Composer, improviser, and pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn came up playing country and western music, but her ear eventually led her down a decidedly more singular experimental path. “You’ve got be naked in your mind to be able to play and express yourself—you have to be naked and fearless and that’s not easy, especially the older you get.”
Unlike composers who grew up in the United States where just about any kind of music seems part of our tradition, Shanghai-born Du Yun approaches all traditions as somehow exotic, whether classical, pop, avant-garde, or even the traditional Chinese music that deeply influences so many other Chinese émigré composers.
One of the themes Robert Honstein frequently comes back to in his pieces is technology and how it impacts on our lives, yet ironically his music thus far has been anything but high-tech. Aside from the occasional electric guitar or electric bass, Honstein’s timbral palette consists predominantly of acoustic instruments. If that somehow seems contradictory, it’s more a by-product of his being attuned to the world we currently live in but not feeling straitjacketed by it.
Although composers are always constructing new sonic worlds, Bora Yoon is super-charging that idea through her multimedia and site-specific works. Her performances create immersive environments that, as she puts it, “transport people somewhere, and return them, hopefully changed from the experience.”
Before his 18th birthday, Aaron Parks had released four CDs. After a five-year stint with Terence Blanchard and now 30, he participates in a wide array of musical endeavors, from his own polyglot material to guesting on an indie-rock album and collaborating with Korean-born vocalist Yeahwon Shin. In everything he does, he is fully present.
Like many music makers of her generation, Kamala Sankaram creates and performs work which is an amalgamation of a wide range of musical traditions. But at the root of everything she does, there is usually a strong sense of narrative. Most recently, she took on the most vaunted form of “dramma per musica”—opera—with Thumbprint, which was one of the highlights of the 2014 Prototype Festival.
While Eric Nathan doesn’t have a secret strategy for garnering so many compositional accolades (top awards from ASCAP, BMI, and SCI, the Rome Prize and a recent commission premiered at the ISCM World New Music Days), he is extremely pragmatic. But there’s also something of an element of whimsy as well as a deep love for visual art that fuels his creative process.