When the idea for ACL – a positive community of critical listeners- first emerged we were determined to challenge perceived divisions of genre and form. Instead we set out to promote challenging and interesting sounds wherever we find it. In that spirit, I’m honored to present this mix by Christian Carey of the online community Sequenza 21, the most valuable resource on contemporary classical music today. Carey was interested in the idea of our new site, and I couldn’t be happier to present such exciting work to our readers. The composers represented on the mix were all included on Sequenza 21’s 2011 Concert, which was in partnership with Manhattan New Music Project and American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME). The work of these young composers will energize you, just as the waters of March renew our surroundings.
What is Sequenza 21?
Sequenza 21 is the contemporary classical community, an online place that includes news, reviews, articles, and forums for people interested in new music: composers, performers, listeners, et cetera. Sequenza 21 is staffed by volunteers. We do sell a limited amount of advertising and use the revenues mostly for hosting fees, site development and for staging live Sequenza 21 concerts.
How long has the site been active?
It was founded in 2001 by Duane Harper Grant and Jerry Bowles. In 2005, ASCAP awarded the site its prestigious Deems Taylor Award in recognition of its advocacy for contemporary music. Jerry has continued as Publisher and Steve Layton is now Editor.
And what is your role?
I joined the site as a Contributing Editor in 2006, bringing File Under ?, my blog, over from Splendid Magazine, which had recently ceased publication. I should mention that on my blog, I don’t restrict coverage to contemporary classical; I also write about pop, jazz, and all sorts of other music. I’m now Managing Editor of the site. I also organized our 2011 call for scores and subsequent concert.
What can you tell us about the mix?
The composers represented on the mix were all included on Sequenza 21’s 2011 Concert, which we did in partnership with Manhattan New Music Project and American Contemporary Music Ensemble. We sent out a call for scores; it was free and had no age limits – the only guidelines were to submit pieces for ACME’s instrumentation and try to keep them modest in length. The call got over 250 entries. We picked 9 pieces and Hayes Biggs and I (who judged the entries), each contributed a work as well. The selected composers came to the event from as far away as California and the UK: it was great to get to meet several of them that I knew only from online communications.
The concert took place at Joe’s Pub on October 25, 2011 and garnered us a nice review in the New York Times. Steve Smith, who wrote the article, did a great job summing up in the title what we’re about: “Gather Online, Compose Globally, Perform Locally.”
For the mix, I asked each composer who participated to contribute something other than what was on the concert. The only exceptions were Sam Nichols’s and Laurie San Martin’s selections, which were tapes of very different performances (by other artists) of the same works that were on the show. That inspiration behind this: those who participated in the show or attended will get to hear a different aspect of each composer – a small subsection of our community. And those who aren’t familiar with contemporary classical will get an introduction to it. There’s everything here from electroacoustic music (Bob Thomas) to postmodern neo-romanticism (Dale Trumbore) to experimental chamber music (David Smooke), to Downtown totalism (Jim Holt), and jazz-inflected dodecaphony (me): a cross section of some of what’s available to adventurous listeners.
About the Composers:
Jay C. Batzner is a composer, sci-fi geek, home brewer, burgeoning seamster, and juggler on the faculty of Central Michigan University, where he teaches music technology and electronic music courses. (www.jaybatzner.com)
Hayes Biggs, born in Huntsville, Alabama and raised in Helena, Arkansas, has taught at Manhattan School of Music since 1992. This season his Psalms, Hymns & Spiritual Songs, composed for soprano Susan Narucki and pianist Christopher Oldfather, and Three Hymn Tune Preludes, commissioned by organist Gail Archer, will receive their first performances. (www.hayesbiggs.com)
Composer Christian Carey is Managing Editor at Sequenza 21 and an Assistant Professor of Music at Rider University. The New York New Music Ensemble, Cassatt String Quartet, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Locrian Chamber Players, and others have performed his music. He blogs regularly at File Under ? (www.sequenza21.com/carey)
Rob Deemer, a composer and conductor, is head of music composition at SUNY Fredonia, a member of the composition faculty at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp, and is the composer-in-residence with the Buffalo Chamber Players. He writes frequently about new music for Sequenza21 and NewMusicBox. (www.robdeemer.com)
James Holt is a composer, podcaster, and arts administrator. His music has been performed across the country and internationally including recent performances in New York, Boston, St. Paul and San Francisco. Holt is originally from Seattle and now lives and works in New York City. (www.myearsareopen.net)
Laurie San Martin’s compositions combine her classically trained background with the sounds of today in music for acoustic chamber ensembles and orchestra. She has also enjoyed writing for video, dance and theater. She is currently working with soprano/actor Haleh Abghari on a theatrical work setting Farrid ud-Din Attar’s Conference of the Birds. (www.lauriesanmartin.com)
Sam Nichols is a composer; he teaches composition, music theory, and electronic music at UC Davis. He lives with his wife, the composer Laurie San Martin, and their two daughters in Woodland, CA. (www.samnichols.net)
Composer David Smooke (b. 1969) currently resides in Baltimore, Maryland, where he teaches music theory, rock music history and composition, and chairs the department of music theory at the Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University. In addition to his composition activities, Smooke founded and co-curates League of the Unsound Sound (LotUS), performs improvisations on toy piano, and writes a weekly column for NewMusicBox, the online magazine of the American Music Center. (www.davidsmooke.com)
British composer James Stephenson (b.1981) studied at the University of York (BA, MA) and University of Manchester (PhD Composition, with Philip Grange and John Casken). His compositions have been performed across the UK and Western Europe, but never previously in America. Stephenson is also an active conductor, improviser and educator, and directs contemporary music ensemble Chiasmus. (www.jamesstephenson.org.uk)
Robert E. Thomas teaches music at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. His music has been presented around the country, including performances at the June In Buffalo and MusicX festivals and at the Conductor’s Institute at Bard. (http://retmusic.com)
An active composer on both coasts, Dale Trumbore has won numerous awards for her compositions. The Kronos Quartet premiered her string quartet as part of their residency at the University of Maryland in 2009. Trumbore currently resides in Los Angeles; she recently graduated with her M.M. in Composition from USC. (www.daletrumbore.com)