“Dai-Shizen (Great Nature)” at Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson

Posted in Landscape Music, performances on March 26th, 2017 by Nell


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

Sunday, April 2, 2017, 10:30-11:30am
Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson
80 Main St
Hudson, MA, 01749
Free and open to the public
Venue Website

A performance of Dai-Shizen (Great Nature) (2014) will be given by Gabriela Ruiz, flute, and Devin Ulibarri, guitar, at the Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson during a Sunday worship service on April 2, focusing on nature and environmental themes. Distribuição de flores by Heitor Villa-Lobos will also be performed.

Dai-Shizen (Great Nature) for flute and guitar looks at nature through the eyes of a visual artist: Chiura Obata (1885-1975). It is my musical response to Obata’s journey through landscapes, as seen through his artworks, in three movements: California, Topaz, and Sunset.

Obata’s woodblock prints and watercolors from the 1920s and ‘30s show some of the most extraordinary visual representations of Yosemite National Park ever created, from El Capitan to Mono Lake. The natural landscapes of California were this Japanese-American immigrant’s greatest inspiration.

Obata and his family were then imprisoned for over a year in internment camps during World War II, primarily in Topaz, Utah. Despite 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.

In composing this piece, 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.

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To preview this work, watch a video of the World Premiere performance at Boston GuitarFest in 2014. To view some of the artworks by Chiura Obata that inspired my music, check out this online gallery from the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

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Reflection on New Dramatists Composer-Librettist Studio

Posted in performances on February 4th, 2017 by Nell

New Dramatists in NYC

This past winter, I had the pleasure of participating in the Composer-Librettist Studio: a two-week laboratory facilitated by Nautilus Music-Theater. This program has been filling the halls of playwright organization New Dramatists with new musical theater and opera for 33 years. (My very first composition teacher, Kim D. Sherman, was a participant in the inaugural Composer-Librettist Studio!)

On February 3, 2017, I was delighted to share the fruits of a gratifying (and exhausting) couple of weeks spent immersed in working with playwrights, performers, and composers in this deep-dive, rapid-production, hackathon-style workshop for music-theater collaborations. Collectively, we generated 25 new works in two weeks—all of which were performed in one epic afternoon.

My five collaborative music-theater works for voices and piano told the stories of a young woman captivated by a storm (Chase the Rain, written with Erin Courtney); an entomologist and a moth (Fly ’till the light’s gone, written with Sam Chanse); Edmund and The White Witch (Turkish Delight, written with Monet Hurst-Mendoza); two men ready to give up on online dating (Not Sure it’s in Me, written with Jennifer Haley); and a wanderer looking for home in the constellations (Fallen Star, written with Mashuq Mushtaq Deen).

These works were developed and performed with outstanding singer-actors Sean Cooper, Mallory Hawks, Joshua Hinck, Tim Jerome, and Lucia Rodrique, led by the brilliant and indefatigable team of facilitator-dramaturg Ben Krywosz, music director Roger Ames, and coordinator Dina Vovsi. My composer colleagues Ed Cionek, Emily Gardner Hall, Kailey Marshall, and Jonathan Russ were also inspiring to learn from and share with.

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“Mabel’s Call” in New York City

Posted in Mabel's Call, performances on September 26th, 2016 by Nell

Six Scenes collage image

COMPOSERS & THE VOICE: SIX SCENES

Friday, September 30 | 8:00pm
South Oxford Space
138 South Oxford Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217
Tickets $10

Sunday, October 2 | 2:30 PM
National Opera Center – Rehearsal Hall
330 7th Ave, 7th floor
New York, NY 10001
Tickets $20

More Information & Tickets

An excerpt from my opera-in-progress inspired by the life of Mabel Dodge Luhan will be featured this weekend on Six Scenes: an exciting showcase presented by American Opera Projects.

This concert previews the future of opera with an evening of scenes from six operas developed during AOP’s latest season of Composers & the Voice, the Brooklyn-based fellowship training program that I’ve been privileged to participate in since Fall 2015.

Two scenes from Mabel’s Call will be performed by Tookah Sapper, soprano, as Mabel Dodge Luhan; Blake Friedman, tenor, as Maurice Sterne; and Kyle Guglielmo, baritone, as Tony Lujan, with music director Mila Henry.

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Concert Presentation of “Mabel’s Call” in Taos

Posted in Mabel's Call, performances on August 9th, 2016 by Nell

Bringing Mabel Dodge Luhan to Life through Opera. Friday August 12, 2016, at 5:30pm at the Harwood Museum of Art. 238 Ledoux Street, Taos, NM 87571. Admission $20/$16.

The Harwood Museum of Art is presenting an evening of scenes and arias from my opera-in-progress, Mabel’s Call, in conjunction with the Harwood Museum’s major traveling exhibit about Mabel Dodge Luhan and her circle. This workshop concert performance will be integrated into a lecture I’m giving about the process of writing the opera.

“Bringing Mabel Dodge Luhan to Life through Opera” is receiving great coverage from New Mexico Magazine, the Taos News, KRZA Radio, and the Mabel Dodge Luhan House blog.

Music from Mabel’s Call will be featured again in New York City on September 30 & October 2 as part of American Opera Project’s Six Scenes program.

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Landscape Music Presents Cadillac Moon Ensemble

Posted in Landscape Music, performances on August 9th, 2016 by Nell

Cadillac Moon Ensemble. Photo: Karjaka Studios.

Friday, September 9, 2016, 6:00-7:30pm
Parrish Art Museum
279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, NY 11976
Tickets $20/$10 (Includes Museum Admission)
More Information

Celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service with this concert of new chamber music evoking landscape, ecology, wildlife, and adventure!

NYC’s Cadillac Moon Ensemble brings impeccable musicianship and an adventurous spirit to their first collaboration with my group, the Landscape Music Composers Network: a collective of composers from across the country, dedicated to increasing awareness of the natural world through music.

This concert will include the World Premiere of Refuge, my 16-minute narrative suite exploring three species’ conservation stories—the Mission blue butterfly of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Kemp’s ridley sea turtle of Padre Island National Seashore, and the bison of Yellowstone National Park.

The program, which I created for the Parrish Art Museum, also features a World Premiere by Justin Ralls and works by Stephen Lias, Alex Shapiro, and Stephen Wood.

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Nell’s Taos Residency and Opera Performances

Posted in awards, performances on May 27th, 2016 by Nell

Nell filming at Ranchos de Taos in 2010I first visited Taos in June 2010 while filming my multimedia piece The Faraway Nearby: Georgia O’Keeffe and the New Mexico Landscape. On that trip, I spent a night at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House: a historic home turned into a B&B.

It was there that my interest in Luhan, a memoirist and influential patron of the arts, was first piqued. Who was this glamorous, eccentric character who attracted Georgia O’Keeffe, D.H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams, Willa Cather, and countless other Modernist luminaries to her salons?

And wouldn’t she be a fantastic subject for an opera?

Fast forward to 2016. I am honored to have been awarded a Residency Grant from The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico—an arts colony in Taos, where I will be for most of June through August. During this time, I’ll be working primarily on my opera based on the life and memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan.

I’m thrilled beyond words to have the privilege of spending ten weeks living and working in this artistic haven, situated in the scenic multicultural environment of Taos that inspired many of my favorite works of art and formed the heart of Luhan’s life and legacy.

Harwood Museum of Art. Photo: Drew Flack.

Following this residency, my opera-in-progress will receive two exciting showcases in two very different venues!

On August 12, I will present an evening of excerpts from my opera in piano score at the Harwood Museum of Art in Taos. Visit the Museum’s website for more information.Cover of New Mexico Magazine May 2016 This event will be presented in connection with Mabel Dodge Luhan & Company: American Moderns and the West, a major traveling exhibition that explores Luhan’s impact on the art, writings, and activism of 20th century American Modernism.

The exhibit, and my opera, just received some great coverage in New Mexico Magazine.

Back in New York City, this same project will be featured on AOP’s Six Scenes on September 30 & October 2—the culminating performance of Composers & the Voice.

Six Scenes will feature excerpts from six operas by the emerging composer and librettist fellows in the Composers & the Voice program. After the outstanding performances on the First Glimpse concert earlier this month (recordings forthcoming), I can’t wait to hear what AOP’s resident ensemble of singers and music directors will do with my score.

Bringing Mabel Dodge Luhan to Life through Opera
August 12, 2016, 5:30pm
Harwood Museum of Art
238 Ledoux Street, Taos, NM 87571
More information

Composers & the Voice: Six Scenes
September 30 & October 2, 2016, 8:00pm
South Oxford Space
138 South Oxford Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217
More information

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May 13 & 14 in New York City: “First Glimpse”

Posted in performances on April 26th, 2016 by Nell
Composers, librettists, singers, and music directors of Composers & the Voice. Photo by Steven Pisano (Source).

 Friday, May 13 & Saturday, May 14, 2016 at 8:00pm
South Oxford Space, 138 South Oxford St., Brooklyn, NY 11217

Tickets: $25 general admission, $20 for students/seniors (Purchase online)

I’m honored to be a part of COMPOSERS & THE VOICE: FIRST GLIMPSE 2016, a presentation of World Premiere songs and arias from American Opera Projects’ fellowship program for emerging opera artists, directed by Steven Osgood.

The concert will feature AOP’s fantastic Resident Ensemble of Singers and Music Directors in performances of works created by myself and my colleagues in Composers & the Voice: Composers Matthew Barnson, Carlos R. Carrillo, Marc LeMay, Cecilia Livingston, and Sky Macklay and librettists Edward Einhorn, Duncan McFarlane, Emily Roller, and Mark Sonnenblick.

My works included on the program are:

Tony Teaches Me, an aria from an opera I’m writing based on the life and memoirs of Mabel Dodge Luhan. Performed by Tookah Sapper, soprano and Charity Wicks, piano.

Dear Mrs. Carr, a letter from John Muir to his beloved mentor. Performed by Blake Friedman, tenor and Charity Wicks, piano.

What If?, a playful “found text” piece that contemplates the darker side of Google. Performed by Jonathan Woody, bass-baritone and Mila Henry, piano.

More information at www.aopopera.org

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Landscape Music Comes to Boston on April 15

Posted in Landscape Music, performances on April 7th, 2016 by Nell

Chiura Obata, "Mono Crater, Sierra Nevada, California" (1930)Chiura Obata, “Mono Crater, Sierra Nevada, California” (1930)

Landscape Music Composers Network is a project I started last year bringing together composers from across the country who create music inspired by landscape, nature, and place. We’re kicking off our inaugural concert season in 2016—the centennial year of the National Park Service—starting in Boston on April 15.

The epic landscapes of Zion, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite will be brought to life in New Music of Our National Parksconceived and presented by violinist/composer Rachel Panitch. The concert features several outstanding Boston-based musicians and ensembles in performances of new chamber music inspired by national parks, written by members of the Landscape Music Composers Network.

The program includes Dai-Shizen (Great Nature), inspired by the artwork of Chiura Obata, which I wrote for Alicia Mielke and Devin Ulibarri (below) in 2014.

Alicia Mielke   Devin Ulibarri

Check out the concert preview on Landscape Music, which explores each of the works on this program.

April 15, 2016, 8:00pm
Advent Library Concert Series
The Church of the Advent
30 Brimmer St (corner of Mount Vernon St)
Boston, MA
$10 suggested donation
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Music for Guitars in Boston: June 16

Posted in performances on June 7th, 2015 by Nell

World Premiere of Wanderlust (2015) for Guitar Quartet
Commissioned by Boston GuitarFest’s Young Guitarists Workshop Faculty

And Reprise Performance of Triptych (2011) for Solo Guitar

Boston GuitarFest X: Young Guitarists Workshop Faculty Recital
Tuesday, June 16, 2015, 7:30pm
Williams Hall at New England Conservatory
30 Gainsborough St, Boston, MA 02115
Free Admission (Tickets Available at the Door)

The faculty of Boston GuitarFest’s Young Guitarists Workshop – Adam Levin, Will Riley, Devin Ulibarri, and Colin Thurmond – will be giving the World Premiere of Wanderlust (2015) for guitar quartet (13 1/2 minutes), which they commissioned for this occasion.

On this concert, Devin Ulibarri will also be reprising Triptych (2011), a solo work (7 minutes) I composed for him to perform on Tuesday Night New Music in the very same concert hall back when we were students at NEC!

Wanderlust is my second work performed as part of Boston GuitarFest and my third collaboration with Devin. He and Alicia Mielke premiered Dai-Shizen (Great Nature) (2014) for flute and guitar last year on Boston GuitarFest’s Emerging Artist Marathon.

Watch Boston GuitarFest’s Young Guitarists Workshop for updates.

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Upcoming Boston Concerts: Works for Guitar

Posted in performances on February 5th, 2015 by Nell

Are you in Boston? Do you enjoy guitar music? I hope you’ll be able to make it out to hear two upcoming performances of guitar music I’ve written for Devin Ulibarri and other Boston-based artists.

Friday, February 13, 2015 at 6:00pm
Devin Ulibarri, Guitarist
On this installment of the “A Musical Apertif” Concert Series themed “Love, Loss, and Love Again,” Devin will be revisiting two works I composed for him:Triptych and Dai-Shizen (Great Nature), which will feature Alicia Mielke on flute. Democracy Center at 45 Mt. Auburn Street in Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA. $10 admission.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015 at 7:30pm
Boston GuitarFest
Young Guitarists Workshop Faculty Recital
I’m thrilled to be writing a new work for guitar quartet for premiere by the Boston GuitarFest’s Young Guitarists Workshop Faculty (Adam Levin, Will Riley, Devin Ulibarri, and Colin Thurmond). Admission details TBA. Watch Boston GuitarFest for updates.

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