Yale in New York concert celebrates YSM’s guitar and composition programs

Ben Verdery

Benjamin Verdery

In programming Music for Guitars, an upcoming Yale in New York series concert at Carnegie Hall, faculty guitarist Benjamin Verdery reflected on a November 2010 program that featured music by a host of Yale-affiliated composers. That program, by design, celebrated the legacies of the School of Music’s composition and guitar programs.

Verdery also reflected, in curating the upcoming Yale in New York program, on inspiration he found, a little more than 10 years ago, at the Rhode Island School of Design. Verdery’s son was applying to the school, whose application requirements included drawing a bicycle or some element thereof. Accepted students’ illustrations were on view when Verdery brought his son to Providence to visit the school. “It was mind-bending,” Verdery said.

“I’m going to have my friends write a piece of music—just the notes, the pitches and the rhythms,” without tempo or dynamic indications, he decided. Since then, each year, prospective School of Music students applying to study with Verdery have been required to learn and perform, as part of their audition, a piece written by one of Verdery’s colleagues, along with other repertoire. Like RISD’s bicycle-drawing admissions requirement, the commissioned audition pieces leave room for interpretation, giving Verdery some insight into the ability and creativity of prospective students.

Those who have been commissioned by Verdery to compose audition pieces, over the course of the past decade, include former YSM Dean and Prof. of Music Ezra Laderman, faculty composers Martin Bresnick and Christopher Theofanidis; Lecturer in Electronic Music Jack Vees; YSM alumni Bryce Dessner, James Moore, and Brendon Randall-Myers; Yale University Department of Music Prof. Kathryn Alexander; and current composition student Tanner Porter, among others. Audition pieces by the above-mentioned musicians will be showcased as part of Music for Guitars, the third and final concert in the 2018-2019 Yale in New York series. The concert will feature Verdery and current School of Music students and alumni, including René Izquierdo.

The program also includes works by Hindemith (who taught at the School of Music), Mudarra, and Terry Riley; arrangements of music by Bach, Scarlatti, and Schubert; and world premieres of James Moore’s Turning and Verdery’s arrangement, for guitar and string quartet, of Bernstein’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. Izquierdo will perform Turning, which was this year’s YSM guitar audition piece. Verdery will perform the Bernstein with violinists Kate Arndt and Gregory Lewis, violist Marta Lambert, and cellist Guilherme Monegatto-all current YSM students.

The repertoire for the program reaches back to 16th century composer Alonso Mudarra’s fantasias for vihuela—which will be played on an instrument from the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments—and visits music composed since then and up to the present. The program also taps into the arranging chops of the guitarists who’ll be performing. It’s something “all of us in the world of guitar do,” Verdery said.

“There’s a lot of color and expression of what the guitar is,” Verdery said of the program. There will also be a lot of virtuosity on display—and, like the 2010 program, of which it’s a musical extension, many connections to the School of Music.

The School of Music’s Yale in New York series presents Music for Guitars on Friday, March 29, at 7:30 p.m., at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. A preview concert is scheduled for Thursday, March 28, at 4:30 p.m., in Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Memorial Hall. Admission to the preview concert is free.


Published March 20, 2019
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[ concerts ]

New Music New Haven to feature guest composer Bryce Dessner March 5


Bryce Dessner

The Yale School of Music presents a New Music New Haven concert featuring music by guest composer Bryce Dessner on Thursday, March 5 at 7:30 pm. The concert also includes music by six YSM student composers: Krists Auznieks, Natalie Dietterich, Ian Gottlieb, Brian Heim, Michael Laurello, and Tiange Zhou.

The concert will stream live on the School of Music’s website.


The program will feature two pieces by Dessner, a Yale School of Music alumnus who has won recognition as a composer as well as for his work in the Grammy-nominated band The National. His string quartet Tenebre was a 2010 commission by the acclaimed Kronos Quartet. His work Murder Ballads, written for a sextet of strings, winds, percussion, and piano, was commissioned in 2013 by the new music ensemble eighth blackbird. MORE

Published February 20, 2015
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[ in the press ]

L.A. Philharmonic 2014–15 season includes Dessner, Cerrone works

Esa-Pekka SalonenLos Angeles Times
By Reed Johnson

The musical lineup will be characteristically ambitious and wide-ranging throughout the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2014-15 season, which is being announced Tuesday. And Walt Disney Concert Hall audiences will find increasing amounts of stimuli for the eyes as well as the ears.

The season will mix standard repertoire, works by contemporary masters and freshly minted pieces by emerging composers such as Bryce Dessner, best known as a guitarist for the band the National, and Christopher Cerrone, whose opera “Invisible Cities” was produced last fall at Union Station by the Industry. Altogether it will yield 10 commissions, eight world premieres and five U.S. premieres. The complete schedule is at laphil.com.


Published February 11, 2014
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[ in the press ]

A CLASSIC(AL) COLLABORATION: Bryce Dessner & Kronos Quartet

Bryce-KronosBlurt Magazine
By Steven Rosen

Rock musicians usually have been free about acknowledging their influences – country, bluegrass, blues, folk, jazz, Latin music and more. But there’s one exception: classical.

Maybe it’s out of lingering embarrassment over those self-indulgent prog-rock bands of the early 1970s – Emerson, Lake & Palmer, particularly – and the bombastic metal bands with their Wagnerian pretensions. Too, once punk and alternative ushered in the notion that inspired amateurism was nirvana, the virtuosity demanded by classical didn’t seem a comfortable fit for rockers.


Published February 10, 2014
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[ alumni ]

The National’s Bryce Dessner: The secret about advice is knowing when to ignore it

Bryce Dessner as told to David Daley

Sometimes young people ask me – after a National show or after a classical show – “What’s your advice?” Or they’ll say, “How do you do what you do?” I say have a diversity of interests. If you’re interested in writing this kind of music, but also have this crazy idea to do something different, that’s really good. Professionally it opens more doors, and also, I think, you’re getting closer to what it is that is unique about yourself. Asking, “What’s different about me, than someone with a similar background?”

My background in music is classical – I did graduate school in music. At that time I was studying composition but I was studying classical guitar very seriously. For many people in the music conservatory world the message was always: Focus! You can’t do everything; you really need to specialize. And especially at an early age, I ignored this advice. MORE

Published November 26, 2013
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[ in the press ]

Bryce Dessner: A Musician for Every Space, and Beyond

San Francisco Classical Voice
By Brett Campbell


Photo by Natasha Brown

In August, San Francisco’s Kronos Quartet performed with the acclaimed indie rock band The National at the Outside Lands Festival in Golden Gate Park. Although playing rock-influenced music is nothing new to Kronos, the two groups shared a more intimate connection. The National’s guitarist, Bryce Dessner, had also written some of the material Kronos was playing on its current tour.

It was just the latest example of Dessner’s double career as an indie rocker and in-demand composer of music for classical ensembles. Along with his work with The National and the new music quartet Clogs, he’s collaborated with adventurous musicians from Steve Reich, Nico Muhly, Philip Glass, David Lang, and other members of Bang on a Can All Stars, to Bon Iver, Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead), and many others — another demonstration of the increasingly permeable barrier between the artificial categories of pop and classical music. MORE

Published November 7, 2013
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[ alumni ]

The National’s Bryce Dessner Announces Kronos Quartet Collaborative Album Aheym

By Evan Minsker

The National and Clogs member Bryce Dessner has announced his debut recording as a composer. Aheym is out November 5 via Anti-. It’s a collaboration between Dessner and the avant-classical outfit Kronos Quartet, and it features the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.

“Aheym” (which means “homeward” in Yiddish) was initially written by Dessner for Kronos Quartet’s performance at the Celebrate Brooklyn! festival in 2009. The album features four tracks– an homage to Laurence Neff, Kronos Quartet’s lighting designer of 25 years (“Tenebre”), a piece influenced by Czech performers Irena and Vojtěch Havel (“Little Blue Something”), and a piece inspired by Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro (“Tour Eiffel”). MORE

Published August 21, 2013
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