MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

A Composer’s Final Work Contains ‘Visions’ of an American Master

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The composer George Walker died last summer at 96. He was a close friend of the artist Frank Schramm, who documented his final years in photographs. Photo (c) Frank Schramm

My New York Times article on the late George Walker is now online and will be in the Sunday Arts section.

SEATTLE — Last fall, the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery began to display, among its recent acquisitions, a photograph of the composer George Walker. It shows him close up, his right index finger and thumb bearing down on a pencil with the precision of a surgeon, at work on the manuscript score of his Sinfonia No. 5.

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Filed under: American music, George Walker, new music, New York Times

John Harbison Comes to Seattle

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If you’re in Seattle over the next few days, don’t miss the chance to experience John Harbison in person, who will perform at the keyboard with his wife, violinist Mary Harbison at Octave 9 tonight. AND Ludovic Morlot and the Seattle Symphony give the West Coast premiere on Thursday and Saturday of Harbison’s new work for organ and orchestra What Do We Make of Bach?. The program also includes a Stokowski Bach transcription and the last of Shostakovich’s 15 symphonies.

For more background on John Harbison, here’s my profile for a recent edition of Strings magazine:

Filed under: American music, Bach, John Harbison, Seattle Symphony

Derek Bermel at Octave 9

This afternoon, in Seattle Symphony’s new Octave 9 space, Derek Bermel and friends present Brooklyn to Ballard. The program, featuring cellist Seth Parker Woods, pianist Ethan Iverson, and Seattle Symphony musicians, will focus on the permutations of jazz and its inspiration on a wide range of composers. Bermel additionally collaborates with Seattle-based visual artist Barbara Earl Thomas.

Filed under: American music, new music, Seattle Symphony

Reena Esmail’s This Love Between Us

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Tonight the Los Angeles Master Chorale gives the West Coast premiere of Reena Esmail’s moving This Love Between Us: Prayers for Unity.

Here’s my program essay for tonight’s concert, which pairs her oratorio with Bach’s Magnificat.

I also had the privilege of writing this profile of Reena Esmail for Musical America.

Filed under: American music, Bach, choral music, Los Angeles Master Chorale, new music, Reena Esmail

Happy Birthday, George Walker!

The wonderful American composer George Walker turns 96 today. And he’s still very much at work, with a symphonic world premiere coming up in the new Seattle Symphony season: Sinfonia No. 5, in which he reflects on the massacre at a Charleston church in 2015.

The clip above is from a 2012 interview, just before George Walker reached the age of 90.
Happy Birthday, George!

Filed under: American music, George Walker

Ellen Reid: Excavating American Dreams

Here’s the piece I wrote for the Los Angeles Master Chorale’s world premiere of reams of the new word by the team of composer Ellen Reid, librettist Sarah LaBrie, and researcher Sayd Randle.

“In classical and concert music right now, a lot of people are trying to think of how to reflect the world we feel we are living in and the world we want to be living in,” says composer and sound artist Ellen Reid…

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Filed under: American music, commissions, Los Angeles Master Chorale, new music

Harry Partch Fest at the University of Washington

I was lucky to catch last night’s concert, part of a weekend festival exploring the music and ideas of Harry Partch at the University of Washington.

Here’s a video of curator and professor Charles Corey introducing the Harry Partch instruments collection at UW.

Here’s a video of the final part of Partch’s The Wayward, his collection of hobo-themed pieces set during the Great Depression:

Filed under: American music, Harry Partch

Iced Bodies at Dartmouth

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Seth Parker Woods

Here’s a terrific story by Britta Greene for NPR on the Iced Cello project by cellist Seth Parker Woods and composer Spencer Topel, which they recently performed at Dartmouth College.

My profile of this amazing cellist for Strings magazine is here.

Some more Seth Parker Woods (with R. Andrew Lee, playing music of Michael Vincent Waller):

Filed under: American music, Michael Vincent Waller, Seth Parker Woods

George Walker’s Piano Sonatas

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The Eastman School of Music celebrates the 95th birthday year of one of its illustrious alumni, the composer and pianist George Theophilus Walker (’56), with a special recital this evening. At 7:30 p.m. EST, the Albanian pianist Redi Llupa will perform all five of Walker’s piano sonatas, which span a half century, from 1953 to 2003.

The concert will be streamed and made publicly available here.

Filed under: American music, George Walker

“Become Desert” from John Luther Adams

This week brings the world premiere of the new large-scale orchestral work from John Luther Adams, which Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot will perform Thursday and Saturday. My preview for The Seattle Times:

“Close your eyes and listen to the singing of the light,” exhorts Octavio Paz in “Piedra Nativa” (“Native Stone”)….

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Filed under: American music, John Luther Adams, Ludovic Morlot, Seattle Times

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