When composer and educator Bill Ryan interviewed to teach composition at Grand Valley State University in 2005, he laid out what his ideal collegiate program would look like. What no one—perhaps even including Ryan—likely anticipated, however, was how swiftly and successfully he would be able to make his vision a reality and how, in the process of so doing, he would put the university’s program on the national contemporary music map.
Composer John Harbison says that he is trying to “defeat the idea of style.” That is, he tries to approach every new composition with completely fresh ears and eyes, working with totally new musical material and strategies well apart from anything that preceded it. He possesses a deep understanding of music, but the richness of his music is also a byproduct of his broad interests beyond music—such as poetry and history—as well as his untiring curiosity about the world in which we live.
Shara Worden is arguably one of the most prolific collaborators working in music today. In the midst of her other activities, Worden has written and recorded a new set of her own original songs under the moniker of her chief creative vehicle, My Brightest Diamond. But unlike MBD’s previous two full-length albums, she substitutes overtly rock sonorities with the instrumental colors of indie chamber sextet yMusic.
Much is made in the music press of violinist Hilary Hahn’s stunning technique, impeccable poise, and unshakable intonation. In that picture of perfection, however, one of her most striking character traits—her seemingly insatiable curiosity—can get a bit lost. Still, though she doesn’t flaunt her boundary pushing with unusual concert dress or radical interpretive choices, she resolutely pursues her own interests with care and focus.
What would happen if Sun Ra, Link Wray, and Stockhausen made a recording together and had King Tubby do a dub mix of it all? Well, it might sound a little like the musical universe of guitarist and composer Roger Kleier.
It’s hard to believe that less than 25 years ago, a record label named Naxos sprang up seemingly out of nowhere offering quality recordings of most of the standard classical music repertoire for a fraction of typical retail cost. But what might be even harder to believe is that this global operation is basically the creation of one man—Klaus Heymann
Most people who play the marimba use four mallets, but Robert Paterson uses six. It makes him laugh when people who see him perform on the instrument this way call him “Edward Mallethands.” Though he admits he’s not the first percussionist to explore this technique, he might have devoted more of his energies to it than anyone else thus far. Using those extra mallets also seems to exemplify his entire approach to making a successful career in new music.
Though his formal education includes study at the New England Conservatory, Fred Hersch readily points out how the on-the-bandstand schooling he received in jazz clubs like Bradley’s in New York prepared him to be the musician is today. In the course of our conversation, we spoke about this journey and all that has come in its wake, but returned again and again to the idea of taking chances, trying things out, seeing what happens if—Hersch seemingly unbowed by the anxieties such open-ended performance situations bring into play. Later, he came at it head-on: “I think there has to be a certain element of danger in jazz, or it isn’t really jazz.”
Classically trained violinists are, generally speaking, a focused breed accustomed to long hours in the practice room refining a phrase down to static perfection. This is perhaps what makes the Oberlin and Juilliard-trained violinist Jennifer Choi’s seemingly voracious appetite to try new things so striking. From Brahms to improv to serving as the concertmaster for the pit orchestra of South Pacific, Choi seems unable, or at least unwilling, to sit still.