New Music for a New Year

In the past week, we’ve successfully dodged the Mayan apocalypse, the fiscal cliff, and potentially planet-killing arrangements of holiday music.  So now that we’ve made it into the New Year, let me offer a glimpse of what I’ll be doing with my new lease on life:

This month, Michael Christie conducts the Phoenix Symphony premiere of my latest work, Afterlife.  This half-hour song cycle approaches the topic of death from the perspective of women across the centuries, from Christina Rossetti to Emily Dickinson to the contemporary Judith Wolf.

The first movement looks through the eyes of those left behind, and it is therefore quite dark and even angry.  Dickinson describes a shade crossing the sky of the mind, while Wolfe scolds her departed lover for leaving her.  The last movement looks through the eyes of the dead, so we end on a more uplifting note with some dying epiphanies.  And the middle movement is a bittersweet waltz.  This piece, my first integrating a solo voice and electronics, requires a lot of the mezzo (the wonderful Jennifer Johnson Cano) and the orchestra as well.

In March, the Toronto Symphony gives the Canadian premiere of Alternative Energy, my time-traveling ‘energy symphony’ that Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony recently performed at Carnegie Hall.  In its scope, this work feels something like my second symphony; the first would be Liquid Interface, which will be performed by the Chicago Symphony under Jaap van Sweden and the Winston-Salem Symphony under Robert Moody.  The latter is a conductor I have worked with from the very beginning : Moody commissioned my first orchestral piece, so it will be a delight to work with him again.

March also takes me back to the Pittsburgh Symphony, which will perform The B-Sides under Leonard Slatkin as part of my Composer of the Year residency.  This electro-acoustic orchestral suite explores five surreal landscapes, with a nod to the psychedelic tracks on the flip sides of old Pink Floyd albums.  It will be a real thrill to hear this orchestra — one of the country’s finest — perform this sprawling work under Leonard, an old friend who knows my music intimately.  Just last month, this dream team premiered my Violin Concerto for the stunning Anne Akiko Meyers, and it was one of the memorable musical experiences I’ve had.  Meyers will be traveling with the piece quite a lot, beginning with the Nashville Symphony in March.

The late spring brings two blooms of Mercury Soul, a hybrid musical event that intersperses sets of classical music throughout an evening of DJing and electronica.  Last season’s event with the Chicago Symphony at Metro went so well that we are doing it again (on May 10), with a completely new program and redesigned experience.  And the Pittsburgh Symphony will take a very different version of the project to a stunning club called Static on April 6.  This show is reimagined for each space and ensemble, and it is always fun watching new crowds experience the show in different cities.  The DJing for Mercury Soul has become one of the most interesting electronica endeavors for me, where I can travel from Midwest techno to post-minamalism to the late Baroque — and back.

Mercury Soul takes you out of the concert hall to experience classical music, but I’ve also found new ways to present new music in the concert hall.  My efforts as a curator are perhaps most fully realized in Chicago, where the MusicNOW series now brings about 800 people for each new-music concert.  Because Anna Clyne and I have the full use of the stagecraft of Harris Theater, we have moved the concert format into a very immersive and fun direction.  Video program notes seamlessly guide the listener throughout the evening, which begins and ends with DJing and drinks in the lobby.  My kind of hang for sure!

So whether you want to check out a new piece, an old piece, or a club show, I’m probably none too far away from you (check the calendar on my classical and electronica pages for details).  Now that we’ve dodged the apocalypse, let’s hear some music!