Spotlight on Amy Beth Kirsten

Here’s another in our series of profiles of the resident composers taking part in this year’s Mizzou New Music Summer Festival:

Born in East St. Louis, Illinois, Amy Beth Kirsten grew up in Kansas City and Chicago, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Vocal Jazz Studies from Benedictine University and a master’s degree in Composition from Chicago College of Performing Arts.

She currently lives and works in New Haven, CT, and graduated from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in May 2010 with a doctorate in music composition.

Kirsten was honored in 2009 to have the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Marin Alsop, read her new orchestra piece “The Girl He Drew.” In 2009 she also held a Creative Arts residency at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy; was a finalist for the 2009 Rome Prize in Musical Composition; and held summer composition fellowships at the Norfolk New Music Workshop and Bang on a Can Summer Festival.

Previously, Kirsten was chosen to participate in the American Composers Orchestra’s 16th Annual Underwood New Music Readings and won the 2006-07 Volti Choral Arts Lab Commissioning and Residency competition in San Francisco. She also recently was named a 2010 Composer Fellow for the Music10 New Music Festival in Switzerland with 8th Blackbird.

In addition to participating in the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival, Kirsten has another recent Missouri connection. Previously, she was commissioned by Missouri Verses and Voices to create a musical setting for “Hall of Waters” by Missouri Poet Laureate Walter Bargen, which had its debut performance in February 2010 at the Capitol in Jefferson City.

Before moving to the East Coast, Kirsten was a regular fixture on the Chicago singer/songwriter scene, performing at such venues as Fitzgerald’s Nightclub, Quenchers Saloon, The Subterranean, Katerina’s, and Uncommon Ground. She got her start as a singer by studying the great improvisors of jazz, and continues to use the skills developed in her jazz training as a tool in her work as a composer of contemporary concert music.

To hear samples of Amy Beth Kirsten’s music, you can visit her website.

In the embedded video window below, you can see a performance of part one of Kirsten’s composition “Little Falling Red,” which was written for Norfolk New Music Workshop. (For more about the piece, see Kirsten’s comments to NYC classical music radio station WQXR here.) The video was made July 3, 2009, and features soprano Alice Teyssier and the Norfolk New Music Ensemble, withe Sarunas Jankauskas, clarinet; Jennifer Griggs, trombone; Chun-Chien Chuang, violin; Brian Ellingson, double bass; Julia Den Boer, piano; and Ian Rosenbaum, percussion.

Mizzou New Music Summer Festival featured in Columbia Daily Tribune

The Mizzou New Music Summer Festival was the subject of a couple of stories published this past Sunday, July 4 in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Staff writer Aarik Danielsen penned an extensive overview of the festival, covering its concept and origins, guest composers and performers, and more. You can read his article online here.

Danielsen also wrote a profile of one of the Festival’s resident composers, Jeremy Podgursky, which you can see here.

UPDATE: You can read the entire unedited Q&A session with Podgursky on the Tribune‘s “Art Axis” blog. The Tribune‘s Danielsen also promises ongoing coverage throughout the festival, so you may want to bookmark the Art Axis main page.

About the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts

The venue for the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival’s public performances will be the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, an historic, newly restored former movie palace at 203 S. Ninth St. in downtown Columbia.

First opened in 1928, the MTCA had a six-decade run as the city’s most prominent movie house, but by the late 1980s, the single-screen theater had fallen out of favor with moviegoers as new multi-screen cinemas were built in Columbia.

The building was purchased in 1988 by the Missouri Symphony Society to serve as the home of the Missouri Symphony Orchestra. However, the once-grand facility was in dire need of renovation and restoration. Plaster was crumbling; seats were worn; the plumbing, HVAC and electrical systems were outdated; and the stage, backstage and wing spaces were inadequate for a modern performing arts facility.

After some major fund-raising, extensive construction and remodeling work, the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts celebrated its grand opening in May 2008 with a concert by singer Tony Bennett.  The MTCA now serves as artistic home for the  Missouri Symphony Society and the Columbia Art League; presents performances by a variety of local, regional and touring performers; and offers arts education programs for the community’s youth and adults.

You can take an online “virtual tour” of the restored Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts here.

As the performance venue for the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival, the MTCA is handling ticket sales for all Festival concerts. Festival passes good for admission to all four concerts are on sale now for $35 for adults, $20 for students. Single tickets are priced at $10 for adults, $5 for students for the concerts on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday; and $15 for adults, $10 for students for the final concert on Sunday.

Tickets can be charged by phone by calling the Missouri Theatre box office at 573-875-0600 or purchased online at www.motheatre.org. (There is a $2 per ticket fee for online purchases; phone purchases will not be charged a fee.)

Spotlight on Moon Young Ha

Here’s another in our series of profiles of the resident composers taking part in this year’s Mizzou New Music Summer Festival:

Moon Young Ha (pictured) combines classical instruments, video and electronics to create ethereal contemporary concert music.

His work has been presented at festivals and concerts in France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Serbia, Lithuania, Canada and the United States, including the International Computer Music Conference, Bang on a Can Marathon, Vilniaus Veidai Festival, NoiseFloor Festival, KoMA Festival, the Society of Composers Inc. conference and others.

Recently,  Ha has collaborated with visual artist/composer Dennis Miller, and his music also has been performed by the LOOS Ensemble, Eric Mandat, Florida International University Symphony Orchestra and the University of Illinois New Music Ensemble. Ha also is the founder of MEANS, a contemporary music ensemble that performs new music by young composers.

He earned his Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in music composition at the University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign, and this fall he will be starting his Ph.D in Music Composition/Theory at New York University, Graduate School of Arts and Science. You can hear some samples of Moon Young Ha’s music on his website.

Also, you can see two performances of Ha’s music in the embedded video windows below. The first clip is from 2008, and shows Ha conducting a “pickup choir” of fellow University of Illinois students in a performance of “Wild Nights,” a musical setting composed by Ha for an Emily Dickinson poem.

The second clip is a performance of Ha’s composition “The Island,” recorded in June, 2009 at Etchings: A New Festival for Contemporary Music in Moulin a Nef, Auvillar, France. Once again, Ha conducts his own composition, as played by The East Coast Contemporary Ensemble (ECCE), featuring Beth Wiemann, clarinet; Florence Cooke, violin; and James Barralet, cello.

Spotlight on Lisa Moore

The Mizzou New Music Summer Festival is delighted to have pianist Lisa Moore (pictured) as a guest performer.

Born in Canberra and raised in Australia and London before moving to the USA in 1980, Moore is a graduate of the University of Illinois, Eastman School of Music and SUNY Stonybrook. She now lives in New York City, where she collaborates with a large and diverse range of musicians and artists. The New York Times says “her energy is illuminating” and the New Yorker magazine called her “visionary” and “New York’s queen of avant-garde piano.”

A founding member of the NYC downtown new-music group Bang on a Can All-Stars, Moore has released five solo CD on the Cantaloupe and Tall Poppies labels, and appears as a collaborator on more than 30 other discs.  Her most recent solo recording for Cantaloupe, Seven, features music by Don Byron; two more solo Cantaloupe EPs are scheduled for release in 2010, featuring original music by composers Annie Gosfield and Donnacha Dennehy. You can hear sample tracks from many of Moore’s recordings on her website.

Moore is “passionately dedicated” to the music of our time and has collaborated with composers from many musical genres, including Elliott Carter, Iannis Xenakis, Meredith Monk, Philip Glass, Thurston Moore, Ornette Coleman, and many more.

She has played at concert halls and festivals around the world, and has performed with organizations ranging from ballet companies and symphony orchestras to chamber music groups and new music ensembles. As a concerto soloist she has appeared with the London Sinfonietta, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Albany, Sydney, Tasmania, Thai and Canberra Symphony Orchestras, Philharmonia Virtuosi and the Queensland Philharmonic, under the baton of conductors Brad Lubman, Reinbert de Leeuw, Pierre Boulez, Jorge Mester and Edo de Waart.

As an artistic curator she produced Australia’s Canberra International Music Festival “Sounds Alive ‘08” series, importing musicians from around the world for 10 days of music making at the Street Theatre. Moore teaches at the Yale-Norfolk New Music Workshop Summer Festival and at Wesleyan University as well as making guest teaching appearances at conservatories around the world.

You can hear an interview Lisa Moore did in 2008 with public radio station WNYC by clicking on the embedded audio player below:

In the first video window, you can see and hear an excerpt from Moore’s performance of “For the Sexes:The Gates of Paradise,” composed by Martin Bresnick, who, as fate would have it, is one of the guest composers/instructors at the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival. Below that is a clip of Moore playing Frederic Rzewski’s “Piano Piece No. 4 (1979)” in 2008 at the Keys to the Future Festival

Spotlight on Christopher Dietz

Here’s another in our series of brief profiles of the eight resident composers who will be part of the inaugural Mizzou New Music Summer Festival:

The music of Milwaukee native Christopher Dietz (pictured) has been recognized with honors and awards from the Camargo Foundation, the Banff Centre, Copland House, ASCAP’s Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, the Minnesota Orchestra Reading Sessions and Composer Institute and several other institutions.

Dietz earned a Ph.D. in Composition and Theory from the University of Michigan, as well as degrees from the Manhattan School of Music and the University of Wisconsin.  He currently is a visiting assistant professor at the Oberlin Conservatory in Oberlin, OH. Recent commissions include works for the Mellon Foundation, the Toledo Symphony and the Utah Arts Festival Orchestra.

His music also has been performed by the East Coast Contemporary Ensemble, L’Orchestre de la Francophonie Canadienne, the Palomar Ensemble, TACTUS Ensemble, and many others.

In addition to being part of the Mizzou New Music Summer Fesitval, Deitz this year also was selected to participate in the Etchings Festival of Contemporary Music in Auvillar, France, and in the Society of Composers Inc. National Conference this November.

There are a few sample recordings of Dietz’ music online. His work Gharra,  commissioned by the Utah Arts Festival Orchestra in 2007 and since performed by three more orchestras, can be heard online here (if you have Apple QuickTime).

Also, percussionist Matthew Peters has put online .mp3 files of his performances of two solo marimba pieces composed by Dietz, “King of the Logs” and “The Peters Variations.”  Lastly, a very short excerpt of Deitz’ piece “De Profundis,” composed for and recorded by the Toledo Clarinets, can be heard here.

Spotlight on Francisco Cortez-Alvarez

The inaugural Mizzou New Music Summer Festival will feature the world premieres of new works from eight resident composers selected to be part of the event from a group of more than 120 applicants from around the world. Here’s the first in a series of brief profiles of those composers:

Pianist/composer Francisco Cortes-Alvarez (pictured) was born in Mexico City and received a degree in music composition with honorific mention and the Gabino Barreda Medal from the National School of Music (ENM), National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

He currently is pursuing  a master’s of music degree in composition at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.

Cortez-Alvarez received two consecutive Susan & Ford Schumann grants to study with Steven Stucky (2005) and George Tsontakis (2006) at the Aspen Musical Festival and School.  He also has participated in workshops with composer Mario Davidovsky and the Cassatt String Quartet, and from 2006 to 2007 served as resident composer for the ONIX Ensemble in Mexico.

His music has been performed in Mexico, the United States, Canada and France by soloists, ensembles and orchestras including the Cassatt String Quartet, Ensamble 3, the Cuarteto Extremo, Tumben Paax, Trio Coghlan, Mexico’s National Symphonic Orchestra, the Aspen Sinfonia Orchestra, the American Academy of Conducting Orchestra, and the Carlos Chávez Young Orchestra.

You can hear a recording of his composition “Lepedpteros” on his MySpace page.

Spotlight on Alarm Will Sound

The inaugural Mizzou New Music Summer Festival is fortunate to have Alarm Will Sound (pictured) as our resident ensemble.

They’ll kick off the festival with a concert at the Missouri Theater and Center for the Arts on Monday, July 12, and will work with our eight emerging composers throughout the week, culminating in the world premiere of their new works at the concluding concert on Sunday, July 18.

Their performances have been described as “equal parts exuberance, nonchalance, and virtuosity” by the London Financial Times and as “a triumph of ensemble playing” by the San Francisco Chronicle.  The New York Times says Alarm Will Sound is “the future of classical music” and “the very model of a modern music chamber band,” and ASCAP recognized their contributions to new music with a 2006 Concert Music Award for “the virtuosity, passion and commitment with which they perform and champion the repertory for the 21st century.”

Alarm Will Sound’s repertoire includes European and American works “from the arch-modernist to the pop-influenced.”  They work closely with contemporary composers, which makes them especially well suited for their role working with emerging composers at the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival.

The group has commissioned and premiered pieces by Steve Reich, David Lang, Anthony Gatto, Cenk Ergün, Aaron Jay Kernis, Michael Gordon, Augusta Read Thomas, Stefan Freund, Wolfgang Rihm, Payton MacDonald, John Orfe, Gavin Chuck, Dennis DeSantis and Caleb Burhans.

Alarm Will Sound can be heard on four recordings, including Acoustica, which features live-performance arrangements of music by electronica guru Aphex Twin; Reich at the Roxy, a surround-sound DVD/CD recording of a live concert of music by Steve Reich performed in the famed New York nightclub; and their most recent release, 2009’s a/rhythmia. You can hear samples from those recordings here.

The 20 members of Alarm Will Sound began playing together while studying at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York,  combining their diverse experience in composition, improvisation, jazz and popular styles, early music, and world musics.

Their connection to the University of Missouri is cellist and composer Stefan Freund (pictured), who serves as Associate Professor, Composition & Music Theory and as a faculty member for the Mizzou New Music Initiative.

The other members of Alarm Will Sound are Miles Brown (bass),  Caleb Burhans (violin, viola, voice, electric guitar, composer),  Gavin Chuck (managing director, composer), Michael Clayville (trombone), Michael Harley (bassoon, voice, keyboards),  Bill Kalinkos (clarinet, sax), Jackie Leclair (oboe), Payton MacDonald (percussion, tabla, composer),  Nigel Maister (staging director),  Matt Marks (horn, keyboards, electronics), Courtney Orlando (violin, voice, keyboards, accordion), John Orfe (keyboards, composer), Alan Pierson (artistic director, conductor, keyboards), Jason Price (trumpet, cracklebox, electronics), John Pickford Richards (viola, accordion), Elisabeth Stimpert (clarinet, sax),  Chris Thompson (percussion) and Jason Varvaro (production manager).  You can read more about each member of the ensemble on the Alarm Will Sound website.

Before they come to Columbia in July, Alarm Will Sound will perform in two concerts at The Barbican in London.  On June 24, the group performs at Wilton’s Music Hall, the world’s oldest music hall, playing electronica by Aphex Twin and Autechre, the Beatles’ iconic experimental tape work, Revolution 9, and John Orfe’s Chamber Symphony.  On June 25, the group will perform The Getty Address at the Barbican with indie-rockers Dirty Projectors.

You can see and hear a couple of Alarm Will Sound performances –  and get a sense of their impressive and eclectic musical range – in the embedded video windows below. The first clip is their rendition of  “Four” by the electronic music act Aphex Twin (aka Richard James), arranged by Jessica Johnson and Payton MacDonald, and performed on  July 22, 2009.  Below that, there’s a performance of maverick composer Conlon Nancarrow‘s “Player Piano Study No. 2A,”  arranged by Gavin Chuck and recorded November 19, 2008 at the Moscow Art November Festival.