Faculty composers Aaron Jay Kernis and Christopher Theofanidis, on New Music New Haven

Aaron Jay Kernis, left, and Christopher Theofanidis

The New Music New Haven series kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 28, with a program that features violinist Chee-Yun and music by faculty composers Aaron Jay Kernis and Christopher Theofanidis and graduate-student composers. We spoke recently with Kernis and Theofanidis about their work, and about the series and its value to audiences and to the School’s composition program.  

Q (for AJK): First Club Date is a new piece. What was its genesis and/or inspiration and what are you exploring in the work?

AJK: My son Jonah is a young (14-year-old) cellist and loves jazz. There so little jazz or jazz-influenced repertoire for cello that I wanted to fill that gap a bit, so this piece runs the gamut of inspiration from ragtime to funk and Jonah’s favorite new band, Snarky Puppy.

Q (for AJK): Three of the work’s five movements will be performed on Thursday, Sept. 28. How does hearing a new piece typically inform further work on that music?

AJK: From the first rehearsal before the August premiere, I was collaborating with my son and Matt Haimovitz (who performed the premiere), tightening it, tweaking the cello part, and coaching him to be funky. I keep on at that until I feel the music is completely right – then I can let it go and move on.

Q (for CT) Flow, my tears was composed 20 years ago in memory of Jacob Druckman. Do you let a work live on its own or do you revisit it as it’s performed anew by different players?

CT: It’s one of the great joys of composing – coming back to an older work and hearing it performed by different artists of different ages, sensibilities, metabolisms, and life experiences. They each bring their own take and timing to it, and sometimes it is really amazing to me that music can stretch as much as it does in these differing interpretations. Although I usually am done writing and reworking the actual notes of pieces by the premiere (or shortly thereafter, if I make minor adjustments), I often do change my ideas about the pacing of the work based on later performances. In this case, apart from the scores of performances it has already had, it has also been performed on different instruments – the violin, viola, cello, and guitar, and even each of those instruments has its own way of breathing and its own logic, which affects the work and my own sense of what works best.

Q (for CT): The Violin Fantasy is a reframing of the second movement of your Violin Concerto. How does the solo part differ, if at all, from the original, and what persuaded you to present the piece as a stand-alone work?

CT: The solo part is exactly the same, but the orchestral part is a reduction into a piano part, so it is quite a bit different than the original version. It was fun finding a way to make 85 instruments work in just the piano, though! The violinist for whom it was written, Sarah Chang, wanted to do the second movement on a 30-city tour as part of a concert recital, but it had to be just for violin and piano. Thirty cities was an offer I couldn’t refuse! The piece was played in Tchaikovsky Hall in Moscow, in Thailand, in Japan, in South America – and all over the world.

Q (for both): How does teaching inform your work and vice versa?

AJK: I learn so much from my students, and their interests sometimes lead me into places and music I hadn’t know about. Also, they’re so good, how can one help but be inspired by their talent and inventiveness?

CT: One of the most important qualities in being a composer is being a good “editor” of yourself and your materials. I think teaching helps you become better at recognizing things that are happening in music and what is ultimately of value – your editorial sense kicks in when looking at other people’s music often more quickly than when looking at your own. I am much better now after so many years of teaching at stepping outside myself and looking objectively at what I am doing in my own music.

I think the decades of practical experience and the great journey in the arts that one lives are the most useful elements in teaching students. You see just how many ways things can work and be said musically, and it gives you a lot of ideas of how to help people who are just starting on their journey. Also, we all benefit from being truly who we are – not trying to be someone else- living what is most important to us – and I think that is maybe the most important thing we can pass on to a student as a model.

Q (for both): What opportunities does the New Music New Haven series afford students, particularly in terms of hearing works by their peers and receiving feedback? What does it mean to YSM’s composition students to have their work performed by peers and alongside music by their teachers? And what should audiences know, in general, about YSM’s composition department and students and the work that’s being produced here?

AJK: New Music New Haven is vital to bring student composers together with their performer colleagues (sometimes bringing about life-long collaborations), then getting critiques from composer peers and faculty. It’s one of the most important and vital elements of their education at YSM. Listeners should know that YSM has hosted and produced a few score of brilliant young composers over the years who have gone on to splendid careers out in the world. These concerts also give a window into the work of some of the most interesting established composers in the world (including the faculty), so these presentations are a spirited way to experience beautiful, fascinating music right here in New Haven (and via streaming).

CT: The students have works scheduled, rehearsed, coached by faculty, performed, and recorded (both audio and video) in our program – and then afterward, we all talk about the piece together as a group in the subsequent weeks, which helps everyone learn from the process. It is a rich experience from beginning to end and is kind of an idealized working situation for students to create; it is protective but realistic.

We try to foster a real sense of community in the greater program because these 12-15 composers will be running into one another for the rest of their lives and need one another; we choose people of an enormously broad stylistic variety and way of thinking and then try to cultivate respect and support between each of the composers.

The first New Music New Haven concert of the season takes place on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 7:30 pm, in Morse Recital Hall. Learn more about the program, which is free and open to the public, and the series.

Published September 27, 2017
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[ in the press ]

Yale School of Music’s gifted musicians a click away — via live streaming

Gene Kimball in the Fred Plaut Recording Studio. Photo by Peter Hvizdak, New Haven Register

Gene Kimball in the Fred Plaut Recording Studio. Photo by Peter Hvizdak, New Haven Register

NEW HAVEN » Yale’s stream of concert-ness has become a torrent of sorts.

As a new semester of music emanates from the Yale School of Music’s students and faculty, a well-resourced group of Yale techs is again taking advantage of a fast current to live-stream those classical music performances. The growing service is enhanced by new technology and high-seed Internet in homes.

Since 2010, when clarinetist Sara Wollmacher’s 95-year-old grandmother Julia Wollmacher watched her degree recital online from far away, relatives of Yale musicians have been able to watch performances in New Haven from points worldwide. The individual recitals require a password, but about 70 concerts a year of Yale Philharmonia, Yale Concert Band and other musicians are available, live and free, to anyone who clicks on the Yale site as they’re happening. A distribution company makes sure the stream works in different formats (iPad, Windows, etc.). MORE

Published September 1, 2015
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[ announcements ]

WQXR’s Q2 Music to partner with Yale’s New Music New Haven

Martin Bresnick, composer

Martin Bresnick, composer

The Yale School of Music and Q2 Music announce a new partnership. Q2 Music, which is dedicated to the music of living composers, will broadcast music by Yale faculty and students, recorded live from the New Music New Haven concert series.New Music New Haven presents new works by graduate students in composition, and this partnership will bring students’ works to a broader audience. In addition, NMNH programs feature an established living composer, either YSM faculty or guests, and these featured works will be part of the broadcast partnership as well.

“Student composers are making some of most beautiful, inventive music today, music that deserves to be heard,” says Q2 Music’s Alex Ambrose. “Q2 Music has a commitment to working with younger composers and to serving those in the formative stages of their career. It’s exciting to share  the caliber of music-making from our neighbors at the Yale School of Music’s New Music New Haven series with an online audience, introducing listeners everywhere to the next generation of composers.”

Martin Bresnick, the director of the composition program at YSM, said: “Our Q2 Music partnership is an aural window to the world. It will reveal the sounds of the Yale School of Music’s New Music New Haven series to attentive listeners, and through that open window we hope to hear back from the connoisseurs and amateurs we know are out there.” MORE

Published August 25, 2015
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[ concerts ]

Guitar Chamber Music concert May 6 pairs guitar with winds and strings

Benjamin Verdery

Benjamin Verdery

The Yale School of Music presents its semiannual Guitar Chamber Music concert on Wednesday, May 6, 2015. The program, which features a variety of chamber ensembles that all incorporate classical guitar, takes place at 7:30 pm in Morse Recital Hall.

The performers are graduate students in the Yale School of Music; the guitarists are students of Benjamin Verdery. The program includes music by composers from Giuliani and de Falla to contemporary voices such as Sergio Assad and Joan Tower.

Mauro Giuliani’s Grand Duo Concertant opens the program, performed by flutist Joanna Wu and guitarist An Tran. Next are two more contemporary pieces: Sergio Assad’s Circulo Mágico, performed by violinist Marie Oka and guitarist Ray Zhou, and Joan Tower’s Snow Dreams, featuring flutist Victor Wang and guitarist John Kossler. MORE

Published May 5, 2015
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Linden Quartet concert at the Kennedy Center Apr. 27 will stream live

The Linden String Quartet – currently the graduate quartet-in-residence at the Yale School of Music – will perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC on Wednesday, April 27 at 6 pm. The concert will stream live on the Kennedy Center’s website.

The program, called Light and Dark, features Maurice Ravel’s String Quartet in F major and Robert Schumann’s Quartet in A minor. Debussy wrote to his friend Ravel: “In the name of the gods of music and in my own, do not touch a single note you have written of your Quartet.” Schumann’s first string quartet was part of a burst of chamber works that the newlywed composer wrote in 1842.

The Linden Quartet has won such prestigious competitions as the Concert Artists Guild, Fischoff, and Coleman, and it shared first prize in the Hugo Kauder Competition last spring. The members of the Linden Quartet – Sarah McElravy and Catherine Cosbey, violins; Eric Wong, viola; and Felix Umansky, cello – study with the Tokyo String Quartet at the Yale School of Music.

Published April 26, 2011
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Yale Collection of Musical Instruments joins live streaming

Masaaki Suzuki’s harpsichord recital at the Collection of Musical Instruments on Tuesday, April 26 will stream live at music.yale.edu/media. This is the first time that the School of Music will live-stream from the Collection.

photo by Marco Borggreve

Suzuki performs regularly as a conductor as well as a keyboardist. In this recital, he will play music from France, England, and Germany, with compositions by Louis Couperin (the uncle of the better-known François Couperin), William Byrd, Jakob Froberger, Dietrich Buxtehude, and – Suzuki’s specialty – Johann Sebastian Bach.

The program opens with Couperin’s Suite in A minor and Passacaille in C major, followed by Byrd’s Ninth Pavane and Gaillarde, from My Ladye Nevells Booke. Suzuki will then play Froberger’s Partita No. 12 in C major, “Lamento sopra la dolorosa,” and Buxtehude’s Prelude in G minor. He will close the program with two works by Bach: the Prelude and Fugue in E-flat minor, BWV 853, and the Partita No. 6 in E minor.

Masaaki Suzuki will play two of the Collection’s harpsichords: a Flemish instrument made by Andreas Ruckers in Antwerp around 1640, and an “expressive double” made in Paris by François Etienne Blanchet the Elder around 1740.

The recital will take place on Tuesday, April 26 at 5 pm at the Yale Collection of Musical Instruments (15 Hillhouse Avenue, New Haven). Tickets to this recital are $20, $15 for seniors, $10 for students. The live stream can be accessed at music.yale.edu/media.

For more information, visit music.yale.edu or call the Yale School of Music concert office at 203 432-4158.

Published April 25, 2011
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Live Streaming Brings Audiences to the Concert Hall

When clarinetist Sara Wollmacher, a second-year student at the Yale School of Music, gave her degree recital recently, the audience stretched far beyond the concert hall.

While Wollmacher performed in Sprague Hall, her grandmother – Julia Wollmacher, 95 (pictured at left) – was able to watch the live video stream of the performance online.

Many international students have enjoyed the benefits of the live stream, with families watching from as far afield as Egypt and Korea.

Published December 1, 2010
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Yale Percussion Group performs at the Kennedy Center Monday, March 1

Concert will stream live from the the Kennedy Center’s website

Musique_de_TablesThe Yale Percussion Group will perform on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage on Monday, March 1, at 6 pm. The performance is part of the Kennedy Center’s “Performing Arts for Everyone” initiative. No tickets are required; seating is limited and is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Featuring local, national, and international talents, the Millennium Stage has been hailed as “a cultural institution within a cultural institution” by the Washington Post.

Fresh from their exciting performance on the Yale campus last Saturday, February 20, the Yale Percussion Group will perform music of Thierry de Mey, James Wood, Astor Piazzolla, and Mauricio Kagel. The members of the ensemble are Yun-Chu Candy Chiu, John Corkill, Leonardo Gorosito, and Michael Zell. They will be joined by flutist Dariya Nikolenko. Robert van Sice, the director of the ensemble, will perform with the group in Thierry de Mey’s Musique de Tables.

The concert at the Kennedy Center will stream live at kennedy-center.org/programs/millennium.

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Published February 25, 2010
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Yale School of Music debuts high-definition video streaming

Concerts in the “virtual concert hall” can be enjoyed live anywhere in the world

Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Memorial Hall

Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Memorial Hall

The Yale School of Music is proud to announce the debut of its virtual concert hall: beginning February 1, concerts held in Morse Recital Hall will stream live online with high-definition video and CD-quality audio. Audiences around the world – from prospective students to alumni, from performers’ family members to the general public – will be able to enjoy concerts in real time via the School of Music’s website. Dedicated to cultural leadership, the Yale School of Music is one of the first schools to offer regular live streams of its performances.

Associate Dean Michael Yaffe views the live stream as “a logical extension” of the School’s activities on campus. Yaffe emphasized that the streams are not produced segments but are an extension of the concert hall itself. The initiative is part of a multi-pronged technological expansion that also includes digital student portfolios, Internet2 distance learning, new online admissions capabilities, and virtual classrooms.

The inaugural stream will begin at 8 pm on February 1 with a Faculty Artist Series recital. Cellist Ole Akahoshi and pianist Elizabeth Parisot will perform music of Bach, Brahms, Barber, and Schnittke. Several other live streams will be offered that week, including performances by the Yale Brass Trio and the Jasper String Quartet, and a tribute to Romanian composer George Enescu.

The live stream can be accessed at music.yale.edu/media. Three types of streams will be available: high-definition video; lower-resolution video for those with slower internet connections, and an audio-only stream. Morse Recital Hall, located in Sprague Hall at 470 College Street, is the School of Music’s primary performance venue. An audio-only stream will be available for selected performances in Woolsey Hall and Sudler Hall.

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Published January 28, 2010
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Yale School of Music Commencement to stream live

2008 YSM CommencementThe Yale School of Music is pleased to announce that both the Commencement Concert on Sunday, May 24 and the Commencement ceremonies on Monday, May 25 will be streamed live online.

Among Yale’s many concerts commemorating the past year, the Yale School of Music’s commencement concert features some of the most accomplished young musicians of the current generation. These outstanding performers from the YSM Class of 2009 include pianists Helen Huang, Reinis Zarins, Jeannette Fang, and Wei-Jen Yuan; violinist Nicholas DiEugenio, cellist Hannah Collins,  clarinetist Paul Cho, oboist Merideth Hite, bassoonist Sam Blair, composer Fernando Buide, and mezzo-soprano Emily Righter in a varied program featuring works of Debussy, Schumann, Rachmaninoff, Buide, and others.

The free concert takes place on Sunday, May 24 at 4pm in Morse Recital Hall in Sprague Hall. The live stream will be available here.

The School of Music’s Commencement exercises will also be streamed live beginning at approximately 12 noon on Monday, May 25. Visit our media page at that time to tune in. The processional and recessional will be performed by a brass ensemble of faculty, students, and alumni, and the School will continue the tradition of singing Schubert’s song “An die Musik.”  Dean Robert Blocker will give the Commencement address. Degrees awarded by the School of Music include the Master of Music, Master of Musical Arts, Artist Diploma, Certificate in Performance, and the Doctorate of Musical Arts.

Published May 22, 2009
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