Judith Shatin

Check out this Composer Spotlight/Q&A with Judith Shatin on our SoundAdvice blog

Credit: Mary Noble Ours

Credit: Mary Noble Ours

The music of Judith Shatin has been honored with four National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, as well as awards from the American Music Center, Meet the Composer, the New Jersey State Arts Council and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. Commissions include those from the Barlow Endowment, Fromm Foundation and the Library of Congress as well as ensembles such as the National and Richmond Symphonies, Cassatt and Kronos Quartets, Ensemble Berlin PianoPercussion, the Dutch Hexagon Ensemble, and many others. Her music has been featured at festivals including Aspen, BAM Next Wave, Grand Teton, Havana in Spring, Moscow Autumn, Seal Bay and West Cork.

Sounds of the natural and built environments play an important role in her music, as in her path-breaking Singing the Blue Ridge, scored for mezzo, baritone, orchestra and electronics created from the calls of wild animals. And, as in COAL, an epic, evening-length folk oratorio, in which she combines sounds she recorded in a coal mine with music for Appalachian band, chorus and synthesizer. The two-year project was supported by the Lila Wallace-Readers Digest Arts Partners Program. Educated at Douglass College (AB), The Juilliard School (MM) and Princeton University (PhD).

Shatin is William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor at the University of Virginia, where she founded the Virginia Center for Computer Music. Please visit her website, www.judithshatin.com, where you can subscribe to her Hearing Things newsletter, learn about upcoming events, and find links to scores and recordings.

In the Composer’s Own Words:
When there is a second new moon in a month, it is called a black moon. This happens only once every two-and-a-half years, with the next coming this month. Some religious sects believe that the Black Moon augurs well for rituals and other ventures. In Black Moon, we embark on a journey that explores different faces of this mysterious event: its darkness and its light. You will hear contrasting characters: some shimmering, some rhythmic; some violent, some serene. To achieve these results, I enhance the orchestra with finely-tuned electronic sounds that allow new and surprising aesthetic experiences.

I wanted to make the relationship between the orchestra and the electronics flexible and rich. My colleague, composer Paul Turowski, programmed a Kinect controller (used in video games) to allow the conductor to treat the electronics as he would a performer. So, for example, sometimes you will notice that the conductor uses his left hand to move the sound in space. Meanwhile, he has the freedom to trigger the start of electronic sounds with the tap of his foot, cueing them at just the right moment.

Sometimes I am asked why I often combine acoustic and digital media. The answer is that together they offer a vastly expanded sound world. In Black Moon, I transformed recordings I had made of acoustic instruments, intimately melding these two beautiful realms of sound.