Abstracts from the 2014 WCForum


SESSION ONE – Friday, March 7, 10:00AM
Epic Virtual Opera Production 101 – Sabrina Peña Young

Creating an epic opera production in the Digital Age no longer requires access to a multi-million dollar facility, a hundred musicians, and more connections than an overstuffed USB hub. Contemporary composers use social media, crowdfunding, virtual auditions, digital production and Kickstarter to bring their epic operatic productions to life on a shoestring budget. In 2010 I embarked on exciting musical journey as I began production on Libertaria: The Virtual Opera. After writing a full libretto and score, selecting a small cast through virtual auditions, promoting a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, mixing 1000 vocal takes, animating and editing the entire summer, and missing more than a few nights of sleep, I completed my masterpiece Libertaria: The Virtual Opera.

An exciting futuristic opera that combines complex sound synthesis, a cinematic score, and opera, Libertaria: The Virtual Opera breaks ground as the first feature-length machinima opera of its kind. Machinima is an animation style that uses a 3D video game like computer environment. To create an epic heroine’s tale, the animation team created original sets and assigned avatars for each character within this virtual environment. In this unique lecture/recital I will share a composer’s journey through Libertaria, as well as insightful tips and resources for other musicians who wish to create large-scale multimedia works of art using technology. Attendees will have an opportunity to view short excerpts from the finished opera and learn how to use sites like Kickstarter, Scribd, MusicXray, Moviestorm, and Bandcamp for their productions as well as how to maximize the home project studio through innovative mixing and mastering techniques. A short question and answer session will follow discussion on multimedia production.

Sallee and Rumsey at Mann Gulch – Beth Wiemann

The text seen in the video accompanying the performer and electronic sound in this piece includes a few sentences from Norman MacLean’s book Young Men and Fire. That work describes the happenings on August 5, 1949 in Montana during the Mann Gulch fire that killed 12 firefighters who had parachuted into the wilderness. On that day, rangers Sallee and Rumsey, young smokejumpers, survived by outrunning the rapid fire, while their crew chief, Dodge, made an escape fire, enabling his own survival.

Brahmanda – Jing Wang

As a composer, my focus in acoustic composition has been to blend Chinese and Western musical instruments and to stimulate creative and meaningful conversations between the East and the West; in the electronic music field, my focus has been to explore the real-time interaction between the computer and live musical instruments along with computer-based control of multimedia. As an echoing of the concept of “balance of dichotomy,” my attempt is always to endow Chinese instruments with contemporary color with the aid of Western instruments and/or technology, which in turn contributes a distinctive musical color to Western music.

In my presentation, Brahmanda (2012) will be examined as a demonstration of my concept of the “balance of dichotomy,” in particular, the dialectical relationship between the acoustic and electronic sound, the visual and aural element, tradition and modernism, and Chinese and Western synthesis. Thus, I have been presented with the opportunity to trace my musical path and exemplify how Brahmanda reflects my roots, learning experiences, and aesthetics.

SESSION TWO – Friday, March 7, 12:00PM
Vteřiny (Seconds), Opus 18, by Vitězslava Kaprálová – Michelle Latour

Vteřiny (Seconds), Op. 18, a cycle comprised of seven songs and a piano interlude written by Vitězslava Kaprálová between 1936 and 1939. It is an interesting collection of her work, as it is a compilation of songs written for special occasions, friends, or family members. Additionally, Kaprálová wrote these songs while in different locations: Prague, Brno, and Paris. Despite the various geographical locations and that it took Kaprálová three years to compile this set, Vteřiny is a lovely and cohesive group of music that demonstrates her gift for writing fascinating and brief musical utterances that melds voice and piano. Vteřiny is ten minutes in length, and was premiered in Prague on November 26, 1945. This lecture-recital would discuss Kaprálová’s compositional stylistic traits, analyzation of Opus 18, performance of several of her works from the cycle, and culminating with time for questions.

Vítĕszlava Kaprálová was a Czech female composer whose life was cut tragically short from tuberculosis. She was on her way to becoming a successful composer and conductor when she died abruptly at the age of twenty-five. Her impressive body of work encompasses a wide variety of genres and unfortunately, still remain rather obscure to the majority of the musical public. Her music is beautiful, haunting, and distinct, and deserves to be heard more on concert hall stages across the U.S.

Composer in Residence Presentation – Andrea Clearfield

SESSION THREE – Saturday, March 8, 3:30PM
The Flute Music of Anna Bon di Venezia with an Emphasis on Historical and Theoretical Importance – Mary Matthews

Lucie Robert’s Cadenza for Alto Saxophone and Piano – Linda Bleuel

Lucie Robert has made one of the most substantial and diversified contributions to the repertoire for saxophone of any living composer. Born in Rennes, France in 1936 and educated at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique in Paris, Ms. Robert studied composition with Tony Aubin and Yvonne Desportes. She was awarded first prizes in harmony, piano, instrumental chamber music, counterpoint, fugue, accompaniment, and composition. Since 1972 she has served as studio accompanist, assistant instructor of accompanying, and Professor of Music at the Conservatoire National Superieur de Musique. Her compositional output includes a symphony, concerti for piano, flute, and oboe, chamber music, works for solo voice and chorus, music for solo piano and organ, and an opera, L’epouse Injustement Soupconnée. She was awarded the Premier Grand Prix de Rome in 1965. In addition to composing works for some of the most important saxophonists in Europe, Ms. Robert has collaborated with American saxophonists as well. Dialogue III : Comme un cri for saxophone, voice, and piano was written for Karen Roll Gardner, Instructor of Saxophone at the College of Wooster, in 2000, Dialogue Symphonique for solo saxophone and chamber ensemble was composed for Steven Jordheim, Professor of Saxophone at Lawrence University, in 2003, and 10 + 1 for solo piano with orchestra of saxophones was written for the University of West Georgia Saxophone Ensemble in 2009/10.

Cadenza was composed in 1974 for Michel Nouax, solo saxophonist of the Garde Republicane Band. The work has six sections within its single movement layout that are unified by the recurrence six motives. Cadenza is an excellent representation of Robert’s compositional style, which is characterized by a high degree of structural unity, the presence of the modes of limited transposition in melodic material and vertical sonorities, frequent polyrhythms, and a high degree of expressive contrast, ranging from frenzied virtuosity to introspective lyricism. This lecture/recital will include a brief survey of Robert’s life and career, a discussion of the structure of Cadenza (including a demonstration of the unifying motives), and a complete performance of Cadenza.

SESSION FOUR – Saturday, March 8, 5:00PM
Betsy Jolas: Setting Text in Music in Plupart du Temps I – Amparo Fabra

American-French composer Betsy Jolas (b.1926) has been an outstanding figure in the contemporary musical scene, developing a successful career as a composer and pedagogue. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, especially in France and the United States. A remarkably imaginative artist, she has offered new perspectives to traditional approaches to melody, harmony, texture and form.

Jolas’s methods of setting text in music link directly to those of Robert Schumann and like him she reinterprets poetry through music. Jolas defends her idea that the composer takes control of the situation and uses the text for her musical purposes. In the end, she says, the composer creates a new product, where the music always remains more important than the text by adding a new dimension or new vision of what the text expresses: “The text is a point of departure for something else.”

In this presentation I will illustrate Jolas’s way of setting text to music in two pieces that, although spaced in time, have in common shared parts of the lyrics taken from poems of the French Surrealist poet Pierre Reverdy. In Plupart du Temps I (1949) for mezzo-soprano and piano Jolas’s text setting is very straightforward. She sets Reverdy’s En Face, in the fifth song, with no changes and no repetitions to the original text. In contrary, Jolas’s Plupart du Temp II, written for tenor, tenor saxophone and violoncello, Jolas rethinks the musical possibilities of the poetry and demonstrates how the imagination of the composer builds a new poetic structure to fit her expressive needs. Instrumentation, melody and harmony are new in Plupart du Temps II, however the melodic contour remains similar when using the same textual lines.

Elements of Stevie Nick’s Songwriting Style – Matthew Hough

The music of Stevie Nicks is often described as ethereal, melancholic, or plaintive. Writers speak of her signature sound and melodic instinct while others praiser her mystical or magical lyrics. This paper adresses these perceptions by looking into how Nicks’ composition world is constructed. I limit myself to two Nicks compositions, “Gypsy” (released on Fleetwood Mac’s 1982 album Mirage) and “I Sing fo the Things” (released on Nicks’ 1985 album Rock A Little). The studio recordings of these pieces are analyzed side by side with unreleased Nicks piano/vocal demos of the same songs. This process reveals several characteristic elements of Nicks’ compositional style. I will demonstrate how these elements contribute directly to general perceptions about her music.