Rewinding the First Fifty: Weeks 9 & 10

A new ten week installment of “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse” will begin next Wednesday. But, before we begin an exploration of fifty new composers’ music, let’s revisit the pieces and personalities that made the first ten weeks of this blog project so special.


Below, reconnect with my thoughts on the music of Kevin J. Cope, Christopher Healey, Corey Cunnigham, Hannah Kendall, John Arrigo-Nelson, Daniel Zajicek, Charles Halka, Dennis Tobenski, Thom Norman, and Greg Simon.


Week Nine (February 26, 2014):


Kevin J. Cope:


Kevin is a composer and classical guitarist based in Philadelphia. From Kevin’s website, I listened to Unknown Origin: A Pole Was Journeying, for guitar and alto saxophone, Solstices, for solo guitar, and Sirocco for solo clarinet in A.


Kevin’s comfort zone is the guitar, which is why I will note the compelling non-guitar elements of the above works. By this, I mean the overwhelmingly lyrical solo parts in Unknown Origin and Sirocco. Kevin skillfully makes the most of these instrument’s ability to carry long, flowing melodies, which shows he works well beyond the idiom of his home instrument.


You can find Kevin on Twitter.


Christopher Healey:


Christopher is a composer based in Brisbane, Australia. From Christopher’s SoundCloud page, I listened to his Cello and Piano Sonatina and Mountain Prelude, for solo piano.


Based on these works, I get the sense Christopher’s music is mostly based on triadic harmonies, though these pieces differ significantly in their style. The Sonatina, as the title suggests, has a very “classical” tone, and treats its instruments in a traditional manner. Like a Debussy prelude, Mountain Prelude is more contemplative and evades many of the harmonic conventions of the Sonatina, though it is not wild nor abstract.


You can find Christopher on Twitter.


Corey Cunningham:


Corey Cunnigham and I were colleagues at the University of Michigan from 2011-2013. From Corey’s SoundCloud page, I listened to In Misty Heights and Distant Sea, for orchestra, To Watch The Moon Silently Vanish, for solo cello, and Take a Place in the Light, for fixed media.


These works succeed wonderfully at establishing and contrasting distinct musical spaces. Moreover, the sound worlds Corey creates and uses to build his pieces are, unto themselves, deeply attractive. Whether by sonic color, material character or another element, Corey seems to produce and use terrific sound spaces in any musical setting he likes.


You can find Corey on Twitter.



Hannah Kendall:


Hannah Kendall is a composer based in London, England. From Hannah’s website, I listened to Kanashibari, for chamber orchestra, Vera, for clarinet, violin, viola and cello, and an excerpt of The Great Dark for large ensemble.


Hannah’s musical language is abstract and very idiosyncratic. A great example of this is Vera, which Hannah describes as a work based on a twelve-tone row, but the piece is rather playful and generally does not sound like a stereotypical twelve-tone piece. Overall, these works were filled with intense, striking ideas presented scrupulously through the thoughtful use of their given instrumentation.


You can find Hannah on Twitter.


John Arrigo-Nelson:


John Arrigo-Nelson is a composer based in Pittsburgh. From John’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Phosphene, for chamber orchestra, and fluttazione/attimo, for two pianos and two percussion.


It appears, from these pieces, that John’s music is typified by abstract musical materials whose nuance is offset by emergent rhythmic transparency. Both of these pieces, for example, open with shifting micro-moments that careen towards passages of rhythmic, if not also melodic and harmonic, regularity. In Phosphene, this form yields a stunning, yet fleeting, passage of lyrical solo piano whose poignancy is amplified by its contrast to the work’s preceding material.

You can find John on Twitter.


Week Ten (March 5, 2014):


Daniel Zajicek:


Daniel is a composer and visual artist who was a colleague of mine at Rice University. From Daniel’s website, I listened to Punk Truck Love, for bass clarinet and electronics, and Awake, for laptop ensemble; and, from his SoundCloud page, I listened to And the stallion put on my pants and began to sing, for fixed media.


These pieces suggest Daniels seeks drama in his music. This is most direct in Awake, which is a live performance piece aimed to be theatrical, but the other works, with their scrupulously created sound worlds, are similarly dramatic.


You can find Daniel on Twitter.


Charles Halka:


Charles and I overlapped for a couple years while I was at Rice University. From Charles’ website, I listened to Scherzo, for orchestra, Rupture, for string quartet, and To the Brim, for solo violin.


Based on these works, Charles’ music appears to be extraordinarily economical. Using texture and color, primarily, Charles invents a wide range of characters out of a single musical germ. Rupture expresses this quality most extremely, for it only really explores differences in texture. Though Scherzo and To the Brim or relatively less rigorous, all three works possess impressive cohesion thanks to Charles’ economy of means.


You can find Charles on Twitter.


Dennis Tobenski:


Dennis is a composer and vocalist based in New York. From Dennis’ SoundCloud page, I listened to “Lament” from the song cycle And He’ll Be Mine, and Only Air, for soprano and orchestra.


Dennis writes very well for voice, an apparent byproduct of his experience as a vocalist. Moreover, these works demonstrate Dennis’ facility at situating a vocal line in varied instrumental contexts. Both pieces feature clear, but lush, accompaniments that enhance the conveyance of the soloist’s line. And, in Only Air, a sizeable work, orchestration also plays an important part of the work’s overall form.


You can find Dennis on Twitter.


Thom Norman:


Thom is a composer based in Glasgow, Scotland. From Thom’s website, I listened to Ochre and Red on Red, for chamber orchestra, Schlafen, Schlafen, for voice and piano, and Thing we can’t tell each other, for cello and piano.


These pieces predominantly feature abstract ideas, but, underneath this surface, it appears Thom’s musical language is rooted in a traditional understanding of harmony and melody. In Ochre and Red on Red, this dynamic shapes the work’s overall form. At first, the piece struggles with transient, complex texture and ideas until more conventionally lyrical material breaks through at the work’s end.


You can find Thom on Twitter.


Greg Simon:


Greg is composer and jazz trumpeter, and a colleague of mine at the University of Michigan. From Greg’s website, I listened to Blues in Red, for two tenor saxophones, Estadio, for solo viola, and Foolish Fire, for wind ensemble.


Blues in Red and Foolish Fire possess a rhythmic vitality that seems drawn from Greg’s performance background. To be clear, although Blues in Red skirts the edges of wholesale jazz allusions, neither of these works wholly trades on that genre’s tropes. Estadio is very different: a forceful and lyrical soliloquy for viola, which takes advantage of the instrument’s full expressive potential.


You can find Greg on Twitter.


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