Sometimes a composer’s personality can speak volumes about the music she or he writes. Tranquility mixed with pointed curiosity fits both the outward persona of Janice Giteck as well as the character of her work. Her compositions, which focus on chamber music but also include orchestral works and film scores, combine the rigor of Western European musical training with a meld of Buddhist, Hasidic, Javanese, and African influences.
Mohammed Fairouz retains an optimistic outlook as he aspires to create music that carries a larger social meaning. And he has managed to garner an extraordinary array of performances for his deeply charged music all over the country—from over 100 art songs to a nearly 80-minute symphony for orchestra, soloists, and a nearly 100-voice chorus. This is no small feat for someone who is only 26-years old.
Bernard Rands navigates a variety of dualities both in his music and in his personal life. For someone approaching 80-years old, he is amazingly youthful and vigorous. Though he is steadfast in his routines, he’s constantly seeking and engaging with new ideas not only from music but also from art and literature. And all of this inevitably shows up in his own music.
As an accomplished performer, composer, improviser, and educator, James Falzone pursues a musical vision rooted in the middle ground between the fully notated world of conservatory-trained musicians and the improvisation-based energy of jazz and creative music. It is a territory he explores with an omnivorous appetite for musical influences and aesthetic directions, whether leading his quartet KLANG through a set of contemporary jazz compositions at a late night haunt, directing liturgical music with the Grace Chicago Consort, or composing for orchestra.
David Borden’s formidable category-defying musical accomplishments are a direct precedent to today’s largely DIY contemporary music landscape. The skewed counterpoint and unexpected harmonic progressions in The Continuing Story of Counterpoint, his 3-hour magnum opus which he began composing 35 years ago, make it sound vibrant and fresh to this day, whatever instruments are ultimately used for its performance.
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.