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 eighteenth installment of what I call, “Mapping My Musical Twitterverse”, and features composers Jay Batzner, Beki Smith, Matti Kovler, Kieren Macmillan, and Joseph Hyde.
Jay Batzner is a self-identifying electroacoustic composer who teaches at Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant, MI. From Jay’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Silhouettes, Receding, for natural horn and electronics, and Dreams Grow Like Slow Ice, for glissando flute and electronics.
It oversimplifies these pieces to argue their electronic forces simply augment the acoustic presences of the flute and horn. Rather, these works deconstruct and rebuild these instruments’ identities. This deeply expressive feat is aided on all sides by technology, from the electronics to the retrospective nomination of natural horn and forward-looking exploration of the glissando flute’s soloistic potential.
Beki Smith is a composer based in Glasgow, Scotland. From Beki’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Between Scylla and Charybdis, for four harps, “The Mary Grey”, from the Perthshire Suite, for orchestra, and The Dancer, for spoken word and electronics.
These works confidently cover a wide range of genres. “The Mary Grey” features the most traditional musical language of the three and Between Scylla and Charybdis acts as a coutnerbalance with its dark, ominous clouds of harp. The Dancer, contrastingly, hardly uses pitch, and, instead, flows dramatically with its intricately processed sounds, which surround the recitation of a poem.
Matti Kovler is a composer based in New York, and Boston. Matti and I met when he visited the University of Michigan last year. From Matti’s website, I listened to excerpts of Unsung Serenade, for orchestra, Ninevah, for string orchestra, as well as Lili Marlene, for mezzo-soprano and orchestra.
Unsung Serenade and Ninevah seem to have a dark character, which occasionally twists into something bittersweet, creating a sense of underlying tension in the music. Matti exploits this property more transparently, and ostensibly ironically, in Lili Marlene, wherein a cabaret-like tune is opposed with mysterious and aggressive orchestral interludes.
Kieren MacMillan is a composer based in Toronto. From Kieren’s SoundCloud page, I listened to Berceuse for Benjamin, for piano, Wither’s Carol, for choir and brass quintet, and excerpts of Fantasy Variations, for piano quartet.
These works of Kieren’s are conventionally melodic, structurally engaging and deeply charming. For example, the particularly emblematic Wither’s Carol is joyous and endearing while continuing to grow and evolve – namely in the brass part – throughout its duration. The Berceuse has a similarly linear form, and builds the arrival of a new, confident melodic idea that enters about two-thirds of the way through.
Joseph Hyde is a composer who teaches at Bath Spa University, UK. From Joseph’s website, I listened to In Sunlight, for soprano and electronics, as well as Seven Waves, for flute and electronics.
These works, despite their similarities, bear strikingly contrasting forms. In Sunlight constructs and unveils a hybrid musical space of voice and sound. The text guides the piece along, even in face of its increasing sonic obscurity. Seven Waves, however, builds towards and arrives at a significant and, in many ways, moving change in the piece’s musical material, a transition that is aided by presumably pre-recorded spoken material.