Sounds Heard: Joseph Byrd—NYC 1960-1963

An undogmatic, uncommitted, exploratory spirit is one of Joseph Byrd’s chief virtues as an artist. Although it’s easy to see how this same quality makes him difficult to pin down in our increasingly soundbyte-based world.

Other Hats

I’ve recently taken over directorship of a music ensemble in the Washington, D.C. area, and it’s remarkable how many relics of the composing world appear totally transformed when donning the “hat” of artistic director. So far, one of the most interesting things about this new role has been the way it tends to shed light on certain composer habits.

When Worlds Collide

I hope that this country’s major orchestral institutions will pay attention to how much the orchestra can be expanded given just a little extra rehearsal time, and throw their immense budgets behind the kind of initiative that the American Composers Orchestra has bravely supported.

Recycled Instruments

Most Americans have never seen anything like Cateura, Paraguay, a city built atop a sprawling landfill in which most residents subside by foraging, repurposing, and selling useful bits scavenged from the trash. And most readers would admit that this seems like a highly unlikely location for the formation of a community orchestra.

Warts and All

Finished products are great, but if we living composers have anything to offer that dead dudes like Beethoven cannot, surely it’s the creative process itself. Why can’t workshopping a new composition be an important community event?

Sounds Heard: Mohammed Fairouz—Sumeida’s Song

Sumeida’s Song was completed in 2008, when composer Mohammed Fairouz was only 22 years old. Taking inspiration from Tawfiq al-Hakim’s play “Song of Death”, the opera follows Alwan (Mischa Bouvier) as he returns from Cairo to his hometown in Upper Egypt.

Sounds Heard: David Keberle–Caught in Time

Drawing on his work from the decade spanning 1997 to 2007, composer David Keberle’s new album, Caught in Time, showcases six chamber works that blend microtonality, extended performance techniques, and rich textural writing into spacious soundscapes for 21st-century ears.

Appetite for Composing

Just like our urge to eat, the appetite for composing tends to fluctuate throughout life, the current year, and even over the course of a single day. But spending too much time composing is just like spending too much time eating; without cessation at least for a brief time, one doesn’t ever feel those pangs of hunger and therefore can’t find satisfaction.

Sounds Heard: Boiling Point—Music of Kenji Bunch

There’s a tension between the different approaches to integrating classical and vernacular traditions on Boiling Point, and that’s why it’s so fascinating to hear Kenji Bunch at work with an ensemble as talented and dedicated as Alias Chamber Ensemble.

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