(click the date above to view this concert on YouTube)
Program selected by the 2023 SCI Online National Conference Adjudication Committee
(Melissa D’Albora, Han Hitchen, Joshua Mallard, Robert McClure, TJ Milne, Selena Ryan, and Andrew Martin Smith):
Yellow Peril by Oswald Huynh
Heart of the Lily by Carolyn Borcherding
Herbstlied by Benjamin Damann
Filigree by Igor Karaca
Chain of Circumstances by Joseph Klein
Treacherous Tepuy by Ian Evans Guthrie
Retracements by Mark Zanter
Composer Bios and Program Notes:
Oswald Huynh is a composer whose works navigate Vietnamese aesthetics and tradition, language and translation, and the relationship between heritage and identity. Huynh writes music that explores timbre and texture to create evocative soundscapes rooted in storytelling, culture, and memory.
As a composer, Huynh has been commissioned, premiered, and performed by artists such as the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Alarm Will Sound, American Composers Orchestra, Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra, Pacific Chamber Orchestra, Akropolis Reed Quintet, Tacet(i) Ensemble, [Switch~ Ensemble], Del Sol String Quartet, Fear No Music, deaf rabbit duo, percussionist Payton MacDonald, composer/clarinetist Yoshiaki Onishi, and saxophonist Leo Schlaifer. Huynh’s music has been presented at the Copland House, SONiC Festival, Mizzou International Composers Festival, Bay View Music Festival, New Music on the Bayou Festival, Powell Hall, Bangkok Art and Culture Centre, International Composition Institute of Thailand, Arts Letters & Numbers, Ear Taxi Festival, Constellation, Oregon Bach Festival, Northwestern University New Music Conference, The Sheldon Concert Hall, and Wintergreen Music Festival, among others. He is the winner of the Musiqa Emerging Composer Commission (2022), IPO Classical Evolve Composer Competition (2022), Black Bayou Composition Award (2022), Rena J. Ratte Memorial Award (2019), and has received recognition from the American Composers Orchestra, New York Youth Symphony, Society of Composers, and Pacific Chamber Orchestra. Huynh will serve as the Composer-in-Residence with the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra for their 2023/24 season.
Huynh holds a Bachelor of Arts from Lewis & Clark College and a Master of Music from the University of Missouri. His principal teachers include Texu Kim, Stefan Freund, Carolina Heredia, and Michael Johanson.
In Vietnamese tradition, funerals are imagined as celebrations rather than laments, a transition rather than an ending. These funerals begin with a procession from the dead’s house to their local church or tomb accompanied by a brass band or traditional Vietnamese ensemble, depending on their religion. The festivities can last up to three days, and even longer for important familial figures. The purpose of this tradition is to pay tribute and to comfort the deceased on their journey.
Yellow Peril, titled after the racist color-metaphor used for East Asians, acts as a musical response to the recent rise of anti-Asian racism and hate crimes, while still recognizing America’s long history of anti-Asian discrimination. The work quotes a Vietnamese funeral song in a heterophonic texture as a homage to Vietnam’s folk music. This specific song, “Luu Thuy,” is meant to express the happiness that the living feel when the dead return to the immortal world, but I chose to slow down the pacing of the song to create a more solemn and melancholic mood. This song is framed by cacophonous sections that are reminiscent of Vietnamese funeral celebrations. Yellow Peril is bookmarked by slow, ethereal sections that make excessive use of flutter-tongue, glissando, and wide vibrato, which are all techniques used in Vietnamese and other Asian folk music traditions that Western colonizers and missionaries deemed as ugly, unclean, discordant, and inferior.
Carolyn Borcherding is a composer and sound artist interested in the relationships between audio-visual gestures and performing bodies. She considers each medium an essential performing body in which the media interact with, relate to, and inform one another. Her work ranges from solo instrumental pieces to large ensembles, and often includes electronic sounds and video. Her works have been performed nationally and internationally, including events such as the National SEAMUS Conference, the North American Saxophone Alliance Conference, Electronic Music Midwest, and New Music on the Point. Her former teachers include Eli Fieldsteel, Stephen Taylor, Christopher Biggs, and Lisa Coons. Carolyn earned her doctorate in Music Composition at the University of Illinois, her master’s degree at Western Michigan University, and bachelor’s degree from Ball State University. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Music Composition at Baldwin Wallace University.
“She listened to the music of the spheres;
We thought she did not hear our happy strings;
Stars diademed her hair in misty rings,
And all too late we knew those stars were tears.
Without she was a temple of pure snow,
Within were piteous flames of sacrifice;
And underneath the dazzling mask of ice
A heart of swiftest fire was dying slow.
She in herself, as lonely lilies fold
Stiff silver petals over secret gold,
Shielded her passion, and remained afar
From pity. Cast red roses on the pyre!
She that was snow shall rise to Heaven as fire
In the still glory of the morning star.”
The above poem served as the initial inspiration for this piece (Heart of the Lily). Fixed electronics augment the ensemble and often act in counterpoint, while live processing relates directly to the harp. The opening harp solo creates a sense of great space and loneliness. This space collapses over time as density increases and sharp gestures punctuate contrapuntal lines, building towards the cacophonous climax. This climax represents the line: “Cast red roses on the pyre!” This exclamation, this sudden burst of passion, leads into the ending, the coda of the harp solo. Each gesture in the harp has an element of rising built into it. The single notes are processed through live electronics to give each pitch a rising echo, representing the “rise to Heaven as fire” while still retaining the quiet energy of the sonnet’s final line, as well as the work’s ending.
Benjamin Damann is a composer, percussionist, music technologist, and educator currently residing in Denton, Texas. Among others, he has been performed by the Eastern Illinois University Percussion Ensemble, Apply Triangle, the Plauger-Klauss Duo, and more. His works, performed and recorded throughout the United States and Europe at such events as NYCEMF, EMM, and the SEAMUS national conference, are inspired by probability, indeterminacy, improvisation, and the timbral manipulation of acoustic instruments through both physical preparation and electroacoustic augmentation.
Benjamin’s recent works have focused on idiomatic harmonic gestures of jazz as applied to post-tonal harmony, the maximization of contemporary techniques and timbral possibilities, and the application of twentieth-century poetic forms in musical contexts. His research interests include xenharmonic tuning systems and the complex applications of both rhythm and meter in the music of Unsuk Chin and Gerard Grisey.
As a performer, he is devoted to realizing experimental works for solo snare drum and multi-percussion as well as programming software interfaces to aid in the performance of such works. His background in percussion has also led him to teaching opportunities from fifth-grade beginning band to university marching bands. Benjamin holds a BM in percussion performance with a concentration in music composition from Eastern Illinois University, where he studied with Dr. Brad Decker and Professor Jamie Ryan, an MM in Music Composition from Bowling Green State University, where he studied with Dr. Elainie Lillios, Dr. Mikel Kuehn, and Michael Laurello, and is currently pursuing his PhD at the University of North Texas.
Herbstlied sheds light on how bipolar disorder and subtle, seasonal light fluctuations can affect one’s emotional state and sense of stability (or lack thereof). These ever-fluctuating emotional states are reconciled with an exploration of timbre and color. Similarly, emotional fragility and frailty are represented in a quiet, limited dynamic range.
I sincerely hope that herbstlied can be my small contribution toward greater mental health awareness and acceptance in the contemporary music and academic communities. Moreover, it is a sincere expression of gratitude to my wife, Autumn, who acts as my emotional ground in the times that I am most intensely affected by the bipolar phenomena explored in this work.
Dr. Igor Karaca is a Bosnian composer and pianist of classical and jazz music. Most of Karaca’s work has been for chamber ensembles and electronic media. He employs a wide variety of techniques, ranging from controlled aleatoric, avant-jazz inspired textures, to more traditional, neoclassical style; he usually aims to make his work accessible to a relatively large audience.
Igor Karaca has written three symphonies, a suite for concert band, concertante works for clarinet and piano, thirty electronic and electro-acoustic compositions, over seventy chamber compositions, including the award-wining ‘Wind Trio,’ ‘Between Walls’ for violin, clarinet and piano, and ‘Handful of Dust’ for bass clarinet and piano. Karaca composed dramatic scores for three motion pictures: ‘A House Over the Rainbow,’ ‘Sarajevo War Diary,’ ‘Tell Me Your Name Again,’ and three theater plays: ‘Twelfth Night’, ‘Fate of a Cockroach’ and ‘Requiem for Bird Parker’.
Recent performances include premieres in the USA, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, and the Netherlands, and other performances in Germany, Ireland, France, Austria, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
He was also a member of Sarajevo Jazz Quartet, jazz quintet Happy End, and Bosnian pop-rock band Punkt, for which he played piano, Hammond organ, and electronic keyboards.
Currently, Dr. Karaca is teaching courses on music composition, orchestration, music technology, and music theory at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater.
Filigree is a form of ornamental metalwork of delicate or intricate design. This composition takes on a form similar to that of a filigree openwork. Its colorful harmonic and melodic elements are placed on the forward trajectory in the manner of delicate sculptural objects.
Born in Los Angeles in 1962, Joseph Klein is a composer of solo, chamber, and large ensemble works, including instrumental, vocal, electroacoustic, and intermedia compositions. His music—which has been described as “a dizzying euphoria… like a sonic tickling with counterpoint gone awry” (NewMusicBox) and exhibiting a “confident polyvalence [that] heightens its very real excitement” (The Wire)—reflects an ongoing interest in processes drawn from such sources as fractal geometry, chaos, and systems theory, often inspired by natural phenomena. His works frequently incorporate theatrical elements, whether as a component of the extra-musical references or as an organic outgrowth of the musical narrative itself. Literature is another important influence on his work, with recent compositions based on the writings of Franz Kafka, Elias Canetti, Alice Fulton, W.S. Merwin, Milan Kundera, and John Ashbery.
Klein holds degrees in composition from Indiana University (DM, 1991), University of California, San Diego (MA, 1986), and California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (BA, 1984). His composition teachers have included Harvey Sollberger, Claude Baker, Robert Erickson, and Roger Reynolds. He is currently Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of North Texas College of Music, where he has served as Chair of Composition Studies since 1999.
Chain of Circumstances, originally intended for live performance with piano, solo dancer, and interactive computer music, was reconceived as a screendance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Featured on this realization are pianist Richard Shuster and dancer/choreographer Jordan Fuchs, with lighting design by Dayna Ballenger and videography by Danielle Willis. The original version of this work explored aspects of recombinance, modularity, and non-linear musical structures, and was conceived as a series of disparate, distinctive, and relatively static musical states. In this screendance version, the pianist’s choices regarding the assemblage of musical modules served as an impetus for the dancer’s semi-improvised choreography, which in turn was filmed, then recontextualized and compiled into the present video by the composer. Chain of Circumstances was supported by a grant from Texas Woman’s University, and was composed in February-March 2020 for pianist Richard Shuster and dancer/choreographer Jordan Fuchs. This screendance version was completed in October 2020.
Ian Evans Guthrie, a composer, performer, researcher, and collaborator in instrumental, vocal, and interdisciplinary genres, has received the Mile High Freedom Band 2021 Commission, 1st prize for the Noosa-ISAM and Arcady Composition competitions, 2nd prize for the American Prize, a nomination for an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and other accolades for his compositions. Many of his works have been performed publicly around the world by fEARnoMUSIC, the Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Moore Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble Offspring, Interlochen Summer Camp, VIPA, highSCORE Music Festival, and others. He has served on various committees, including the Society of Composers, Inc., where he is the Marketer, and NACUSA, where he is the Treasurer. His most recent works include pieces for various wind bands, Calvary University Chorale, and Te Deum.
Guthrie maintains an active piano career, frequently performing his own works and those of other contemporary composers, including Dmitri Tymoczko. Most recently, he won and 2nd prize in the Great Composers Competition: Music of America and many other top prizes from GCC competitions. He has also won the 2013-14 Oregon MTNA young artist’s competition, the 2014 Brookings-Harbor Friends of Music scholarship, and others.
Guthrie received his Doctor of Music as a Graduate Teaching Assistant from Florida State University, where he studied composition with Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Stephen Montague, Clifton Callender, Mark Wingate, and Ladislav Kubik, and piano with Heidi Louise Williams. He is currently the Assistant Professor of Music at Calvary University. For more information, please visit ianguthriecomposer.com.
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Sometimes, titles inspire my compositions; other times, my compositions inspire titles, as in the case of this piece (Treacherous Tepuy). While composing for the amazing ensemble yMusic, material developed so organically, but I had no program attached to it. Therefore, I based the title of this composition on a question: What feels both treacherous and thrilling to me? I used to never fear heights, but that all changed when I had a near death fall on a hike a few years ago. Thus, my favorite views often require me to overcome one of my phobia. A tepuy (meaning “house of the gods”) refers to a mesa in South America that rises thousands of feet above a jungle. Although I have not (yet) ascended one, I imagine they share some similarities with the snowclad peaks I have. Fun yet fatal, there is nothing quite like the rollercoaster thrills of climbing big peaks. However, since this piece began without a title, I encourage you to listen with an open mind to whatever storyline you hear. The piece begins with snippets of what is to come, and then it hits the ground running on a treacherous journey to its thrilling ending. What lies behind? That does not matter—enjoy the top first!
Dr. Mark Zanter is professor of music; and Distinguished Artist and Scholar at Marshall University. He has appeared on NPR’s Live at the Landmark, WILL, IPR, on WVPN In Touch With The Arts, is published by Les Productions d’OZ, European American and MJIC, festival performances include MUSIC X, June in Buffalo, Soundscape, NYCEMF, Echofluxx, SEAMUS, ACA, Generative Art International, Seensound, MIUC Melbourne, and SPLICE. Zanter has received awards from ASCAP, AMC, ACF, Meet the Composer, WV Division Culture, WVMTA; and Lament and dream received special distinction for the ASCAP Rudolph Nissim Prize. He records for Ablaze, Navona, and innova imprints.
Retracements uses Fibonacci numbers and Phi proportions that mirror percentages used by stock market traders to predict corrections of trends in the market. Fib. numbers used in Retracements dictate the length of short sections in the work, while larger sections emerge organically and less predictably with regard to Phi (GS). In short, the work unfolds structurally through the impetus of determinate decisions combined with intuitive and indeterminate factors. In this light, the work is a musical realization of the retracement principal.