American Composers Orchestra: Underwood New Music Readings

Underwood New Music Readings
Monday and Tuesday, April 8-9
The DiMenna Center for Classical Music

The 22nd Annual Underwood New Music Readings are under the direction of ACO’s Artistic Director, composer Robert Beaser, and will be conducted by ACO Music Director George Manahan, with Christopher Theofanidis and Joan Tower as mentor composers.

This year, six of the nation’s most promising composers in the early stages of their professional careers have been selected from over 150 submissions received from around the country. The selected composers – Jonathan Blumhofer, Louis Chiappetta, Joshua Groffman, Saad Haddad, A.J. McCaffrey, and Nina C. Young – represent a broad spectrum of musical backgrounds and sound worlds.

In addition, this year the Readings offer composers, students, or anyone interested in learning more about the business of being a composer a Professional Development Seminar on Tuesday, April 9 from 9:30am-3:00pm at the DiMenna Center. Workshop topics include Intellectual Property and Copyright Law, Engraving and Self-Publishing with Bill Holab, Owner, Bill Holab Music; Support and Fundraising for Composers with Ed Harsh, President and CEO of New Music USA; and Publicity and Promotion with Jessica Lustig, Founding Partner 21C Media Group. The cost for the Seminar is $25, which includes lunch.

The composer participants:

Jonathan Blumhofer:
Diversions for Orchestra

Jonathan Blumhofer (1979) has received numerous awards and honors and his compositions have been performed and recorded by a number of ensembles in the United States and Europe. Jonathan has taught at Clark University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, in Worcester, MA, and at Gordon College in Wenham, MA. He earned his doctorate from Boston University. His principal teachers include Edwin Childs, Dalit Warshaw, Jan Swafford, Joshua Fineberg, Richard Cornell, and Samuel Headrick. Of his work, Samuel says, “Jonathan has a wonderful ear for orchestral color, and his unique sounds and interesting textures are creatively and effectively used to create well-structured, innovative new compositions that are musically interesting and innovative, highly expressive, and dramatically compelling.” Jonathan also studied with Allain Gaussin and Andre Bon at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, and with Ladislav Kubik at the Czech-American Summer Music Institute in Prague. The New Music Readings will be his first experience working with a professional orchestra.

Of his piece for the Readings, Diversions, Jonathan says, “Diversions is my first purely orchestral work; as its title suggests, I aimed to write a piece that was entertaining and lighthearted in character. Diversions is dedicated to Andrew Johnston, the son of long-time family friends, Jim and Lisa Johnston. Between 2001 and 2003, I dedicated three short pieces to each of Andrew’s older sisters. When Andrew was born in 2004, his father requested that any piece I write for Andrew be suitably big and loud, ‘preferably with anvils.’ Alas, I couldn’t bring myself to include an anvil in the scoring for Diversions, though I trust a log drum and some tom-toms will suffice.”

photo: Beowulf Sheehan

Louis Chiappetta:

Louis Chiappetta (b. 1989) began studying composition at Mannes College of Music’s Preparatory Division at the age of 13. He is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music, receiving a bachelor’s degree studying with Keith Fitch. In 2011, Chiappetta was awarded a Fulbright Grant to study with Julian Anderson at the Guildhall School of Music in London. His works have been performed at London’s Wigmore Hall, New York’s Carnegie Hall, Aspen Music Festival and School, Dartington International Summer School (UK), and MusicX Festival (Switzerland). Chiappetta has won several prizes including an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award (2010), the American Academy of Arts and Letters Charles Ives Scholarship (2011), and the Cleveland Institute of Music Donald Erb Prize (2011). In 2012 Chiappetta participated in a professional training workshop at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute where he studied with Kaija Saariaho and Anssi Karttunen. As a participant, his trio Loops, Clocks, and Shadows was premiered at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall.

Of his piece Chroma, he says, “In Chroma I set out to write a piece that tries to fuse my own musical vocabulary with Morton Feldman’s painterly approach. I am trying to treat musical ideas as if they were strips of color, building a structure that creates tension through juxtaposing distinctive materials in ever changing ways. Chroma also draws inspiration from my interest in contemporary literature. I was reading David Foster Wallace’s unfinished novel The Pale King while working on it, and I was struck by the unique way Wallace employed nonlinear narratives to gradually reveal who characters are and how they’ve come to know each other.”

Joshua Groffman:
Music from elsewhere: orchestra

Joshua Groffman (b. 1984) of Millbrook, NY has written works for orchestral, vocal, and chamber ensembles, as well as for electronic media, theater, and film that have received numerous performances. The Readings will be Joshua’s first experience working with a professional orchestra. He graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University in 2007, where he completed double majors in music and history. While at Cornell, he studied composition with Roberto Sierra and Steven Stucky and piano with Xak Bjerken and Malcolm Bilson. Joshua holds Doctor of Music (2012) and Master of Music (2009) degrees from the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, where he studied composition with Sven-David Sandström, P.Q. Phan, Claude Baker, Aaron Travers, and Don Freund and computer music with Jeffrey Hass and John Gibson. He currently teaches composition and theory at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University.

The title of Joshua’s piece, music from elsewhere, comes from a passage in Margaret Atwood’s novel The Robber Bride. He explains, “The title evokes, for me, a sense of dichotomy between two types of music: One that is fully present, audible, and familiar to us, and another which is more mysterious, emerging into our perception only in fits and starts – the ‘music from elsewhere.’ The idea of this dichotomy seems to capture a facet of the experience of daily life, namely, that if prosaic and familiar concerns largely shape our existence, they are occasionally interrupted by a sense that something larger and more fundamental is at work behind the scenes. Music from elsewhere attempts to capture that sense of an ineffable, larger something.”

Joshua Groffman: Music from elsewhere: ensemble

Saad Haddad:

Saad Haddad (1992) is an Arab-American composer based in Los Angeles whose music showcases his Middle-Eastern heritage. A junior at the University of Southern California, he is majoring in Music Composition with a minor in Cinematic Arts. In addition to his concert work, Saad has composed the soundtracks to eighteen short films, eight which were recorded live by the Thornton School of Music at the John Williams Scoring Stage. He is currently scoring “Core Overload,” a video game thesis being developed at USC. In the summer of 2011, he was selected as the youngest of fourteen students across the United States to study with Professor Samuel Adler of the Juilliard School in Berlin as part of the Freie Universitat

in Berlin International Summer Program. Saad has been a finalist in the 2012 ASCAP Morton Gould Award contest and was a member of the first group of high school composers to participate in the Los Angles Philharmonic’s Composer Fellowship Program under the direction of Steven Stucky. His composition professors include Frank Ticheli, Mark Weiser, Stephen Hartke, Samuel Adler, Donald Crockett, and Steven Stucky.

Maelstrom was selected as an alternate for the 2012 Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute. Of the piece, Saad says, “Maelstrom will keep people right on the edge of their seats, holding on for dear life, as their ship, the concert hall, catches a devastating current that puts them at the heart of an unrelenting storm.”

A.J. McCaffrey
Thank You For Waiting

A.J. McCaffrey (1973) has received commissions from the Tanglewood Music Center and the Radius Ensemble, and his music has been performed by the New Fromm Players and members of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Alarm Will Sound, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and the Chiara Quartet. A native of the Boston area, A.J. has been an active singer, guitarist, and songwriter since high school. He studied composition at Rice University, as well as at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama with composer James MacMillan. He has just completed his doctorate in music composition with composers Donald Crockett and Stephen Hartke at the University of Southern California. A.J. currently lives in southern California, where he teaches music theory and aural skills at USC, composition through the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Composer Fellowship Program, and composition and musical analysis at the Longy School of Music of Bard College’s Los Angeles-based Masters of Arts in Teaching program. A.J. is currently at work on his own composition/musician documentary series This Is What Really Happened for solo and pre-recorded instruments, and is also member of the Portland (OR)-based band Planes Intersect.

A.J. says, “The title of this piece, Thank You for Waiting, could easily serve as a note to any audience of my music, but here specifically it expresses my hope that the unsettled and unresolved nature of the musical material will be heard as a texture in and of itself, and that the ‘waiting’ on the part of the listener will become its own reward. Additionally, as this piece was my doctoral dissertation in composition at the University of Southern California, the title is a very direct message to my wife, family and professors, all of whom did lots of waiting of their own while I finished this piece.”

Nina C. Young:

Nina C. Young (1984) is a New York-based composer who writes instrumental and electronic music incorporating her research of blending amplification and live electronics into instrumental ensembles, always with a view toward creating a natural and cohesive sound world. Nina’s music has been performed by ensembles such as the Orkest de Ereprijs, Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, JACK Quartet, Yarn/Wire and Sixtrum. Her music has received honors from BMI, the International Alliance for Women in Music, and the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States. She is currently a doctoral fellow at Columbia University, studying with Fred Lerdahl, Brad Garton, and George Lewis, where she also teaches electroacoustic composition at the Computer Music Center. Nina earned a master’s degree in music composition from McGill University, studying with Sean Ferguson and completed her undergraduate studies at MIT, receiving degrees in ocean engineering and music. This is her first experience working with a professional orchestra.

Nina says of Remants, “When a resonant body is activated, the loudness and spectral content of the resulting sound change over time in complex interactions; this process can be described using the Attack Decay Sustain Release model (ADSR). Remnants explores this interaction of sound over time. The traditional orchestra is treated as a complex but integrated resonant body that can be excited in a variety of ways. This instigating sound then ripples through the ensemble in a causal chain, with each instrument reacting according to its inherent characteristics.”

Tickets & Info
The readings are free and open to the public. No ticket is required but reservations are recommended.

Support for the Underwood New Music Readings comes from Paul Underwood, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Fromm Music Foundation and the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University. The project also receives public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts.