Ascendant composers prepare new works for Yale Philharmonia performance

Left to right: Alishan Gezgin, Krists Auznieks, Eli Greenhoe, Fjola Evans, Liliya Ugay

On Thursday, Dec. 7, conducting fellow David Yi will lead the Yale Philharmonia in a program of new orchestral works by several of YSM’s graduate-student composers. We spoke recently with composers Alishan Gezgin (The Passage), Krists Auznieks (Grace), Eli Greenhoe (Wrest), Fjola Evans (Lung), and Liliya Ugay (To the Lost World) about composing and preparing their pieces for performance.

Q: What does it mean to you that the orchestra performing your piece is an ensemble of your peers? 

Gezgin: For me, being a composer is most meaningful when I can connect sounds and ideas to real human beings I know and care about. It’s a gift, how deeply embedded this piece feels in the Yale community. Everything in the piece emerges from my time here, the conversations and experiences I’ve shared with friends and teachers, and the countless new ideas those exchanges have brought me.

Auznieks: It is always a pleasure working with people who share your life experience; they are the ones who are most likely to understand the cultural context of where the piece is coming from, and in that sense they are also the best judges of the music.

Greenhoe: I already feel so lucky to have the opportunity to attend YSM and study among friends and colleagues who are some of the finest musicians I know of. To have the opportunity to write a piece specifically for them to play, and knowing the profound depth of musicality among the student body here, is a rare opportunity and (to borrow a cliché) a total dream-come-true.

Evans: I’m really excited to have written this piece for an orchestra of my classmates. Getting to attend the Yale Philharmonia concerts in Woolsey Hall while writing my piece was great. It’s rare that you get to see the ensemble you are writing for perform in the same hall your piece will be premiered — being there helped me to viscerally imagine what I wanted my piece to sound and feel like.

Ugay: It means that the musicians of the orchestra are able to connect to my music in a personal way, as many of them know me as a person and/or have already worked with me/played my music before. It deepens the mutual understanding and eases communication between the orchestra and the composer, something a composer can (usually) achieve only by working with one orchestra for years. MORE

Published November 30, 2017
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Faculty composer Hannah Lash, on YSM’s annual New Music for Orchestra program

Hannah Lash

On Dec. 7, conducting fellow David Yi will lead the Yale Philharmonia in a program of new orchestral works by the School of Music’s graduate-student composers. The annual New Music for Orchestra program is part concert and, to the composers whose music is performed, part workshop.

“The only way to learn orchestration is to hear your own work,” faculty composer and New Music New Haven Artistic Director Hannah Lash said. “You can study scores all you want, but there’s nothing like having that hands-on experience.” Part of that experience is hearing, in person and in context, what works and what may not. “There’s nothing like learning from your own mistakes.”

For Lash and her faculty colleagues in YSM’s composition program, the annual program reflects the work students have done throughout the semester and in some cases before that. It’s also a snapshot of work that will continue. The School’s faculty composers mentor students in conceptual and practical areas. “We feel really compelled to share our experience,” Lash said.

And while the graduate-student composers are the beneficiaries of that wisdom, members of the Yale Philharmonia become ambassadors of the music that’s being composed today. “For any player who has any anticipation of potentially playing in an orchestra,” Lash said, “it’s really, really important that they have a first-hand experience (with music) that has been written by their contemporaries” — in part to help dispel the notion that orchestras are simply vehicles for music of the past. “They, too, are benefiting from this,” Lash said of the instrumentalists, “not just their composer peers.”

The New Music for Orchestra program presents an opportunity for audience members, too. Each year, Lash sits among them without identifying herself. “Optimistically,” she said, “the response has been positive. They’re curious and sort of don’t know what to make of (watching) the next generation of composers find their legs a little bit.”

On Dec. 7, that next generation of composers will add new music to the orchestral repertoire.

Stay tuned for interviews with the graduate-student composers whose work will be performed as part of the Dec. 7 New Music for Orchestra program.

DETAILS & TICKETS

Published November 29, 2017
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YSM composers win American Academy of Arts and Letters awards

Hilary Purrington

Three YSM alumni composers and one current student have received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the organization announced last month. Awardees were selected by a committee of Academy members including Yehudi Wyner ’50BA ’52BM ’53MM, Martin Boykan ’53MM, YSM faculty composer Aaron Jay Kernis, Samuel Adler, Sebastian Currier, Stephen Jaffe, Tobias Picker, and Ellen Taaffe Zwilich. Sixteen composers in all received awards this year from the Academy.

Carl Schimmel ’99MM earned a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship, which is awarded to two composers each year. The fellowship, which comes with a $15,000 prize, was created in 1978 with an endowment from the CBS Foundation in memory the former Columbia Records president, who had died a year earlier.

Andrew Norman ’09AD received a $10,000 Arts and Letters Award in Music, which honors outstanding artistic achievement. The Academy established the award in 1941 to encourage creative work in the arts. Each year, five artists, eight authors, four composers, and four architects receive the prize. Composers receive an additional $10,000 to facilitate a recording of their work.

Katherine Balch ’16MM and current YSM student Hilary Purrington ’17MMA each received a $7,500 Charles Ives Scholarship, which is given to composition students of “great promise.” The scholarship was created when Ives’ widow, Harmony Ives, bequeathed the royalties from her husband’s music to the Academy of Arts and Letters. Two fellowships of $15,000 and six scholarships of $7,500 are awarded each year to composers.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1898 to “foster, assist, and sustain an interest in literature, music, and the fine arts,” according to language on the organization’s website. Each year, the Academy honors more than 50 composers, artists, architects, and writers with cash awards ranging from $5,000 to $100,000. The Academy also presents exhibitions of art, architecture, and manuscripts and organizes readings of new musicals.

CARL SCHIMMEL
ANDREW NORMAN
KATHERINE BALCH
HILARY PURRINGTON
AMERICAN ACADEMY OF ARTS AND LETTERS

Published April 6, 2017
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Jay Wadley composes score for Sundance hit “Indignation”

Jay Wadley

Jay Wadley

James Schamus’ film Indignation, which is based on Philip Roth’s 2008 novel of the same name, opens tomorrow in theaters across the United States. The film’s score was composed by Jay Wadley ’07MM ’08AD, who studied at the Yale School of Music with Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Ezra Laderman.

“He wanted something that was very classical,” Wadley said of Schamus’ direction, “and he knew that was my background.”

Reached by phone at his New York City-based composer collective/production company Found Objects, which he and fellow Yale School of Music alumnus Trevor Gureckis ’07MM started during graduate school in New Haven, Wadley said he first worked with Schamus when the latter directed “That Film About Money” and “The Second Part of That Film About Money,” two short documentaries released in 2014 as part of Morgan Spurlock’s We the Economy series. When they first met, Wadley said, he and Schamus talked about classical music and about Wadley’s experiences helping to orchestrate Rufus Wainwright’s opera Prima Donna and his song cycle All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu.

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Published July 28, 2016
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[ students & alumni ]

YSM composers highlighted in Albany Symphony’s American Music Festival

kernis

Aaron Jay Kernis

The Yale School of Music is playing a significant role in the Albany Symphony Orchestra’s American Music Festival. This year’s festival, “Songs of the Rolling Earth,” features a slew of YSM faculty, students, and alumni, including Aaron Jay Kernis, Loren Loiacono ’12 MM, composers collective Sleeping Giant, and all 13 graduate students in the YSM composition studio.

On June 11, the orchestra will perform Simple Songs by YSM composition faculty member Aaron Jay Kernis. A mystical work for soprano and chamber orchestra, Simple Songs sets the texts of famed composer Hildegard von Bingen, Japanese writer Ryokan, and Rumi. The concert will also feature the world premiere of Loren Loiacono‘s Sleeping Furiously. MORE

Published June 7, 2016
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NYT: Yale Composers Showcase Their Works at New Music New Haven

Ani Kavafian, Lisa Morre, and David Shifrin | Photo by Chris Lee

Ani Kavafian, Lisa Moore, and David Shifrin | Photo by Chris Lee

The New York Times | By Vivien Schweitzer

It’s rarely a compliment to describe a composer as “academic”: the word is usually applied to those perceived as being sequestered on campus creating esoteric, dreary works. Conversely, being too “accessible” (i.e., not challenging enough) has also been deemed a negative. But there’s nothing pejoratively “academic” or “accessible” about any of the Yale faculty composers featured during a concert on Wednesday at WQXR’s Greene Space in SoHo.

David Lang, Hannah Lash, Christopher Theofanidis, Aaron Jay Kernis and Martin Bresnick represent an accessible aesthetic that draws on multiple stylistic influences. Some of their music has been championed by Bang on a Can, the lively genre-bending collective whose three founders, all Yale alumni, include Mr. Lang. The vocalist Helga Davis hosted Wednesday’s event, part of the NY Phil Biennial, and interviewed each composer and Alan Gilbert, the Philharmonic’s music director, onstage. MORE

Published May 26, 2016
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[ concerts ]

New Music New Haven features Kernis and Lang

LangKernis

David Lang, Aaron Jay Kernis

The New Music New Haven concert series at the Yale School of Music continues on Thursday, April 14 at 7:30pm, with the music of faculty members Aaron Jay Kernis and David Lang, along with new works by graduate student composers. MORE

Published April 6, 2016
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[ events ]

Yale School of Music to be featured in 2016 NY Phil Biennial

Martin Bresnick, composer

The Yale School of Music and its New Music New Haven series will be highlighted in the 2016 NY Phil Biennial, a wide-ranging exploration of today’s music by an array of contemporary and modern composers. YSM’s performance will take place on May 25, 2016 at The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WQXR, the performance will be streamed live via webcast on WQXR’s new-music channel, Q2 Music, and Q2 Music’s Helga Davis will host the performance.

The program represents the past, present, and future of the composition program of the Yale School of Music, established in 1894, whose composition faculty has included Paul Hindemith, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Jacob Druckman. The program opens with songs by Yale alumnus Charles Ives — “our historically most distinguished student,” according to Yale composition chair Martin Bresnick — and concludes with a song by “one of our very promising current students (and fellow New Englander)” Hilary Purrington. MORE

Published October 27, 2015
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[ concerts ]

Faculty Artist Series features Wendy Sharp Oct. 18

sharpThe Faculty Artist Series at the Yale School of Music presents award-winning violinist Wendy Sharp in recital on Sunday, October 18 at 4:00 pm. Ms. Sharp will be joined by pianist Joel Wizansky.

The recital will open with Dvořák’s Sonatina for violin and piano, followed by Prokofiev’s Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor. Prokofiev described parts of this sonata as “wind passing through a graveyard,” and movements from the work were played at the composer’s funeral.

After intermission, the program’s mood will lighten with works by two YSM faculty composers. First is Aaron Jay Kernis’s Air, which the composer describes as “a love letter to the violin.” MORE

Published October 2, 2015
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[ concerts ]

New Music New Haven features three faculty composers Nov. 20

Christopher Theofanidis

Christopher Theofanidis

The Yale School of Music presents a New Music New Haven concert on Thursday, November 20, 2014 at 7:30 pm. The concert will feature three duets by faculty composers Martin Bresnick, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Christopher Theofanidis.

The featured composers comprise the second half of the program. Kaoru for two flutes, by Christopher Theofanidis, will be performed by Andrew Robson and Victor Wang. MORE

Published November 17, 2014
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