Greetings from the southern extent of the Left Coast of the USA! Most of us are glad to see the end of the year 2020 for many reasons, but as perverse as it might sound, it has also in some ways been a good year for me personally as a composer. Even as the pandemic has worsened to the point in the US and here in California, where we are sure to be living with more severe social distancing restrictions over the winter, things are looking up. I know that things are going to get worse before they get better, and it will be at least a year or more before we can go back to live in-person music events, but in the meantime we are taking advantage of many new opportunities afforded to musicians and music educators by technology, and our music world has moved on and will never again be like it was a year ago. I see this as a good thing ultimately.
One of the very best things that happened to me in the past year is joining Composers Edition and working with the wonderful Dan, Sam and Késia. It is an honor to be in a community with so many composers that I admire, some of whom I have known for many decades as well others who are new friends. There are three of us out here on the Western edge of the CE world, and I am especially honored to be in the company of my two LA colleagues Anne LeBaron and Jeff Holmes. The three of us are very good friends and are often programmed together. It was my plan upon joining the CE community to produce some concerts in Southern California that featured our music along with some of our UK colleagues, and that is still something I want to do once we are on the other side of the pandemic.
My latest CE publication is my piece Stirrings Still: In Memory of Peter Maxwell Davies. It is scored for alto flute, bass clarinet, piano, vibraphone, percussion, violin/viola and cello. It is a set of five movements that I worked on for many years, finally finishing in 2016. The source of two of the movements came from pieces I wrote for the Fires of London as part of Peter Maxwell Davies’ class at Dartington that I attended in 1977. I finished the piece up shortly after Max passed away and dedicated it to his memory. He was a very important figure in my life, a teacher, mentor and friend, as well as an inspiration, as I love and admire so many of his pieces. There is a demo recording link on the CE catalog page of the score and parts for Stirrings Still as well.
My professional partnership with the fabulous Canadian-American soprano Stacey Fraser has expanded to a couple of new projects as well as further developments on two already in progress. One of our ongoing projects, a 50s and 60s jazz inspired 75-minute monodramedy for video production, The New Frontier, has been awarded grant funds that will pay for costumes, lighting design, production design and performers. Excerpts from the work will be featured at the annual California State University Fullerton 2021 New Music Festival in late February. The full score will be available from CE in a few months. In the meantime, we have recorded two of the songs from the piece in trio form and they can be seen here:
My Shelley song cycle written for Fraser, A Chaos of Light and Motion, has been awarded funds for a studio recording at Tritone Studios in Burbank, California as soon as it is safe. Alongside the score and parts at CE catalog page there is a link to the first performance video of A Chaos of Light and Motion.
Fraser and I are now in the process of recording my settings of Tagore for soprano, solo cello and electronics from my dance opera, On the Shores of Eternity. I wrote the work in 2003 at a time when a live production of it would have been difficult and expensive. Now it’s a different story thanks to the improvements in technology, and we plan to videotape the songs with a dancer in the coming year. Some of these songs also exist in acoustic instrument versions, and they will all be published by CE over the course of 2021. I will be making the electronic tracks available for download for anyone who wants to perform them that way.
And finally, we will be recording my set of songs from Elizabethan poems for soprano and guitar (or lute or harp), A Rain of Tears: Songs from the Age of Melancholy. The poems are from Sir Philip Sydney, Sir Thomas Wyatt, Elizabeth I, Shakespeare and John Donne, and the music is inspired by my deep love of the songs of John Dowland. I am finishing up the cycle over the holidays and CE will be publishing them early next year once the guitar parts are edited. Stay tuned for more information on this project and On the Shores of Eternity in the coming New Year.
Coming up in late February, the first streamed performance of my set of three nocturnes for piano, Painted Night, played by Eleonor Sandresky, of the Philip Glass Ensemble in New York. Details will be coming in January.
Happy Holidays from Los Angeles to one and all, wherever you may be in this world.
Jack Van Zandt
Tags: A chaos of Light and Motion, A Rain of Tears, jack van zandt, On the Shores of Eternity, Painted Night, Peter Maxwell Davies, Songs from the Age of Melancholy, Stacey Fraser, stirrings still, The New Frontier