Nine composers will soon have an extra stamp in their passport thanks in part to Meet The Composer‘s newest grant-making program, Global Connections. As the name suggests, the program aims to foster intercultural collaboration between composers and music organizations worldwide, and in the coming year, the nine recipients will appear at events on 4 continents. A complete list of recipients and project descriptions follows.
Historically, music has served as an influential liaison between cultures that did not share a common language or religion. With technology making international communication more accessible and the economics of the time focusing heavily on globalization, the distance between people is diminishing rapidly. With such close contact, people from different backgrounds must often adapt to one another, without much of a gestation period. Meet The Composer, responding to a need in the world and recognizing composers’ thirst for experiences abroad, felt that the time was ripe to launch a program that supported a cross-cultural exchange of ideas.
“We live in an interdependent world. At this time in history, we especially need one another,” says composer Augusta Read Thomas, who will be traveling to Poland next spring. “Music is a great ambassador. Sharing literature, poetry, art, crafts, ceramics, music, dance, theater, etc., brings us closer to our fellow souls.”
California-based composer Richard Marriott concurs. Having recently returned from his third trip to Bali, and his first since the bombing in October 2002 that killed over 200 people, Marriott recognizes the extreme importance of intercultural collaboration. “It’s absolutely necessary for the artists to make a statement rather than the politicians making pronouncements.”
Through Global Connections, grants of between $500 and $5000 are awarded to composers who have been invited to appear at an event sponsored by a hosting organization. The composer and organization must come from two different countries, with one of the two being based in the United States. The program guidelines also stipulate that the collaboration must include a live performance of the composer’s work. In addition, composers are encouraged to interact on a deeper level with the musicians and audience through such activities as pre- and post-concert discussions, conducting, workshops, and master classes.
According to Eddy Ficklin, the program manager at Meet The Composer who heads Global Connections, the interest for the first round far exceeded expectations, with over a hundred composers applying. The first round of recipients were selected in-house by the Meet The Composer staff, but an independent panel is being considered for future rounds. Ficklin anticipates at least an equal number of applicants next year and most likely significantly more, as composers learn about the program and have more time to set up an event. As a result of the large volume of applicants, Ficklin points out that the winning projects had to “really go above and beyond the basic requirements.”
For Thomas, working with the Lutoslawski Philharmonic in Wroclaw allows her an opportunity to have her orchestral music—representing a large portion of her oeuvre—heard by an overseas audience. And while the performances of her two large-scale works, In My Sky at Twilightand Words of the Sea, will certainly be highlights for Thomas, she is also excited about “working with the musicians, meeting local composers, hearing the language spoken all around me, seeing the architecture, visiting museums, speaking at the local music conservatories, and eating polish food!”
Composer Alla Borzova will use her grant to return to her native Belarus to participate in the Belarussian Musical Autumn Festival. She is excited to become reacquainted with her homeland and Belarussian colleagues. “I look forward to the opportunity to learn about the current creative life in Belarus, Russia, and Europe from…the key individuals and groups shaping and defining the current European music scene.”
But she also sees the festival as an opportunity to share an insider view of American music. “For me it is like ‘giving a report’ about my creative life in my adopted country for the past decade,” she explains. “The Da Capo Chamber Players, my husband, composer Alexander Dmitriev, and I will do our best to let our colleagues and audiences know about recent trends in American music.”
In addition to Borzova’s music, the Da Capo Chamber Players will present works of contemporary American composers and hold a lecture-demonstration of modern American rehearsal techniques. Borzova hopes “it will be the beginning of the fruitful collaboration and that as interest increases, it will become possible to produce a festival of American music in the future in Belarus, as well as to bring Belarussian composers and performers to New York.”
Marriott, whose music from the past five years has made extensive use of Balinese, Chinese, and Japanese instruments, describes Global Connections as the perfect program for him. He will be visiting Hong Kong and Beijing in September to immerse himself in the world of Beijing opera, a style which will inform his collaborative project with the Hong Kong Dance Company, librettist Xu-Ying and choreographer Chen-Chieh Yu. “It takes a lot to keep the study and the research alive while at the same time being creatively involved with the possibilities that the new instruments and the new techniques that can provide a composer with new materials to work with.”
Marriott is particularly interested in how musical forms of the two cultures involved can be blended and he has been experimenting with everything from pipa players using techniques sometimes associated with heavy metal guitar to maintaining the tonal qualities of Mandarin Chinese while playing with the musical intervals. “I have found actually that the my current Western, avant-garde leanings have matched up very well with what at least many artists in China are interested in right now,” he observes. But what he is most excited about is seeing a general audiences reaction to the manipulation of traditional material.
And while the musical exchange between all of the composers and organizations involved will certainly be exhilarating, Marriott sites the importance of the broader goals of building respectful relationships and bridging cultural divides “That’s the true meaning of the international collaborations.”
The next application deadline will be in May 2004, with the application becoming available from Meet The Composer in late winter.
2003 Global Connections Grant Recipients:
Composer and performer Yacub Addy will travel to Samsan Odumase, a small village outside the capital city of Ghana, for a month long residency at World of Hope International’s education facility. During his month there Mr. Addy will conduct a series of workshops and performances involving the members of the community.
Renowned composer Louis Andriessen will travel to Bloomington, Illinois, for the Illinois Wesleyan University’s annual Symposium of Contemporary Music.
Composer and performer Theo Bleckmann will travel to Alexandria, Egypt for the performance of his new work The Alexandria Carry-On. The performance will take place at the Biblioteca Alexandrina, a newly constructed international cultural center near the site of the ancient library of Alexandria.
Composer and pianist Alla Borzova will travel to Belarus to take part in several performances of her works at the Belarussian Musical Autumn Festival by the Belarussian Philharmonic and the New York based Da Capo Chamber Players.
British composer Gavin Bryars will travel to Los Angeles for a one-week residency at the CalArts School of Music. The residency will culminate in an entire program of his works at the Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater performed by the New Century Players.
Zimbabwean composer and performer Thomeki Dube will travel to New York for a residency at the 171 Cedar Arts Center preparatory to the premiere of Black Burlesque (revisited), a collaboration with choreographers Reggie Wilson (Fist & Hell Performance) and Noble Douglas (Noble Douglas Dance Company). After the New York premiere, there will be a five-week, seven-city tour of the new work.
Composer: Ge Gan-ru (Saddle River, NJ)
Hosting Organization: Contrasts International Contemporary Music Festival (Lviv, Ukraine)
Composer Ge Gan-ru will travel to the Ukraine’s Contrasts Festival to participate in activities surrounding the performances of his String Quartets No. 1-“Fu” and No. 4-“Angel Suite.”
Composer Richard Marriott will join choreographer Chen-Chieh Yu and librettist Xu-Ying in a series of collaboration meetings and workshops in Hong Kong to develop their new collaborative work Prince Lan Ling.
Composer: Augusta Read Thomas (Chicago, IL) Hosting Organization: Lutoslawski Philharmonic (Wroclaw, Poland)
Chicago Symphony composer-in-residence Augusta Read Thomas will travel to Wroclaw, Poland, for the Eastern European premiere of two of her works, Words of the Sea and In My Sky at Twilight. While there, Ms. Thomas will give pre-concert talks, assist in the rehearsals, and give a master class at the Wroclaw Academy of Music.