It’s easy to get caught up in the role text and stories frequently play in Elliot Cole’s compositions, but the core of his inspiration turns out to trace more of a pendulum swing: insider vs. outsider, text-rooted vs. pure sound, composer vs. performer, a musician dipping his toes into a wealth of styles and methods along the way.
Over the past two years in cities throughout the U.S., groups of people have been gathering, digital music players in hand and headphones in place, to watch the sun rise or set. It must be an odd sight for anyone stumbling across these scenes—25 to 50 people all “plugged in,” intently facing in the direction of the sun. They are all listening to the same music by composer Nat Evans.
While Joseph C. Phillips Jr.’s music sometimes incorporates improvisation and his ensemble features several prominent jazz musicians, he does not consider himself a jazz composer. An adept multitasker who balances creating music for film, dance, symphonic bands, and his own 25-piece ensemble with teaching music to kindergartners, Phillips creates very clearly 21st-century music—incorporating a broad range of styles while being ultimately beholden to none.
When Lembit Beecher was named composer-in-residence with the Opera Company of Philadelphia (in collaboration with Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theatre Group of New York) in 2011, he didn’t bring a large portfolio of operatic work with him to the brand new three-year program. An instinct and affection for storytelling, however, already infused his compositions.
A wide spectrum of guitarists have responded to the siren call of the $100 Guitar Project. No curatorial bar was set, no stylistic walls erected. It has been a community exercise, each musician encouraged to come to the project without preconceived ideas and to simply explore whatever the guitar suggests to them.
The musical life of composer David Froom is steeped in a sense of community. As a self-described extrovert who derives energy and inspiration from the company of other composers and musicians, he has developed a strong circle of performers and music-making opportunities in the Washington, D.C. and Baltimore area as well as in his St. Mary’s City, Maryland home.