Composers Festival spotlight: Dan Visconti

Dan Visconti

Dan Visconti, one of the two distinguished guest composers at the 2017 Mizzou International Composers Festival, is known both for his music and for his work as a speaker, writer, and activist seeking “to address social issues through music by re-imagining the arts as a form of cultural and civic service.”

Visconti’s biography describes his compositions as “rooted in the improvisational energy and maverick spirit of rock, folk music, and other vernacular performance traditions,” and the Cleveland Plain Dealer has characterized his work as “both mature and youthful, bristling with exhilarating musical ideas and a powerfully crafted lyricism.”

As a distinguished guest composer for the MICF, Visconti (pictured) will work with the eight resident composers and Alarm Will Sound, and give a public presentation on his music. The festival will include performances of two of his works – “Psychedelia,” a brand new piece composed for Alarm Will Sound that they’ll play during their concert on Thursday, July 27 at the Missouri Theatre, and “Fractured Jams,” which the Mizzou New Music Ensemble will perform on Friday, July 28.

Visconti recently completed three years as the California Symphony’s Young American Composer in Residence, during which he wrote works including “Tangle Eye,” a concerto for cello and orchestra inspired by folk recordings collected by Alan Lomax that debuted in May of this year, and 2016’s “Living Language,” a concerto for guitar and orchestra featuring Grammy-winning soloist Jason Vieaux.

Other recent projects include “Amplified Soul,” a showpiece written specifically for Venezuelan piano virtuoso Gabriela Martinez; “ANDY: A Popera,” an opera/cabaret hybrid commissioned by Opera Philadelphia and inspired by the life, work, and philosophy of pop artist Andy Warhol; and the interactive video game opera “Permadeath,” a collaboration with acclaimed Pulitzer-winning librettist Cerise Jacobs and director Michael Counts.

Visconti also has written commissioned works for the Kronos Quartet, Branford Marsalis, Eighth Blackbird, the JACK Quartet, Da Capo Chamber Players, Scharoun Ensemble of the Berlin Philharmonic, Silkroad percussionist Shane Shanahan, soprano Lucy Shelton, and many others.

His honors include the Rome Prize, Berlin Prize, and awards from the Koussevitzky Foundation at the Library of Congress, Fromm Foundation, Naumburg Foundation, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In addition to his composer residency with the California Symphony, he recently completed a multi-year residency with opera companies including the Metropolitan Opera, Seattle Opera, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, New York City Opera, and the Glimmerglass Festival as recipient of the Douglas Moore Fellowship in American Opera.

Visconti’s music has been performed at venues including Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Los Angeles’s Disney Hall, London’s Barbican Theatre, and Sydney Opera House.

He currently serves as director of artistic programming at Chicago’s Fifth House Ensemble, and works with young musicians at the ensemble’s annual Fresh Inc Festival on cultivating musical careers in line with their own unique vision and values. Visconti also recently was named artistic advisor at Astral Artists, a nonprofit intensive mentoring program that specializes in developing the early careers of extraordinary classical musicians.

A sought-after speaker on music and social topics, Visconti was awarded a 2014 TED Fellowship and delivered a TED talk at the conference’s thirtieth anniversary. Other recent appearances include speeches at the Clinton School for Public Service, the National Archive, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is a contributing writer for the Huffington Post and his writing also has appeared in NewMusicBox, ArtsJournal, Medium, The 21st-Century Musician, and Symphony magazine.

Dan Visconti was interviewed last week on KMUC’s “Mizzou Music” program, and you can listen to that conversation here. For more, read his 2016 interview with 21cm.org, and watch the accompanying video of his talk about “Music and Community” at DePauw University.

You can hear samples of Visconti’s music on his SoundCloud page and via the embedded players below.

“Lonesome Roads” performed in May 2017 by Fifth House Ensemble.

“Black Bend” from “Hitchhiker’s Tales,” performed by Sybarite5, with Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney (violins), Angela Pickett (viola), Laura Metcalf (cello), and Louis Levit (double bass), for the 2013 International Society of Double Bassists Convention at the Eastman School Of Music’s Kilbourn Hall.

“Amplified Soul,” written for and performed by Gabriela Martinez on her first album.

“Fractured Jams,” recorded by Scharoun Ensemble Berlin.

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