The Year Ahead: 2014-15 Season

I’ve been doing the musical equivalent of cave-painting this summer: writing music in blissful California isolation while my symphonic travels take their summer respite.  But that ends next week, when the 2014-15 season kicks off at the SF Symphony – and things stay in high gear until early June when Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony premiere a new work.  In the middle are many visits to the Pittsburgh Symphony, several new CDs, and various curating & DJ events related to Mercury Soul.  Here’s the skinny:

SFS Beethoven & Bates Festival (info). The coolest-sounding festival I’ll ever be associated with continues this month!  My three biggest pieces are being performed and recorded by Michael Tilson Thomas and the SF Symphony.  With last season’s performances of Liquid Interface and The B-Sides ‘in the can,’ we now look to Alternative Energy Sept 10-13.


With SF Principle Percussion Jacob Nissly foraging for car parts for Alternative Energy

Next to Beethoven, my ‘energy symphony,’ ‘water symphony,’ and surreal symphonic suite will create both harmony and friction.  On one level, the large-scale and dramatic nature of my music fits with Beethoven, who invented the narrative form with the 9th Symphony.  When a chorus appeared in the finale, suddenly the symphonic form included text — and this grafting of content onto an abstract medium opened it to the later developments of Wagner, Liszt, and Berlioz.  My music often brings unusual narrative forms to life, but with an electro-acoustic palette and a completely different stylistic sensibility than the 19thCentury symphonists.  It’s a provocative programming choice from the most gifted and offbeat mindfreak the world knows, Michael Tilson Thomas.

Chicago Symphony & Muti premiere (info).  My biggest premiere this season will happen in June, when Riccardo Muti conducts the premiere of Anthology of Fantastic Zoology.  Bases on the compendium by Jorge Luis Borges, the piece is a kind of psychedelic Carnival of the Animals that evokes imaginary creatures familiar (sprites) and unfamiliar (the A Bao a Qu, a palindromic animal whose music is too).


Cover of Borges’ “Anthology of Fantastic Zoology”

Having worked closely with the maestro and the orchestra over the last four years of my CSO residency, I am writing a work carefully tailored to everyone’s special gifts.  The “ballet score” form of this piece is very much inspired by Muti’s unique abilities as a musical dramatist, and many of the animals are conjured by specific instruments in a kind of “concerto for orchestra” manner.

Pittsburgh Symphony.  Returning as the PSO’s Composer of the Year is a cherished honor for me.  It’s one of the finest orchestras in the country, both in its superb musicianship and in its devotion to living composers.  Our relationship extends many years, and by the end of this year they will have played almost all of my symphonic music.  This year includes Rusty Air in Carolinamy electro-acoustic tone poem to the South, as well as White Lies for LomaxThe Rise of Exotic Computingand Alternative Energy

New recordings.  The aforementioned SFS CD will be my debut full-length symphonic release, a long wait due to the complex nature of this medium.  Another important release happens much sooner: the amazing Anne Akiko Meyers will be releasing my Violin Concerto with the London Symphony under the baton of Leonard Slatkin.  This extraordinary violinist has put together a beautiful CD that extends from teacher to student – from Samuel Barber to John Corigliano to me – so let’s wish her luck in snagging the Grammy she deserves!

Curating. Check out my new curating page! One of my biggest focuses these days is on bringing new music to new ears in new ways – whether it be on the Chicago Symphony’s MusicNOW series, Mercury Soul, or elsewhere.  If you’re new to the site, please sign up for my once-in-a-blue-moon newsletter.  I only peer out of my cave every so often!