In Their Own Words

Sunday, June 17, 2018

2018 Young Artists Program composers, left to right:
Adam Karelin, Benjamin Champion, Theodore Haber, Hannah Ishizaki, Lauren Vandervelden, Matthew Pinder, Sequoyah Sugiyama

The Young Artists Program concert on June 17, 2018 features seven world premiere performances of works by our YAP composers. Here is what they have to say about their work:

Theodore Haber (b.1999)
Entrances at Bay (2018)

I often go to a place called Indian rock to clear my head when I am back home in Berkeley, California. It is a rock formation that has been in the Berkeley hills for hundreds of years. From the top, you can see all of the Bay Area. When I arrived back home after finishing my first year in college, I wanted to go there to reflect. Along with me, I had brought a book of manuscript paper. I decided, while watching the sun set over the Golden Gate Bridge, to start writing this piece. I knew that I wanted to explore the idea of a single line as the entire conceptual and sonic material for the piece, but where that line would go, and how it would develop, I was not yet sure. So, as I sat at the top of Indian rock, reflecting on my year, looking forward, both in time and physically at the setting sun, I wrote the first few iterations, or entrances, of the line. They were the entrances at bay.

Adam Karelin (b.2000)
System Preferences (2018)

System Preferences is a collection of three pieces: Systema Naturæ, Systema Machina, and Systema Deus. Systema Deus was premiered and recorded in the summer of 2017 in Los Angeles, by members of the Sunset ChamberFest. The full System Preferences suite is being premiered this afternoon, by members of the Yellow Barn Young Artists Program.

The pieces call for a retuned violin and mutes for the strings and piano in order to repurpose the sound of the trio in painting a landscape that is technically familiar to the players and sonically unfamiliar to the audience. The three systems share germinal material but treat it distinctly. Both the timbral similarities and disparities of the three instruments are explored through the dramatic scope of the ensemble.

Hannah Ishizaki (b.2000)
Lyrids (2018)

Lyrids was inspired by a yearly meteor shower called the Lyrids, which occurs in April and passes through the constellation Lyra. This piece follows the emotions of an observer from the anticipation of the astronomical event to its passing and the subsequent stillness. Lyrids begins with a cello solo that represents the observer’s watchful hope, which is then passed to violin and then viola. The expectation is broken by punctuated piano that reflects the bursts of adrenalin upon viewing the first meteors in the sky, leading into the full meteor shower. The calm of dawn then comes at the end, but the feeling of anticipation for the next night’s meteor shower still remains.

Sequoyah Sugiyama (b.1997)
Variations (2018)

Variations for piano quintet is my first foray into the world of integral serialism, a compositional technique wherein the constituent elements of the various parameters of music (i.e. pitch, rhythm, dynamics, etc.) are serialized, or placed into a strict order and realized almost exclusively in that order. Serialism was a divisive force in 20th century music, notorious for alienating concertgoers by prioritizing a seemingly academic rigor over conventionally pleasing aesthetics. But it is difficult to make generalizations about what the philosophical or artistic impetus for the emergence of serialism is because composers approached it in vastly different ways, and for sometimes contradicting reasons. My historical fascination with this approach to composition has evolved into a musical interest. In writing Variations, I set out to discover what I can learn from serial technique.

Lauren Vandervelden (b.1999)
Apprehension (2018)

Before writing Apprehension, I knew my friend Anoush would be performing the clarinet part. This inspired me to craft a virtuosic clarinet part that would show off this quality in her playing. Beginning mysteriously, the clarinet line becomes more improvisatory, highlighted with percussive gestures. This cadenza-like opening allows the players musical freedom, enabling them to utilize liberty in the pacing of the introduction, pushing and pulling to create a sense of tension. The turbulence of the beginning erupts into a faster, more playful, yet still agitated section. My inspiration for the title came not from my analysis of my composition, but instead from my confusing the 12:00pm deadline given for the completion of my work and thinking it was 12:00am instead. Having missed the deadline, I was overwhelmed with panic and realized my anxiety resembled the turmoil of my composition, making Apprehension the obvious choice for my title.

Matthew Pinder (b.1998)
String Quartet (2018)

This is the first movement of a four-movement string quartet. The movements are arranged in a slow-fast-slow-fast manner and this the first slow movement. One of my primary goals in composing this piece was to make sure every note had a definite place and purpose and to use as few notes as possible to convey as much as possible. I didn’t want to have dissonance just for dissonance’s sake or consonance just for consonance’s sake. What resulted was a movement consisting of long phrases with a slow melodic motion. It is my opinion that the long notes often hold tension and drama more effectively than fast notes and I tried to utilize this as much a possible in this piece.

The beginning is somewhat unusual. I have written a 29-measure duet between the first violin and the viola. This introduction is somewhat tonally ambiguous and the texture is thin because there are only two voices. When the whole quartet plays together for the first time, at measure 30, the warmth of a D-major chord is a polar opposite to what came before it. Throughout the rest of the piece I explore many different tonalities and textures while keeping the melodic motion relatively slow.

Benjamin Champion (b.2000)
Turtle Sphere (2018)

Waiting for things to happen is one of my favorite activities. I imagine that sea turtles are the grand masters of waiting. I like to think that this piece waits for things to happen, in the same way that I imagine sea turtles do. I wrote this piece in a “non-discriminatory” way, by which I mean I sat in front of a piece of paper without preconception and wrote as ideas occurred to me. My only objective was to fill each page with an idea or a shape and then wait, not only for the next idea to come, but for the eventual textual arc holding all of the events together to reveal itself.

More works by these young composers can be heard on Thursday, June 28 and Friday, June 29 at The Big Barn.