*winner of the 10th Annual Commissioning Competition
Cathy mitchell stops shoulder pain with her great looking hair explores late night, low budget infomercials and the absurd nature of their existence; From the frivolity of the products advertised to the not-quite-human performances of the salespeople and “real customers”. The performers are asked to do a variety of gestures, all of which are meant to be awkward and strange, paralleling the actions taken by the actors in the source infomercials. The awkwardness is heighted as the text becomes more disjunct throughout the piece.
Over the last few years, I have written four substantial pieces for piano that I call Tales of My Native Land. This title is borrowed from one of my favorite authors, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who used it for his first collection—now lost—of stories. My Tales are large-scaled, single-movement, multi-sectional pieces that are technically and artistically demanding. I subtitled the first “Ballade after Hawthorne” and the others also pay tribute to writers who are dear to me; Herman Melville, Willa Cather, and N. Scott Momaday. The designation “ballade” (familiar from Chopin’s four supreme examples) implies poetic narrative, but my works also celebrate the regional landscapes that inspired the authors— landscapes that urge me to make a similar music.
A Tale of My Native Land No.4 evokes the remarkable landscapes of South- western Oklahoma that have inspired American Indian author, N. Scott Momaday. My own tribal heritage is Choctaw and centered about a hundred and fifty miles east of Momaday’s Kiowa homeland, but it is a landscape very familiar to me, and one whose beauty is powerfully expressed in his remarkable poetic memoire The Way to Rainy Mountain. I hope I have partially captured in A Tale of My Native Land No.4 some of the author’s sensibility:
East of my grandmother’s house the sun rises out
Of the plain. Once in his life a man ought to
Concentrate his mind upon the remembered earth,
I believe. He ought to give himself up to a particular
Landscape in his experience, to look at it from as many angles as he can, to wonder about it, to dwell
Upon it. He ought to imagine that he touches it with
His hands at every season and listens to the sounds
That are made upon it. He ought to imagine the
Creatures there and all the faintest motions of the
Wind. He ought to recollect the glare of noon and
All the colors of the dawn and dusk.
(from N. Scott Momaday’s The Way to Rainy Mountain, 1969)
A Tale of My Native Land No.4 is dedicated to the memory of my high-school piano teacher and mentor, Eloise Ristad. - Charles Shadle
Springtime is a nostalgic, pandemic piece born of being alone. A solo recorder perfectly expresses the improvisatory daydreams that so many of us fell into during isolation. I kept wandering back thirty years or more to the many days I spent behind a forgotten cabin in the Appalachians. Hidden among the broadleaves and conifers, it had partnered-up with a tiny pond which over the years had become so nearly consumed by the surrounding grasses that the water’s edge was nowhere to be found.
Imagine. You plop yourself down against an old Oak. April teases you with promises. Warm sun. (Finally!). Rain on your face. Shadows on your toes. Green shoots. Tree swallows. And those innumerable, tiny, six-legged miracles that have been buzzing around since long before mountains, or oaks, or swallows, or your most distant relatives. A breeze invites you to dance. You know you shouldn’t. You should be getting back. But you dance anyway. And the moonlight elopes with a whippoorwill. And you wake. No point in going home now. Or ever. This is as close to home as you will ever get.
Grooves & Whispers is a collection of pieces that explore the duality between this dancing rhythm we call groove and discretion, suggestion. It’s a kind of road book, where I jotted down ideas, like fragments of a diary where we try to fix fleeting time. This present book is the second part of this ongoing puzzle-like series started in 2020. As the collection develops, certain fragments (be them rhythmic, melodic or harmonic) roam freely through the different pieces; which are meant to be as brief as possible, fugacious moments that seem to come out of nowhere and then evaporate, like a quantum particle: “So many fragments, so many beginnings, so many pleasures”, said Roland Barthes. The pieces can be played alone or together, either in the proposed order or any other. - Luis Quintana
Tres Gotas was commissioned by the Boston New Music Initiative in 2023 for the Prismatic Congruency concert series. This work was inspired by the following poem by Nicaraguan poet and musician Ave Asán.
by: Ave Asán
that on the roof,
Like indifferent amulets, They descend.
Someone will say that they are alien.
Well, their texture barely penetrates the valleys. I would say they wear for skin
A path paved with some stones,
A point can, in short, pierce their textures,
But they are sisters
Each each more infinite than the other. This is how their bodies fall from the zinc
To the ground,
Despite the green of the door,
The concrete is now like that wavy brick That puts them on hold
Shattered Mirrors traces a musical narrative of uncertain, brooding lyricism to etherial heights. Along the way, listen for points of climax and transformation as the simple opening motif evolves as the work unfolds.
"Everything in the world has its simple side. For me, nothing is more meaningful than simply and freely existing. The important thing is not about being what and where, but 'being' itself"
"BEING......" (for alto saxophone and viola) is dedicated to my dearest parents: my father Huang Ying Sen and my mother Li Liang Jin. It was finished in July 1999, when I was at Aspen Colorado. "As part of nature, music should speak for itself." With this belief, I always wanted to compose a work which presents a moment of the nature. It comes from nowhere, and goes to nowhere as well, is just like the wind. Two friends of mine, David Reminick (saxophonist) and Wendy Richman (violist) asked me to write a solo piece for each of them. Then, I came up with the idea to compose a work for both alto saxophone and viola, which would make a very fresh combination. I also asked the performers to sing and create percussive sounds with their instruments as well as their voices. Therefore, the piece became a very fresh, unique, and strange mixed creature.
One day, I had a dream of zooming into a place where I have never been before. Time was slowed, and space was enlarged. I felt so small there. Everything has its own life and innate sound, which have been forgotten and ignored by human being for too long ... - Huang Ruo
"Shawi' Impanompa' (Raccoon Talk) is a work for solo violin and audience participation. The work is based on an ancient Chickasaw Raccoon Song, which is stated in its pure form, at the beginning, in natural harmonics. The melody returns, many times, in different iterations. The entire work is a rhapsodic expression of raccoons, known as chattery troublemakers, in my tribe. Raccoon is also a formal tribal clan, of which my family belongs. - Jerod Tate
Drew Farrar is a composer, guitarist, and educator currently based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Farrar’s music primarily focuses on the physical relationship of performance and sound, timbre, and dialectic forms. His works have been performed at the North American Saxophone Association, 21st Century Guitar Festival, and the Dal Niente and DePaul summer residency among others. In 2020, Farrar co-founded the new music organization New Music Mosaic, where he currently serves as Director. Farrar performs regularly as an improviser and guitarist appearing with ensembles such as the Illinois Modern Ensemble, Constantinides New Music Ensemble, and New Music Mosaic’s Urbana Cohort. He completed his MM in Composition at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2020, where he studied with Professors Erik Lund, Rick Taube, Carlos Carillo, and Kerrith Livengood. Farrar also received a MM in Guitar Performance at the University of Illinois in 2022 where he studied with Professor Guido Sanchez-Portuguez. Farrar is pursuing a Ph.D. in Music Composition from Louisiana State University where he studies with Dr. Mara Gibson.
Charles Shadle (b.1960, Ardmore OK) teaches composition, music theory, and music history at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he serves as Senior Lecturer in Music, and as Theory Coordinator. He was educated at the University of Colorado, Tulane University, and Brandeis University, where he received his Ph.D. in Composition and Theory, and counts among his teachers Cecil Effinger, Richard Toensing, Barbara Jazwinsky, Yehudi Wyner, Edward Cohen, Harold Shapero, and Eloise Ristad.
Dr. Shadle’s catalogue includes chamber music, four operas, four symphonies, six film scores for the National Film Preservation Foundation, and numerous choral pieces and songs. He is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. This heritage is reflected in works ranging from the large-scaled Oklahoma Choctaw Cycle (Limestone Gap, Red Cedar, and The Old Place) for chamber ensemble, to the short and accessible Choctaw Animals piano pieces recently made available by MIT.
Michael O’Brien’s varied career has included composing, instrument building (harpsichords, clavichords, guitars, and more), object conservation at the Smithsonian, conducting and music teaching, and even shoeing horses. In 2018 we recorded a album together of music for guitar and recorder, entitled “Songs from Home”.
Born in Puerto Rico, Luis Quintana is an instrumental, vocal and electronic music composer who develops his work in France and abroad in the field of contemporary music, extending the frontiers of his musical universe from concert music to acousmatic pieces and sound installations.
Often inspired by Caribbean and African music — where rhythmical pulse and playful figures intermingle with suggested, effaced and disseminated imagery — he seeks a sense of fluidity and purity of material that brings out the expressive and poetic power in music.
Gabriel José Bolaños (b. 1984 Bogotá, Colombia) is a Nicaraguan-American composer of solo, chamber, orchestral and electroacoustic music. He frequently collaborates closely with performers, and enjoys writing music that explores unusual structures and timbres. He is interested in computer-assisted-composition, auditory perception, linguistics, and modular synthesizers. He enjoys listening to music by Saariaho, Romitelli, Grisey, Gubaidulina, Harvey, León, Os Mutantes, Ciani, Wishart, Simon Diaz, Yupanqui and Sabicas.
Bolaños is Assistant Professor of Music Composition at Arizona State University Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, where he teaches courses in composition, music technology, analysis, and acoustics. Bolaños serves as the coordinator of the ASU electronic music studios, and is co-director of annual the PRISMS contemporary music festival. Before coming to ASU, he was visiting lecturer at Bates College for the 2018-2019 academic year and taught courses in music theory and music technology. As a 2016-17 Fulbright Visiting Scholar in Nicaragua, he was composer-in-residence and visiting conductor for the UPOLI Conservatory Orchestra, and visiting professor at the UPOLI Conservatory of Music. He was co-founder and artistic director of Proyecto Eco, Nicaragua’s first new-music ensemble. He has also helped organize artistic and cultural exchanges between US and Nicaraguan musicians. Beyond his work as a teacher and composer of concert music, he has also written music for film, theater and dance, and has experience performing as a flamenco dance accompanist.
Described as “beautiful, lyrical” and brimming with “unexpected harmonic shifts” (International Trumpet Guild), the music of Macedonian-American composer Zach Gulaboff Davis centers on the expressive and dramatic possibilities of compositional narrative. The winner of the 2019 American Prize in Composition (Vocal Chamber Music division) and Finalist for the 2020 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, Zach maintains an active schedule as a composer and collaborator across the globe. His works have been performed at venues including Carnegie Hall, Columbia University, University of Pennsylvania, Bulgaria’s National Palace of Culture, Norway’s Arctic Cathedral, Hamburg’s Zinnschmelze Cultural Center, New York University Steinhardt and Shanghai, the DiMenna Center, International Trumpet Guild and National Saxophone Alliance conferences, and at schools and conservatories throughout North America. Since beginning compositional studies in 2013, his works have garnered over 25 national and international awards. Zach is also active as a pianist and conductor, having appeared as concerto soloist, chamber musician, solo recitalist, and champion of young composers’ works at the keyboard and podium. He holds a B.A. in piano performance and composition/theory, summa cum laude, from Linfield College, an M.M. in composition from Mannes College of Music, and a D.M.A. in composition and M.M. in music theory pedagogy from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, where he studied under Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Kevin Puts. In his spare time, Zach is active in American Kennel Club dog sports, traveling the country as a licensed Dog Agility judge. Don’t ask him about the (countless) similarities between composing and designing Agility courses unless you have hours to spare! Born in Los Angeles and raised in Oregon, Zach currently resides in Jersey City, NJ.
Huang Ruo has been lauded by the New Yorker as “one of the world’s leading young composers” and by the New York Times for having “a distinctive style.” His vibrant and inventive musical voice draws equal inspiration from Chinese ancient and folk music, Western avant-garde, experimental, noise, natural and processed sound, rock, and jazz. As a member of the new generation of Chinese composers, his goal is not just to mix both Western and Eastern elements, but also to create a seamless, organic integration. Huang Ruo’s diverse compositional works span from orchestra, chamber music, opera, theater, and dance, to cross-genre, sound installation, multi-media, experimental improvisation, folk rock, and film. Huang Ruo’s music has been premiered and performed by orchestras such as the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Seattle Symphony, National Polish Radio Orchestra, Kiel Philharmonic Orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic, ensembles and quartets such as Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Asko/Schoenberg Ensemble, Ensemble Modern, London Sinfonietta, Remix Ensemble, Quatuor Diotima, and Ethel Quartet and conductors such as Wolfgang Sawallisch, Michael Tilson Thomas, James Conlon, Marin Alsop, Dennis Russell Davies, Ed Spanjaard, Peter Rundel, Alexander Liebreich, Xian Zhang, and Ilan Volkov. Huang Ruo’s opera Dr. Sun Yat-Sen had its American premiere at the Santa Fe Opera in 2014 and will receive its Canadian premiere by the Vancouver Opera for its future season. His opera Paradise Interrupted received its world premiere at the Spoleto Festival USA in 2015 and was performed at the Lincoln Center Festival in 2016, before going on tour to Asia and Europe. In addition, his works were shown at Washington National Opera, Houston Grand Opera, New York City Opera and Opera Hong Kong. Huang Ruo was the first composer-in-residence of Het Concertgebouw Amsterdam. He is also in residence at the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan. Huang Ruo was born in Hainan Island, China in 1976 – the year the Chinese Cultural Revolution ended. His father, who is also a composer, began teaching him composition and piano when he was six years old. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, when China was opening its gate to the Western world, he received both traditional and Western education at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. As a result of the dramatic cultural and economic changes in China following the Cultural Revolution, his education expanded from Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky, and Lutoslawski, to include the Beatles, rock and roll, heavy metal, and jazz. Huang Ruo was able to absorb all of these newly allowed Western influences equally. After winning the Henry Mancini Award at the 1995 International Film and Music Festival in Switzerland, Huang Ruo moved to the United States to further his education. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music and Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in composition from the Juilliard School. Huang Ruo is currently on the composition faculty at the Mannes College of Music at the New School in NY. He is the artistic director and conductor of Ensemble FIRE (Future In REverse), and was selected as a Young Leader Fellow by the National Committee on United States–China Relations in 2006.
Jerod Impichcha̱achaahaꞌ Tate is a classical composer, citizen of the Chickasaw Nation in Oklahoma, and is dedicated to the development of American Indian classical composition. The Washington Post selected him as one of “22 for ’22: Composers and performers to watch this year” and raved that “Tate is rare as an American Indian composer of classical music. Rarer still is his ability to effectively infuse classical music with American Indian nationalism.”
In addition to his work based upon his Chickasaw culture, Tate has worked with the music and language of multiple tribes, such as: Choctaw, Navajo, Cherokee, Ojibway, Creek, Pechanga, Comanche, Lakota, Hopi, Tlingit, Lenape, Tongva, Shawnee, Caddo, Ute, Aleut, Shoshone, Cree, Paiute, and Salish/Kootenai.
Tate’s middle name, Impichcha̱achaahaꞌ, means “his high corncrib” and is his inherited traditional Chickasaw house name. A corncrib is a small hut used for the storage of corn and other vegetables. In traditional Chickasaw culture, the corncrib was built high off the ground on stilts to keep its contents safe from foraging animals.