Hawaii-born composer Michael-Thomas Foumai is a recipient of a Fromm Music Foundation commission, Presser Foundation Award, three BMI Composer Awards, the Intimacy of Creativity 2014 fellowship at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and the 2013–2014 Music Teachers National Association Composer of the Year. He has been a participant in EarShot Readings with the Buffalo Philharmonic and ACO’s Underwood New Music Readings.
Performances this season include four orchestral premieres: The Spider Thread with ACO, Music in the High Castle with Raleigh Civic Chamber Orchestra, the anime-inspired Fullmetal for Iowa State University Symphony, and Children of Gods, a Hawaiian-mythology triptych for the Hawaii Youth Symphony. In 2015, momentum 21: music for a new century was released on Albany Records.
Foumai holds degrees in composition from the University of Hawaii and University of Michigan. He currently serves on the faculty of the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Visit michaelfoumai.com for more information.
The Spider Thread is inspired by a short tale of morality by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa about a criminal who is given a chance at salvation.As the story unfolds, a spider’s thread is lowered into the darkness of hell, allowing the criminal an escape to paradise. As he climbs, his joy is short-lived as other sinners have started climbing the thread behind him. Fearing the thread will break, he claims the thread for himself; at this moment, the thread breaks, casting all back into darkness.
I wrote the work in three parts, following the narrative of the story. It opens with murky “paradise” music meant to convey the ethereal realms of heaven and hell. A dashing scherzo signifies an exasperating orchestral climb to paradise and builds to a climactic fall with musical gestures stumbling over each other. The music then recedes, returning to the murky paradise music of the beginning.
Melody Eötvös was born and raised in Australia and is now based in Bloomington, Indiana. Her work draws on both multimedia and traditional instruments, as well substantial extra-musical references to a broad range of philosophical topics and late–19th-century literature.
Eötvös is the recipient of the 3MBS National Composers Award (2009), APRA Professional Development Award (2009), and the Soundstream National Composer Award (2012). Her music has been performed by the London Sinfonietta, BBC Singers, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and Australian String Quartet. She is an alumna of ACO’s 2014 Underwood New Music Readings and the inaugural recipient of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation Orchestral Commission. She has also been commissioned by Synergy Percussion’s 40 Under 40 Commissioning Project and was a composer fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and School this summer.
Eötvös holds a doctoral degree from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and a master’s degree from the Royal Academy of Music in London. Visit melodyeotvos.com.au for more information.
Red Dirt | Silver Rain was commissioned by the League of American Orchestras and American Composers Orchestra with the generous support of the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.
The title of this piece reaches back across the Pacific Ocean and into the heart of two memories I have of my homeland. As a child, I grew up on Tamborine Mountain (Queensland), where the dirt is a vibrant volcanic red. I was more accustomed to seeing my feet stained this color than having them in shoes. The second memory is of the torrential downpours we would experience during the summers and of falling asleep to the sound of it pelting against the corrugated iron roof. The rhythm of these rain showers—amplified in my recollection by the material of the roof—would fluctuate between violent hammering and delicate pattering.
This piece is most of all about reconstructing memories. These memories hinge around strong sensory moments of my childhood, and I have aimed to give them clear motivic/thematic life within the music. A wonderful phenomena that occurs when recalling memories is our ability to manipulate and alter the way we may have originally remembered these things—the way I remembered my dirt-red toes the very same evening I washed them clean (perhaps I was annoyed that they were still slightly stained red even though I’d scrubbed them for ages) is completely different from how I remember them now (as symbolizing fun, freedom, color, warmth, childhood). The trajectory of the motives/themes across this piece explore an array of possibilities and forms in how they can be remembered, recalled, and readjusted—sometimes more with the methodical mind of my adult self, other times with what I imagine is my carefree inner child.
Hannah Lash has received commissions from the Fromm Music Foundation, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, and the Naumburg Foundation. Numerous honors and prizes include the ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award, a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a fellowship from Yaddo Artist Colony, and the Naumburg Prize. Her orchestral work Furthermore was selected by ACO for the 2010 Underwood New Music Readings.
Recent premieres of her work include Three Shades Without Angles, performed by the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, and Pulse-space, performed by the Flux Quartet, as well as several new orchestral works: Eating Flowers (Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music), Nymphs (Alabama Symphony Orchestra), and This Ease (Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra). Upcoming premieres include a new chamber opera, Beowulf, commissioned by Guerilla Opera, and a new work for Loadbang commissioned by Columbia University’s Miller Theatre. Her chamber opera Blood Rose was presented by New York City Opera’s VOX Contemporary Opera Lab in the spring of 2011.
Lash earned a graduate performance degree in harp from the Cleveland Institute of Music in 2008. In 2010, she obtained her doctoral degree in composition from Harvard and currently serves on the composition faculty at Yale. Visit hannahlash.com for more information.
Concerto for Harp and Chamber Orchestrareflects my love of the harp, but also addresses the idea of the harp as an instrument that carries an implication of being an outsider—mysterious, ephemeral, etc. I thought about what it means to play an instrument that is often thought of in these terms and how the specialness of the harp could also create a sense of isolation on the part of the player. A soloist in a concerto is naturally “other” to the ensemble, and the drama of a concerto often plays out in an almost adversarial relationship between the soloist and the ensemble. I wanted to explore the loneliness of the soloist in my own concerto, specifically through the lens of the harp’s particular “otherness,” which is inextricably linked to what makes it special. The harp’s final cadenza reveals the most personal material in the piece: a slow Ländler-like dance hovers like a memory in the harp, unaccompanied except for occasional small twitches from the ensemble towards the very end. It is as if the harp were revealing a music that the ensemble never participates in—a music that is special, beautiful, otherworldly, and fragile, like the harp itself.
The music of Judah Adashi is grounded in the classical tradition, and imbued with soul and pop influences that range from Nina Simone to Björk. Among Adashi’s recent works is Rise, a collaboration with poet Tameka Cage Conley. The piece bears witness to America’s fraught civil rights journey from Selma to Ferguson and beyond, with all proceeds going to the family of Freddie Gray, whose death in police custody sparked the Baltimore uprising. Adashi is the founder and artistic director of the Evolution Contemporary Music Series, established in 2005 in Baltimore. He has been a member of the faculty at the Peabody Institute since 2002. Adashi also directs Junior Bach, a one-on-one mentoring program in composition for students in Baltimore schools.
Adashi has been honored with awards, grants, and commissions from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, The ASCAP Foundation, BMI Foundation, American Composers Forum, New Music USA, and Aspen Music Festival, as well as residencies at Yaddo and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. He holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Peabody, and a bachelor’s degree from Yale University. Adashi lives in Baltimore with his fiancée and frequent collaborator, cellist Lavena Johanson.
I first encountered the poetry of Ciara Shuttleworth in TheNew Yorker in November 2010. Her poem “Sestina” made an immediate impression on me, with its simplicity and depth of feeling. Ciara reimagines the traditional form for which her poem is named, compressing it—and the entire life cycle of a relationship—into six words, variously rotated. “Sestina” is at once intimate and epic; I tried to reflect that sensibility in this spare musical setting for voice and orchestra.
I am immensely grateful to the American Composers Orchestra for making Sestina part of the 2015 SONiC festival, and to my friend Caroline Shaw for singing it.
Raised in Homer, Alaska, Conrad Winslow began making things from scratch by watching his parents chop down trees and build a log-cabin home in the woods. Childhood road trips across the US and Canada, plus a residential stint in Hawaii, have taught him to look wide.
Winslow’s instrumental music has been commissioned by Alarm Will Sound, Albany Symphony, New York Youth Symphony, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, Juilliard Orchestra, New Juilliard Ensemble, NYU Symphony, Bala Brass, and Gaudete Brass Quintet, who recorded Record of a Lost Tribe for an upcoming release on Cedille Records. His songs have been presented by the New York Festival of Song and The Coterie.
Winslow has received awards and support from ASCAP, the Jerome Foundation, New York Youth Symphony, Yale Glee Club, The Juilliard School (2010 Juilliard Orchestra Competition, New Juilliard Ensemble Commission Competition), and New Music USA. Winslow is co-founder and artistic director of the Wild Shore Festival for New Music in Homer, Alaska. He is an alumnus of ACO’s 2008 Underwood Readings. He holds a master’s degree in composition from Juilliard, where he studied with John Corigliano, and a master’s degree in film scoring from New York University, where he studied with Justin Dello Joio. Visit conradwinslow.com for more information.
Joint Account is inspired by Baroque theorist Johann Mattheson’s 1739 manual of techniques on representing emotions in music. His evocative text includes prescriptions such as “Love is a diffusion of the spirits … it is best to use intervals of that nature.” I have adapted some of his boundaries of affect to my own musical language. The juxtapositions between the moods I’ve selected are both sympathetic and contradictory, defying and strengthening the prevalence of any one feeling.
The video component of this work inverts the customary relationship whereby sound supports or belies the feelings and actions of an image. Here, the video instead behaves as an orchestral color, marking and amplifying the musical structure, entering and exiting the textures, to aid or complicate the music’s own emotional objectives.
The first movement presents a sequence of five different moods, increasingly distilled until their intimate, pushy encounters smear into each other. The second movement explores the life of a single affect—the very defense against emotional complexity. The third movement believes in its wide embrace through constant fluctuation, and yet seems to float in place. The fourth movement weaves the moods from the top into the more extreme limits of the intervening affects.