Robbie Short

Yale College New Music will host a performance in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library on Thursday night. The concert, titled “Art Song VI,” will feature newly composed works by James Brandfonbrener ’21, Milo Brandt ’19, Sofia Campoamor ’20, Harry Castle GRD ’19, Kenyon Duncan ’19, Michael Gancz ’21, Sam Lopate ’20 and Jacob Miller ’20.

Yale College New Music is comprised of undergraduate and graduate students enrolled in the Yale College Composition Seminar, a music department course that provides experience in original and creative composition. Kathryn Alexander, a professor in the department of music, directs the seminar, along with Konrad Kaczmarek ’02, an assistant professor of music.

“They can compose in pretty much any style for their [final] projects,” Alexander said. “Some do EDM, some do string quartet, some compose for orchestra. Then, we have these events. I started these Beinecke concerts about 12 years ago, and each concert is focused on a specific genre. This semester, it’s art songs.”

Because the repertoire of each Beinecke concert consists of entirely original student compositions, these presentations take place once each semester.

This year, each student composed a song in response to the Beinecke’s current exhibit “Eye on the West.” This showcase, which will be on view until Dec. 16, features 158 contemporary photographs of the American West and seeks to encourage contemplation of varying narratives about the region.

The Yale College Composition Seminar allows students to work with professional musicians — who will perform the student pieces — during the artistic process. This semester, students workshopped their pieces with pianist Adam Marks and mezzo-soprano Jennifer Beattie. This concert is Marks’ and Beattie’s sixth performance with Yale College New Music. Marks said that the students in this semester’s seminar have been “curious and well prepared,” even in the face of compositional challenges.

“Instead of piano, I am playing a Yamaha synthesizer,” Marks said. “We challenged the composers to select interesting sounds and create intentional pairings to construct a meaningful sonic texture to highlight the properties of the selected texts.”

Marks and Beattie have performed Yale College New Music student compositions at concerts beyond Yale, according to Alexander.

Thursday’s concert will mark the group’s first public performance and one of the first opportunities the students will have to hear the work of their peers.

Brandt, a student in the seminar, said he has not heard any of the pieces that will be performed other than his own. But he noted that he is interested to see how the other composers worked with the professional performers, since Marks and Beattie were “a strong influence on [his] composition.”

Brandt said that the first draft of his composition took him two weeks to write.

“I connected to the text’s description of the sort of pastoral scenes that are lost with development and mainly wanted to pass that connection on to the audience,” Brandt said. “For that, I set the music in two sections, one section an urgent plea set very rhythmically and the other very calm — drawing inspiration from composers such as Mendelssohn.”

Castle, another student in the seminar, said that he completed his first draft in one sitting after interacting with the text he selected — “The Last Kingdom,” a 2016 poem by American poet Jennifer Foerster.

“My song is taken from a longer cycle of three songs I have written from the same poem,” Castle said. “It’s a bit slow funk influenced, pretty twisty harmonically speaking and very colorful. The text is sensory and vivid, full of images of this somewhat otherworldly landscape. I really tried to bring out some of that in my song.”

Castle added that he is hoping the audience “will catch a glimpse of the spontaneity that captured [him]” when he wrote the piece.

Last semester, the theme of Yale College New Music’s Beinecke concert was piano music.

Rianna Turner |