Explore John Muir’s Yosemite: OFFICIAL LAUNCH!

Posted in Beyond the Notes, John Muir's Yosemite on November 10th, 2014 by Nell

I am so excited to share with you the final version of this project, which has been in the works for about a year and half!

Multimedia installation for web and iPad app Explore John Muir’s Yosemite, illustrates the writings of naturalist and conservationist John Muir through interactive photography and music, offering an engaging new interpretation of Muir’s vision of nature.

The 2014 launch of Explore John Muir’s Yosemite commemorates the centennial of John Muir’s death, the 150th anniversary of the Yosemite Grant, and the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act.

ABOUT THE PROJECT

Back in June ’13, I traveled with my partner John Resig to Yosemite and nearby Sequoia National Park to capture about 1,000 videos, photographs, and audio recordings of sites that were important to John Muir. You might have seen my travel diary on this blog from this special trip.


Visiting the site of John Muir’s cabin at Yosemite Falls.

Over the following several months, I designed and constructed an interactive media experience integrating selections from Muir’s essays with my photography and a non-linear score I composed and produced specially for this project. John then coded the Javascript engine that drives the animations and interactivity in the installation.

I was honored to exhibit the beta version of Explore John Muir’s Yosemite for renowned Muir scholars last March at the 2014 international John Muir Symposium at The University of Pacific in Stockton, CA, with support from NYU’s Student Senators Council Academic Conference Fund Grant.

Since then, John and I have been refining things under the hood and converting the browser experience into a visually immersive iPad app, which I’m excited to report is now available as a free download in the App Store.

If you like the iPad app, please consider leaving a review in the App Store.

Enjoy the finished product! I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Production of Explore John Muir’s Yosemite was supported in part by a Challenge Grant from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

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Premiere of “Dai-Shizen (Great Nature)” at Boston GuitarFest, June 28

Posted in art and music, performances on June 25th, 2014 by Nell

UPDATE: video recording of this performance is now online!

Movements (played continuously):
California
Topaz
Sunset

Devin Ulibarri

Devin Ulibarri

The World Premiere of Dai-Shizen (Great Nature) for guitar and flute will be performed by fellow New England Conservatory alumni Devin Ulibarri and Alicia Mielke on the Emerging Artists concert at the 9th annual Boston GuitarFest this Saturday, June 28, 3:00pm in Jordan Hall.

Alicia Mielke

Alicia Mielke

I am honored to have my music presented on this prestigious festival by these two wonderful performers!

Visit the Boston GuitarFest website for more information about this concert and for tickets.

Dai-Shizen and Chiura Obata

When guitarist Devin Ulibarri - who I previously collaborated with in 2011 on Triptych - asked me to write a piece for him and flutist Alicia Mielke relating to Boston GuitarFest’s theme of “American Odyssey,” I gravitated towards the woodblock prints and ink and watercolor paintings of  Japanese-American artist Chiura Obata (1885-1975). Obata lived and worked primarily in the San Francisco Bay Area and devoted himself to bringing traditional Japanese aesthetics and techniques into American art. Obata’s own “American Odyssey” as an immigrant deeply devoted to the culture and landscape of California was complex and richly represented by his artwork.

Chiura Obata, "Mono Crater, Sierra Nevada, California"

Chiura Obata, “Mono Crater, Sierra Nevada, California”

While composing this piece, I considered specific images and qualities I perceived in Obata’s art and used those as prompts for musical ideas. I felt the lush yet restrained, and powerful yet delicate expressiveness of Obata’s prints and paintings would be reflected very effectively by flute and guitar. On a more personal level, my choice to respond to Obata’s artworks relates to my own background as a Bay Area native and love for California landscapes, as well as Devin’s deep commitment to Japanese culture and language.

I was particularly inspired by Obata’s ability to follow his philosophy of dai-shizen (Great Nature)—nature as a source of artistic inspiration and spiritual harmony—throughout the best and worst moments of his life. Obata and his family spent over a year in internment camps during World War II, primarily in Utah. Despite these demeaning conditions, Obata strove to bring meaning into the lives of those around him. He founded an art school with his fellow internees and created stunning, emotionally charged watercolor paintings juxtaposing the dreary manmade structures of the prison camp against broad expanses of desert, mountains, and fiery sunsets.

Chiura Obata, "Sunset, Watertower, March 10, 1943"

Chiura Obata, “Sunset, Watertower, March 10, 1943″

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New videos “California Zephyr,” “Horizon,” and upcoming premiere in Boston

Posted in art and music, new recordings, performances on May 27th, 2014 by Nell

California Zephyr - Video and Music Online

This video and music piece inspired by a cross-country train trip, created for the NYU Contemporary Music Ensemble, was given an excellent premiere performance with video projection on April 28 in the Frederick Loewe Theatre at NYU. Now you can watch the video online with live musical recording. I hope you enjoy it!

Horizon: New York #1 & #2 - Dance & Music Films Online


The audience at my April 29th recital saw the world premiere screening of version #1 of Horizon: New York, a short film I created featuring wonderful dancer-choreographer Callie Lyons and cellist Fjóla Evans. There are actually two versions of the video, shot in two different locations in Brooklyn (Brooklyn Bridge Park and Prospect Park), both of which are now available for viewing online.

Premiere of Commissioned Work at Boston GuitarFest

When guitarist Devin Ulibarri - who I previously collaborated with in 2011 on Triptych - asked me to write a piece for him and flutist Alicia Mielke relating to Boston GuitarFest’s theme of “American Odyssey,” I gravitated towards the woodblock prints and ink and watercolor paintings of the Japanese-American artist Chiura Obata (1885-1975).

Devin and Alicia will premiere my Obata-inspired composition Dai-Shizen (Great Nature) at the Emerging Artists concert on the 9th annual Boston GuitarFest on Saturday, June 28 at 3:00pm in New England Conservatory’s Jordan HallVisit the Boston GuitarFest website to learn more about the concert.

The Coming of Spring: Success

Thank you to everyone who came out to see my recital and the staged workshop production of one-act monodrama The Coming of Spring on April 29. This was an extremely special evening for me and the audience response was very rewarding!

The performance was well documented and I’ll be sharing video and audio excerpts with you in the near future.

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Listen to “Point Reyes from Chimney Rock”

Posted in art and music, new recordings on April 15th, 2014 by Nell


The NYU Symphony gave a beautiful premiere performance of Point Reyes from Chimney Rock, recording above. Mark Greenfest of SoundWordSight writes: ”[it] sounded like an impressionist fantasy – a tone poem – and was most appealing sonically.” The premiere was also featured on the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation blog, which selected me for their “Scholar Spotlight.”

Last month I had the great pleasure of revisiting the location in the Point Reyes National Seashore depicted in Tom Killion’s woodblock print, from which my composition for orchestra took its name and inspiration. I shot the above photographs while I was there.

I hope you enjoy Point Reyes from Chimney Rock! Read more about the inspiration for this piece in my previous blog entry.

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Premieres in NYC, April 28 & 29

Posted in art and music, performances, The Coming of Spring on March 31st, 2014 by Nell
Save the dates: new music and multimedia works of mine will be presented on two different concerts in New York City on April 28 and 29 (see below for details). I hope you will join me!

The Coming of Spring and Multimedia Works

Tuesday, April 29, 2014 at 8:30pm
Provincetown Playhouse
133 MacDougal Street, New York, NY
Free and open to the public (no tickets needed)
Charles E. Burchfield, Wind Blown Asters, 1951

My Master of Music graduating recital at NYU will feature a full-length, staged workshop performance of The Coming of Spring and screenings of multimedia works.The Coming of Spring is my one-act monodrama for tenor, accompanied by flute, oboe, clarinet, horn, bassoon, and piano, based on the artworks and writings of visionary American painter Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), who was also the inspiration for my wind quintet Watercolors. This is my largest compositional undertaking to date (ca. 36 minutes) and the overarching focus of my time at NYU.

This workshop performance is being created by a group of outstanding professional artists, including conductor David Rosenmeyer, an advocate for opera and new music with companies and orchestras in the U.S. and abroad (notably as Associate Conductor of the Oratorio Society of New York); stage director Herschel Garfein, who is also a composer and GRAMMY® award winning librettist; tenor Tyler Lee, who will portray Burchfield; and The Chelsea Quintet, which gave wonderful performances of Watercolors at the Parrish Art Museum, joined by pianist Alice Hargrove.

Also on this program:

Horizon: New York

Horizon: New York is a short film collaboration with two extraordinary colleagues of mine at NYU: dancer-choreographer Callie Lyons and cellist Fjóla Evans.

I originally composed the music for solo cello for performances at the Parrish Art Museum in November 2013. I was delighted to see this work reinterpreted by cellist Fjóla Evans and reinvented through Callie Lyons’ choreography and solo dance performance (conceived specifically for this film). With my father Burt Cohen, I filmed Fjóla and Callie in three locations around New York City to create this short film.

* * *

NYU Contemporary Music Ensemble Premieres
California Zephyr

Monday, April 28, 2014 at 7:30pm
Frederick Loewe Theatre
35 West 4th Street, New York, NY
Free and open to the public (no tickets needed)
View this event on the NYU website

In June 2013, I traveled from New York City to San Francisco by train. I departed from NYC on Amtrak’s Lakeshore Limited line and transferred to the California Zephyr in Chicago.

The California Zephyr, which journeyed westward via the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada, is a classic train famed for its scenic views. With a camera pointed at the window along the way, I attempted to capture the scenery’s transitions from farmland to mountains to desert.

California Zephyr, created for the New York University Contemporary Music Ensemble, summarizes my three-day journey on the Zephyr in eight minutes of music and video. Neither a film score nor a music video, California Zephyr features equally prominent music and video that I produced simultaneously, in dialogue with each other.

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NYU Symphony to Premiere “Point Reyes from Chimney Rock” on March 3

Posted in art and music, awards, performances on February 6th, 2014 by Nell
Tom Killion, "Point Reyes from Chimney Rock", 2012. Used with permission of the artist.

Tom Killion, “Point Reyes from Chimney Rock”, 2012.
Used by permission of the artist.

UPDATE: The recording of this performance is now available, below!

As Composer-in-Residence with the NYU Symphony, I will receive the honor of having a newly commissioned work for orchestra, Point Reyes from Chimney Rock, premiered on Monday, March 3, 8:00pm at the Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Place, New York, NY, the preeminent venue for the presentation of cultural and performing arts events for NYU and lower Manhattan. The concert will also include works by Britten, Tchaikovsky, and my colleague Kyle Tieman-Strauss.

While Point Reyes is my sixth composition for large ensemble, it’s the first to be publicly performed. I hope some of you will be able to share this special moment with me.

About the Music

A tone poem inspired by the coastal landscape of the San Francisco Bay Area where I was born and raised, Point Reyes from Chimney Rock takes its title from a woodblock print by contemporary artist Tom Killion (www.tomkillion.com), which I received as gift from my parents in Summer 2013.

The print depicts a view of Point Reyes, the peninsula jutting into the ocean north of San Francisco, from which the rugged Pacific can be seen on one side of the rocky, grass-frosted land mass, and Drake’s Bay on the other. Wild irises and grasses in the foreground appear to tremble in a brisk wind, while the water’s horizon and a looming orange-red sky stretch far into the distance.

Killion’s artwork, along with my personal experiences walking in this and similar environs on the Point Reyes National Seashore, informed the sound world I strove to create within the orchestra. This landscape is broad and sweeping on the large scale, yet delicate and intimate in the details; it is bold yet ethereal, in both sunshine and fog. My love and yearning for this place is embedded in the music.

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Preview of “The Coming of Spring” TOMORROW!

Posted in art and music, performances, The Coming of Spring on November 23rd, 2013 by Nell

Sunday, November 24, 2014 at 8:00pm
UrbanAnimals NYU
Provincetown Playhouse
133 MacDougal Street, New York, NY.
Free admission. Full program information on Facebook.

Charles Burchfield, "The Coming of Spring" (1917-43)

Charles Burchfield, “The Coming of Spring” (1917-43)

On the first concert of this series dedicated to presenting new works by current NYU graduate students, tenor Tyler Lee and pianist Alice Hargrove will be previewing an excerpt from my one-act monodrama The Coming of Spring inspired by the writings and paintings of Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967). The performance will include a video projection.

Tyler and Alice will be joined by The Chelsea Quintet to present a staged workshop production of the full score this spring. Stay tuned for details!

 

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Cellists Karlos Rodriguez and Richard Vaudrey to Co-Premiere “Horizon” at Parrish Art Museum

Posted in art and music, performances on November 5th, 2013 by Nell
Parrish Art Museum. Photo: Matthu Placek.

Parrish Art Museum. Photo: Matthu Placek.

November 9, 2013, 12:00-2:00pm - Karlos Rodriguez, Cello
November 10, 2013, 12:00-2:00pm - Richard Vaudrey, Cello
Parrish Art Museum
279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, NY
Performance included with museum admission.
More information on the Parrish Art Museum’s website.
This weekend ,in celebration of the Parrish Art Museum‘s one-year anniversary in its new location, cellists Karlos Rodriguez and Richard Vaudrey will each perform  in the Harriet and Esteban Vicente Gallery (on Saturday, November 9 and Sunday, November 10, respectively). The musicians will both feature Horizon for solo cello, which I composed for this occasion.
Having presented wind quintet Watercolors last year at the grand opening of the new Parrish Art Museum, I’ve written Horizon to celebrate and reflect on the aesthetic quality of the Parrish’s building and the surrounding landscape.
Karlos Rodriguez

Karlos Rodriguez

Karlos Rodriguez made his orchestral debut at the age of thirteen to great audience and critical acclaim and has since performed as an avid soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. He has appeared at many of our important musical venues, including Carnegie Hall (Isaac Stern Auditorium), Merkin Concert Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Philadelphia’s Kimmel center, The Kennedy Center and Radio City Music Hall. Mr. Rodriguez has worked with distinguished artists such as the Beaux Arts Trio, and the American, Cavani, Cleveland, Emerson, Guarneri, Juilliard, Miami, Orion, Tokyo, and Vermeer String Quartets; and Janos Starker, Lynn Harrell, and Steven Isserlis. He has attended and been a guest artist at the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival, Grand Canyon Music Festival, ENCORE School for Strings, Sarasota, Aspen, and Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festivals, Cleveland Chamber Music Society, and the Philadelphia Orchestra Chamber Music Society. His teachers have included Richard Aaron, Peter Wiley, and David Soyer. Mr. Rodriguez has been featured internationally on TV and radio with multiple broadcasts on APM’s Performance Today. He is on the faculty at Summertrios and the Sphinx Performance Academy. Mr. Rodriguez has worked on various Broadway musicals and Pop albums, most recently with Shakira and Marc Anthony. In addition to these musical activities he is former Principal Cellist of the Florida Grand Opera Orchestra in Miami and cellist of the The Catalyst Quartet. He is prize winner of the 2012 Bergamo Classical music award (Switzerland). He proudly endorses Pirastro Strings.

Richard Vaudrey

Richard Vaudrey

Brooklyn based Australian cellist Richard Vaudrey is quickly becoming a notable force in the new breed of string players—classically trained and proficient across a multitude of genres. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Richard was a scholarship holder at The Australian National Academy of Music before heading to the United States, where he completed doctoral study in classical cello performance and contemporary improvisation at SUNY Stony Brook, studying with Colin Carr and Ray Anderson whilst acting as Teaching Assistant to the Emerson String Quartet. Richard has had a prolific background in chamber music and performs regularly both as a soloist and collaborator across a multitude of genres including classical, new music, jazz, folk and pop in venues including Carnegie Hall, 92Y Tribecca, the Stone, Alice Tully Hall and the Harvey Theatre, BAM.  Richard’s latest solo project “VAUDREY” a unique blend of post chestral-indie-dub -folk-pop for cello voice and electronics has this year been showcased in Sydney, Melbourne (Toff in Town) and New York City (Rockwood Music Hall, Pianos). The show also pays homage to the late Arthur Russell, a huge influence on Richard’s own compositions and the subject for Richard’s Doctoral Research. Richard is Adjunct Professor of Cello at Western Connecticut State University, and a member of the Numinous Ensemble, Indie band all boy/all girl and plays “The Beleura Cello” – a 1791 William Forster cello generously loaned by the Tallis Foundation. He currently resides in Brooklyn.

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Nell Selected for Residency with NYU Symphony

Posted in awards on November 5th, 2013 by Nell

NYU logoI am thrilled to announce that I have recently been named Composer-in-Residence by the New York University Symphony, along with two of my colleagues. This is the highest honor offered by NYU to concert music composition students.

I will writing a new work for orchestra to be premiered on a public concert by the NYU Symphony at the Skirball Center in New York on March 3, 2014. Stay posted for details!

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October 18: Premiere of “Three Decorations” by New York University Percussion Ensemble

Posted in performances on October 7th, 2013 by Nell

October 18, 2013 at 7:30pm
NYU Mix: NYU Percussion Ensemble
New York University

Frederick Loewe Theatre
35 West 4th Street, New York, NY.
*Free Admission*
View the event on NYU’s website

This concert will include the world premiere of my Three Decorations (2013) for percussion trio, presented by the NYU Percussion Ensemble (directed by Jonathan Haas) in collaboration with the Program in Music Composition.

Trencadís

Trencadís. Photo by Lucy Nieto.

Three Decorations is a work for three percussionists in three movements: Column (Ancient Trees Rising)Trencadís (Shards of Color), and Tapestry (Cozy Castle)Each movement is a musical response to, or evocation of, a favorite image of mine from European decorative art: first, the tree-like vertical extensions of cathedral columns; second, the colorful, asymmetrical style of mosaic popularized by Antoni Gaudí; third, some grand tapestry covered in millefleur designs warming the walls of a dark 15th century castle.

Three Decorations is my first foray into writing for drum set in a chamber music context. As a former rock drummer, I opted to utilize the kit in similar ways I would in a popular music idiom: to create groove, accentuating and supporting the interlocking syncopations heard in the pitched instruments.

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