Faculty and students from the School of Music will take the spotlight this Thursday at the first concert of this academic year’s New Music New Haven series.
On Thursday at 7:30 p.m., students from the Yale School of Music will perform a concert featuring the music of faculty composers Hannah Lash MUS ’12 and Christopher Theofanidis MUS ’97, and School of Music composition students Eli Greenhoe MUS ’25, Alexis Lamb MUS ’20, Ryan Lindveit MUS ’20, Paul Mortilla MUS ’20 and Frances Pollock MUS ’25. The concert kicks off the New Music New Haven series, which will feature six concerts presenting newly written solo, chamber and orchestral works. Each concert combines music of an established living composer with works written by School of Music composers during their time at Yale.
The concerts are programmed “essentially on a first-come, first-served basis,” Theofanidis said. To have a piece performed at the concert, each composer submits a form through the School of Music’s website.
For this concert, Lash and Theofanidis are the “established living composers.” School of Music students will play Lash’s “Folksongs” and the latter two movements from Theofanidis’s “Quintet” — “Aria for a lost beauty” and “Fire and magic.”
Lash wrote “Folksongs” in 2011 after a commission by Ralph Kaminsky and Hester Diamond for the MAYA Trio, a trio of percussion, harp and flute dedicated to performing new music. According to Lash’s website, the ten-minute piece is about “transformation and dichotomy,” transforming “simple, almost homely materials” in complex ways.
Theofanidis composed his “Quintet” for the B-flat clarinet and string quartet less than a year ago, after the Manchester Music Festival commissioned the work for the Ariel Quartet and clarinetist Alex Fiterstein.
“[The piece] has something of a psychological arc,” Theofanidis said.
The quintet’s second and third movements contrast the intense and dramatic first movement, which will not be performed at the concert due to time constraints. Theofanidis compared the second movement to “remembering a time of beauty before the crisis, but with a great sense of nostalgia,” while the third movement is faster and evokes “a sense of running, maybe away from, maybe toward something which is not entirely known.”
According to Theofanidis, the New Music New Haven concerts also give student composers an opportunity to have their music performed and recorded.
“The more you go around rehearsals, you realize what solves itself and what needs a little bit of help, so you want to be strategic but also want to empower the players,” said Theofanidis. “I try to go in with an open mind without any preconceptions.”
Composers attend rehearsals of their piece, coach the players and at times even conduct. The New Music New Haven series allows composers and performers to have a close working relationship, which enables composers to write with the identity of the performers in mind.
“I try to get to know the people I’m writing for as much as possible because I want the identity of the piece to reflect the identity of the performers,” said Lamb.
Greenhoe will conduct his piece “Raven.” This piece was written for Amalgama, a seven-member New York City-based chamber ensemble inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s book “The Lost Words.” The book is in the form of a “spell-book,” and “Raven” is one of those “spells.” According to Greenhoe, it contains poems written in response to an article Macfarlane read which claimed children were separating from the natural world.
“You’d go up to a kid and ask them what an acorn was, and they wouldn’t know,” Greenhoe said.
Lindveit’s piece “Triobanger” for violin, bass clarinet and percussion and Mortilla’s “p u e r a e t e r n u s // s i m u l a c r u m” — which translates to “eternal boy//simulation” — have less concrete origins. Neither work is based on a text or personal experience. The pieces are also the two premieres for the concert.
According to Mortilla, the process of creating a musical work is a combination of research and spontaneity.
“The [composition] starts as improv and just this instantaneous moment where it’s just this spark,” Mortilla said. “[Then], you mull over it for months. At that point, it’s more like research, and you’re trying to figure out what was in your head at that moment. Maybe [my piece] is a sort of my own scrutinizing of what goes into my own notion of my own music.”
The pieces by Lamb and Pollock draw on personal and cultural experiences. Both will be conducted by choral conducting student Hannah Goodwillie MUS ’19.
Lamb’s “For Marsha” is written for two soprano and alto voices with text by Aiden Kim Feltkamp for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. The piece was commissioned by the I AM I AM I AM collective.
The piece is an homage to Marsha P. Johnson, a black transgender woman and activist. According to Lamb, it also acknowledges the work that needs to be done in the LGBTQ+ community.
Pollock’s composition for string quartet and two voices, “I Am the Man,” contrasts a contemporary and classical setting of a Shakespeare text: a scene between Viola and Olivia in “Twelfth Night.”
“In Shakespeare’s time, I don’t think a relationship between two women was something that could have been discussed explicitly in the way we discuss sexuality in contemporary terms,” Pollock said.
The work is in two halves. The contemporary pop-cabaret style setting precedes the Shakespeare, which Pollock describes as a “contemplative tetrachordal exploration of processing the realization that someone likes you.”
“We’re trying to flip the Shakespeare on its head,” said Pollock. She will sing the role of Olivia in the performance.
School of Music composition faculty Aaron Jay Kernis MUS ’83 serves as artistic director for The New Music New Haven concert series.
Phoebe Liu | firstname.lastname@example.org