honors of Phi Beta Kappa and the President’s Scholar Award, graduating summa cum laude with distinction in major. Her main composition teachers are Richard Danielpour, Cynthia Folio and Ian Krouse. Main voice teachers include Vladimir Chernov, Juliana Gondek and Kathy Kaun.

Jonathan Russ composes direct, expressive music with an eye towards social good, drawing from the languages of contemporary classical music, musical theater, and indie rock. 

Jonathan is Composer-In-Residence with the American Chamber Ensemble and the Blueshift Ensemble and is a founding member of the ICEBERG New Music composers' collective. He has worked with loadbang, Sō Percussion (through their Summer Institute), Marimolin, the Ludovico Ensemble, Quartetto Apeiron, and members of the JACK Quartet and International Contemporary Ensemble, clarinetist Stanley Drucker (NY Philharmonic), singers Kamala Sankaram and Jennifer Beattie, and pianists Amir Khosrowpour and Marilyn Lehman. Awards include the MA-ASTA Composition Competition, ShoutHouse Call For Scores, and the Boston Conservatory Choral Composers' Competition. He has held residencies at the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts and the Hambidge Center, was featured at the inaugural New Music On The Bayou Festival, and will be in residence at Arteles, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, and Arts Letters & Numbers in 2017. His short opera Bark! (with librettist Lane Dombois) was produced by American Opera Projects and NYU. Upcoming projects include a book of piano pieces and an opera about a hermetic young woman. 

As a guitarist, Jonathan has performed in theater pits and rock clubs throughout New York and New England. He has played with indie bands including Young Yeller and Lucky Sons, and is working on a solo EP. 

A resident of Brooklyn, Jonathan holds a master's in composition from The Boston Conservatory, where he studied with Andy Vores and Curtis Hughes. He also holds a BA from Brown University in music and international relations and an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts in musical theater writing. He is an alum of the New Dramatists / Nautilus Music-Theater Composer Librettist Studio.

After graduating in guitar at the Academy of the Arts in Novi Sad, Nemanja Radivojević pursued his studies in Geneva (MA in theory of music) and in Bern (MA in Composition), with Xavier Dayer.

His compositions have been performed by the ensembles MDI Ensemble, Ensemble Proton Bern, Vortex Ensemble, Oerknal!, Lucerne Festival Alumni Ensemble, Ensemble Recherche, Asko/Schönberg, Ensemble Interface, Contrechamps, AdHOC Ensemble, Ensemble Studio 6, Ensemble Gradilište, Matka, Hodiernis, clarinetist Richard Haynes and guitarist Ruben Mattia Santorsa.

Radivojević’s music has been presented at the festivals such as Lavaux Classic in Cully, Festival Archipel in Geneva, Lucerne Summer Festival, Opening Festival in Trier, Cluj Modern Festival, Belgrade International Review of Composers, Musikfestival in Bern, Les rencontres d’été in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, Delian Academy for New Music in Mykonos. Sound world of Radivojević’s music participates in a quasi-baroque formal construction, where the carnal pleasure is (re)discovered, the ideals of purity are rejected. Liberated from the fear of materiality and of the corporality, his music is engaged in playful artifice in which masks seem to be more truthful then the faces they hide.

Sir Harrison Birtwistle was born in Accrington in the north of England in 1934 and studied clarinet and composition at the Royal Manchester College of Music, making contact with a highly talented group of contemporaries including Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Goehr, John Ogdon and Elgar Howarth. In 1965 he sold his clarinets to devote all his efforts to composition, and travelled to Princeton as a Harkness Fellow where he completed the opera Punch and Judy. This work, together with Verses for Ensembles and The Triumph of Time, firmly established Birtwistle as a leading voice in British music. 

The decade from 1973 to 1984 was dominated by his monumental lyric tragedy The Mask of Orpheus, staged by English National Opera in 1986, and by the series of remarkable ensemble scores now performed by the world's leading new music groups: Secret Theatre, Silbury Air and Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum. Large-scale works in the following decade included the operas Gawain and The Second Mrs Kong, the concertos Endless Parade for trumpet and Antiphonies for piano, and the orchestral score Earth Dances

Birtwistle's orchestral works since 1995 include Exody, premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim, Panic which received a high profile premiere at the Last Night of the 1995 BBC Proms with an estimated worldwide audience of 100 million, and The Shadow of Night commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra and Christoph von Dohnányi. The Last Supper received its first performances at the Deutsche Staatsoper in Berlin and at Glyndebourne in 2000. Pulse Shadows, a meditation for soprano, string quartet and chamber ensemble on poetry by Paul Celan, was released on disc by Teldec and won the 2002 Gramophone Award for best contemporary recording. Theseus Game, co-commissioned by RUHRtriennale, Ensemble Modern and the London Sinfonietta, was premiered in 2003. The following year brought first performances of The Io Passion for Aldeburgh Almeida Opera and Night's Black Bird commissioned by Roche for the Lucerne Festival. His opera The Minotaur received its premiere at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden in 2008 and has been released on DVD by Opus Arte. 

Works premiered in the past decade include his music theatre work The Corridor which opened the Aldeburgh Festival and toured to the Southbank Centre and the Bregenz Festival, with further performances in New York and Amsterdam. Birtwistle’s violin concerto for Christian Tetzlaff was premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 2011, followed by performances at the BBC Proms, Tokyo Composium and Salzburg Festival. Birtwistle’s 80th birthday year in 2014 saw the premiere of Responses for piano and orchestra, touring internationally with Pierre-Laurent Aimard as soloist, and 2015 brought a new music theatre work The Cure performed in a double-bill with The Corridor at the Aldeburgh Festival and the Royal Opera House in London. Deep Time for orchestra, commissioned by the Berlin Staatsoper and BBC Radio 3, received first performances in 2017 conducted by Daniel Barenboim in Berlin and at the BBC Proms. 

The music of Birtwistle continues to attract international conductors including Daniel Barenboim, Christoph von Dohnányi, Oliver Knussen, Sir Simon Rattle, Peter Eötvös, Franz Welser-Möst, Paul Daniel and Martyn Brabbins. He has received commissions from leading performing organisations and his music has been featured in major festivals and concert series including the BBC Proms, Salzburg Festival, Glyndebourne, Holland Festival, Lucerne Festival, Stockholm New Music, Wien Modern, Wittener Tage, the South Bank Centre in London, the Konzerthaus in Vienna, MiTo in Turin and Milan and Casa da Música in Porto. 

Birtwistle has received many honours, including the Grawemeyer Award in 1968 and the Siemens Prize in 1995; he was made a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1986, awarded a British knighthood in 1988 and made a Companion of Honour in 2001. He was Henry Purcell Professor of Music at King's College, University of London (1995-2001) and is currently a Visiting Professor at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Recordings of Birtwistle's music are available on the Decca, Philips, Deutsche Grammophon, Teldec, Black Box, NMC, CPO, Metronome and Soundcircus labels. 

Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes.

William Toutant was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. He received his BA and MA from The George Washington University and his Ph.D. in music theory and composition from Michigan State University. He joined the music faculty of California State University, Northridge in 1975. During the next 38 years he not only taught in the Department of Music, but he also served in a variety of administrative positions including Dean of the Mike Curb College of Arts, Media, and Communication. For eighteen years wrote and hosted the weekly radio program, “The KCSN Opera House.” He became Professor Emeritus in May 2013. His music is available on North/South, Capstone, Centaur, and Navona records. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Ligia Toutant.

Guillaume Connesson is currently one of the most widely performed French composers worldwide. Commissions are at the origin of most of his works (Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Orchestre National de France...) including Pour sortir au jour, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (2013) and Les Trois Cités de Lovecraft (co-commission of the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestre National de Lyon). Moreover, his music is regularly played by numerous orchestras (Brussels Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, National Symphony Orchestra of Washington, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra et al.) 

He won a Victoire de la Musique award in 2015 as well as Sacem's Grand Prize in 2012. His discography includes, amongst others, two monographs of chamber music and two symphonic monographs on the Deutsche Grammophon label. The first, Lucifer, obtained a ' Choc' from Classica magazine, and the second, Pour sortir au jour, numerous critical distinctions such as the 'Diapason d'Or de l'Année' as well the Classica 'Choc de l'Année'. 

After studies at the Conservatoire National de Région in Boulogne-Billancourt (his birthplace) and the Paris Conservatoire, he obtained premiers prix in choral direction, history of music, analysis, electro-acoustic and orchestration. He has been professor of orchestration at the Aubervilliers-La Courneuve Conservatory since 1997.

Charles Peck is an American composer whose work has been called “daring” (Philadelphia Inquirer), “vivid” (UArts Edge magazine), and “spell-binding” (Rappahannock News). His music was recently selected in the New York Youth Symphony’s First Music program and Call for Scores by several ensembles including the Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, ensemble mise-en, and the Locrian Chamber Players. He has also been named the winner of the 2016 Lake George Music Festival’s Composition Competition, the 2014 Symphony in C’s Young Composers’ Competition, the 2013 Castleton Festival’s Young Composer’s Forum, and the 2012 OFMC Collegiate Composition Competition. Peck has been awarded grants from the McKnight Foundation, the American Composers Forum, and the Cornell Council for the Arts. Additionally, his music has been featured at festivals including the Aspen Music Festival, the New Music Gathering, the highSCORE Festival, and the Castleton Festival. Peck’s current projects include a new work for the JACK Quartet, a commission for marimbist Ji Hye Jung, a new sinfonietta piece for Cornell’s Festival Chamber Orchestra, and a commission for the Kansas University Percussion group. 

Peck is currently a doctoral student at Cornell University where he earned the 2016 Otto R. Stahl Memorial Award in composition. He received his Master’s in Music from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. There, he was named the winner of the 2012 Composition Competition and was awarded the Scott Huston Award for composition. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Music Industry from Drexel University.

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