Meet The Composer’s Soloist Champions Project

March 15, 2008 — Asbury Hall, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Buffalo, NY

March 19, 2008 — Symphony Space’s Peter Sharp Theater, New York, NY

March 24, 2008 — Recital Hall, SUNY Purchase College, Purchase, NY

Late last year, I received a call from Meet The Composer. MTC is, for me, one of the most important organizations present in the classical music field today. Committed to the creation of new work and the visibility of composers and what we’re still calling ‘new music’, for lack of a better term, John Duffie, Heather Hitchens, and now Ed Harsh, the leaders of MTC, have kept its projects alive with new ideas and forward-looking concepts.

This call was from Victoria Roth of MTC, and it was a request to be part of its Soloist Champions program. Funded by a grant from the New York State Music Fund, Soloist Champions was initiated by Meet The Composer in an attempt to recognize and support performers who have long been at the forefront of championing new music.

“Individual performers are the engines of innovation in the new music field,” says MTC President Ed Harsh. “With the Soloist Champions project, Meet The Composer wanted to give eight artists in this key group the resources to amplify their own initiative, to commission composers whose work they believe is rich and powerful.”

To me, as I’ve made my life this business of ‘making new work’, this not only seemed like a fantastic idea in general, but a specific opportunity for composers to write solo works, which are so often difficult for soloists to financially commission. A composer can much better support him/herself with larger ensemble commissions, as the infrastructure is usually there through the ensemble in question to contribute a reasonable fee. In this case, Meet The Composer takes on supporting the wishes of not only the composer, but of the performer who wishes to commission the composer. This is a unique and special venture, and I celebrate if from my own corner with a toast, or three.

I provided four names of composers who I had wanted to commission, and in collaboration with Meet The Composer, composer Michael Lowenstern, my good colleague and friend, was chosen as ‘my guy’. Michael is probably best known for his extraordinary artistic contributions to his native instrument, the bass-clarinet. As a performer, composer and producer of his own recordings, his creative voice is unmistakable, his style undefinable, and his instrumental point of view has yet to be approached by any other I’ve seen. Check out his website to see and hear all of his music. (really, you’ve GOT to see what he’s done with downloading sheet music from his site)

Though Michael and I have worked together for years, in the last ten very developmental years for me, through the time of Ethel and Still Life with Microphone, Nuove Uova and up until now, he has never actually sat down and written a piece or a series of pieces for me. Can’t say that anymore now! Three pieces under the title ‘Mash-Up’ receive their premiere on Saturday night in Buffalo at Hallwalls, next Wednesday at Symphony Space, and the Saturday following at SUNY Purchase. Realized and performed through our common instrument, the MacBookPro, (wry grin attached) MashUp has attached to it this program note:

“MashUp comes from my interest in electro-funk-hip-hop-tvshowtheme-eclectic music mashups made popular by underground DJ’s such as “Team Canada.” the basis for these sorts of mixes is two or three completely disparate tunes mashed together in various ways, paired by key, content, and/or theme. But when the Beatles are put with Biggie Smalls and Radiohead with Spinal Tap, something magical happens; the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts, if you can believe it. So it is with this spirit that I put these few tunes together, using found and borrowed sound, marrying that with improvisational recordings Todd Reynolds made for me, and finally adding original content to sew it all together. “

It’s going to be a rabblerousing group of folks gathering together up here in Buffalo for the premieres, check out these pairings of composers and performers:
Don Byron for Lisa Moore, piano
Jason Eckardt for Taimur Sullivan, baritone sax
Michael Lowenstern for Todd Reynolds, violin
Huang Ruo for Min Xiao-Fen, pipa
Joan La Barbara for Margaret Lancaster, flute
Steven Burke for Mary Nessinger, soprano
Alice Shields for Monique Buzzart, trombone
Ushio Torikai for Dominic Donato, percussion

Join us if you can!

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