Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Q&A with Composer Charles Knox

1) Name five influences.

- Performance in a symphony orchestra
- Performance in jazz ensembles
- Association with good musicians from everywhere in the United States in a service band. (That was in the days of the draft.)
- The music of Hindemith, Bartok and Stravinsky (the most prominent classical composers of my youth)
- Study with Bernhard Heiden at Indiana University

2) What are you currently working on? What can we expect to hear from you?

During my late wife's long illness I wrote very little. But I have just finished two church anthems and am working on a flute ensemble piece. I have in mind a concert piece for (I-won't-say-what) instrument and orchestra.

3) What's good about the Atlanta music scene? Or, why do you live and/or work here?

I grew up in Atlanta and have spent much of my life here. My principal employment was at Georgia State University for 30 years. Life has been good to me here.

4) What is the biggest challenge you face as an Atlanta composer and how do you address it?

I would like to get more performances.

5) Who in the local scene would you like to collaborate with and why?

Occasionally I collaborate with a writer of singable texts. I like to write choral music but am poor at writing texts.

6) What instrument(s) haven't you written for that you would like to write for?

The instrument for my planned concert piece (no. 2 above). Actually I have written for this instrument but not in a concert solo.

7) How does technology play a role in your work?

Computer notation (Mosaic, Finale, Sibelius) has become very necessary. I have never been a competent electro-acoustic composer.

8) When and where is your next performance?

I have been in discussions for a university brass ensemble performance and and a flute ensemble performance.

9) Where can we find you online?

I can receive email at cknox@gsu.edu. I am one the composers at luxnova.com (the publisher). I have been told that I will be a featured composer next month on the web site of the Pytheas Center for Contemporary Music.

Thanks, Charles.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Q&A with Composer Mark Gresham

1) Name five influences.

The music which influences me most tends to involve the tensile dynamic between Apollonian and Dionysian aesthetics. But limiting myself to five names, and without explaining why these, I will say: Beethoven, Charles Ives, Paul Hindemith, John Cage (more his ideas than the music itself), and Buckminster Fuller.

2) What are you currently working on? What can we expect to hear from you?

In terms of new compositions in progress: “The Marshes of Glynn” for baritone William Stone, based upon a poem by 19th-century Georgia poet Sidney Lanier. Also, a body of string quartet music, and a couple of other promised chamber pieces.

3) What's good about the Atlanta music scene? Or, why do you live and/or work here?

I'm an Atlanta native. That's not to say I haven't considered living elsewhere. But most of the other places I've considered don't interest me enough. Atlanta is a communication, transportation, media and financial hub. All the necessary tools are here, the costs of living and working are less than half that of New York City, and we can easily reach out to anywhere in the world from here. Think CNN, and apply that thinking to being a composer.

4) What is the biggest challenge you face as an Atlanta composer and how do you address it?

The biggest challenge for me is the simple economic challenge of being a freelance composer who has neither an academic position nor who composes for film or video. That has nothing to do with Atlanta per se, but is the single biggest challenge, bluntly stated. That includes not having a non-musical day job where I draw a known paycheck every week. I deal with a new deck of cards every day.

As far as the challenges to any composer living in Atlanta, the city does pose a few, and those are challenges which it largely self-imposes.

First of all there is a long-standing “it's better if it's from somewhere else” attitude in the cultural community. It's not unique to Atlanta, but it seems to be particularly strong here, for whatever reasons.

Secondly, there is a certain amount of “cultural amnesia” when it comes to the new music scene in Atlanta before Robert Spano arrived. Either people think it didn't exist at all, or someone's gone about re-inventing the history in ways that leave people who were active in it back then scratching their heads and wondering, “Where in the hell did that come from? That's so wrong.”

Thirdly, there is the city's curious reluctance to declare an identity that is truly its own, rather than being a “blank.” Representative of that is the 1996 Olympics mascot, “Whatizit.” “It can be anything you want,” they touted, but in reality it's not anything at all. Perhaps this avoidance of identity is because Atlanta is afraid of offending this group or that group or whatever. But I don't recall Atlanta always being without a sense of self-identity; rather it seems to have only lost its self-identity within my lifetime. Or perhaps its self-identity has been slowly dismantled rather than actually lost.

All three of these challenges are forms of self-denial. My cousin Randy, who is a poet in Chicago, used to speak ironically about “the Southern saga of misery and self-denial.” He was born in Atlanta, too, and has joked about people like himself who grew up in the South and couldn't wait to get away from it, then after they did found themselves constantly defending it. While I didn't move away like he did, I understand his point. To some degree it is thematic of Southern literature. But I don't apologize for being an Atlantan, Georgian, or Southerner—or an American. This is where my roots are, and frankly, the older I get, I'm finding that more relevant within the scope of an increasingly global society, not less relevant.

Oh, yes, there are observable, long-standing frictions between “Atlanta” and “Georgia,” of course. But I believe there is greater commonality than there are ultimate differences, greater than they are respectively willing to admit. The big differences lie between a self-identity-denying Atlanta and the instinctive, intuitive parts of its own Jungian shadow, things which are intrinsically connected to being geographically, and historically, part of Georgia and part of the American South. They can be denied or repressed, but cannot be erased.

5) Who in the local scene would you like to collaborate with and why?

Well that's a tough question if you are meaning for me to name only one person among all the composers, performers, choreographers, writers, and visual artists who interest me!

But let me suggest this: I've known Michael Palmer since I was a teenager, when he was an associate conductor for the Atlanta Symphony, back in the early '70s. Since he returned to Atlanta in 2004, I've been nominally involved, in non-musical ways, in a few of his projects, such as the Bellingham Festival of Music.

Nevertheless, in all that time we've never collaborated on a major project as composer and conductor (though he has conducted one of my short orchestral works). I think it's time we did.

6) What instrument(s) haven't you written for that you would like to write for?

Well, I haven't written anything specifically for almglocken! (Go figure.) That would be kind of fun.

Also, I have never written an opera, but that is more much more problematic. Not to say that it hasn't been suggested to me by interested parties, but I haven't yet found a theatrical context or fresh story which attracts my attention enough.

What interests much more than opera is orchestral song, solo voice with orchestra, in a concert rather than theatrical setting, and solo voice with instrumental chamber ensemble. Even so, my musical interests overall lie in mostly the purely instrumental realm these days.

7) How does technology play a role in your work?

The same way it plays a role in most anyone's everyday life, like, say, when you enter a room and turn on a light. I'm not “wowed” by superficial aspects of technology, for the most part, perhaps because I don't view technology as an end in itself. That doesn't mean a lack of appreciation for technology, by any means. I'm hardly a Luddite. It's just that I'm not inclined to treat technology as a religion.

So my use of emerging digital technology, since the late 1980s at least, has primarily been for global communication, not so much as a prominently visible aspect of musical works. And I do, of course, use computer software for music engraving.

8) When and where is your next performance?

I have a piece in the upcoming SONICpalooza concert on June 25, in the 5 p.m. time-slot: “Genshi,” for E-flat clarinet and violin, which Ted Gurch and Helen Kim are playing.

9) Where can we find you online?

www.markgresham.com
www.facebook.com/mark.gresham.composer
www.reverbnation.com/markgresham
www.instantencore.com/markgresham

Thanks, Mark.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Q&A with Composer Jason Freeman

1) Name five influences.

Charles Ives, Steve Reich, Max Neuhaus (with whom I was lucky enough to get a chance to work), Sol Lewitt (a visual artist who nonetheless thinks much like a composer), and Beethoven.

2) What are you currently working on? What can we expect to hear from you?

I'm working on a few projects in various stages of development right now. I continue to work on UrbanRemix, where participants record sounds with their mobile phones and explore and remix them online, and then watch live performances by electronic musicians that use the same recorded sounds. We presented this project in Atlanta, San Francisco, and New York over the last year, and we're currently planning for some additional presentations in New York that expand the educational components of the project.

I'm also extending my work for laptop orchestra: last year, I developed a software environment for laptop orchestra called LOLC in collaboration with my students; it was performed here in Atlanta by Sonic Generator and my students just traveled to Oslo to perform it at the New Interfaces for Musical Expression (NIME) conference. This coming year, we're focusing on extended that system to enable the laptop players to generate music notation, in real time, for instrumental musicians to sight-read in performance. Performances with that system are slated for the coming year with Sonic Generator and in Istanbul. Finally, I'm just beginning work on a new piece for solo saxophone with audience participation via smartphones.

3) What's good about the Atlanta music scene? Or, why do you live and/or work here?

I moved down to Atlanta from New York because of my faculty position at Georgia Tech. The transition was jarring at first (I often note that more contemporary music happens in New York each week than in Atlanta through the whole year), but I've come to enjoy being here. In New York, I settled into a micro-niche of new music and would only attend concerts within a narrow aesthetic scope. Here, I see a much greater variety of work. It's also a small scene here where all of the composers and musicians know each other, and everyone is friendly. And of course, the program in music technology at Georgia Tech is a great place for me to be, with amazing faculty colleagues and students.

4) What is the biggest challenge you face as an Atlanta composer and how do you address it?

I agree with what Nick wrote on the blog recently: it's rare for anything happening in Atlanta to be noticed by those who live outside of the city. I choose to do most of my work outside of the city in order to gain wider recognition for it. I also think that, although the scene here is small, it is nonetheless sometimes remarkably hard to figure out what's going on. There's no single, central source of information on events (though this blog does a good job moving towards that) and I often don't find out about things until the very last minute.

5) Who in the local scene would you like to collaborate with and why?

I have tremendous admiration for Jan Berry Baker's playing (at GSU) -- she's helped me out with some things before but I've never written a piece for her. I'd love to do that.

6) What instrument(s) haven't you written for that you would like to write for?

I'd love to write for concert band or wind ensemble, which I haven't done since I was an undergraduate, and there are some great groups in town (including at Georgia Tech).

7) How does technology play a role in your work?

Technology is a major part of my work, but to me it is never the point, it is always a means to an end. I tend to use technology to help me rethink the relationships among performers, composers, and listeners, using novel interfaces and algorithms to redistribute creativity among these constituencies so that everyone can play a role in shaping each musical performance of the work.

8) When and where is your next performance?

Come to the Woodruff Arts Center on Saturday, June 25, 2011 to see SONICpalooza, a 10-hour long marathon concert (2 pm till midnight) by Sonic Generator and friends. We'll be doing music by Steve Reich, David Lang, John Luther Adams, Tristan Perich, and a number of local composers, including Mark Gresham, Alvin Singleton, and me. Jessica Peek Sherwood will be playing a solo flute piece of mine, Sonorescence, sometime between 3 and 4 pm. It's a free show, you can come and go as you please, you can walk outside for a minute to grab some food from Atlanta's finest street vendors, and it's generally a great way for us to wrap up our fifth anniversary season and celebrate with you. Hope to see you there! Full info, as always, at http://www.sonicgenerator.gatech.edu.

9) Where can we find you online?

http://www.jasonfreeman.net
http://gtcmt.gatech.edu

Friday, June 10, 2011

Georgia Tech's Sonic Generator and The Woodruff Arts Center host SONICpalooza - a 10-hour festival of contemporary music

Saturday, June 25, 2011
2 pm - midnight

Woodruff Arts Center Galleria
1280 Peachtree Street

free and open to the public

Audience members are encouraged to come and go as they please and sample food and drink from Atlanta's finest street food vendors on Callaway Plaza.

http://www.sonicgenerator.gatech.edu/upcoming_concerts/june-25-2011-sonicpalooza.html
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=128848553862345

Sonic Generator, in collaboration with the Woodruff Arts Center, is proud to present SONICpalooza – a festival of contemporary music. Featuring performances by Sonic Generator and friends, SONICpalooza will showcase works by the most unique American composers who are actively shaping contemporary music. SONICpalooza promises to be a celebration of contemporary music, local art and innovative cuisine, with a unique collection of works by local, up-and-coming, old school, downtown, uptown, minimalist, post-minimalist and post-modern composers including Steve Reich, David Lang, and George Crumb; multi-media film, light, and video design by Neil Fried; and food and drink from some of Atlanta’s finest street food vendors. SONICpalooza will be the first contemporary music festival of its kind in Atlanta and aims to be an engaging, entertaining, and inspiring good time.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Q&A with Composer Tim Jansa

1) Name five influences.

Bruckner, Mahler, Rachmaninov, R. Strauss, Vaughan Williams… yes, I freely admit to being a hopeless (neo-)romantic. And I must give sincere credit to my friend and music professor, Eric Culver, for making me reconsider everything I thought I knew about music composition, back in 2003/2004 – which made me a better composer in the process.

2) What are you currently working on? What can we expect to hear from you?

I’m currently mostly in the process of trying to get older works ready for publication, which means a lot of editing and ironing kinks and orchestration goofs out of the scores. (Not very glamorous or fun, I know.) Other than that, I’m still working on a larger suite for concert band that I’m hoping to finish by next spring, in time to get started on a couple of commissions for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 concert seasons which are larger wind ensemble and orchestral pieces. But who knows what else will come along in-between…


3) What's good about the Atlanta music scene? Or, why do you live and/or work here?


My day job is really in adult foreign language education, which is what brought me to Atlanta in the first place. Music has always been my passion, but it’s only been in the last 5 or 6 years that it’s become a source of income and a little recognition.
What’s good about the Atlanta music scene? Well, I can really only speak about the classical scene: We do have decent number of good local orchestras – especially the ASO, of course – a great opera company (although still somewhat limited), several truly outstanding venues … but what really makes the difference for composers like myself who don’t (yet) have access to the big names are the many smaller and outstanding (chamber) ensembles that truly pack a punch and are mostly completely underappreciated, despite the tremendous talent they harvest.

4) What is the biggest challenge you face as an Atlanta composer and how do you address it?

One thing I had to learn quickly is that it’s all about networking, knowing the right people and building relationships, sometimes over the course of many years. On a larger scale, there seems to be such a tremendous disconnect between the “big boys” in town that have access to appropriate funding and the “little guys” like myself and many others who don’t. At least there are many smaller venues that are open to smaller groups to perform. Finally, I find it somewhat sad – albeit typical – that none of the members of Robert Spano’s “Atlanta School of Composers” are, in fact, from Atlanta.

5) Who in the local scene would you like to collaborate with and why?

Since I’m on the newly-founded board of directors of the Atlanta Chamber Winds, I’m very much looking forward to working with that ensemble in the near future; also, I’d like to work more with the ensemble Il Brasso Magnifico beyond the performance in a couple of weeks. And finally, it would be great to get my foot more securely in the door with one or two of the local symphony orchestras.

6) What instrument(s) haven't you written for that you would like to write for?

Tough question, but I’d really like to write more for percussion ensemble down the road and experiment with more exotic percussion sounds.

7) How does technology play a role in your work?

I use Sibelius for notation and score/parts/demo creation, and honestly couldn’t survive without it. Other than that, I only do a little bit of sound and video editing of recordings with basic software like Audacity. So even though my technology needs are pretty simple, they’re still crucial in order to get my music out there.

8) When and where is your next performance?

Two of my works will be performed during the 2011 International Euphonium Institute conference at Emory University later in June: The Dekalb Symphony is going to play the 3rd movement of my Euphonium Concerto on June 21st, with Adam Frey as soloist, and Il Brasso Magnifico will be playing a piece for brass ensemble entitled “Meditation and Madness” on June 25, the former at First Baptist Church of Decatur, the latter at Emory’s Schwartz Center. In addition, a new composition for flute and piano titled “Twenty-One” that was commissioned by my good friends Robert and Sarah Ambrose is scheduled to be premiered by Sarah later this summer.
Other than that, most performances of my music over the next months are outside the Atlanta area.

9) Where can we find you online?

www.timjansa.com
www.facebook.com/tmjansa

Thanks, Tim!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Q&A with Composer Nickitas Demos

1) Name five influences.

First, in terms of composers who have had an important influence on me, I must begin with my mentor and teacher Donald Erb (1927-2008). Another important composer who taught me a lot is Roger Hannay (1930-2006), with whom I studied for several years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Second, and outside of these direct influences, I am a great admirer of the work of Gyorgy Ligeti (having admired him so much that his work, "Melodien" was the subject of my doctoral dissertation and set me upon a lifelong interest and investigation of sonority in music - particularly acoustic music).

My third big influence is Greek music - both Greek folk music and Byzantine Chant.

A fourth important influence is jazz and rounding out my list of five would be rock/pop music.

All of these elements can be found in my compositions.

2) What are you currently working on? What can we expect to hear from you?

I've got a full plate this summer. I just completed a five movement work for narrator, clarinet and piano based upon several selected stories from "Aesop's Fables." This work was commissioned by former Atlanta performer, pianist Cary Lewis and will be premiered next month out in Portland, OR. For the remainder of the year, I will work on a duo for a trumpet and trombone (commissioned by Kevin Lyons and Tom Gibson), a solo work for euphonium ("Tonoi VIII") for Adam Frey, a chamber piece commissioned by the chamber ensemble "IdeƩ Fixe" based in Thessaloniki, Greece, a trumpet choir fanfare (commissioned by the GSU Brass Dept.), and a double concerto for clarinet, saxophone and wind ensemble commissioned by Jan Berry Baker and Ken Long. All of these works are scheduled for premieres in the Fall. I'm also working with a local film director on a score for an independent comedy. It's my first film score! Finally, another project that I hope will come together is a commission by the Atlanta Young Singers of Callonwolde for a new choral work. I've been approached by their director, Paige Mathis, about writing the work and hope to have all the details ironed out soon!

I've also been busy recording as well. There are three forthcoming discs that will feature my music. The first is an album entitled, "Odysseia" featuring music by George Tsontakis, Theodore Antoniou, Chrsitos Samaras and myself. A second disc, entitled "Rites of Passage" will feature clarinetist Ken Long and works by Donald Erb, Paul Osterfield and myself. Finally, saxophonist Jan Berry Baker will be recording a disc entitled "Citizens of Nowhere" featuring a work of mine by the same name for clarinet and sax duo. I'm also in the early stages of working on two additional recordings: a disc featuring the premiere recording of my Concerto for Violin, Piano and Orchestra as well as a recording of my wind music featuring my double concerto for clarinet, sax and winds as well as my double concerto for euphonium, trombone and winds entitled "Air, Metal & Roll."

3) What's good about the Atlanta music scene? Or, why do you live and/or work here?

I live and work in Atlanta because of my position as Professor of Music Composition at the Georgia State University School of Music. In this capacity as well as my position as Coordinator of the Composition Program at the School, I formed the neoPhonia New Music Ensemble which regularly gives four performances a year and will be celebrating its 17th Season in the fall of 2011. All of my family lives in Atlanta and most of my wife's family lives in nearby Charleston, SC so working here is a great situation for me personally as well. I'm fortunate that Atlanta has blossomed into a fairly vibrant music center for contemporary music. In addition to my group, neoPhonia, there is, of course, Bent Frequency (a group I co-founded and served as composer-in-residence from 2003-2008) and Sonic Generator. I'm also very happy to note the greater attention contemporary music is receiving by more traditional ensembles such as the Atlanta Chamber Players as well as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Because of the ASO, as well as many other fine groups, there are many outstanding performers working in the city. It's a great mix for a composer!

4) What is the biggest challenge you face as an Atlanta composer and how do you address it?

As vibrant as the city is - by comparison to the other bigger markets, we are still a relatively small place. It's much harder for a composer living and working here to be noticed on a national stage. I think the only real way to address this is for composers living in Atlanta to continue to do great work. More than that, however, we must all do an even better job of promoting ourselves and our colleagues to a wider audience. Social media and a strong web presence are good places to start.

5) Who in the local scene would you like to collaborate with and why?

I would be honored to work with the ASO. I know many of the players personally and have watched the quality and reputation of the group steadily grow over the years. How could a composer not want to work with them? I'd also love to work with the Georgia Symphony Orchestra (formally the Cobb Symphony), the Atlanta Ballet and the Atlanta Opera. In terms of chamber music, I've been fortunate and honored to have worked with many of the top groups in the city. One group who I have not worked with yet is Fringe. I'd love to collaborate with them sometime. I love their performing concept!

6) What instrument(s) haven't you written for that you would like to write for?

I would love to write an opera! This is one of the few genres I have not had the opportunity to take on.

7) How does technology play a role in your work?

I tend to work exclusively with acoustic instruments. I do have a few pieces, however, that employ some use of electronics: a work for electric cello (that makes heavy use of effects processing), a piece for clarinet violin and live DJ that was commissioned by Sonic Generator and a work using electric guitar, electric bass and synthesizer commissioned by Bent Frequency.

8) When and where is your next performance?

June 18 - Portland, Oregon - my work "Mythoi" for narrator, clarinet and piano will be premiered as part of the Astoria Music Festival.

9) Where can we find you online? (Please list your websites and social media channels.)

My website: http://nickitasdemos.com

My blog, "Greek & Composing": http://greekandcomposing.blogspot.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/nickitasdemos

Twitter: http://twitter.com/nickitasdemos

LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/nickitasdemos

My Greek Band: http://www.greekislanders.com