Chiura Obata, “Mono Crater, Sierra Nevada, California” (1930)
Landscape Music Composers Network isa 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 Parks, conceived 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.
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)
$10 suggested donation
I was honored to be invited by the wonderful NewMusicBox (a publication of New Music USA) to contribute six columns as a guest writer during November and December 2015. In case you missed it, here’s a round-up:
New Music for Learning – The connections between music and learning shouldn’t only be a topic of interest for scientists or educators, but something that composers, performers, and presenters acknowledge and actively apply to their work.
Why Landscape Music is More Important Than Ever – The intrinsic power of music to facilitate reflection and reinterpretation of life experiences makes creating Landscape Music a compelling approach to improving and deepening our connection to nature—a goal which is more important now than ever.
How Landscape Music Evokes the Natural World – What is the role of nature in culture? Why use the term “landscape” in reference to music? How can music symbolize the natural world? What are some of the specific approaches composers have taken to creating landscapes in their music?
We Need More (On-Demand) Films of New Operas – Making more live films of new and recent operas, and making those films readily available to the public, might be much more important to the future of opera than is currently appreciated.
Creating Points of Entry into Opera Through Video – Opera videos provided the “way in” I needed to become a fan, which led me to pursue live opera performances and eventually to compose opera myself. Now I’m looking for ways to help more people find their way in, too.
National clothing boutique Francesca’s included an interview and photo shoot with me and three other women in a feature on their blog and newsletter highlighting “inspiring women” in celebration of International Women’s Day.
I am absolutely thrilled and honored to have been selected by American Opera Projects to participate in the eighth season of their renowned Composers & the Voice fellowship program!
Directed by conductor Steven Osgood (The Metropolitan Opera, Beth Morrison Projects, et al), this program gives emerging composers and librettists experience working collaboratively with singers on writing for the voice and contemporary opera stage.
The two-year fellowships, made possible through a generous grant by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, include a year of working with the company’s Resident Ensemble of Singers and Artistic Team at AOP’s home base in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, followed by a year of continued promotion and development through AOP and its strategic partnerships.
You’ll be able to hear my work in May 2016 at First Glimpse, AOP’s bi-annual concert of songs written in the C&V workshops. A second concert in September 2016 will showcase full opera scenes created by the composers over the summer.
Check out AOP’s official announcement to learn more about C&V and the accomplished group of artists I’ll have the privilege of joining this fall. I look forward to sharing the products of this program with you over the coming months and years!
I’ve recently founded the Landscape Music Composers Network: a group of living composers from across the U.S. whose music engages with and reflects upon landscape, nature, and place. This group is affiliated with the online publication Landscape Music, which I launched last winter.
Including artists both established and emerging, writing in a diverse array of styles for a variety of ensembles and media, the Composers Network is a platform for collaborative projects aiming to increase appreciation and awareness of the natural world through music.
We are adding new members on an ongoing basis. Current members include myself, Linda Chase (Boston, MA); Stephen Lias (Nacogdoches, TX); Rachel Panitch (Boston, MA); Christina Rusnak (Portland, OR); Alex Shapiro (San Juan Island, WA); and Stephen Wood (Atlanta, GA).
Last month at the 10th annual Boston GuitarFest, the Faculty of the Young Guitarists Workshop (Adam Levin, Will Riley, Devin Ulibarri, and Colin Thurmond) gave the premiere performance of Wanderlust for guitar quartet, which they had commissioned from me for the occasion. A full-length video of this performance is now available, courtesy of Brian Dixon.
Devin Ulibarri also revisited Triptych, a solo work that I wrote for him back in 2011.
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.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting the stunning new home of the Whitney Museum of American Art in the Meatpacking district of New York City. Three of the artists prominently featured in their wide-reaching inaugural installation of works from the collection, American is Hard to See – Charles Burchfield, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Chiura Obata – have been primary inspirations in my ongoing work of composing music in response to visual art. Each of these artists engaged with nature, place, and spirituality, and conveyed a powerful “musicality” in their images, although in very distinct ways.
If you’ve recently visited the Whitney, plan to visit in the future, or if you’re just curious, I hope you’ll enjoy perusing this little guide to music I’ve composed inspired by artists in the Whitney’s collection. Think of it as an art & music pairing menu!
On view at the Whitney: Charles Burchfield (1893-1967), Cricket Chorus in the Arbor, 1917. More information
The Whitney has an exceptional collection of works by Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), and it was at the Whitney at their 2010 exhibit Heat Waves in a Swamp that I had an impactful first experience with seeing his paintings and drawings in person.
Several of Burchfield’s early paintings are now on display on the 8th floor of the Whitney in a section dedicated to art related to music and sound. Appropriate, then, to pair these works with some music related to art!
On view at the Whitney: Chiura Obata (1885-1975), Evening Glow of Yosemite Fall, 1930. More information.
On the seventh floor of the Whitney, you’ll find eight woodblock prints by the (in my opinion, vastly under-appreciated) Japanese-American painter and woodblock print designer, Chiura Obata (1885-1975). It’s a special opportunity to see these rarely-displayed works.
Obata’s woodblock prints and watercolor paintings of Yosemite, the High Sierra, and the internment camp in Utah where he and his family were imprisoned, inspired my piece Dai-Shizen (Great Nature) for flute and guitar (listen above). This piece was commissioned by Devin Ulibarri and Alicia Mielke and premiered last June at Boston GuitarFest. Learn more about Obata’s artworks and my music.
On view at the Whitney: Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), Summer Days, 1936. More information.
My journey creating music inspired by art began in 2009 with Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986), an artist long-celebrated by the Whitney. Summer Days, one of many exquisite paintings that emerged from the landscape of her adopted home in New Mexico, is on display on the 7th floor. A few of her abstract works are also visible on the 8th floor.
I’m excited to share my new online publication with you, Landscape Music: Investigating Music Inspired by Landscape, Nature, and Place. With this project, I hope to provide a platform for work by composers and musicians creating what I call “Landscape Music” and to raise the profile of related aesthetics, methods, politics, and philosophies.
Visit About to learn more about the goals and ideas behind Landscape Music, or dive right into my new content!
Stephen Lias, Adventurer-Composer
As a self-made specialist in music inspired by the U.S. National Parks, Stephen Lias has been Artist-in-Residence at Rocky Mountain, Glacier, Denali, Glacier Bay, and Gates of the Arctic National Parks, and has written over a dozen park-related pieces.
Rachel Panitch: Making Music in Zion National Park
Fiddler, composer, and improvisor Rachel Panitch spent four weeks as Artist-in-Residence at Zion National Park in Utah, where she created several works inspired by the park and performed her music on site.
Why I started Landscape Music – I seek to explore commonalities, divergences, exciting new developments, unexplored potentials, and possibly to derive some general principles or practices for musical landscapes.
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 andDai-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.