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John King: It All Becomes Music

John King standing against a wall covered with a few branches.

John King composed 14 pieces last year which clock in at more than six hours. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To date he has created well over 200 works in a staggering array of styles and formats–from 28 string quartets and 7 experimental operas to electric guitar solos, orchestra pieces, canons for chorus, and even a few Baroque imitations and a North Indian classical raga exposition. What ties most of his work together is a commitment to indeterminate processes.

Mary Ellen Childs: Engaging All the Senses

Mary Ellen Childs

While the music of Mary Ellen Childs has a distinctive and recognizable sound, she has long been interested in engaging the other senses as well–whether it’s presenting live music for string quartet along with an immersive video projection, creating extremely tactile percussion works that are as much about choreography as they are about rhythm, or finding ways to merge listening and olfactory perception.

Paul Moravec: The Whole Range of Human Emotion

Paul Moravec in Central Park

Shakespeare’s plays, a novel by Stephen King, and personal letters from American soldiers written in wartime have all served as inspiration for compositions by Paul Moravec. However, when he is composing more abstract instrumental works, like his extremely beautiful Violin Concerto, Moravec claims there is always “a kind of musical narrative” at work even if it does not have a precise verbal meaning.

Muhal Richard Abrams: Think All, Focus One

Muhal Richard Abrams sitting in front of the New Music USA mural (created by the staff at New Music USA in 2015)

To Muhal Richard Abrams, there are no boundaries. Any label we put on something—fixed composition vs. spontaneous improvisation, group vs. individual, even old music vs. new music—is artificial and limits possibilities. From his vantage point, all dualities are contained within each other.

Missy Mazzoli: Communication, Intimacy, and Vulnerability

Missy Mazzoli in her composition studio.

Whether she is writing for orchestra, chorus, solo piano, an opera, or her own indie-rock inspired chamber ensemble Victoire, Missy Mazzoli is still “asking the same questions” and “finding different answers to the question of how to bring an intimate, vulnerable, human experience to a situation.”

Rudresh Mahanthappa: Getting To Know Who I Am

Rudresh Mahanthappa standing in the yard outside his home with trees and a hill behind him.

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.

Royce Vavrek: So Many Juicy, Amazing Words

Royce Vavrek sitting down in front of a graffiti-strewn wall.

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.

Mary Jane Leach: Sonic Confessions

MJLHomepage

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.

Arto Lindsay: Space, Parades, and Confrontational Aesthetics

Arto Lindsay

Not only did Arto Lindsay found arguably the most important band from New York’s early-’80s No Wave scene, he is a well-known figure in Brazilian pop, collaborator of Matthew Barney’s, leader of parades, and thrower of sounds in space. He sat down with Sam Hillmer to chat sound design, confrontational aesthetics, and much more.

André Previn: How Lucky I Am Now

Andre Previn sitting and holding a microphone. Photo by J. Adam Fenster, courtesy G. Schirmer/Music Sales.

Composer, conductor, and pianist André Previn has been equally comfortable making music in and for concert halls, jazz clubs, opera houses, Broadway theaters, and the silver screen for three quarters of a century. But now he’s composing more prolifically than ever before.

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