The Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress has awarded commissions for new musical works to seven composers. The commissions are granted jointly by the foundation and the performing organizations that will present the world premiere of each work.
Winning composers for 2022 and the groups co-sponsoring their commissions are Marcos Balter and the New York New Music Ensemble; Oscar Bettison and loadbang, a New York City-based chamber ensemble; Eric Chasalow and Sound Icon; Amy Beth Kirsten and Sandbox Percussion; Nico Muhly and Nois; Jeffrey Mumford and the String Orchestra of New York City (SONYC); and Tyshawn Sorey and Yarn/Wire.
The Koussevitzky Foundation has once again granted a commission in memory of composer Andrew W. Imbrie (1921-2007), long-time member of the Koussevitzky Board. This commission, inaugurated in 2021, is made possible through a gift from Barbara Cushing Imbrie and Andrew Philip Imbrie. Composer Eric Chasalow, sponsored by Sound Icon, is the 2022 recipient of the Imbrie commission.
Serge Koussevitzky, conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1924 to 1949, was a leading champion of contemporary music. Throughout his distinguished career, he played a vital role in the creation of new works by commissioning composers such as Béla Bartók, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky. He established the Koussevitzky Foundation in 1942 and passed operations to the Library of Congress in 1949 to continue his lifelong commitment to composers and new music. Original manuscripts of works commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation comprise an integral part of the Library’s unparalleled music collections.
Applications for commissions are accepted annually. The next deadline for submissions is Feb. 1, 2023. Please visit koussevitzky.org for more information.
2022 Koussevitzky Commission Recipients
Marcos Balter embraces a multifaceted, experimental approach to musical sound. Balter has collaborated with a range of performing ensembles, from Deerhoof, yMusic and Paul Simon, to Claire Chase and the San Francisco Symphony. Performances of Balter’s music have taken place in major venues in the U.S. and abroad, including Carnegie Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Wigmore Hall, Lincoln Center, Teatro Amazonas, Villa Medici and Teatro Madrid. His honors include the American Academy of Arts and Letters Music Award and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, Civitella Ranieri Foundation, Fromm Foundation and the Tanglewood Music Center (Leonard Bernstein Fellowship). Balter is the Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia University. Co-commissioned by the New York New Music Ensemble, Balter’s commission will be for chamber ensemble with conductor.
Oscar Bettison began his training at the Purcell School, Britain’s oldest specialist music school, before attending the Royal College of Music. Bettison credits study in The Hague with composers Louis Andreissen and Martijn Padding as foundational to his approach to composition. Following a move to the U.S., the composer’s work “O death” helped establish his innovative methods, drawing on several popular styles, including blues, in the framework of a traditional requiem complete with banjo, harmonica, and even flowerpots added to the other instruments. More recent works include “Remaking a Forest,” premiered by the Oregon Symphony, and Bettison’s first opera, “The Light of Lesser Days.” He is professor of composition at Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute. Bettison will write a work for co-commissioner loadbang, an ensemble comprised of trumpet, trombone, bass clarinet and baritone voice.
Eric Chasalow receives his second Koussevitzky Foundation commission. Chasalow’s first was for his “Flute Concerto,” composed in 2006. The composer’s new work, supported by the Andrew W. Imbrie Fund, is slated for large chamber ensemble with soprano voice, and is co-commissioned by Sound Icon. Chasalow serves as the Irving Fine Professor of Music at Brandeis University, where he also directs the Brandeis Electro-Acoustic Music Studio. His works, which break traditional barriers of genre and style, are known for combining a wide array of contrasting esthetic elements. Chasalow is recipient of the Bau Institute Arts Residency Award, the Copland House Residency Award, awards from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, two Fromm Foundation commissions and two awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Recent projects include the creation of sound art for “Avant Gardener: A Creative Exploration of Imperiled Species,” a traveling installation by Lisa D. Watson. Chasalow is co-curator of “Video Archive of Electroacoustic Music,” started in 1996 as a first-person oral history collection documenting the work of pioneering creators involved in the production of electroacoustic music.
Amy Beth Kirsten is noted for engaging in extended, multimedia theatrical collaborations, where she often has acted as composer, poet, filmmaker, vocalist and director. Collaborators and commissioners for Kirsten’s projects include ensembles such as Eighth Blackbird, musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New World Symphony and her own ensemble, HOWL. Alarm Will Sound is partnering on her current work, “Jacob in Chains,” a modern-day Christmas ghost story with an original text inspired by Charles Dickens. Kirsten has received awards and fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, as well as the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She teaches at the Curtis Institute of Music, directs the artist residency program at the Longy School of Music of Bard College and recently was appointed to the composition faculty at the Juilliard School.
Nico Muhly composes works that reach most corners of classical repertoire, from orchestral and chamber pieces, to stage works, to sacred music. Muhly’s list of commissions includes two from the Metropolitan Opera, for “Two Boys” and “Marnie,” as well as those from Carnegie Hall, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Tallis Scholars, King’s College, University of Cambridge and St. John’s College, Cambridge. Muhly collaborates frequently with other creators, having worked with choreographers Benjamin Millepied at the Paris Opera Ballet, Bobbi Jene Smith at the Juilliard School, Justin Peck and Kyle Abraham at New York City Ballet, and with artists Sufjan Stevens, Anohni, James Blake and Paul Simon. Muhly has created film scores for “The Reader,” “Kill Your Darlings,” and the BBC adaptation of “Howards End.” As a writer, Muhly has contributed to The Guardian, The New York Times and the London Review of Books. The saxophone quartet Nois will co-commission Muhly’s new work with the Koussevitzky Foundation.
Jeffrey Mumford trained as an art student before switching to music composition. Mumford acknowledges the importance of his observations of the visual world in his works, as he often turns to the patterns of clouds and light as sources of texture, design and imagery in his music. Mumford taught at the Washington Conservatory of Music, was artist-in-residence at Bowling Green State University, and served as assistant professor of composition and composer-in-residence at Oberlin College Conservatory of Music. Mumford is currently distinguished professor at Lorain County Community College in Ohio. Among Mumford’s many awards and honors are those from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the Ohio Arts Council and the University of California. SONYC, the String Orchestra of New York City, co-commissions Mumford’s piece for the Koussevitzky Foundation.
Tyshawn Sorey blends traditional composition methods with improvisation in his works, drawing on his skills and background as a virtuoso instrumentalist and performer to produce creations that elude categorization. Sorey embodies a range of roles, from performer and improviser to composer, collaborator and conceptual artist. He has worked with leading artists such as John Zorn, Vijay Iyer, Muhal Richard Abrams, Wadada Leo Smith and Anthony Braxton. Sorey received the Doris Duke Impact Award in 2015, was selected to be a MacArthur Fellow in 2017 and a United States Artists Fellow in 2018. “The Off-Off Broadway Guide to Synergism,” a three-volume set released this year, highlights Sorey’s recent work with pianist Aaron Diehl, bassist Russell Hall and saxophonist Greg Osby. Sorey’s 2022 concert piece “For Monochromatic Light (Afterlife),” commissioned to honor the 50th anniversary of the iconic Rothko Chapel in Houston, grew into an expanded work staged by director Peter Sellars in a production at New York’s Park Avenue Armory. Sorey, who is the Presidential Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Pennsylvania, will write a work for two percussionists and pianists of Yarn/Wire.
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December 12, 2022