Though born, raised, and compositionally trained in Southern California and currently pursuing a master’s degree at Juilliard under the tutelage of John Corigliano, 23-year-old Saad Haddad has been focused on creating music that incorporates traditional Middle Eastern musical aesthetics. But he is not at all dogmatic in his transfer of Arabic music theory to pieces that are designed to be interpreted by musicians trained in Western classical music and performed for its usual audiences.
Over the course of the last eight weeks I attended three significant national music events which were extremely different from each other in terms of scope and scale—the 2016 Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, the annual Chamber Music America conference, and the Midwest Clinic, the world’s largest music gathering.
Rudresh Mahanthappa explores his composite cultural identity through an extremely wide range of fascinating musical activities. Some of these projects have been direct attempts to synthesize contemporary jazz and much older Indian traditions. Perhaps even more intriguing, however, has been music in which jazz and Carnatic elements co-exist alongside many other components.
While an extremely wide range of composers are writing operas in the United States today, many of these disparate operas share an important trait—a libretto written by someone who was born in Alberta, Canada: Royce Vavrek. The gregarious Vavrek at first seems like an unlikely candidate for the mysterious, and regretfully somewhat anonymous, profession of writing opera librettos, but he loves telling stories and collaboration.
For decades Mary Jane Leach has been composing music that explores and exploits various psychoacoustic “ghost” sounds such as beat tones and combination tones. As a result, she has created numerous works for multiples of the same instrument or voice. She is also drawn to physical spaces where such sonic phenomena are at their most pronounced, such as churches, which is why she lives in one.
All in all, the 2015 edition of the World Music Days was filled with lots of truly memorable music that was very well performed and I was very happy that I had the opportunity to be there to experience it firsthand. Still, I could not help thinking that this one-of-a-kind new music assemblage could be so much more than what had been presented in Ljubljana.