2015 Grawemeyer Award in Music

2015 music Wolfgang Rihm

The 2015 Grawemeyer Award in Music has been awarded to Wolfgang Rihm for his 15-minute orchestral work IN-SCHRIFT 2, premiered in October of 2013.

Rihm composed the music to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Berlin Philharmonic‘s concert hall, the Philharmonie, a concert venue known for its excellent acoustic properties and unique construction. IN-SCHRIFT 2 explores this unique space, by placing musicians from the orchestra around and within the audience, creating spatial and surround-sound effects. The work is also noted for not using flutes, violins or violas (standard orchestral instruments), instead focusing on the darker and deeper sounds of the ensemble. A preview of the premiere can be seen on the Berlin Philharmonic’s website.

A prolific composer of over 400 works, Wolfgang Rihm came to prominence in 1974 after the premiere of Morphonie at an historic new music festival in Donaueschingen. His output is often associated with expressionism, a style that can be traced back to Gustav Mahler and Arnold Schoenberg. Rihm has composed thirteen string quartets, four operas, and his oratorio Deus Passus was commissioned by the International Bach Academy of Stuttgart for the 250th anniversary of Johann Sebastian Bach’s death. He has been featured composer at music festivals in Lucerne and Salzburg, and his violin concerto was premiered in 2010 by Anne-Sophie Mutter and the New York Philharmonic. Rihm was born in 1952 in Karslruhle and is a professor at Karlsruhle University of Music.

The 2015 Award in Music is one of five Grawemeyer awards from the University of Louisville, each with a prize of $100,000.

New Music Festival Preview: Agata Zubel

agata3_fotoTomaszKulak

Editor’s Note: This post is part of series previewing the 2014 New Music Festival at the University of Louisville School of Music.

Agata Zubel (b. 1978) has been described as ‘a rarity’ in the world of musical composition. A native of Wrocław, Poland, she studied percussion and music theory at the Karol Szymanowski High School of Music. Her studies continued at the Karol Lipinski University of Music in composition under the tutelage of Jan Wichrowski as well as vocals with Danuta Paziuk-Zipser. She is an active performer, composer, and music professor at The Academy of Music in Wrocław. She formed a vocal and electronic ensemble with Cezary Duchnowski, and together they perform under the name ElettroVoce. She has won numerous awards for her compositions, including the Polityka Passport Award for classical music (2005). Agata Zubel has received a special award for the duo ElettroVoce at the Gaudeamus Interpreters Competition in Amsterdam, and First Prize at the Krzysztof Penderecki International Competition of Contemporary Chamber Music.

The listener might think of calling her style “percussive vocalism” – beatboxing comes to mind. She has created a musical language that places the process of sound production in a place of equal importance to the sounds themselves. Her music is full of surprising contrasts, such as the pairing of long, lyrical violin playing with shouting. Zubel is a gifted performer and often performs the vocal part to her own compositions. Sound collages are created by making syllabic vocal sounds, for example, purposeful stuttering to begin a phrase; continued by stretching out the process of making the word or phrase come out of her mouth, and resulting in an overall statement. Her timbral requirements are daunting for the vocalist: pops, clicks, hisses, growls, and moans are included as part of the text. Sometimes these vocal acrobatics are paired with electronics to create loops or reverberation. The sounds are often stacked in layers to create complex and fascinating webs during the climactic moments of her music. Although instruments are often used in her works, they tend to play a secondary role to the vocal line. Her music is at once sensual and unpredictable, dynamic and unforgettable.

Zubel will be featured as a visiting composer and performer on the University of Louisville School of Music’s 2014 New Music Festival. She will be performing her pieces Cascando and Parlando during the festival. The following week she returns with the Illinois Modern Ensemble to perform Not I based on the monologue by Samuel Beckett, winner of the top award at the 60th UNESCO International Composer’s Rostrum and 2014 “Polonica Nova” Prize.

Michelle Gilfert, Jon Hodge, Matt Wetmore and Samantha Holman contributed to this article. They are students of Dr. Rebecca Jemian, a member of the music theory faculty at the University of Louisville.

New Music Festival Preview: Paweł Hendrich

P. Hendrich 02 (photo by Bartek Sadowski) (1)

Editor’s Note: This post is part of series previewing the 2014 New Music Festival at the University of Louisville School of Music.

Polish composer Paweł Hendrich visits Louisville this November for two performances of his works at the University of Louisville’s 2014 New Music Festival. Hendrich has received commissions from such internationally acclaimed ensembles as Ensemble Intercontemporain and Ensemble Musikfabrik and his works have been performed internationally at major festivals. In 2007 Hendrich was one of thirteen composers accepted into a four-year composition program run by the European Krysztof Penderecki Music Center. Hendrich first studied composition with Grazyna Pstrokonska-Nawratil at the Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław, Poland. He later studied with University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award-winning composer and acclaimed professor of composition York Höller at the Hochschule für Musik in Cologne, Germany. Since 2008 he has been on the faculty of the K. Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław, Poland.

Paweł Hendrich’s music creates a rich, internally coherent and expressive sound universe. Often inspired by scientific discoveries, his musical language creates its own rules, which the composer has elaborately systemized and expanded, captivating the listener with its involving narration and visceral quality. Hendrich’s music often includes unique timbres, as modifications in the quality of the sound shape the structure of his music and create a sense of drive and momentum in his work. This exploration of timbre includes traditional means of playing instruments as well as an array of non-traditional techniques. Varying uses of electronics are also employed in his music to both highlight and expand the sonic possibilities of acoustic instruments.

The first performance of Hendrich’s music in Louisville will be on Thursday, November 6th, 8:00pm, at Uof L’s Rauch Planetarium. The program will showcase electronic and improvised music. Hendrich will perform with fellow composer Cezary Duchnowski as part of the duo Phonos ek Mechanes. Phonos ek Mechanes—whose name comes from Greek, meaning “sound from the machine”—creates music with computers that are controlled by typical instruments, such as piano, guitar and violin, in a type of electronic music performance they call “human electronics”. This type of performance allows the gestures of performing an acoustic instrument to control the electronic sounds being produced by the computer, opening up a wide array of sonic possibilities in the duo’s work.

Paweł Hendrich’s music will also be featured in the 2014 New Music Festival postlude concert, on November 14th at 8:00pm in UofL’s Comstock Hall. This special event will feature the Illinois Modern Ensemble, performing Emergon Alfa for large ensemble and electronics, alongside the works of fellow Polish composers Agata Zubel, Cezary Duchnowski, Ewa Trebacz and New Music festival director Krzysztof Wołek.

For more on Paweł Hendrich, please visit www.hendrich.pl. For more information about the University of Louisville’s 2014 New Music festival and event listings, please visit http://louisville.edu/music/newmusic

Justin Giarrusso, Andrew Maxbauer and Ian Schroeder contributed to this article. They are students of Dr. Rebecca Jemian, a member of the music theory faculty at the University of Louisville.

New Music Festival Preview: Cezary Duchnowski

Cezary Duchnowski

Editor’s Note: This post is part of series previewing the 2014 New Music Festival at the University of Louisville School of Music.

Cezary Duchnowski (b. February 25, 1971; Elblag, Poland) is an avid composer and performer of contemporary electroacoustic works. He studied at the Karol Lipinski Academy of Music in Wrocław with Leszek Wisłocki, where he later facilitated in the creation of their Studio of Computer Composition. Currently, he serves as a lecturer at his alma mater.

Duchnowski began his musical studies primarily as a performer, studying violin, cello, organ, trumpet, and piano. He now focuses on performing as a pianist and improviser, mostly in electroacoustic genres. As someone who collaborates with other artists, Duchnowski performs in various ensembles. Along with Marcin Rupocinski, he helped found the interdisciplinary artistic group Morphai. As an enthusiast of improvisation, Duchnowski has collaborated with jazz musicians in the creation of live improvised music. One of his most important partnerships is with the composer and soprano Agata Zubel in Duo ElettroVoce, for voice and electronics. Another notable group is Phonos ek Mechanes, of which he is a member along with Pawel Hendrich and Slawomir Kupczak. This group has implemented the concept of “human electronics,” an improvised electronic music genre in which computers are controlled by acoustic instruments.

His music has been featured at many festivals and has been performed by musicians and ensembles such as the Hilliard Ensemble, AUKSO, and the Tech-No Orchestra. Duchnowski’s “Monad 3” for Voice, Piano and Computer (2003) received First Prize at the 10th International Rostrum of Electroacoustic Music in Rome. His collaboration with Agata Zubel garnered them the Special Award at the Gaudeamus International Contemporary Music Interpreters Competition in Amsterdam. A recent project, “el Derwid” was recorded along with Agata Zubel and Andrzej Bauer and was nominated to the Fryderyk Award of the Polish Phonographic Academy. This album featured new arrangements of eleven songs by Witold Lutosławski. Duchnowski has also been recognized by the Polish Composers Association for his promotional activity of the Polish contemporary music.

His complex style originates from (or at least is strongly influenced by) his use of electronics and his fascination with improvisation. Both advanced control and spontaneity are crucial to his aesthetic throughout his solo and collaborative works. His exploration of new timbres and evolving textures create unique sound worlds that simultaneously retain a sense of form and cohesiveness.
Duchnowski will be performing his own compositions as well as works by his peers as part of his ensembles Elettrovoce and Phonos ek Mechanes during the Electronic and Improvisation night of the University of Louisville New Music Festival on Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 8:00 p.m. in the Rauch Planetarium. He will also be giving a lecture on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 from 9:00–10:30 a.m. at the University of Louisville School of Music in room LL26. Both of these events are free and open to the public. For more information about Duchnowski, please visit duchnowski.com and listen to his works at soundcloud.com/duchnowski

Jabez Co, Iara Gomes, Chris Kincaid and Ben Williams contributed to this article. They are students of Dr. Rebecca Jemian, a member of the music theory faculty at the University of Louisville.

New Music Festival Preview: Bent Sørensen

Bent Sørensen foto Lars Skaaning

Editor’s note: Over the next several days we’ll be previewing the upcoming 2014 New Music Festival at the University of Louisville, through posts on this blog. The posts were written by U of L faculty Jean Christensen and students of Rebecca Jemian: Justin Giarrusso, Andrew Maxbauer, Ian Schroeder, Jabez Co, Iara Gomes, Chris Kincaid, Ben Williams, Michelle Gilfert, Jon Hodge, Matt Wetmore and Samantha Holman.

Composer Bent Sørensen has been a noticeable figure in Danish music life since the mid-1980s. Born in 1958, he was a star student of the leading composition teachers of the day, Per Nørgärd and Ib Nørholm, and it was said that he had mastered compositional technique even before his debut concert. Already in 1988, three of his early string quartets were recorded by the highly-esteemed Arditti Quartet (Alman, 1983-84, Adieu, 1986, and Angel’s Music, 1987-88) and in 1996, he was the recipient of the esteemed Nordic Music Prize for his violin concerto (Sterbende Gärten/Dying Gardens), one of only three Danes to be so honored. In 2002, his first full-scale opera, Under the Sky, was premiered at the Royal Opera House. He has been the featured composer at the Huddington Festival in Britain, and in 2011 his piano concerto, La Mattina, was awarded the International Prize by the British Composers Awards. (The earlier winners of the prize include Unsuk Chin, John Adams and Wolfgang Rihm.)

Sørensen often gives his works interesting and evocative titles. The Fourth String Quartet is called Cries and Melancholy, and the seven movements for violin and piano is also Seven Longings. These titles refer to strong feelings of melancholy or longing, while others might evoke something that is disappearing (Deserted Churchyards), unheard (The Shadows of Silence) or intangible (Consoling in Darkness). The music often corresponds in some manner, but not always as expected. This music invites the listener into a multi-layered texture where fragmented, delicate explorations of small tonal melodies or harmonies might recall fugitive sensations of time and space as a part of the multidimensional character of the composer’s musical universe that has often been described as “romantic.”

Bent Sørensen commands the whole arsenal of modern performance techniques; every voice in the ensemble–instrumental or vocal–must be able to express elements from the full spectrum of sound, from the richest to the most refined nuances of the tonal system, as well as those that lie outside it–glissandos and quarter tones, for instance. Instrumentalists are often asked to play secondary instruments or sing while they play, vocal ensembles must be able to sing complex harmonic combinations with subtle vocal nuances. All efforts are directed toward intensifying the listening experience, the most consistent factor in this composer’s output.

The selections programmed for the Festival are The Hill of the Heartless Giant (2001) for solo string bass; Songs of Decay for solo clarinet; Fragments of Requiem (2007) for chorus; the early Trotto (1983) for woodwind quintet; and the recent Pantomine-Papillons (2014) for piano and ensemble. A highlight of the festival will be the premiere of Twelve Nocturnes, six miniatures for piano solo alternating with arrangements of the same for the University Wind Ensemble by Jakob Kullberg and Matthew Wetmore. The Danish pianist Katrine Gislinge will be featured as soloist in both Pantomine-Papillons and Twelve Nocturnes. Altogether the programs of the New Music Festival at the School of Music, University of Louisville, will provide a multi-faceted introduction to the music of the Danish composer Bent Sørensen (Photo Credit: Lars Skaaning)

Dr. Jean Christensen Jean Christensen is a retired professor of Music History at the University of Louisville.