On December 16, I announced my plan to listen and briefly record my responses to the music of the composers who follow me on Twitter. This post is the second installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Roger Zare, James Holt, Ken Ueno, D.J. Sparr and Donia Jarrar
Roger and I were roommates in Ann Arbor from 2010-2012. From Roger’s website, I listened to his orchestral works Tectonics and Green Flash along with his recently premiered viola and saxophone duo, Kugelblitz.
These titles suggest science is an important inspiration for Roger’s work, but this does not mean his music sounds sterile; rather, this technical impulse emerges in his prevailing use of counterpoint. I know Roger takes the most pride what he writes for orchestra, but all three of these pieces are similar – they possess clear, sectional structures and evince his strong attention to detail as an orchestrator.
James is the first of this projects’ composers with whom I have not communicated beyond Twitter. His SoundCloud page says James is based in Seattle, and there I found the piano works 2012.11.27 (a), 2012.11.27 (b) and 2013.6.22.
These works share a layered construction and diatonic, though not functionally tonal, musical language. Particularly in 2012.11.27 (b) and 2013.6.22, James uses register, reverb and articulation to distinguish the works’ seemingly independent lines, which interact in an irregular and unpredictable coordination. As a result, this music is listless, yet purposeful, and bears characteristics of both deceptive simplicity and inviting ambiguity.
Ken is a composer and vocalist who teaches at UC Berkeley. From Ken’s website, I listened to Kage-Uta, for voice and electronics, …blood blossoms… for the Bang-On-A-Can All-Stars and an excerpt of Talus, for viola and string orchestra.
The influence of the overtone series is evident in these works, both in their foreground – such as the throat-singing featured in Kage-Uta – or, more subtly, in the instrumental colors of …bleeding blossoms… and Talus. Combined with these pieces’ tendency for mammoth, clear gestures, they suggest Ken’s interest in engaging with the primal aspects of sound.
D.J. is a composer and electric guitarist currently in residence with the California Symphony. From his website, I listened to Fantasia For Flute & Electronics: Sugarhouse, Catch That Catch Can for chamber orchestra, and Vim-Hocket, Calm for electric guitar and violin.
Although rhythm is an apparently important part of all three pieces, this trio possessed a marked delicacy, even in their relatively aggressive sections. While I am not sure if this characteristic persists in D.J.’s other music, these works surprised me in that they often featured active, vibrant ideas that retained a welcoming gentleness beneath their energetic surfaces.
Donia and I are colleagues at the University of Michigan. From her SoundCloud page I listened to You Don’t Know Her At All, for chamber ensemble, and Layali and Tahrir Squares movement 1 for electronics.
While Donia sings in the first two works, I believe Tahrir Squares may best represent her compositional voice. This piece is an improvisation responding to the speak2tweet work Donia performed during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. The music’s conveyance of the mood and content of Donia’s experience demonstrates the intersection of belief and feeling that seems to lie at the heart of her musical creativity.