Archive for July 19th, 2016

Composers Festival spotlight: Erin Gee

The innovative composer of vocal music Erin Gee is one of the two distinguished guest composers at this year’s Mizzou International Composers Festival.

In that capacity, she’ll give a public presentation on her music; teach and interact informally with the festival’s eight resident composers; and be in the audience for performances of her work in concerts by Alarm Will Sound on Thursday night and the Mizzou New Music Ensemble on Friday night.

Currently an assistant professor of composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Gee (pictured) is known particularly for her series of compositions called “Mouthpieces,” which use “non-traditional vocal techniques, devoid of semantic language, to construct intricate and subtle patterns of a diverse array of vocal sounds.”

In 2014 she was cited by Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, as part of his short list of the most influential composer-vocalists of the 21st century. Since then, she has been awarded the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a Bogliasco Fellowship.

Gee graduated from the University of Iowa with BA and MA degrees in piano and composition, then earned a PhD in music theory in 2007 from the University of Music and Performing Arts, Graz.

“Mouthpieces” began as one piece for solo voice, which Gee began performing as a graduate student, and has grown to more than 25 works for orchestra, opera, vocal ensemble, large chamber ensemble and string quartet. Those works have been performed internationally by some of the top new music ensembles in Europe, North America, South America, Hong Kong and Japan and in the Wittener Tage für Neue Musik; Musik Protokoll in Steirischer Herbst; Klangspuren;, Darmstadt Festival Summer Courses; the SONiC Festival; and the Zurich Tage der Neue Musik. among others.

Gee’s awards for composition include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship, the 2008 Rome Prize, Zürich Opera House’s Teatro Minimo, and the Picasso-Mirò Medal, among others. She has written commissioned works for the Zurich Opera House; the Radio Symphony Orchestra Vienna; the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group under Esa-Pekka Salonen; Klangforum Wien; the American Composers Orchestra; and more.

Gee also has worked with the Latvian Radio Chamber Choir, Ensemble SurPlus, Alter Ego, Either/Or Ensemble, Wet Ink, Metropolis Ensemble, Repertorio Zero, and many others.

Her works are taught in the composition and musicology programs of many leading universities such as MIT, University of Pennsylvania, Smith College, and Mills College, and she has lectured at Harvard, UC Berkeley, Dartmouth, and Wellesley.

Gee’s debut CD, also called Mouthpieces, was released in January 2014 on the col legno label in Vienna, and was praised by Gramophone magazine in a review which noted the “tangible virtuosity of Gee’s formidable vocal execution, as well as the comparable (if relatively more orthodox) finesse of the instrumental component” and stated, “Erin Gee clearly has a contribution to make.”

You can hear Erin Gee being interviewed last month on KMUC’s “Mizzou Music” program here, and see and hear some samples of her music being performed in the embedded players below.

Erin Gee and RepertorioZero perform “Mouthpiece XII” in a concert presented by Tage für Neue Musik in November 2009 at the Tonhalle in Zürich, Switzerland.

The Ecce ensemble performs “Mouthpiece XIXc” during the 2016 nienteForte Contemporary Music Festival in New Orleans.

The U.S. premiere of “Mouthpiece X” for amplified voice and amplified ensemble, performed on November 19 & 20, 2009 at (le) Poisson Rouge in New York City, featuring Erin Gee on vocals and Metropolis Ensemble, led by conductor Andrew Cyr.

“Mouthpiece XXIV” performed in 2015 by Ryan Muncy and Ross Karre of the International Contemporary Ensemble at Abrons Arts Center in New York City