On May 6, the Minnesota Orchestra presents MusicMakers, with Osmo Vänskä conducting works by seven emerging composers as the finale of the 2022 Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, which is directed by Kevin Puts.
The concert take place at Orchestra Hall on Friday, May 6, 2022. It will be broadcast live on Twin Cities PBS (TPT MN Channel), with Brian Newhouse serving as both onstage and broadcast host, and will be available for online streaming and on the Orchestra’s social media channels. It will also be broadcast live on stations of YourClassical Minnesota Public Radio, including KSJN 99.5 FM in the Twin Cities. View complete information on the concert and Composer Institute in the Showcase magazine program page and Composer Institute booklet.
Wind Map is inspired by visualizations of global wind patterns: massive amounts of weather are fed into a supercomputer, which then produces a live “wind map.” The swirls and swoops are color-coded: areas of blue and green denote relative calm and light breezes, while red and purple represent devastating conditions in a tropical system. There is something poetic about seeing our atmosphere on such a macro scale; the colors converted from numerical data also resemble van Gogh’s brushstrokes. The confluence of the empirical and the aesthetic in “wind maps” has proven wildly inspiring during the writing process of this piece.
Wind Map has previously received a reading by the Sarasota Orchestra as part of the American Composers Orchestra’s EarShot readings; this week’s concert is its world premiere performance.
Program note by Sam Wu.
ABOUT THE COMPOSER
The music of Sam Wu (b. 1995) deals with the beauty in blurred boundaries. Many of his works center around extra-musical themes: architecture and urban planning, climate science, and the search for exoplanets that harbor life. Selected for the American Composers Orchestra’s EarShot readings and the Tasmanian Symphony’s Australian Composers’ School, and a winner of an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, Wu also received Harvard’s Robert Levin Prize and Juilliard’s Palmer Dixon Prize.
Wu’s collaborations span five continents, most notably with the Melbourne, Tasmanian, China National and Shenzhen symphonies, as well as the Sarasota Orchestra, New York City Ballet, National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, members of the Knights, Parker Quartet, Argus Quartet, ETHEL Quartet, Chorus Austin, sheng virtuoso Wu Wei, pipa master Wu Man and visual artist Jonathan Latiano. He has been featured on the National Geographic Channel, Business Insider, Harvard Magazine, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Asahi Shimbun and People’s Daily, among other outlets.
Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Wu holds degrees from Harvard University and The Juilliard School, and attends Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music for his doctorate in composition. His teachers include Tan Dun, Robert Beaser, Anthony Brandt, Pierre Jalbert and Chaya Czernowin. Visit the composer’s website.
Bolghar is a city in Tatarstan, founded in the eighth century, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the 16th century, it was incorporated into Russia. Although the present-day Tatar capital is Kazan, many Tatars see in Bolghar a glimpse of their ancient Muslim Bulgar way of life.
I visited Bolghar a couple of years ago, in the summertime, for my sister’s wedding, which was in a beautiful white mosque, not far from an archaeological museum. The place itself is located on the left side of the Volga River. It’s a beautiful town, surrounded by some forest, woods and fields. Bolghar’s beauty comes from its incorporation of nature, where monuments, temples and mosques have spacious distances between buildings, filled with trees and gardens.
Because of the close relationship with nature that I feel in this place, in Bolghar I use all the possibilities where I can refer to the basic nature of the orchestral instruments. I base my harmonies on the overtone series. With strings, I use harmonics and open strings. With winds, I use the sound of air, formed as a ritual: repeating patterns with slight differences. Sometimes in the piece, musical gestures finish abruptly, returning to a completely different color. In the climax of the piece, the music jumps back to the past, to the present, back to the past again, and finally, to the future.
Bolghar received its premiere performance (in the version for quray and orchestra, with soloist Nina Shekhar) on February 28, 2020, by the USC Thornton Symphony Orchestra in Los Angeles, California, with Donald Crockett conducting.
Program note by Adeliia Faizullina.
ABOUT THE COMPOSER
Adeliia Faizullina (b. 1988) is an Uzbekistan-born Tatar composer, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and quray player. As a composer, she explores cutting-edge vocal colors and paints delicate and vibrant atmospheres inspired by the music and poetry of Tatar folklore. The Washington Post has praised her compositions as “vast and varied, encompassing memory and imagination.” Her recent commissions include works for Jennifer Koh, the Tesla Quartet, Johnny Gandelsman and the Metropolis Ensemble. Her works have also been performed by the Seattle Symphony, cellist Ashley Bathgate, the Del Sol Quartet and Duo Cortona. Faizullina was a guest artist at Play On Philly in 2021, and is a member of Composing Earth 2022-2023, by the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music.
Faizullina received her bachelor of music degree in voice in Kazan, Russia, and a bachelor of music degree in composition at Gnessins Russian Academy of Music. She holds a master’s degree in music composition from the University of Texas at Austin, and is currently pursuing her doctorate in music and multimedia composition at Brown University. Currently she resides in Providence, Rhode Island. She also happens to be blind, and she enjoys walks and being in nature. Visit the composer’s website.
Close Up at a Distance
Close Up at a Distance was co-commissioned and premiered by the New York Youth Symphony (Michael Repper, conductor) at Carnegie Hall on May 12, 2019, and Interlochen Arts Camp World Youth Symphony Orchestra (JoAnn Falletta, conductor) on July 21, 2019, as part of the First Music Program. The piece is a collection of five short movements (performed without pause) that are inspired by an imagined travelogue in Google Earth.
The first movement, Zoom In, is a poetic musical evocation of transitioning from the view of the cosmos (when zoomed out as far as possible) to the view of the surface of the Earth (when zoomed in as far as possible). The poignant grit in the second movement, Verdant Patchwork, is a response to the rural, lake-dotted grids around the Interlochen Center for the Arts. A constant 16th-note grid is chopped and sliced in irregular ways to mimic the idiosyncrasies of the way the land has been shaped around these one square mile grids, which are remnants of the Jeffersonian attempt to partition the west. Zoom Out/In is a short interlude, inspired by quickly zooming out, floating above the Earth, and zooming into a different location—in this case, traveling between Interlochen and New York.
The madcap energy in the fourth movement, Urban Grids, is inspired by the skyscraper-laden grids of Midtown Manhattan, home of the New York Youth Symphony. A constant 16th-note grid is punctuated by extroverted brass and woodwind solos before culminating in a raucous climax and zooming out to transition to the last movement. Google Earth gives us a simulation of what astronauts call the “Overview Effect”: the cognitive shift that comes from perceiving the Earth in its totality as a fragile blue orb deserving of our protection. The last movement, for trumpet and piano alone, is a conceptual and emotional response to this effect.
Program note by Ryan Lindveit.
ABOUT THE COMPOSER
Ryan Lindveit is a composer, conductor and educator who takes inspiration from literature, art, science, technology and personal experience in order to craft colorful and emotionally vivid musical journeys. He was named Composer of the Year by the Sioux City Symphony for 2020, and he has been a guest composer at several festivals including the Aspen Music Festival, Mizzou International Composers Festival (with Alarm Will Sound), Next Festival of Emerging Artists, the ACO Underwood New Music Readings and International Young Composers Meeting. In addition, Lindveit composed the score for the Sam Elliott-narrated docuseries Honor Guard, released on Amazon Prime in 2020.
Lindveit’s honors include a BMI Student Composer Award, Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, winner of the Wind Band Association of Singapore Composition Contest, and winner of the Symphony in C Young Composers Competition, in addition to earning Special Distinction in both the ASCAP Rudolf Nissim Prize and the ASCAP/CBDNA Frederick Fennell Prize. He studied at the University of Southern California (B.M.) and the Yale School of Music (M.M., M.M.A.) and is currently pursuing doctoral studies at the University of Michigan. Visit the composer’s website.
My mother passed in July 2017 from cancer. Her entire life could be summarized as endeavoring against opposition. This was true even right up to the end as she battled the suffocating effects of lung cancer. As I sat in wait with her in the hospital over her last month, I became an active participant in her transition from this life to whatever comes next. It was there that I started to write the notes and ideas I felt about the experience, her journey, her unspoken strength, and her quiet inner beauty.
These sketches, which were too difficult to encompass at the time, were put to the side until I recently set to paper my thoughts about her final days. This work is for her.
Program note by Henry Dorn.
ABOUT THE COMPOSER
Composer-conductor Henry Dorn is a native of Little Rock, Arkansas. Each of his compositions is created with distinct creativity, having been performed by noteworthy ensembles across the country. These performances range from the Grammy-winning Harlem Quartet, Aizuri Quartet, the Elysian Trombone Quartet, Argento Ensemble, the Sanctuary Jazz Orchestra and the Dallas Wind Symphony.
Dorn is the former assistant director to the Memphis Area Youth Wind Ensemble, and former director to the Memphis-based Nu Chamber Collective. He’s proud to have received multiple awards for his unique style, including an Inaugural Future of Music Faculty Fellowship from the Cleveland Institute of Music and an ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award.
Dorn completed studies at the University of Memphis and at Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. He is currently a doctoral candidate at Michigan State University. He has studied conducting with Kevin Sedatole, Harlan D. Parker and Kraig Alan Williams. His composition teachers include Ricardo Lorenz, Alexis Bacon, David Biedenbender, Oscar Bettison, Kamran Ince and Jack Cooper, and he has had additional studies with Joel Puckett, Derek Bermel, Aaron Jay Kernis and Joseph Schwantner. Visit the composer’s website.
Remember to Have Fun
I started to write Remember to Have Fun in the midst of an existential funk in early 2020. The piece was intended as a reminder to myself that I should, in all things musical, have fun. After all, the reason I had taken to music in the first place was because I had discovered in composing a wholly unique kind of fun that I could not find anywhere else.
Cast in three continuous movements, Remember to Have Fun is best understood as a triptych recontextualizing a handful of simple motifs into three different kinds of fun. The opening movement, Master of None, is overly excitable, interrupting and tripping over itself as it tries to decide where to go with its cellular, half-step dominated main idea. Movement two, Think About What You’ve Done, picks up the pieces after its exhausted predecessor, initially introspective but growing, with a twinkle in its eye, increasingly quirky and mischievous. The final movement, Remember to Have Fun, spurred on by the music’s increased confidence, takes the first movement’s main idea and sprints at breakneck tempo toward a rip-roaring, frenetic finish.
The majority of the work on this piece was completed during a particularly dour and sedentary year. With all the loneliness, anxiety and pessimism floating about, I wanted to create a piece that would be characterized by the exact opposite of all those emotions. The piece’s prosaic title ends up being many things: a title, yes, but also a word of advice to the conductor, an expression marking for musicians, a reminder to myself as an artist, a small instruction for listeners, and maybe even a bit of hopeful inspiration for you, the reader.
Program note by Bobby Ge.
ABOUT THE COMPOSER
Bobby Ge (b. 1996) is a composer and avid collaborator who seeks to create vivid emotional journeys that navigate boundaries between genre and medium. He has created multimedia projects with the Space Telescope Science Institute, painters collective Art10Baltimore, the Baltimore Rock Opera Society, the Scattered Players Theater Company and the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center. Ge has received commissions and performances by groups including the Albany Symphony, the Harbin Symphony Orchestra, Music from Copland House, the Pacific Chamber Orchestra, the Bergamot Quartet, the Boss Street Brass Band and Mind on Fire. He has held fellowships from the Loghaven Artist Residency, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Millay Arts, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts and Copland House. He is currently pursuing his doctorate at Princeton University as a Naumberg Fellow, and holds degrees from UC Berkeley and the Peabody Conservatory. Visit the composer’s website.
Lumina explores the spectrum of light and dark and the murkiness in between. Using swift contrasts between bright, sharp timbres and cloudy textures and dense harmonies, the piece captures sudden bursts of radiance amongst the eeriness of shadows. The work was written for the USC Thornton Symphony and premiered by that orchestra under the direction of Donald Crockett at USC Thornton’s Bovard Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, on February 28, 2020.
Program note by Nina Shekhar.
ABOUT THE COMPOSER
Nina Shekhar is a composer who explores the intersection of identity, vulnerability, love, and laughter to create bold and intensely personal works. Described as “tart and compelling” (The New York Times), “vivid” (The Washington Post) and “surprises and delights aplenty” (L.A. Times), her music has been commissioned and performed by leading artists including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Albany Symphony, New World Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Eighth Blackbird, International Contemporary Ensemble, JACK Quartet, New York Youth Symphony, Alarm Will Sound, The Crossing, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, ETHEL, violinist Jennifer Koh and saxophonist Timothy McAllister. Her work has been featured by Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, National Sawdust, National Flute Association, North American Saxophone Alliance, I Care If You Listen, ScoreFollower, and WNYC/New Sounds (New York), WFMT (Chicago), and KUSC and KPFK (Los Angeles) radio.
Recent and upcoming events include performances of her music by the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic (joined by soloists Nathalie Joachim and Pamela Z), New World Symphony, and her Hollywood Bowl debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Current projects include commissions for the Grand Rapids Symphony, Albany Symphony, 45th Parallel Universe Chamber Orchestra and Youth Orchestra Los Angeles (YOLA). She is the recipient of the 2021 Rudolf Nissim Prize for Lumina and the 2018 ASCAP Foundation Leonard Bernstein Award, funded by the Bernstein family.
Shekhar is currently pursuing her doctorate in music composition at Princeton University. She previously completed composition graduate studies at University of Southern California and undergraduate studies at University of Michigan, earning dual degrees in music composition and chemical engineering. She was recently appointed as the 2021-2023 Composer-in-Residence for Young Concert Artists. She is a 2022–2023 Civitella Ranieri Foundation Music Fellow.
Aside from composing, Shekhar is a versatile performing artist as a flutist, pianist and saxophonist. She has performed in the Detroit International Jazz Festival and as a soloist with the USC Thornton Symphony and the Lublin Philharmonic in the Poland International Piano Festival. She has been featured by the National Flute Association and was previously a flute student of Amy Porter. She is a first-generation Indian American and a native of Detroit, Michigan. Visit the composer’s website.
Over and Under
Scored for organ and orchestra, Over and Under explores the possible uniform and divergent relationship between such immense instrumental bodies. This relationship evolves so that by the end of the piece, the organ and orchestra have ultimately switched roles, and in order to reach this outcome, the two instrumental bodies must begin in contrasting positions and gradually progress to replace one another. Over and Under was written in the summer and fall of 2016 in Miami, New York City and New Haven, Connecticut, and premiered in December 2016 at Woolsey Hall in New Haven by organist Weston Jennings, conductor David Yi and the Yale Philharmonia.
Program note by Molly Joyce.
ABOUT THE COMPOSER
Molly Joyce has been deemed one of the “most versatile, prolific and intriguing composers working under the vast new-music dome” by The Washington Post. Her music has additionally been described as “serene power” (The New York Times), written to “superb effect” (The Wire), and “unwavering” and “enveloping” (Vulture). Her work is concerned with disability as a creative source. She has an impaired left hand from a car accident, and the primary vehicle in her pursuit is her electric vintage toy organ, an instrument she bought on eBay which engages her disability on a compositional and performative level.
Joyce’s creative projects have been presented and commissioned by Carnegie Hall, TEDxMidAtlantic, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Bang on a Can Marathon, Danspace Project, Americans for the Arts, National Sawdust, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, National Gallery of Art, Classical:NEXT, and in Pitchfork, Red Bull Radio and WNYC’s New Sounds. She is a graduate of Juilliard, Royal Conservatory in The Hague, Yale, and an alumnus of the YoungArts Foundation. She holds an Advanced Certificate in Disability Studies from City University of New York, and is a forthcoming doctoral student at the University of Virginia in Composition and Computer Technologies. She has served on the composition faculties of New York University, Wagner College and Berklee Online. Visit the composer’s website.
Inside the Music
Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed
A video introduction to Joel Thompson’s Seven Last Words of the Unarmed and program note by Michael Divino.
Inside the Music
Keeping Score: The Composer Institute’s Success Stories
Inside the Music
Rapid Fire Q&A with the Composers
Inside the Music
Joy in the Prairie
Inside the Music