Author Archives: Alexandra Gardner

D. J. Sparr: Playing Well With Others

Composer and electric guitarist D. J. Sparr draws energy and inspiration from interacting with other musicians. “That’s why I compose,” he says, “to get to the point where I can be actively working with other musicians.” A full schedule of composition commissions, performances of his own music and that of other composers, and educational residencies ensures that he gets his fill of that vitality.

Sounds Heard: The Art of David Tudor (1963—1992)

The recently released boxed set of electronic music pioneer David Tudor’s work, The Art of David Tudor (1963—1992) on New World Records, charts his transformation from interpreter and co-composer to composer/performer, presenting a selection of full performance recordings of many of his groundbreaking works.

Composer Operating Costs

Being a composer can get expensive. Pretty much everything about having a career as a composer—with the exception of the actual composing part, that is—costs money.

Sounds Heard: Big Farm

The mission of Big Farm revolves around expressive freedom for each artist, and as a result, calling their debut album “eclectic” would be an understatement.

Commissioning Music and Stuff

A performer friend and I were recently daydreaming about new possibilities for music commissioning—of chamber music, in particular. What if commissioning music were more a part of everyday life?


I’m curious about composers recycling their work. As useful as repurposing material can be for stimulating ideas, has it become in some instances a shortcut by which we avoid the hard work of creating truly new material “out of thin air”?

Arlene Sierra: The Evolution of Process

The music of composer Arlene Sierra is significantly focused on creative forms of process. Whether structures from the natural world such as beehives or flocks of birds, or human-made maps of war game strategy, sturdy foundations ground the musical content of her works for orchestra, chamber ensemble, chorus, and opera.

Sounds Heard: Simone Dinnerstein / Tift Merritt—Night

The collaborative album Night, which pairs classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein with rootsy singer-songwriter Tift Merritt, is a smorgasbord of songs cherry-picked from various corners of history and culture. It is an interesting and revealing sonic journal of a musical partnership in which both artists embrace elements of risk and experimentation.

Pull Up A Chair

A crucial element in this tangled web of gender disparity in the new music world (and many other worlds) is that women are not culturally encouraged to ask for things. The act of asking for something is an important way to pull up a chair and be part of the conversation.

When Stage Presence Happens

Being well rehearsed is not enough to guarantee a great performance, and that’s where stage presence comes in. Some people naturally have it, but it can also be taught.