Divergent Composers

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From "fun, fierce and foot-tapping" to "dream-like" and "melancholic," award-winning composers Floyd, Kam, Hindman, Leider, Mason, McLoskey, Moore and Stinson describe their work and inspiration.

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Festival Miami presents new works by award-winning composers on Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 8 p.m. in Clarke Recital Hall. Free admission, ticket required.

October 17, 2011—The work of J.B. Floyd, Dorothy Hindman, Dennis Kam, Colby Leider, Charles Norman Mason, Lansing McLoskey, Lawrence Moore, and Scott Stinson will be featured at Festival Miami’s Divergent Boundaries concert.  The composers talk about the inspiration for their works and what to listen for in their music—and new classical music in general.

In three words, please describe the work you’ll be presenting on the Divergent Boundaries/Frost Composers Concert on November 2:

J.B. Floyd: Well-Tempered Disklavier

Dorothy Hindman: fun, fierce, foot-tapping

Dennis Kam: superimposed piano sonatas

Colby Leider: slow, fast, piano

Charles Norman Mason: driving, exciting, beautiful

Lansing McLoskey: dream-like, urban, loss

Lawrence Moore: symbolic, granular, melancholic

Scott Stinson: piano marimba insanity

What inspired your piece?
J.B. Floyd:  In my music, it always involves jazz and classical contemporary composition. It goes back to my childhood, when I first heard boogie-woogie piano.  With Disklavier, you can input that kind of patterned music into the computer and then play along with it.  Then, in the middle section, a Chopin-inspired Berceuse interrupts which, like the Chopin, is a set of variations over a repeated progression.

Dorothy Hindman: I wanted a piece that would make the audience constantly want to listen, to see what happens next.  The piece, Drift, has a lot of hooks and riffs, to keep people from drifting off!

Dennis Kam: I wanted to hear two pieces that are independent of each other, but that can also be played together. I first composed Piano Sonata IIa, and then my idea was to compose Piano
Sonata IIb, a cousin which would have similar material but somewhat varied. Sonata IIc results when are both played simultaneously.

Colby Leider: One of the people I’m inspired by is composer Jean-Claude Risset, whose contributions to music include the creation and discovery of musical paradoxes, much like M.C. Escher in art.  He’s credited with inventing infinitely ascending and descending scales – think of the image of a barbershop pole - and he’s worked with continually increasing or decreasing tempi.  In Accelerando, I wanted to apply that thinking not to pitch or to rhythm, but to space, in which sounds trick the mind into thinking they’re going around you faster and faster.

Charles Norman Mason: Senderos que se bifurcan (Forking Paths) was inspired by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges’ idea of multiple existences that result from a path splitting at key events. And because it was commissioned by a Latin-American clarinetist, it was also inspired by Latin rhythms, which I love.

Lansing McLoskey: The Unreal City was a commissioned for soprano, piano and percussion, and the inspiration is from the poetry of Danish poet Poul Borum.  It’s sort of surreal, and there’s a sense of longing.  I filtered down about three volumes of his poetry into three poems that related to each other. 

Lawrence Moore: Fountain Talk is a video piece, so I’m also going to mention visual ideas here: organic generation of fractal art. As for the sound, the inspiration was imagining the sound of a fountain in a park, spraying water, shooting up and raining down. This was like creating my own kind of surreal fountain sound of the mind.

Scott Stinson: Study on a Ukrainian Carol began as a piano etude based on the Ukrainian carol, “The Carol of the Bells.” But the piece remained unfinished. I had been planning to write a virtuoso work for piano and marimba, and the unfinished piano work began to take the shape of a new piece. A Slavic, memorial-style chorale became the focal point of the beginning of the work, and then the Ukranian Carol’s motivic idea takes off with the piano and the marimba. So this work consists of two separate ideas combined to form a much bigger piece than originally intended.

Thinking of an audience not familiar with new classical music: What should they listen for in your music? Or, how would you like them to approach new music in general?

J.B. Floyd: This is a very approachable piece because it’s so rhythmic.  It’s all pulsed music, and it’s akin to contemporary popular music - there’s a beat, it swings. 

Dorothy Hindman: Audiences should give themselves permission to react, not worrying whether their reaction is “correct.”  Like any art, music can be meant to please, challenge or provoke.  If you feel anxiety during a dissonant piece, that’s probably what the composer wanted.

Dennis Kam: My interest was to compose a work that displays pianistic elements.  Sonata IIc has a lot of drama and it’s very clearly set up in sections. The challenge here was to get two separate pieces together and see if I can actually coordinate independence this much.

Colby Leider: I hope that people feel comfortable not seeing anything, because there’s nothing to watch in a piece that’s written solely for loudspeakers. So I hope that it invites people to close their eyes, and use the extrasensory perception they have from turning off the visual sense to open their ears, listening for the interaction of the sounds.

Charles Norman Mason: I would like them to try to anticipate what’s going to come next, so that they can be pleasantly surprised at the direction the piece takes.

Lansing McLoskey:  In this piece, I was very careful that the text is completely discernible by the audience.  I want them to listen to the text and maybe thinking about how the poetry is shaping the music, rather than the other way around.

Lawrence Moore:  In this piece, since it’s also a video, the idea would be to listen and look for patterns of repetition and variation and enjoy how they relate to, and also differ from, one another.

Scott Stinson:  I’m always concerned with giving the audience something that they can latch onto, such as the motive from “The Carol of the Bells.”  Then it’s my job to make sense of it. I don’t really like to just throw someone into a morass of completely alien material. But if you give the audience an idea with which they’re already familiar, hopefully you can do more complicated things, more engaging things, more challenging things, than you would’ve otherwise.

Program Information:
Divergent Boundaries - Celebrated Composers Concert
Wednesday, November 2, 2011 / 8 p.m. Clarke Recital Hall


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