New Voice: Jeremy Wexler

Jeremy Wexler

Jeremy Wexler

Website | Soundcloud

Jeremy Wexler (b. 1991) is a composer, percussionist, and teacher from Levittown, New York. His compositional language explores the physics of sound-phenomena, microtonality, and irregular metric and formal organization. Jeremy’s compositions have been heard on Composers Circle, Kinetics Internet Radio from Los Angeles, Incipitsify, the Wintergreen Summer Music Academy in Virginia, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and State University of New York at Purchase College.

In addition to composing, Jeremy is a percussionist for Elijah & the Moon, a rock band based out of Woodstock, NY, at such nationally known venues as Mountain Jam, the National Underground, Bethlehem Musikfest, and Opus 40 (Saugerties). Elijah & the Moon has performed at concerts and festivals with such notable artists as The Allman Brothers, Trampled by Turtles, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, The Avett Brothers, and The Lumineers, to name a few. Recently, Jeremy gave an improvised percussion performance at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in collaboration with installation artist Brian Cook.

Jeremy received his Bachelor of Music degree from SUNY Purchase College, where he is now pursuing a Master of Music degree in composition; he currently instructs composition and musicianship as a graduate assistant. He studied composition under Huang Ruo and Du Yun, conducting with Ransom Wilson, contemporary music practice with Tara H. O’Connor, Dominic Donato, and Calvin Wiersma, and percussion with Ralph Sorrentino, David Nelson, Christopher Hale, and Phil Weiss. Masterclasses with Pauline Oliveros, Jason Eckardt, Alvin Lucier, and Samuel Zyman.

THE QUESTIONS

What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?

When I was around four years old I found a pair of drumsticks in my parents’ closet. My dad taught me what they were and how to hold them, and I began playing drums on every surface in our house. When I was six, my parents took me for my first formal drum lessons at a local music store on Long Island (side note: the store was formerly owned by the family of master illusionist Criss Angel, of Criss Angel’s “Mindfreak”). Fortunately, my teacher Phil Weiss strongly emphasized the importance of reading music. By the time I was in third or fourth grade, I would sit at my desk with staff paper and a pencil and scribble out long phrases of drum beats and rhythms. These awesome beats were my first compositions. Even at this young age, it was very clear to me what I should be doing with my career— composing and performing music. 

From the time I was six years old until I was 17 years old, the only musical language I could deal with was exclusively rhythmic and had no pitch— I did not learn a thing about pitch or music theory until I was an upperclassman in high school. But I picked up these subjects relatively quickly, and I began composing my first pieces involving pitch as a freshman in college. I learned how to hear the complex overtones that resulted from striking cymbals and drumheads. Even though I didn’t completely understand what I was hearing at the time, I was intuitively able to determine if drums sounded “in tune” or “out of tune.” This was my experience with pitch. As I studied more music and practiced my ear training skills, I learned more about how to analyze what I was hearing. I strongly believe that delaying traditional music theory and classical percussion instruction until my late teens has had a positive and unique impact on my current musical interests.

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time?

Yes, definitely. As a drum set player, my roots revolve around rock, metal, jazz, and pop. But as I got older, I began to seek more experimental music. I became more interested in noise and dissonance. I sought unusual and challenging things. The first composers I became interested in (in no particular order) were Steve Reich, La Monte Young, Palestrina, and John Cage. 

After that, I purchased a massive compilation album called “The Early Gurus of Electronic Music” and my favorite pieces were Ussachevsky’s “Wireless Fantasy”, Riley’s “Poppy Nogood”, Xenakis’ “Hibiki-Hana-Ma”, Hassell’s “Before and After Charm”, and Lucier’s “Music on a Long Thin Wire”. I was excited by these new types of sound worlds, and I started trying to emulate these composers through computer music. Over time, I discovered music by composers who are associated with the very things that I was obsessed with as a young pitchless drummer: overtones, complex rhythms, unusual tuning systems, and noise. Some of these composers include James Tenney, Gérard Grisey, Beat Furrer, and Georg Friedrich Haas.

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use?

I do not have a strict composing schedule that I obey, but I definitely compose something every day. I used to write pieces with pencil and staff paper, but I have since switched to computer notation software. I find that the computer is much quicker and more practical, however sometimes it takes some time to figure out how to trick the software into notating what you want it to notate. Despite primarily composing with a computer, I still strongly advocate going back to paper and pencil once in a while.

Please describe a recent work and provide a link to an audio clip.

Here is a piece titled Music for Soprano and Ensemble.  The instrumentation consists of Soprano, Flute/Alto Flute, Bb Clarinet/Bass Clarinet, Oboe, Trumpet, Trombone, Piano, Violin, ‘Cello, and Contrabass. The text is a poem by Allen Ginsberg – one of my favorite poets. The form of my composition is dictated by the text’s format. The first two-thirds of the poem consist of many short, fragmented stanzas. The lines of text in the last third of the poem are more unified and not broken up into as many stanzas. There is an emotional distinction here that I explore in my music using timbre and allowing time to pass in different ways.

Composer Profile: Gráinne Mulvey

Gráinne Mulvey

Gráinne Mulvey

Website 

Gráinne Mulvey’s music has been performed and broadcast across the globe. She has been the recipient of many awards, commissions and honours, including the “RTE Young musician of the Future Competition”, Ireland (Composers Class) in 1994, the Macaulay Fellowship (Arts Council Of Ireland), Arklow Music Festival, New Music for Sligo in 1999 and St. John’s University Memorial Award, Newfoundland in 2003.  She has received commissions from the Concorde Ensemble, the ACME Ensemble, Chicago, RTE NSOI, Romanian Radio Chamber Orchestra and The Northern Sinfonia. Her orchestral work has also been performed by the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra, the Hradec Králové Philharmonic and the Orchestre De Lorraine. She has represented Ireland twice at the ISCM World Music Days in 2008, and 2009 and at the International Rostrum of Composers in 1994 and 2006. Soloists such as Joe O’Farrell (flute), Elizabeth Hilliard (soprano), David Bremner, (Organist & pianist), Martin Johnson (cello), Annette Cleary (cello), Therese Fahy (pianist), Slawomir  Zubrzycki (pianist),  Matthew Schellhorn, (pianist) Paul Roe (clarinettist), Dermot Dunne (accordionist) and Mary Dullea (pianist) have also championed her music regularly. 

The RTE NSOI has commissioned a cello concerto to be premiered in 2015 and The Dublin International Piano Competition has commissioned a test piece for 2015.  She is also commissioned for other projects during 2015 and 2016. 

Her research interests focus on contemporary composition: acoustic, electro-acoustic real/live electronics and the harmonic series. She is a member of the Association of Irish Composers, Irish Music Rights Organization, the IAWM, Donne In Musica and Aosdána, Ireland’s organization of creative artists. Her music is represented by The Contemporary Music Centre, Ireland and soon to be published by BabelScores – Contemporary Music Online. 

THE QUESTIONS 

What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer? 

My earliest memory is singing into an old Telefunken microphone at a very early age, in my cot and not being able to stand long. Singing was a huge factor in my life and my father encouraged it, along with listening to early, classical and 20th century music. My mother loved to sing and she had music playing on the record player or the radio all the time My three brothers play guitar and I learned to work out chords of songs by ear so all this probably had a significance in my development as a composer. It wasn’t until second level education that I learned theory and piano and then I knew that music was the career path for me to follow. Much later on during my college years as a third year music undergraduate at Waterford Institute Of Technology, Ireland, I realised that composition was what I wanted to do. 

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time? 

There are lots of composers – too many to mention and I find that I appreciate their work more as time passes. Firstly, there are my great tutors: Professor Nicola LeFanu, Professor Agustin Fernandez, Dr. Eric Sweeney, Professor Farhat, and Professor Boguslaw Schaeffer. 

Next are a list of composers that have been hugely influential: Professor David Lumsdaine, Professor Marek  Choloniewski, Kaija Saariaho,  György Ligeti, Iannis Xenakis, Gerard Grisey, Daniel Börtz, Magnus Lindberg, Professor Anthony Gilbert, Peter Sculthorpe,  Karlheinz Stockhausen, Joe O’Farrell, Peter Ablinger, Luciano Berio, Brian Ferneyhough, Jean Claude Vivier, Dr. Jane O’Leary, Igor Stravinsky, Rebecca Saunders, Liza Lim, Paul Hayes, Morton Feldman, Witold Lutosławski, Steve Reich, Professor Ben Dwyer, Krzysztof Penderecki, Sungji Hong, Raymond Deane, Martin O’Leary, Siobhan Cleary. David Bremner, Fergal Dowling, Rob Canning, Judith Ring, Luigi Nono, Arne Nordheim, Helmut Lachenmann, John McLachlan, Peter Moran, Bernard Clarke, Hans Abrahamsen, Louis Andriessen, Jim Wilson, John Buckley, Marian Ingoldsby, Rhona Clarke, Roger Doyle, Gordon Delap, Victor Lazzarini, and there are many, many more. 

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use? 

 I usually write three to four days a week unless I have a specific deadline. The rest of my time is taken up with teaching at the Dublin Institute Of Technology’s Conservatory Of Music & Drama where I teach composition at undergraduate and postgraduate level. I have administrative duties also. 

Generally, I use paper and pen to compose, unless I’m writing purely a fixed tape piece or doing a live processing electronic piece with instruments, where I have to use the computer for synthesis. I like the tactility of the blank page, especially if I’m writing just for instruments. I usually put down sketches and fragments of ideas until I sort out the elements that work. Processes change from piece to piece depending on the line up and the external influences, if that is relevant. I like sounds made in the natural world and I am heavily involved in using pre-recorded, or music concrete materials as sources either for direct or indirect use for electronic and acoustic pieces. If I’m writing for instruments only, usually I meet with the player or players involved, to see what other aspects of orchestration can be explored and this always proves to be very fruitful. 

Technology I use: Csound, Audacity, ProTools. I have my scores copied in Finale which frees me up to take on more projects. 

Please describe a recent work and provide a link to an audio clip. 

Akanos Orchestra 

The Greek word “akanos” means a barb or spine, such as may be found on animals or plants such as a cactus—and of course gives us the name of the acanthus. This piece explores contrasts between steady organic growth and “spiky,” jagged interjections. 

Akanos reflects this idea by the juxtaposition of polar opposites: in the opening bars, extremes of register, dynamics, timbres and tempi are presented in apparent conflict. As the piece develops, it gradually becomes clear that the contrasting characteristics of the initial material are simply different aspects of a fundamental unity: the material is all derived from the harmonic series, the ultimate unifying principle of all music. 

new work : horn trio [2014.25] & clarinet quintet [2014.26]

In the recent works, horn trio and clarinet quintet, I chose to use two chamber ensembles that have been used in the classical tradition, horn, clarinet and piano, and clarinet with string quartet. I added a fixed media track made up of sound from my sample library and Kontakt sequencer.

horn trio [2014.25]

 

clarinet quintet [2014.26]

 

These were realized using the Garritan Personal Orchestra 4; but I hope to have a live recording soon.

Composer Profile: Taylor Deupree

Website Soundcloud 

Technology and imperfection. The raw and the processed. Curator and curated. Solo explorer and gregarious collaborator. The life and work of Taylor Deupree are less a study in contradictions than a portrait of the multidisciplinary artist in a still-young century. 

Deupree is an accomplished sound artist whose recordings, rich with abstract atmospherics, have appeared on numerous record labels, and well as in site-specific installations at such institutions as the ICC (Tokyo, Japan) and the Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media (Yamaguchi, Japan). He started out, in the 1990s, making new noises that edged outward toward the fringes of techno, and in time he found his own path to follow. His music today emphasizes a hybrid of natural sounds and technological mediation. It’s marked by a deep attention to stillness, to an almost desperate near-silence. His passion for the studio as a recording instrument is paramount in his work, but there is no hint of digital idolatry. If anything, his music shows a marked attention to the aesthetics of error and the imperfect beauty of nature, to the short circuits not only in technological systems but in human perception. 

And though there is an aura of insularity to Depuree’s work, he is a prolific collaborator, having collaborated with the likes of Ryuichi Sakamoto, David Sylvian, Stephan Mathieu, Stephen Vitiello, Christopher Willits, Kenneth Kirschner, Frank Bretschneider, Richard Chartier, Savvas Ysatis, Tetsu Inoue and others. 

Deupree dedicates as much time to other people’s music as he does to his own. In 1997 he founded the record label 12k, which since then has released over 100 recordings by some of the most accomplished musicians and modern sound artists of our time. Many share with Deupree an interest in stark minimalism, but the label has also found room for, located a common ground with, the acoustic avant-garde, the instrumental derivations of post-rock, and the synthetic extremes of techno. 

And collectively, the cover jackets to the 12k album releases have served as an ongoing exhibit of Deupree’s photography, its lo-fi aesthetic, with an emphasis on damage and wear and antiquated tech, closely paralleling his music. (His photos have also graced numerous books, design anthologies, and other recordings and projects.) 

Deupree continues to evolve his sound with an ambition and drive that is masked by his music’s inherent quietude. He approaches each project with an expectation of new directions, new processes, and new junctures. 

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THE QUESTIONS

What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer? 

My first *sound* memory is being very little and lying in my bed and listening to my mom vacuuming downstairs. I could hear the vacuum through the floor and through my bed and I loved that sound. It would put me to sleep. Looking back on this now it’s no different than when I like to sleep to the sound of crickets, or rain, or music. Ambient noise has always been fascinating to me and obviously is something I’m conscious of when I write music. 

Years later, as a young teenager, my best friend at the time introduced me to Brian Eno’s “Thursday Afternoon” album. This was in 1986, not long after the album came out. We were making music together at the time and I’d spend the night at his house. He’d put on “Thursday Afternoon” as we went to sleep and put the CD player on repeat so the album would play all night long and still be playing when we woke up. It was a very strange feeling, sort of warped your sense of time. This was also my introduction to ambient music, and to Eno, and continues to be my biggest influence. 

I still listen to “Thursday Afternoon” this way. 

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time? 

I’m influenced by everything around me, both positively and negatively. As a sound artist and photographer my ears and eyes are always active. Eno’s ambient music from the ‘80s really guided my music, though I didn’t realize it until years after first hearing him. I also realized, after reading books on Eno and learning of his philosophies that I think about a lot of the same things in the same way. I think this is what makes a good influence, someone that you not only learn from but that you discover a similar mindset with. The best influences are not just about taking someone’s ideas, but realizing you share similar ones. 

I’m influenced a lot by the tools and technology I work with and especially by visual artists like Donald Judd or James Turrell and photographers like Michael Kenna and Hiroshi Sugimoto. I find the visual work that these artists create echoes so many of my musical ideas. I like to take inspiration for music from non-musical ideas. Remove that inspiration a few steps and it helps spur creativity as you reassemble the ideas into a different medium. 

My influences were probably quite in flux as I was growing as an artist but have been pretty consistent for the past few years as I’ve become more comfortable with who I am and the work that I do. I’ve found my place, I think, and my own voice. 

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use? 

I don’t have a regular schedule for writing although I’m constantly making sounds and just playing around in the studio. I need to be in a very specific mindset to actually write an album, though, and I tend to write in the winter. There is something about the winter landscape and how the music wraps and warms me that makes me more creative at this time of the year. Once I do get into that mode, however, I will write constantly and work towards finishing. I also have to have an album’s title before I begin writing the album. It helps me focus and gives the album a direction right from the beginning. My albums tend to have loose concepts, so this is an important part of the process. I don’t really actively think of a title either, it usually comes to be serendipitously… and once that happens, I know it’s the right title and the time to start working. 

I use a computer as a multitrack recorder and arranger. I use the software Digital Performer, for many, many, years now. I know it very well and am comfortable using it and it doesn’t get in the way. The computer as recorder definitely doesn’t inhibit my process but I’m careful to keep its role to a minimum. I’m not a big user of software to make sounds but the computer as a mixing tool is very powerful. 

To make my sounds and music I use a lot of hardware synthesizers, both old and new, a modular synthesizer system, as well as a variety of acoustic instruments like guitar, xylophone, various percussion and found objects. I use tape recorders as sound processors and often mix my final mixes to tape, either reel-to-reel or cassette. 

I like my music to be a blend of high tech and low tech where synthesizers and modern technology, which I equate with being “clean” and precise, get roughed up and worn around  the edges by tape, room recording techniques and other older or more organic processes as well as being paired with field recordings and acoustic instruments. I think this combination of instruments creates a richer, deeper palette, a more detailed, engaging sound world. 

taylor_deupree03

Please describe one of your recent compositions and provide a link to an audio clip. 

This year I’ve been making and sharing what I’m calling a Studio Diary. It’s a way for me to exercise my creativity in the studio on a day to day basis and share the experiments with my listeners. The sounds are not supposed to be finished compositions by any means, merely experiments with difference processes and ideas. I’m concentrating mostly on sounds with my modular synthesizer, which is pretty new and constantly a work in progress. It’s such a limitless instrument that I find working with it a little bit every day has been a great learning experience. It’s a lot like learning a language where you have certain “a-ha!” moments and grasp a concept that sticks with you. I’ve been really pleased with what I’ve done so far during the year. It hasn’t been every day… as I anticipated… sometimes life gets in the way, but I do it as much as I can. What will happen with all of these sounds and sketches at the end of the year I have no idea… perhaps I’ll create an album using them all…. or just leave them be and work them in occasionally to new pieces. I’m not too concerned about that yet. Right now it’s all about exploration. You can hear the progress so far and follow along at

new work : piccolo | bass clarinet | horn in f | baritone horn [2014.10]

The work, piccolo | bass clarinet | horn in f | baritone horn [2014.10], utilizes an electric bass sample ostinato throughout, something of a “heartbeat”.  The quartet never plays as an complete ensemble, instead, the work is made up of duos and trios, with variations on similar melodic phrases.

 

I finished this work this year after sketching out the material months earlier, in a vastly different form.

New Voice: Turgut Ercetin

Turgut Ercetin

Turgut Ercetin

Soundcloud

Turgut Ercetin (b. 1983, Istanbul) has recently completed his doctoral degree at Stanford University where he studied composition with Prof. Brian Ferneyhough as his advisor and computer music with Chris Chafe. Ercetin’s works engage with the issues of sound, not as sonic colors but as concepts that are perceived at various degrees of complexities resulting from composed acoustics. Most of his researches and works, therefore, are involved with psychoacoustics as well as computer aided compositional process. His solo, chamber and electro-acoustic works have been performed throughout the United States and Europe with notable performances at MaerzMusik (Berlin), Gaudeamus Festival (Utrecht), Manifeste (Paris), Sweet Thunder (San Francisco) and many other festivals. He has collaborated with renowned ensembles such as The Arditti Quartet, The JACK Quartet, Sonar Quartett, Ensemble Adapter, ELISION Ensemble and soloists such as Seth Josel and Severine Ballon. His future projects include a new piece for two guitars, which will be premiered at Schloss Solitude during the 2014-2015 season. Additional studies include the summer course of Centre Acanthes in 2012, with workshops led by Phillipe Manoury, Luca Francesconi and Thierry De Mey as well as a research on Brian Ferneyhough’s “La Terre est un Homme”, which was conducted at Paul-Sacher Stiftung in Basel. He has been recently selected as a composer in residency for Grame Centre National de Création Musicale (Lyon) for 2016.

THE QUESTIONS

What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?

I was introduced to Western Classical Music as a listener and a learner by the time I was a child. Consequently, the soundscape of my childhood created a unique bond with this music, particularly through Mahler and later period expressionists. And all the basis for what I later realized as my goals have partly stemmed from the questions that occupied my mind during those days. Not only these questions helped me to look deeper into the works of these particular composers, but they also expanded my understanding as to the point of other musical genres to which I was introduced in later years. And rock music was definitely one of them. I guess, as a guitar player, engaging with rock music was simply inevitable for me. Like most of the guitar players, I was, too, an admirer of Jimi Hendrix; and what appealed to me the most in his music was the way in which he could reflect the relation between the “intuitive” and the “analytical”. Looking back from today, I can say that the arresting aspect in Mahler’s music was not too dissimilar for me – although the outcome is totally different from Hendrix needless to say. Spatial means, ranging from quotations to harmonic space in Mahler’s music, and the way in which they relate to the form as well as to the polyphonic figuration directed me to focus on this somewhat Bergsonian relationship. I guess these are the earliest moments I can recall when I first started to think on formulating the peculiarities of this musical relationship, which has been one of the main issues I have been engaging in my works. 

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time?

In addition to the above, I am sure there are more. Especially if the concept of “intuition” is considered as a conveying medium in the sense that it reflects collective memory, and therefore historical aspects, to some extent. Because of this very reason, it is hard to enumerate individual composer names.

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use?

The degree of accuracy, which yields to formulate certain structural aspects in my music, necessitates the use of computer as to the point of pre-compositional process. Having said that, using computers in this way does not necessarily inhibit the “composition” itself. The purpose of the computational process is to advance and analyze the materials I work with and instrument them according to the needs that are determined by the craft. I believe there is a difference between the term “craft” and what we define as “composition”. To me, the former highlights the ways in which the musical tools are designed, whereas the latter mostly emphasizes the ways in which these tools are used. The software I use varies according to the project I work on. Recently, I have been engaging mostly with MATLAB, SuperCollider and SMS as well as PWGL and IRCAM products such as Audiosculpt.

Please describe a recent work and provide a link to an audio clip.

The research behind Resonances was driven by the following two questions pertaining to the acoustic peculiarities of wind instruments: (1) Is it possible to design an algorithmic system to formulate various degrees of polyphonic correlations, which would yield multiple formal relations as a function of acoustic distinctiveness?; (2) If so, how perceptible would the resulting polyphony be? Focusing on the deviation degrees of acoustic properties, Resonances views the instruments as complex acoustic mechanisms. I represent the complexity of each instrument in a matrix, the inputs of which are various acoustic measurements of a wind instrument. An algorithm operates on these matrices to generate new matrices. Then, the output matrices are plotted in a multidimensional space through which various geometric relations (in terms of deviational scaling) are devised to formulate formal structures. A brief paper which discusses the details of this algorithmic process can be directly requested from the composer.

Composer Profile: Lei Liang

lei_liang0

Website

Chinese-born American composer Lei Liang (梁雷, b. Nov. 28, 1972, Tianjin) is Associate Professor of Music at the University of California, San Diego. He received his first piano lessons at the age of four, and began composing at age six. His piano teacher Zhou Guang-ren encouraged him to compose without formal training. He received several awards in China for composition and piano performance during childhood, including three honors in the Xinghai National Piano Music Competition (special distinction, 1984; Third Prize, 1987; Second Prize, 1988), where his early piano music has been in the mandatory repertoire since 1984, and Second Prize for piano performance in the Jing-Jin-Sui competition (1988). In 1989, Beijing Qingnianbao—Beijing Youth Daily—named him one of its ten “Persons of the Year.”

In 1990, Liang left his family for the USA as a high school student. He studied piano with William Race in Austin, Texas before shifting his focus to composition. He received degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music (BM & MM, both with academic honors and distinction in performance) and Harvard University (PhD). His composition teachers include Sir Harrison Birtwistle, Robert Cogan, Chaya Czernowin, Mario Davidovsky, Joshua Fineberg, Elliott Gyger, Lee Hyla and Bernard Rands. In addition, he had masterclasses with Magnus Lindberg, James Tenney, and Chinary Ung at Harvard, and with Georg Friedrich Haas, Toshio Hosokawa and Wolfgang Mitterer at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik at Darmstadt.

Lei Liang received the George Whitefield Chadwick Medal—the honor the New England Conservatory bestows upon its most outstanding graduates—as well as the Tourjée Alumni Scholarship Award (both in 1996). He was a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow (2002-4), and received a grant from the Milton Fund at Harvard University (2001), a Heinrich Strobel Foundation bursary from the South West German Radio Experimentalstudio (2004), a Meet the Composer/MetLife Creative Connections Grant (2007), a Fondazione William Walton Residency Award (2008), an Aaron Copland Award (2008), ASCAPLUS Award (2008) and a Guggenheim Fellowship (2009). He is the recipient of the Elliott Carter Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome (2011), and the Alpert/Ragdale Prize in Music Composition (2012). He received an honorable mention in the Aliénor Awards harpsichord composition competition (2004, for Some Empty Thoughts of a Person from Edo), the George Arthur Knight Prize from Harvard University (2006, for Serashi Fragments) and was a finalist for the Thailand International Composition Competition for Saxophone (2006, for Parallel Gardens).

Lei Liang’s music is published exclusively by Schott Music Corporation (New York). His early piano music appears in numerous anthologies of contemporary Chinese piano music published by Huayue Music Press and Renmin Yinyue Chubanshe—People’s Music Press (Beijing). His recordings are released on Spektral, GM, Einstein, Encounter, Opal and Telarc Records. A portrait CD of his works was released on Mode Records in 2009, funded in part through a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc. His 3rd portrait CD was released on New World Records in 2011, funded in part through grants from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and Alice Ditson Fund of Columbia University.  His 4th portrait disc “Verge/Tremors of a Memory Chord” was released on Naxos International and his latest monographic disc “Bamboo Lights” was released on Bridge Records in July, 2014.

THE QUESTIONS 

What is your earliest musical memory that, in looking back, has proved to be significant regarding your career as a composer?

It must have been when I was about 14, when my parents took me to live in a village in the suburbs of Beijing. The village was far away from the city, and I recall vividly walking one night in the hills under a full moon. It was so quiet, only the sound of wind blowing the grass and leaves all around me. Watching the dark contours of mountains under the moonlight,  l felt I heard an incredibly intense music – the inner sound of nature.  It was a magical and transformative experience.  When I close my eyes and think about that moment, I still can hear the sound and feel the enormous power from the mountains and winds.

Are there composers who have been influential or relevant regarding your own work?  Has this changed over time?

I was inspired by Cage and Feldman early on when I started college at the New England Conservatory of Music. Later on, many more composers became important influences – so many that it is very difficult to count. I would say though that Monteverdi and the Mongolian musician Serashi are two very special artists for me. The latter once told his students that “you must put the weight of your entire life into every note you play.” That has become a motto for myself.

Would you mind speaking a little concerning your working process, i.e., do you have a regular schedule for writing; do you use a computer for composing (either for creating pre-composition materials or notation), if so, do you find that it inhibits your process?  What other technology, if any, do you use?

I have a young son. The demand of raising a kid, taking care of family while fulfilling my teaching responsibilities has been enormous, so I adapted a working schedule that can best ensure undivided concentration when I compose. I get up at 4am each day. Before my son wakes up, I can count on a couple hours of quality composing time.  I embrace everything to aid my composition – using computer in parallel to hand-written notes and sketches. I like to use different methods to complement each other, “fight” with one another, “liberate” each other, because each method in itself can be a “prison” that I strive to find escape.

lei_Liang3

Please describe one of your recent compositions and provide a link to an audio clip.

I will share a piece about my son and my admiration for Mongolian music. The piece “Verge” was written on the verge of the birth of my son Albert, and I used his name as the basic pitch material for the piece. His heartbeat also makes an appearance in the music. Below is a link to the live performance by the New York Philharmonic who commissioned the work. It was conducted by Magnus Lindberg.