I'm writing this update from Copland House, where I'm in residence through mid-December. Below is a picture of the studio on a particularly foggy morning, where I've been working hard on my new saxophone sonata for the last week. The peace and quiet, not to mention the history and character of this house are very inspiring and conducive to composing. Also while I'm here, I'll be making a few trips to Long Island to work with the Oyster Bay High School Wind Ensemble, directed by Matthew Sisia, as they get ready to premiere my Three Ostinatos in December.
"The evening’s newest work was also penned by the youngest composer, 30-year-old Roger Zare. His Geometries—a two-pronged essay inspired by geometric structures—is the latest of a number of math- and science-inspired compositions by the Evanston-based composer. The first movement, “Fractals,” takes its name from repeated patterns, and fittingly follows a fugal structure. Zare exploits the staggered entrance of each instrument on a unison pitch, coaxing the ear to zero in on changes in timbre. This was expertly handled by the ensemble members, who would enter almost indistinguishably atop one another before timbral shifts fully registered.
The second movement, “Tangents,” kicks off with sixteenth notes from the piano punctuated by offbeat accents. That sets the tone for an angular, rhythmically driven movement with contrasting moments of fluid lyricism.
[Winston] Choi’s contribution here was spectacular, executing the demanding keyboard role with its decorative flourishes and percussive, double-fisted chords with full command. Indeed, the vivacious playing of the second movement by all the musicians provided the thrilling highlight of the evening, as well as making a strong case for the music of a promising composer."
Great news: I have been awarded a Copland House Residency for this coming year. I will be residing at Aaron Copland's house near Peekskill, NY, for a month this winter, affording me an abundance of time to work on my commission from saxophonist Scotty Phillips, among other projects that I hope to complete. The saxophone sonata will be about the rain cycle, from drought to deluge, as well as the earthy scent of petrichor that arises just as rain begins to fall.
The last two weeks have been quite busy and productive for me, as a composer and an educator. I visited the Blue Valley Northwest High School to work with a couple of Michael Arbucci's string orchestras on my compositions. The Symphonic Orchestra was playing Mare Tranquillitatis and the Concert Orchestra was playing my very recent composition, Starry Night. At the bottom of this post, I have embedded a video of the Symphonic Orchestra's performance of Mare Tranquillitatis from October 22.
On October 16, I visited Missouri Western State University, where I attended the premiere of my commissioned work, We Are the Movers and Shakers. It was a pleasure to work with Jeff Hinton and Dr. Elise Hepworth, directors of the wind ensemble and choir respectively, and a thrill to hear the premiere of my work with such enthusiastic and talented musicians. This work will be performed two more times in St. Joseph, MO this fall - on November 5 by the choir with piano accompaniment, and on December 9 by the full choir and wind ensemble. Listen to the premiere:
Following my trip to Missouri, I attended the 49th Indiana State University Contemporary Music Festival in Terre Haute, Indiana. My saxophone quartet, LHC, was chosen as a winner of their Music Now competition, and was performed fantastically by the Solaire Saxophone Quartet on October 23. Later that evening, Dr. Roby George performed Lift-Off with the ISU Wind Orchestra. Dr. George will be performing my very recent wind ensemble work, Tangents, at the CBDNA North Central Regional Conference in February. It was an honor being a part of that festival, and I was blown away by the quality of the performances I saw.
I have just posted a couple new recordings of my recent compositions that I invite you to listen to. Visit the compositions' pages by clicking on their titles:
The Tell-Tale Heart, performed by the SONAR new music ensemble last May. This is a dark and violent composition that is a musical telling of Edgar Allan Poe's famous and thrilling short story of the same name.
New Horizons, performed by Diane Walsh, piano; Peggy Pearson, oboe; J. Lawrie Bloom, clarinet; and Marcy Rosen, cello at the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival, June 19, 2015. This work traces the NASA probe through its journey from Earth, past Jupiter, and finally reaching Pluto. I have uploaded the second movement, describing the probe's flyby of Jupiter and its immense gravitational field. The probe picked up a huge burst of speed in this maneuver, and I represent it with a passacaglia that gradually becomes heavier and heavier, until it is overwhelmed with Jupiter's majesty and luminosity.
Starry Night for string orchestra, recorded by the strings of the Evanston Township High School Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Charles Abplanalp. This work is a grade 3.5-4 piece written for junior high and high school orchestras.
Also, the Senzoku New Philharmonic Orchestra has posted a wonderfully edited video of their performance of Tectonics last April. Every time I listen to it, I am blown away by their passion and artistry.
I am thrilled to announce that my orchestral work, Tectonics, won first prize in the orchestral division of the 3rd Senzoku Contemporary Composition Competition. I wrote Tectonics in 2012 as my dissertation at the University of Michigan and submitted it to the Senzoku competition last fall. It was performed by the Senzoku New Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Masui Nobutaka in Tokyo on April 15, and I could not be happier to post their incredible performance below. I was able to watch a live stream of the concert at 5 AM central time, and I was blown away by their musicality and passion. Five days later, I found out the competition results, which you can read here.
In addition to the new Tectonics recording, I have finished two compositions in the last few weeks. My commission from the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival, New Horizons, for oboe, clarinet, cello, and piano, is a 15 minute work in three movements describing pivotal events in the journey of NASA's New Horizons probe as it approaches the dwarf planet Pluto for its July 14 encounter later this year. This work will be premiered in Easton, Maryland on June 19. I more recently finished The Tell-Tale Heart for the SONAR new music ensemble, a musical representation of Edgar Allan Poe's famous and thrilling short story of the same name. SONAR will perform it on May 8th and 10th at the Baltimore Theatre Project.
I've been keeping busy lately with the winter/spring travel season revving up as well as working on some upcoming commissions. My visit to Florida for the FSU Festival of New Music was extremely enjoyable and insightful, and the performance of Aerodynamics by the wind orchestra was extraordinary. I also had a wonderful time working with Amy Knopps and soloist Jeremy Gdaniec last week at Eastern Michigan University, where the second movement of my clarinet concerto, Bennu's Fire, was programmed on the Music Now Fest '15 gala concert.
I have been commissioned by the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival to write a new work for oboe, clarinet, cello, and piano to be premiered this June. They recently posted this article with a few more details about the festival and my involvement. The work I am writing is inspired by the New Horizons probe that will reach the dwarf planet Pluto this July, just under a month after my new quartet will be premiered.
I am also working on two commissions from the SONAR new music ensemble. The first, scheduled to be premiered in May, will be a large chamber work based on the Edgar Allan Poe short story, The Tell-Tale Heart. The second will be a chamber concerto based on Vivaldi's Summer. More information on these two new works will be forthcoming.
I am also excited to announce that the first movement of my piano trio, Northern Lights, was chosen as a winner in the Treefalls New Music Call for Scores. It will be performed by Trio d'Espirit at least three times in Georgia and South Carolina later this spring.
Please check out Jeanette Fang's brand new recording of the prepared piano work she commissioned from me last year, Alarum Bells. I am astounded by her virtuosity and the superb quality of this recording. You can listen using the player below, or on the composition's page.
I have recently learned of two more competitions in which my music has been honored. I am happy to announce that the orchestra version of Fractal Miniatures is the winner of the Red Note Composition Competition, chamber orchestra category. It will be performed at the Red Note New Music Festival at Illinois State University on March 29, 2015, and I will be visiting before the performance to work with the ensemble and present to the composition studio.
I also am a finalist in the 3rd Senzoku Contemporary Composition Competition with my orchestral work, Tectonics. It will be performed along with the four other orchestral finalists on April 15, 2015 in Japan by the Senzoku Gakuen College Orchestra, with the announcement of three top prizes a week later.
I'm excited to announce that my recently composed piano trio, Telescopic Variations, was chosen as the winner of the Trio Anima Mundi Composition Prize. The trio, made up of Kenji Fujimura, piano; Rochelle Ughetti, violin; and Melissa Chominsky, cello, will premiere my work in Australia in two concerts - on November 9 in Geelong and on November 13 in Melbourne.
I am also happy to announce that the wind ensemble version of Aerodynamics was selected to be performed at the 2015 Florida State University Festival of New Music. I will be traveling to Tallahassee from January 29-31, 2015 to attend the festival and the performance. I'm looking forward to working with Richard Clary and the FSU Wind Orchestra again, as well as seeing many colleagues down in Florida (while escaping the Chicago winter, if only for half a week).
I've had quite a busy and eventful spring and summer so far. Here's what I've been up to:
My wife, Alexandra Dee, was accepted into Northwestern University to begin her doctorate in orchestral conducting this fall. We will be moving to the Chicago area in September, and I am looking forward to getting acquainted with the Chicago new music scene.
For those of you in the Boston area, I am happy to announce two upcoming performances in Boston in April. On April 12, Boston New Music Initiative will perform the nonet version of Fractal Miniatures. And if you can't make it to that, on April 25, Boston Musica Viva will perform the sextet version of the same work. I have more information posted on my performances page.
I have also just posted a new and fantastic recording of Lunation 1113, for bassoon, violin, and percussion. Performed in February on a faculty recital led by bassoon professor Susan Nelson, you can listen to the new recording below, or on my Lunation 1113 page.