Composers Festival spotlight: New Muse Piano Duo

The New Muse Piano Duo is another relatively recent addition to the University of Missouri’s ensembles in residence, and will be making their Mizzou International Composers Festival debut this year as part of Friday’s “Mizzou New Music” concert.

Individually, Paola Savvidou serves as assistant professor of piano pedagogy at Mizzou, while Jonathan Kuuskoski is an assistant teaching professor and director of entrepreneurship and community programs.

Savvidou received her undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and earned MM and DMA degrees in piano performance and pedagogy from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, while Kuuskoski earned both a BA in music and an MBA from UNC-Greensboro, and an MM from University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As a performing duo, they specialize in music of the 20th and 21st centuries, seeking to expand the repertoire available for four hands and two pianos by performing newly composed works across the United States and abroad.

During their inaugural season in 2013-14, the New Muse Piano Duo toured with a program consisting exclusively of new works by living composers, selected from a call for scores that drew more than 90 submissions from across the Americas and Europe.

They also did guest artist residencies at the University of North Carolina – Wilmington, Truman State University, Missouri State University, and the Ionian University in Corfu, Greece, as well as a lecture recital at the European Piano Teachers Association Conference in Oslo, and guest artist recitals at the European Association for Music in Schools Conference and Biennial Euro-Mediterranean Musicological Conference at the University of Nicosia, Cyprus.

This past season, the Duo has premiered new works by Amy Williams, Jeffrey Hoover, Robert Honstein, and Haley Myers in performances in Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Baltimore.

Before coming to Mizzou, they helped found the New Music Everywhere ensemble, based in Madison, WI, collaborating with composers including Laura Schwendinger, Jeff Herriott, and Robert Honstein, visual artist Shinique Smith; with faculty from UW-Madison and UW-Whitewater; and with Madison-based troupes including the Deer Heart Dance Company, The Weather Duo, Mad Town Ballroom, and the UW First Wave Hip Hop Learning Community. Kuuskoski and Savvidou also have performed across the Midwest with the UW-Madison Contemporary Chamber Ensemble.

You can hear samples of the New Muse Piano Duo’s music in the embedded SoundCloud players below.

Composers Festival spotlight: Andrew McManus

A native of Massachusetts, 2015 MICF resident composer Andrew McManus currently lives in Chicago, where he earned his PhD at the University of Chicago, studying with Marta Ptaszynska, Augusta Read Thomas, Shulamit Ran and Howard Sandroff. He also holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and Yale University.

The work McManus has composed for Alarm Will Sound to play at the festival is called “embers, fused to ash,” and you can read some of his thoughts about it and see a bit of the score here.

McManus’ acoustic works have been performed by the New York Philharmonic, eighth blackbird, Pacifica Quartet, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Spektral Quartet, Minnesota Orchestra and the New York Youth Symphony Chamber Music Program. His electronic works have been presented at the University of South Florida and the Aries Composers Festival in Fort Collins, CO.

Notable performances include the premiere of his orchestral work “Strobe” in June 2014 by the New York Philharmonic, which was called “riveting” and “breathless…surging…hazy… sometimes all at once” by the New York Times. And in May 2014 his opera “Killing the Goat,” based on the novel La Fiesta del Chivo (The Feast of the Goat) by Mario Vargas Llosa, was premiered by eighth blackbird, the Pacifica Quartet, and members of the Contempo Chamber Players at the University of Chicago.

McManus’ electronic work “Mesospherics” (2011-2013) was featured at the University of South Florida New Music Festival, and other compositions of his have been performed at the Wellesley Composers Conference, the Bowdoin International Music Festival and the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute.

For more about Andrew McManus, read this interview with him, done in conjunction with the University of Chicago’s Arts, Science and Culture Initiative. You can hear samples of Andrew McManus’ music in the embedded Vimeo and SoundCloud players below.

“Killing the Goat,” a chamber opera recorded May 16, 2014 at Ganz Hall, Roosevelt University in Chicago, IL. Performed by the Contempo Chamber Players of the University of Chicago; Julia Bentley, mezzo soprano; Chad Sloan, baritone; Ricardo Rivera, baritone; eighth blackbird; the Pacifica Quartet; and Jesse Langen, guitar; conducted by Cliff Colnot.

Composers Festival spotlight: Conrad Winslow

Even before coming to Columbia for the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival, resident composer Conrad Winslow has been all over these United States.

As his professional bio puts it, “Extended childhood road-trips through the continental United States and a residential stint in Hawaii have taught him to look wide.” Raised in Homer, Alaska and now based in Brooklyn, Winslow earned his undergraduate degree in music from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.

He subsequently moved to the Northeast, earning an M.M. degree in film scoring from New York University and a master’s degree in composition from the Juilliard School, where he studied with John Corigliano.

Informed by his travels and by “watching his parents chop down trees and build a log cabin home in the woods,” Winslow’s music has been lauded for its “harmonic thorniness and rhythmic vitality” by the New York Times and described as a “scenic, boisterous and bumpy ride” by the Albany Times Union.

He has earned honors and awards from ASCAP, New Music USA, the American Composers Forum and The Jerome Fund, and more. Winslow also has written instrumental music on commission from Carnegie Hall, the American Composers Orchestra, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, Bala Brass, and Gaudete Brass (who recorded his work for Cedille Records), and others.

His most recent commissions include works for bassoonists Rebekah Heller and Adrian Morejon, under the auspices of the International Double Reed Society, and Cadillac Moon Ensemble; and a ballet score for choreographer Justin Peck.

Winslow’s orchestral work “Joint Account” will receive a world premiere performance from the American Composers Orchestra in October at Carnegie Hall as part of the SONiC Festival, curated by former MICF distinguished guest composers Derek Bermel and Anna Clyne.

You can hear samples of Conrad Winslow’s music in the embedded SoundCloud and YouTube players below.

“Two Riddles” for two bassoons, performed by Rebekah Heller and Adrian Morejon on August 6, 2014 at SubCulture, NYC.

Composers Festival spotlight: Anthony Vine

One of two resident composers at this year’s Mizzou International Composers Festival now based in Brooklyn, NYC, Anthony Vine originally hails from Warren, OH.

He earned a B.M. in composition from The Ohio State University and an M.A. in composition from the University of Washington, and is the founder and artistic director of CNX: The Columbus // New York New Music Exchange, a programming and outreach initiative that seeks to build relationships between the contemporary music communities of Columbus, OH and New York City.

Vine’s music has been played and workshopped in North America and Europe by ensembles and performers including JACK Quartet, Pascal Gallois, Ensemble Besides, Quasar Saxophone Quartet, Bearthoven, Protean Duo, Inverted Space Ensemble, and members of the Columbus Symphony, among others.

He has attended summer courses and residencies such as the Darmstadt Summer Courses for New Music, SALT New Music Festival, and Composit New Music Festival, and taken private lessons and masterclasses with composers such as Rebecca Saunders, Georges Aperghis, Brian Ferneyhough, Joshua Fineberg, Enno Poppe, Philippe Leroux, Steven Takasugi, David Lang, and others. In January 2016, he’ll be one of seven composers participating in the Minnesota Orchestra’s 13th annual Composer Institute.

Vine frequently collaborates with choreographers and multimedia artists, and recently has been developing a site-specific project, Hallways, with Logan Company (Kathryn Logan and Katy Gilmore) and Matt Evans.
 
You can hear samples of Anthony Vine’s music in the embedded SoundCloud players below.  

Composers Festival spotlight: Thomas Dougherty

Resident composer Thomas Dougherty comes to the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival from Houston, TX, where he earned his master of music degree in composition from the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and has served as composer and violinist for the Da Camera of Houston Young Artists Program.

Very soon, though, he’ll move to Los Angeles to begin work this fall on a DMA in composition at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, where the faculty includes 2015 MICF distinguished guest composer Andrew Norman.

A native of Pittsburgh, Dougherty attended Carnegie Mellon University during his senior year of high school, and went on to receive bachelor’s degrees in both composition and violin performance from the Eastman School of Music.

While a student at Eastman, Dougherty was awarded the Anthony and Carolyn Donato Prize and the Louis Lane Prize for Composition, and also was the winner of the Eastman Orchestral Composition Competition, which resulted in a performance of his “Three Pieces for Orchestra” by the Eastman Philharmonia.

As a violinist, Dougherty has performed many of his own solo and chamber works, has served as concertmaster for the Eastman Philharmonia, and was awarded first prize at the 2014 Music For Mt. Lebanon Keynotes Scholarship competition.

His residencies have included time as a Chamber Music Institute Fellow at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he wrote a piece for the Meadowlark Trio, and at the American Conservatory at Fontainebleau in France, studying harmony and composition. Dougherty has also attended festivals such as the FUBiS Music Composition Course at the Freie Universität Berlin and the Composition Course at Montserrat in Valencia, Spain, and has presented his works in masterclasses to composers Steven Stucky and David Lang.

You can hear samples of Thomas Dougherty’s music in the embedded SoundCloud players below.

Composers Festival spotlight: Justin Pounds

Resident composer Justin Pounds is the University of Missouri’s representative at the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival, and along with Christopher Stark, one of two resident composers this year with ties to Missouri and St. Louis.

A St. Louis native who grew up in the suburb of Oakville, Pounds earned his bachelor of music degree at Mizzou, and currently is pursuing a master of music in composition, studying with Dr. Thomas McKenney and Dr. Stefan Freund. 

This past November, his chamber opera “The Outlaw” was premiered by at Mizzou by the Show-Me Opera. Pounds also recently completed a commissioned work for solo piano inspired by the rhythms of Africa, which was performed at the Sheldon Concert Hall in St. Louis.

Pounds spent August 2013 to August 2014 as the resident composer for the town of Lexington, Missouri, scoring original music for audio tours of the city’s historic districts as part of a two-year program in which the University is helping Lexington brand itself as a destination for tourists and artists.

Also in 2014, Pounds and three other Mizzou composers wrote a group of commissioned works for Forest Park Forever in St. Louis, with Pounds’ composition “A Leaf on the Wind” getting performances at The Jewel Box in Forest Park and subsequently at the 2014 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

Pounds’ work “Electric Brain” was choreographed for dancers at Stephens College by Stephanie Reynolds and presented at the central region American College Dance Festival, and his choral piece “Music, When Soft Voices Die”‘ was selected by The C7 Prize as a Recommended Work.

Justin Pounds’ music also has been featured in masterclasses with composers John Orfe and Tod Machover, and given premiere performances by the Mizzou New Music Ensemble, Mizzou’s Concert Chorale, and various chamber groups.

During the 2013-14 academic year, he served as “composer on call” for the Mizzou New Music Initiative’s Composer Connection distance learning program. Pounds also was a finalist for the Sinquefield Composition Prize in 2013, 2014, and 2015; and was a finalist for the 2014 MU Collaborative Arts Initiative.

You can hear samples of Justin Pounds’ music in the embedded YouTube and SoundCloud players below.

“The Outlaw,” performed November 15, 2014 at the Missouri Theatre in Columbia.

Composers Festival spotlight: Alessandro Ratoci

Alessandro Ratoci has the longest journey of any of this year’s resident composers to get to the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival, coming to Columbia from Lausanne, Switzerland, where he teaches electronic music at the Haute Ecole de Musique de Genève (Geneva University of Music).

Born in Tuscany, Italy, Ratoci majored in composition, piano, and electronic music at the University of Bologna, and then went on to earn his master’s degree in composition at Geneva University of Music, studying with Michael Jarrell, Luis Naón and Eric Daubresse.

He then moved to Paris to continue his studies of composition and electronic performance at the Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique (IRCAM).

Ratoci’s compositions have been played by groups including PRIME Recorder Ensemble, Ictus Ensemble, the ensemble of HEM Geneve and Quartetto Fiorentino, with performances at events such as Festival Archipel in Geneva, Milano Musica in Milan, Angelica Festival Internazionale di Musica and Musica Insieme in Bologna, and “In My Life,” held at the Parco della Musica in Rome.

You can hear samples of Alessandro Ratoci’s music in the embedded YouTube and SoundCloud players below.

“Rima Flow’ for tuba and electronics, recorded April 2, 2015 at Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, featuring Jean Baptiste Renaux (tuba).

“Le journal du Colonel Astral” for actor, soprano, and amplified ensemble of nine performers and electronics

Composers Festival spotlight: Christopher Stark

Christopher Stark is one of eight resident composers for the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival, and, along with Mizzou’s Justin Pounds, one of two resident composers this year with ties to Missouri and the St. Louis area.

Currently an assistant professor of composition at Washington University in St. Louis, Stark is a native of Polson, Montana who describes his music as being “deeply rooted in the American West” and “seeking to capture the expansive energy of this quintessential American landscape.”

His honors and awards include the Underwood Commission from the American Composers Orchestra, the prix de composition from the Orléans International Piano Competition, and an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award.

Stark’s music been programmed, rehearsed, and performed by a variety of ensembles and orchestras across the country; featured on NPR’s “Performance Today”; and broadcast as a listener-voted favorite on WQXR in New York City. He also recently worked with Grammy-winning country music artists Zac Brown Band on an arrangement of their hit song “Free” for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin.

Before coming to Wash U, Stark studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory and the University of Montana, and earned his doctorate at Cornell University, where one of his teachers was Steven Stucky, a distinguished guest composer at the 2012 MICF.

You can hear samples of Christopher Stark’s music in the embedded YouTube players below.

Piano Quartet (2014) I. “Assisi, in memoriam Jonathan Harvey” for violin, viola, cello, and piano, recorded in 2014 by the Los Angeles Piano Quartet

“Soldier Asleep at the Tomb” for soprano, orchestra, and electronics, recorded November 1, 2014 at Bailey Hall, Cornell University with Lucy Fitz Gibbon, soprano, and the Cornell Symphony Orchestra, Chris Younghoon Kim, conductor.

“Rosenthal Miniatures” (2014), seven duets for oboe and bass clarinet with image projections, performed by Jennifer Gookin Cavanaugh (oboe)
and Christopher Kirkpatrick (bass clarinet), with illustrations by Marc Rosenthal