Composer Alive grew out of our Weekly Readings program which was ACM’s first program after we incorporated in 2004. We read and recorded pieces by living composers every week and posted them to our site.
We then had the idea to work with just one composer and read and record her piece as she writes it. The idea is that she gets to work with the ensemble and try out all kinds of new ideas knowing she can always changes them in the next installment, but also to give the audience an inroad into the creative process and hear a piece of music from first draft, through rewrites to the finished product.
Each composer also writes comments about her creative process so the audience can truly get a glimpse into the creative process. When the piece is finished, we bring the composer to Chicago for the World Premiere performance.
Our 2022 Composer Alive project is a collaboration with Arshia Samsaminia
Click on a link to read more about the different projects and hear each installment of the piece up to the finished version.
“The Commercial Études are a glimpse into the world of earworms, jingles and music that exists for reasons other than art. There was a VHS tape in my family containing assorted TV commercials from the 1950s, which we watched at almost every visit to my grandparents’ house growing up. 20 years later, the jingles are still stuck in my head, but the music locked in there has evolved with my own growth since childhood. The piece is a great opportunity for me not only to take a step back and really consider what makes these jingles so memorable, but also to repurpose and recycle this music, breaking away from its original purpose as utilitarian sales music and retrofitting it into something more conventionally suited for the concert hall..”
Mechanical Bird Museum
“I’ve long been fascinated by simulacra, especially mechanical representations of the natural. The players are spaced throughout the hall in order to surround the audience so that the each listener has a unique experience of the whole, depending on where they are situated.”
Dance With My Breath
“My composition concentrates on everything but the melody (- no melody) (“Between the Songs”): – detuning and tuning from many many sounds into one composition, – waves and pulses in different forms, white voice (original scream singing technique, which is a characteristic for the Polish folk vocal music), vocal inflections when speaking and accents (poetry, text) and the content of songs (life full of hardships, vitality, death, purgatory, heaven, mysticism, love and many others).
The acoustics and characteristics of the location also influenced the composition itself. ”
“After composing the first measures of Toy, I soon realized that I had most of the ingredients to develop the entire piece. The ingredients in question – a conjunction between durations, rhythms, timbres and harmonies – created a very flexible structure allowing for various possible operations such as variations, transpositions, discontinuities, and juxtapositions, among other procedures.
Conceiving the ensemble as a “toy” is another important element directly connected to the flexibility described above. A toy is usually a simple device with a very clear function. However, it can also be perceived from a much broader perspective that goes beyond its original role and which involves concentration, exploration and discovery. Musically speaking, this broad analogy with the playfulness of a toy has been very resourceful during the composition of this piece.”
“This piece is based on the virtuosity of hearing and tuning. The role of the ensemble is to
act as a modulating source, doubling the pre-recorded audio tracks and making
microtonal tuning adjustments within the critical band of each note, producing beating and difference tones. The ensemble is set up in a circle, facing inward. Placed next to each performer is a single mono powered speaker. A discreet audio track, corresponding to each individual
performers score is played through that performer’s coupled speaker. The audio track can be played from an Ipod or any Wave player.
De Animos y Quebrantos
“The way this piece develops comes from its title “De ánimos y quebrantos” which means “ánimos: to animate the spirit, to encourage a bright state of mind, give life to encourage, “quebrantos” to break, weakening, deterioration, to tear down.
In other words: The dichotomy of these two words expresses the contradiction of two states of mind, one that is more oriented to uplift and animate the spirit, and the other more related to face the harsh reality of what often surrounds us.
This idea has been reflected in the music, for example in the beginning you have a solo violin that suddenly has been interrupted by the crotales and the flute”
“This commission provides me with an unusual opportunity to hear segments of my piece as I write them. I decided that, rather than provide the Palomar Ensemble with sketches that may or may not be complete ideas, I would create self contained ‘preludes’– each no longer than three minutes.
I would write… well, who knows how many, and as more and more get written decisions can be made as to which ones will ‘make the cut’, if some need to be modified in some way, and what the order of the preludes would be in the final performance.
As more preludes get completed and become part of the online posting, I would welcome input from the musicians of the Palomar Ensemble, as well as anyone who would like to weigh in. The concept of many short movements creating a finished work is not unusual (17th and 18th century dance suites, 19th century piano ‘character’ sets).”
“I have named this piece Sextet, with the subtitle In Homage to Dodecaphonism, which makes an (ironic) allusion to the theme, which really uses the twelve notes of the chromatic scale. Sometimes the music seems even to be poly-tonal but in fact, it is rather super tonal!
I love tonal music and, even if my real inspiration comes from Bach, Brahms, Ravel and others, for years I have avoided writing simple pastiches of their music but try instead to be inspired by the “spirit” of their writing.
For this project I thought about a theme which would use all 12 notes of the chromatic scale but in a very tonal way indeed! One can find this principle in the fantastic last fugue of the first book of Bach’s Well Tempered Klavier, but it is pretty rare.”
“I’m exploring the sound of the ensemble, beginning with a misty/soft atmosphere. The changeable weather, cloudy skies, misty atmosphere we have in Ireland can be heard as an inspiration. Occasionally something bright and clear bursts through the mist. The background sound is blurred, soft, fluid, and full of subtle changes of colour. In Ireland, we have a strange sort of weather which we call ‘sun showers’. The sun can be shining brightly one minute and rain can be falling at the same time. This soft but subtle change in atmosphere is something I am trying to capture in musical movements.”
“Datura is the latest in a series of pieces I’m writing inspired by plant life in southern China. Datura is often used for its hallucinogenic properties.
The plant itself is strange looking and the effect on the mind is strange. It is this unsettling aspect of Datura that I am trying to capture in the music, juxtaposed with the beauty of the surroundings where it is commonly found.”