Between this and my last post, a lot has happened! I finished my undergrad, for one. I also spent a few weeks in Spain at a killer summer festival that I'll talk about below. I've finished some projects and begun a few others. Shall we dive right in?
The final semester of my undergrad was an incredible one. I had a great time making music in the Ithaca College Improvisation Ensemble led by Louise Mygatt. In a nutshell, the group performs improvised works of every sort: jazz, minimalism, klangfarbenmelodie-esque music, and everything in between. The pieces range from being heavily structured—with predetermined "roadmaps" that the performers follow—to being completely free where every decision is made in the moment. We explored improvisation combined with multimedia such as visual art and poetry, and we explored extended techniques of every instrument in the ensemble. It was a highly experimental environment, and a composer's dream come true. Moreover, the ensemble was stacked with killer performers and composers; there was no dead weight. It was great fun and I'm super thankful to all the members of the group for making my last semester at Ithaca so fun!
The rest of my semester was spent writing the piece that would eventually be premiered in Valencia, Spain by the premier new music ensemble, Eastman BroadBand. That piece is Difrasismos. You can read more about the work on the piece's page, but to summarize, the piece is based on the Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs) linguistic structure of the same name that I learned about studying World Religions with professor Jonathan L. Jackson. Basically—according to Nahuatl scholar Miguel León Portilla—when the Aztecs “wanted to endow an idea with maximum clarity and precision, they always isolated two of its qualities,” and used those qualities to describe the idea through eloquent and succinct metaphor. The piece tries to do the same thing with a two movement structure. Writing the piece was great fun! It ended up kind of being an exercise in string writing, because it involves a large amount of natural harmonic trills. I finished the piece in April, but I would have to wait until July to hear the performance in Valencia, Spain.
I went to Spain to participate in the Valencia International Performance Academy's (VIPA) summer festival, which was an absolute delight. The festival is the brainchild of composers Jason Thorpe Buchanan, Jorge Grossmann, and Carlos Amat. I wish I had had time to journal all my experiences at the festival day by day, but the schedule was so jam packed, we were beat every single night. It was an awesome experience, however. I met some incredible people, both composers and performers (I'll try to like to their sites in the Links section of the website here), and reconnected with some great friends, such as Adriel miles, Jorge Grossmann, and Matthew Recio.
It was incredible being surrounded by people who were so likeminded. On the very first day, all the composers who were there so far had dinner together. We immediately hit it off and became instant friends, having brilliant discussions about music that then branched out into every aspect of life.
As the festival continued, it was invigorating to be around so many great thinkers who thought about music differently from myself. One of my favorite things in the universe is being exposed to new ways of thinking about music, and there was plenty of that in this festival. The composer in residence were my former professor, Jorge Grossmann, Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon from Eastman, and Stefano Gervasoni from the Paris Conservatory. Carlos Sánchez-Gutiérrez was also there for a few days for masterclasses. My piece Difrasismos got premiered by the Eastman BroadBand ensemble, which was awesome. Recording of that should be up soon.
All in all, I can't recommend this festival enough. The people are amazing. The program is great. The performances are sensitive. Spanish wine is inexpensive and delicious. What else do you need? Next year Eastman BroadBand is coming back, as is the Mivos string quartet. NOMOS Group and Jason's Switch Ensemble is also going to be there. Application info for next year hasn't been released yet, but keep it on your radar because last year they made it so if you applied before a certain day, your application fee was waived. You can learn more about the festival here.
After the festival, we took a trip up the coast to Barcelona for a couple days, during which I celebrated my 23rd birthday! Spent a great time checking out the National Art Museum of Catalonia and hanging with friends both new and old. Then we came back to the states.
Incidentally, our flights to and from Spain involved two 18-hour layovers in Istanbul, Turkey. That was a ridiculously interesting experience to say the least. Mainly because it's such a completely different culture with a totally different language. Adriel and I managed to get around and make the most of out 18 hours by checking out a bit of the Turkish night life. Unfortunately, on the trip back, we got ripped off by a crooked cab driver. Because the Turkish Lira isn't even close to being as strong a currency as the dollar, I only lost about 15 dollars, but it's the principle of the thing. Still, Turkey was a cool place. There's so much history there, and the landscape is gorgeous: mosque spires adorn the horizon as far as the eye can see. If the political climate ever gets better, it would be nice to eventually go back and spend a longer time there to learn more about what it's really like. I think like a week after we left, the Istanbul police station was bombed. So maybe wait a while before going back. Turkish Airlines is awesome, though. They're one of the best airlines I've ever used. Since our layover was longer than 10 hours, they comped us a hotel room both ways. Great stuff.
I also spent time visiting the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and fell in love with it. It's become my top choice for grad school, and if I get in there, I'm definitely going.
Upcoming projects include:
- Cicada for Oboe & String Quartet to be premiered by Jake Walsh in December
- An arrangement of my Six Word Stories for seven-part a cappella vocal ensemble. This will include some of the old ones, but also some new ones as well. I may continue to explore this genre and write more songs for Soprano and Ensemble or Bass and Guitar.
- A new string quartet that I began working on in Spain.
That's all for now, since grad school apps will demand a lot of my attention.