Posts Tagged ‘ composer

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

Composers Festival spotlight: Emily Koh

Resident composer Emily Koh comes to the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival by way of Singapore, her place of birth, and Boston, where she currently is a Ph.D. candidate in composition and theory at Brandeis University.

A bassist as well as a composer, Koh also serves as a visiting faculty member at the Longy School of Music of Bard College, director of concert series at the Boston New Music Initiative, and principal bass for the New England Philharmonic.

Her music is characterized by timbral extremes, and has been described as “beautifully eerie” (New York Times), and “subtly spicy” (Baltimore Sun). Koh’s works have been played at venues in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, Italy, France, Finland, Israel, the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States by a variety of ensembles and performers, including Talea Ensemble , New York New Music Ensemble, Ensemble Signal, and many others.

Koh is a graduate of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in Singapore and the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. Her honors and awards include the Asian Composers League’s Yoshiro Irino Memorial Prize, an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, and the Parma Student Composer Competition, as well as numerous commissions and grants.

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

“in retro|re-intro:spect” for sinfonietta, written for the 2011 Composers Conference at Wellesley College and performed by the Purchase Contemporary Ensemble, directed by Dominic Donato, on November 29, 2012 at SUNY Purchase College’s Recital Hall

“bridging:isolation” (2013) for clarinet, violin and piano, recorded by the Talea Ensemble in March 2014 at Brandeis University

Composers Festival spotlight: Andrew Norman

Along with Hans Abrahamsen, the Mizzou New Music Initiative is pleased to welcome Andrew Norman as one of our two distinguished guest composers for the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

Currently an assistant professor of composition at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, Norman (pictured) is a graduate of Yale and the University of Southern California. He is the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the 2006 Rome Prize and the 2009 Berlin Prize, and in 2012 was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his string trio “The Companion Guide to Rome.”

Norman has served as composer-in-residence for Young Concert Artists in New York and for the Heidelberg Philharmonic, and currently is composer-in-residence for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Composer Fellowship Program.

Along with music, Norman has a notable interest in architecture – he even considered pursuing it as a career – and that interest is reflected in his use of visual patterns and textures as inspirations for his compositions, as well as in an enthusiasm for musical notation, both historic and experimental. It came out even more explicitly in his recent work “Frank’s House,” which was inspired directly by the Santa Monica residence of famed architect Frank Gehry and was premiered earlier this year by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Norman’s music has been recognized by the New York Times for its “daring juxtapositions and dazzling colors,” the Boston Globe for its “staggering imagination,” and the Los Angeles Times for its “Chaplinesque” wit. His symphonic works have been performed by ensembles around the world, including the Los Angeles, New York, and Royal Liverpool Philharmonics, the Philadelphia and Minnesota Orchestras, the BBC, Saint Louis, and Melbourne Symphonies, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Tonhalle Orchester Zurich, the Orchestre National de France, and many others.

For more about Andrew Norman, you can read his 2014 interview with New Music Box, and listen to him on a 2014 episode of WQXR’s “Meet the Composer.”

(You can hear some samples of Andrew Norman’s music in the YouTube players embedded below.)

The Companion Guide to Rome

Excerpt from “Frank’s House”

“Play: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3″ & “Try”

Composers Festival spotlight: Hans Abrahamsen

All of us at the Mizzou New Music Initiative are pleased to welcome Hans Abrahamsen as one of our two distinguished guest composers for the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

The winner of major honors including the Carl Nielsen Prize (1989) and the Wilhelm Hansen Prize (1998), Abrahamsen (pictured) since 1995 has taught composition and orchestration at The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen. As a distinguished guest composer for the MICF, he’ll work with the festival’s eight resident composers as a group and individually, and also will give a public presentation on his music.

Born in 1952 in Copenhagen, Abrahamsen first pursued his own study of music at the Royal Danish Academy, where he was inspired by his composition teachers and mentors Per Nørgård and Pelle Gudmundsen-Holmgreen.

His early works also reflected the influence of the “New Simplicity” movement, which had some parallels to minimalism in that it was a reaction by Danish composers of the mid-1960s to the excessive complexity of the music then being written by the European avant-garde. Noteworthy compositions from the first part of Abrahamsen’s career include his String Quartet No. 1, “10 Preludes,” and “Winternacht,” an ensemble work composed between 1976 and 1978.

In the 1980s, Abrahamsen studied with and befriended György Ligeti, and continued to develop his personal style in works such as the orchestral “Nacht und Trompeten” (1981); “Marchenbilder,” an ensemble piece from 1984, and “Lied in Fall,” written in 1987 for cello and 13 instruments.

After a hiatus from composing that lasted nearly a decade, Abrahamsen returned with more personal work, including a piano concerto written in 1999 for his wife Anne-Marie Abildskov, and the extended chamber work “Schnee”, which was premiered in 2008 by Ensemble Recherche and has received considerable critical acclaim.

Abrahamsen’s “Let me tell you,” for soprano and orchestra, was premiered in December 2013 by the Berlin Philharmonic, with Barbara Hannigan, to whom the work is dedicated, as soprano soloist and Andris Nelsons conducting. It has proven to be one of Abrahamsen’s most immediately popular works, with 15 performances since the premiere. Many additional performances and a recording are scheduled, and in May of this year, “Let me tell you” also won the Royal Philharmonic Society’s 2015 Award for Large-Scale Composition.

Abrahamsen’s current projects include work on an operatic setting of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” which will get a premiere performance in the fall of 2018 from the Royal Danish Opera. “Terms like ‘magical’, ‘mysterious’ and ‘elusive’ are often used describe Abrahamsen’s music, and for good reason,” said a recent feature story about Abrahamsen in the Glasgow, Scotland newspaper The Herald. “Like a fairytale or a winter landscape, he takes what is familiar and transforms it, allowing us to experience it, and perhaps ourselves, afresh.”

(You can hear some samples of Hans Abrahamsen’s music and an interview with him via the embedded YouTube and SoundCloud players below.)

String Quartet No. 1 “10 Preludes”


Hans Abrahamsen talks about his compositions “Schnee”‘ and String Quartet No. 4

“Schnee” Canon 2B, from the US premiere performance by the Talea Ensemble, conducted by James Baker, on January 21, 2011 at Scandinavia House, New York City.

“Let me tell you”

Music from 2014 MICF now on SoundCloud

Now that tickets are on sale for the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival, here’s a chance to whet your musical appetite with some sounds from the 2014 MICF.

These works were written by 2014 resident composers Holly Harrison, Texu Kim, and Michael Schachter (pictured, from left) especially for the Festival’s resident ensemble Alarm Will Sound, and received their world premiere performances at the 2014 festival. To play the track, just click on the embedded SoundCloud player.

The 2015 MICF takes place July 20 – 25 in Columbia. To get your tickets to hear this year’s exciting world premieres and more, please visit

“Radishes and Strings,” by Holly Harrison

“Bounce” by Texu Kim

“Five – Six – Seven – Eight” by Michael Schachter

Tickets for 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival
go on sale Monday, June 8

New Muse Piano Duo

Tickets for the 2015 Mizzou International Composers Festival (MICF) will go on sale at 10:00 a.m. CDT next Monday, June 8.

Heralded as one of the premier contemporary music events in the Midwest, the MICF has been called “a vibrant inferno of creative energy” by the internationally syndicated radio program “Relevant Tones,” and praised for offering “kinetic excitement” by the hometown Columbia Daily Tribune.


The 2015 MICF will take place from Monday, July 20 through Saturday, July 25 in Columbia. The grand finale of the week will feature the world premieres of eight new works written by the festival’s resident composers and performed by Alarm Will Sound, who return for their sixth year as resident ensemble.

That concert will take place at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, July 25 at the Missouri Theatre, 203 S. Ninth St. in downtown Columbia.

In addition to their grand finale performance, Alarm Will Sound also will play music from their recent repertoire in a concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23 at the Missouri Theatre.

Alarm Will Sound

This year’s “Mizzou New Music” concert at 7:30 p.m., Friday, July 24 at the Missouri Theatre will feature performances by the Mizzou New Music Ensemble and guest artists New Muse Piano Duo, with pianists Jonathan Kuuskoski and Paola Savvidou, and DRAX, with percussionist Megan Arns and saxophonist Leo Saguiguit.

They will showcase music from MU faculty and student composers, as well as works by this year’s MICF guest composers, Hans Abrahamsen and Andrew Norman.

Festival passes good for admission to all three concerts are on sale for $80 for the VIP package, which includes a champagne and hors d’oeuvres reception with Alarm Will Sound members; $40 for an adult general admission pass; and $20 for a student general admission pass.

Single tickets are priced at $18 for adults, $10 for students, and are all general admission. Tickets can be charged by phone using Visa, MasterCard or Discover by calling 1-573-882-3781. To buy tickets online, or to see a complete listing of Mizzou International Composers Festival events, visit

(Missouri sales tax of 7.975% already is included in the price of each ticket. An additional fee of $2.00 per ticket will be charged for online purchases. For these fees, a three-concert festival pass is considered one ticket.)

In addition to these three concerts, the MICF also will feature several free events, including open rehearsals and presentations by the participating composers. A complete schedule of those events will be released at a later date.

The eight resident composers were selected from more than 230 applicants from the USA and overseas to participate in the festival and create a new work for Alarm Will Sound. They are:

* Thomas Dougherty, Houston, TX
* Emily Koh, Waltham, MA
* Andrew McManus, Chicago, IL
* Justin Pounds, Columbia, MO
* Alessandro Ratoci, Lausanne, Switzerland
* Christopher Stark, St. Louis, MO
* Anthony Vine, Brooklyn, NY
* Conrad Winslow, Brooklyn, NY

During the festival, the resident composers will receive composition lessons from guest composers Hans Abrahamsen, a Danish composer whose spare yet lyrical works reflect his involvement in the “New Simplicity” movement of the 1960s; and Andrew Norman, a Los Angeles-based composer and teacher at the USC Thornton School of Music.

The resident composers also will take part in rehearsals with Alarm Will Sound; give presentations on their music; and receive a premiere performance and professional live recording of their work.