Commission project in the works:

*A song cycle by Eric Nathan for soprano, baritone and chamber ensemble, inspired by   the correspondence of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson.
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Composer’s word:”I am very honored and excited to compose a new song cycle for Ensemble Meme while in residence at the American Academy in Rome. This project is close to my heart not only because of my love of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and interest in bringing to life the writings of Thomas Wentworth Higginson, but also because it is an opportunity to write for the members of Ensemble Meme, whom I greatly admire both musically and personally. I had a wonderful time working with Barry, Liuh-Wen and Molly at the Wellesley Composers Conference and am so happy they were interested in having me write this new piece for them and Meme. I can’t wait to collaborate with Ensemble Meme on this project over the next year.”

*Music for emptiness- a work by Frances White for flute, viola, piano and electronic sound with video. Collaborating artist- Karen Lamonte.
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visual– The objective is to create a visual experience that parallels the phenomena of echo and sound as it travels toward silence. The chairs will be composed of drapery: sensual and human. They will be scanned creating a wealth of information in the form of a 3d map. I will decimate the data in stages, rendering each stage as a sculpture, stripping away information until the point of abstraction and unrecognizability like the dissipation of ripples from a drop of water. Forms disintegrating into abstraction give material embodiment to sound as it travels and gradually becomes silence.

music– Just as the visuals will parallel sonic phenomena, so the music will embody these phenomena as expressed by the visuals. The empty chairs suggest absence, and their disintegration the inevitability of loss. The musical language will start with the human, emotional experience of loss, and gradually erase that into silence. I will use chance procedures to effect the erasure, creating a juxteposition of the self (music composed by me) and larger processes which are outside of me that gradually dissolve the self. The three instruments each have different attack and decay profiles, and I will explore, most specifically, what Feldman called “this departing landscape” – that is, the decay, which to me is the most touching and beautiful part of any sound. In the electronic track, intermittent, quiet recorded natural sounds (wind, water, birds) will place the human experience in the larger context of nature.

The artistic impact we hope for is predicated on the sensual, human beauty of the chairs, and of the sound. They are fragile and will disappear. Experiencing this loss, as the images fade into abstraction, the music into echoes and silence, is a confrontation with mortality, but also provides the solace of sharing the experience of loss. So, although our aesthetic is gentle and sensuous, this work is highly confrontational in that it asks its audience to contemplate these most difficult of concepts (silence, emptiness, loss, mortality.)

This piece is unique in that the visual “aspires toward the condition of music” (Pater) while the music re-translates that visual into sound. It takes the “DNA” of musical experience and plants it in the visual, creating a visual reflection of music; the musically-inflected video’s DNA is, then, the basis for creating music that is like a reflection of that reflection of music. The bigger picture is a true and mysterious hybrid between the two media. Each is not only inspired by but also transformed by the other. The content – sound disappearing into silence, form into abstraction, longing into emptiness – is also transformation.

*A work by Hendel Almetus for soprano and chamber ensemble, based on the legend of the Taino queen Anacaona.click here to read more

Anacaona 

Anacaona (1474~c. 1503) also called the Golden Flower, was a brave, intelligent and independent woman. Born into a family of caciques (chiefs) in a matriarchal society of Yaguana (Léogane, Haiti), she was destined to become a leader of her cacicazgo (tribe). She had an enigmatic, charismatic personality and was a talented artist known for her narrative ballads called areitos and her interpretive dances. As the equal partner to her brother, the cacique Behecchio, she helped governing Xaraguá and negotiating peace with the Spanish leaders who stumbled upon this new world. In order to unite cacicazgos and build stronger alliances, Anacaona married Caonabo, the great cacique of Maguana, which is located in the modern day Dominican Republic.

Upon the discovery of abundant supplies of gold in Hispanola, the Spaniards proceeded to conquer the new world by force and enslaved local Tainos to mine the gold. Many Tainos perished from the strenuous labor and merciless cruelty of the Spanish leaders, while countless others committed suicide to escape their suffering. After the death of her brother and the abduction of her husband by the Spaniards (he ultimately died en route to Spain), Anacaona became the leader of both Xaraguá and Maguana.  Highly venerated for her benevolent leadership, her legacy as a great peacemaker is celebrated to this day in both Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  Under her rules Xaraguá became a safe haven for both Tainos escaping slavery as well as renegade Spaniards who opposed the atrocities committed by their authority.  The fear of a Spanish-Xaraguan alliance of caciques prompted King Ferdinand to send Nicholas the Ovando to Hispaniola to undermine this peaceful alliance.  The queen Anacaona received Ovando with graciousness and great hospitality, and in an attempt to promote a peaceful relationship with Spain, she invited all the leaders of her kingdom to a doomed meeting with Ovando.  Through a deceitful scheme, eighty prominent caciques were enticed into a caney (hut) and burned alive. Anacaona escaped but was later executed by the Spaniards. Today her legend is taught in the schools of both Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Her legacy lives on in the heart and spirit of those who believe in peace, love and respect for all humanity.

The composition will have sections each marks a significant event in her life:

  • Ritualistic dancecelebrating Anacaona’s coming of age. Comparing her beauty with that of the land in a poetic declamation by her people.
  • The weddingUnion of the two cacicazgos. Love between Anacaona and Caonabo.
  • A good leader– Her role in assisting her brother and husband in uniting multi-villages into Cacicazgos and form peaceful alliances with neighbors.
  • First encounter and misfortunes – arrival of the Spaniards. The two worlds collided. Out of the greed for gold, the Spaniards enslaved the Tainos to mine them. Many perished due to strenuous labor, malnutrition, and cruel punishments. Suicide was the only option for many to escape the intolerable fate.
  • Safe HavenAfter the death of her husband, Anacaona’s role in providing freedom and peace for her people and those escaped from the persecution of the Spaniards.
  • The peace summit– Anacaona invited the nobles to the peace meeting with the Spanish leaders. Adorn in gold flowers, she and the nobles were lured into a deceitful scheme that ended in great tragedy.
  • Contemplation and reflection– about the future of her people and her land before her death. Her last thought: Will there ever be peace and unity in this land?

 

 

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