Young American Composers Fare Well at Gaudeamus Prize Competition

Though we may not have fared so well in the 2006 Winter Olympics, Americans made up nearly half of the nominated composers from the 2006 Gaudeamus Prize. Out of 20 nominated composers, nine American composers made their mark on the international judging panel of Jurgen Brauninger (South Africa), Sam Hayden (UK), and Calliope Tsoupaki (the Netherlands). Nominated composers will have their compositions performed at the International Gaudeamus Music Week in Amsterdam from September 3-10, 2006, and a winner will be chosen. The winning composer will receive a 4,550 € commission to write a work for a small ensemble. The piece will be performed at the next year’s Gaudeamus Music Week.

The Gaudeamus Prize is one of the few to include electronic composition alongside chamber and orchestral compositions. Nominated for his electronic composition Buzz, Jeff Myers, 29, a DMA candidate at the University of Michigan, is a veteran of this competition. He applied at least seven times before being selected as a finalist. This was the first year he submitted an electronic composition.

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Jeff Myers

“I’ve submitted pieces to it in the past, just concert music pieces, and didn’t have success with that,” Myers said. “I had this sound instillation piece which a lot of my colleagues at Michigan were into. I figured maybe Gaudeamus would like that. I was really surprised they picked it.”

Myers wrote the piece originally for college credit, working with composer and pianist Stephen Rush to create a sound installation for the Duderstadt Center. With the help of his wife, a visual artist, he set up appliances to make buzzing sounds, using electricity as the sound source. He was picky about the appliances in order to get just the right sound.

“Right now, [the Gaudeamus Foundation] is looking for a space to put it in,” he said. “It’s like visual art; it’s there for people to check out and stay as long as they want.”

There will be some technical issues to work out since the electrical voltage is twice as high in Europe as in North America and the frequency is at 50 Hz instead of 60 Hz, which will change the pitch of the electrical buzz. Myers admits he likes the challenge and is optimistic that any changes might enhance the piece.

“My biggest concern is trying to get all these appliances over there,” he said. “I might look into finding appliances there.”

Whether or not he wins the Gaudeamus Prize, the biggest prize will be the connections he might make abroad.

“I don’t know what could happen in the future, but I could meet people and put on a buzz somewhere else.”

The American nominees were:

Du Yun (b. 1977): Vicissitudes No. 3 (2003)
Evan Gardner (b. 1978): Lights Out (2005)
Aenon Jia-en Loo (b. 1979): Kanashi – of love and sorrow (2005)
Christopher Trapani (b. 1980): Sing into my mouth (2005)
Alexandra Fol (b. 1981): In the name of… A Cantata (2004)
Aaron Gervais (b. 1980): Culture no. 1 (2005)
Huang Ruo (b. 1976): Curve of the Shadow (2005)
Cenk Ergün (b. 1978): Video Igin dörtlü agiliº (2004)
Jeff Myers (b. 1977): Buzz (2005)

The Gaudeamus Prize is an international award given annually. Deadlines for submissions are usually scheduled for early February. Nominees have their compositions performed at the International Gaudeamus Week in Amsterdam. The Gaudeamus Foundation Contemporary Music Center was founded in 1945 in the Netherlands and is dedicated to promoting contemporary music activities, including young composer career development. For a full list of 2006 Gaudeamus Prize nominees, go here.