Happy New Year to all of our CE community members wherever you are in the world. Let’s hope that 2021 will turn out to be a much better year than 2020, and we finally beat this pandemic with the vaccine. As many of you who read the news know, Southern California is in dire circumstances at present with the virus running rampant and 500 deaths a day in Los Angeles and the surrounding areas. Many of us continue to shelter at home and we give our heartfelt thanks to all of the frontline health and essential services workers everywhere who make it possible for us to survive in these circumstances. I also give my sincere thanks to Dan, Késia and Sam at Composers Edition for keeping the doors open and the lights on, even in these difficult times. I know all of my fellow CE composers greatly appreciate what they do for us.
My musical life continues on many levels, especially online. I am busier than I have ever been as a composer and a teacher, though it’s a very different life than a year ago. The most important thing is that we keep making our music and other arts. It’s what keeps our world human culture alive. I am grateful that I am able to do what I love in life, no matter what.
I am thrilled that my set of three nocturnes for piano, Painted Night, will receive its premiere performance online from New York by the fabulous Eleonor Sandresky in her monthly series Lunar Landscapes. I will be joining Eleonor in conversation via Zoom in a segment before the performance. Join us on Saturday 27 February at 9 pm New York time. You can get more info and a ticket for the performance here
I composed the Painted Night nocturnes a couple of years ago as a present for my dear friends Yvonne and Tomi Ungerer. Tomi, who died just after I wrote the piece, was one of the world’s great illustrators and authors of children’s books. I chose paintings of night scenes by three artists that we all loved—Hopper, Van Gogh and Whistler—to make my pieces about.
I have three pieces cued up for recordings, two of which are on hold until it is safe to go into a studio. The song cycle A Chaos of Light and Motion and my jazz-influenced chamber opera about growing up with The Bomb, The New Frontier, now in progress (CE score forthcoming), have funding but will have to wait until it is safe for recordings. The third piece, my dramatic madrigal with texts by Rabindranath Tagore, On the Shores of Eternity, for soprano, electronics, flute, harp, cello, double bass, 5-part vocal ensemble and dancer (CE score forthcoming), is in production with distanced recording for the moment, and will probably take the rest of the year to complete. I am partnering on all three of these projects with the fabulous soprano Stacey Fraser. Portions of all three works will be featured in this year’s New Music Festival at California State University Fullerton which will be held virtually in April this year.
Also coming up in April, a performance of my cycle of miniature songs with texts in Spanish by Jorge Luis Borges, El Oro de los Tigres, in the Hear Now Festival, which will be held online in April, rescheduled from 2020. It will be performed by Kirsten Ashley Wiest, soprano; Brian Walsh, clarinet; Cecilia Tsan, cello; Alison Bjorkedal, harp; and conducted by Anthony Parnther. I will have more information on this performance next month.
On a personal note, I have joined the faculty of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs this term, teaching a course in media composition. The campus is a thousand miles away from me in LA, but Zoom makes it possible for me to teach from the comfort of my home studio. Who would have imagined such an arrangement just ten months ago!
Everybody please stay well and keep making music!
Jack Van Zandt
Tags: A chaos of Light and Motion, Alison Bjorkedal, Anthony Parnther, Brian Walsh, California State University Fullerton, Cecilia Tsan, El Oro de los Tigres, Eleonor Sandresky, full moon, Hear Now Festival, jack van zandt, Kirsten Ashley Wiest, letter, New Music Festival California University Fullerton, On the Shores of Eternity, Painted Night, Stacey Fraser, The New Frontier, University of Colorado