Nine composers occupy Aaron Copland’s house

Nine composers occupy Aaron Copland’s house


norman lebrecht

November 17, 2016

press release:

Nine US composers from nine states have been selected for the 2016 Copland House Residency Awards. They are Nilo Alcala, 38 (North Hollywood, CA); Daniel Gilliam, 37 (Louisville, KY);  Christopher Hopkins, 59 (Ames, IA); Howard Kenty  36 (Brooklyn, NY); Mark Kilstofte, 57 (Greenville, SC); Texu Kim, 35 (Hillsboro, OR); Peter Van Zandt Lane, 31 (Athens, GA); Eric Nathan, 32 (Providence, RI); and Juri Seo, 34 (Lawrenceville, NJ). David Biedenbender, 31 (Mount Pleasant, MI) was selected as an Alternate.




  • Skripach says:

    Eight men and only one woman? In 2016, that is ridiculous.

  • Richard says:

    89% white men? Yep that sounds about right. Nice job guys.

  • John says:

    Typical out-of-touch thinking: if men and women or whites and blacks are not equally split, the world is sexist or racist. Be aware that most people prefer for success to come from pure ability, not sex or race.

    • Scribe says:

      It must be nice to believe that “pure ability” accounts for most musicians’ success.

      • John Borstlap says:

        It is still possible that these composers were selected on the basis of abilities alone, i.e. abilities as understood by the committee. We will only know after each selecting member has been subdued to intense cross examination in an isolated cell by professional FBI officers.

  • John Borstlap says:

    Such residencies are always interesting to see whether some new talent has been detected, and of course it is a signal of healthy interest in the development of art music that it is possible at all to offer such opportunities to composers, many of them struggling to find their voice and to get heard.

    When interested in new, unknown music by contemporary composers, one should be as open as possible, listening with only one’s musical sensitivity, and forget one’s personal tastes and prejudices, and try to understand what the author has attempted to get across. Also one should wait with one’s conclusions, if there be any, untill one has taken-in quite a bulk of the music, because an unfamiliar piece may be off-putting in the beginning due to its idiom, and get better ‘absorbed’ after some time. So, however unpleasant and ugly the sounds come-in, however one has suffered from the shallow narcissism of so much new music, one should again and again, confronting a new piece, force oneself to surrender until quite a portion has had the opportunity to enter the listener’s inner receptive space. And we should not forget that for sophisticated (!) listeners at the time, the Eroica was experienced as too long, too dense, lacking melody etc. because the music was so personal and so different from the latest works of Haydn, Mozart, Cherubini and Hummel which had been digested with quite some effort.

    With all this in mind, exploring the music of the mentioned composers through what could be listened to on their websites, was a patient, well-meaning but quite depressing excercise….. but indeed leading to something that seemed to be a full and profound understanding. Only 2 composers demonstrated a serious, musical approach with real musical ideas: Gillium and Kilstofte, although the latter could only be judged by a (beautiful) choral work: ‘Gazing up the Stars’. Gillium, handling a dense, chromatic and colourful tonality, showed serious purpose and real musical content, and a strong and persuasive personality. The others, however clever they played with sounds and funny and odd ideas, had not much to say, and most of them merely played around fragments from different sources, as if they could only remember what they heard on radio, TV, or in the streets. In short: uncooked, undigested, unformed, lacking musical sensibility. The only woman made no exception: merely offering odd entertainment around bits of music, as if just for her own private pleasure. General impression: the mentioned two excepted, just private entertainment, obviously stimulated by the conventional average sounds of 20C ‘modern music’, which opened the doors to people whose musical talents would be better appropriated by other occupations.

    If compared with this short piano concerto by Karol Beffa, such shallowness is merely embarrassing, with or without Copland:

    • Peter VZ Lane says:

      Ouch! Sorry (most of) our music is so disappointing. I can’t help but think, though, that when you ham-handedly dismiss *all* of the music of all the composers here (save two), for not conforming to what you consider to be “serious music,” you fall victim to the same superiority complex Beethoven’s shared by the “sophisticated listeners” dismissive of the Eroica.

      Not that I think any of us have written an Eroica. . . but “merely played around” with what we heard “in the streets”? C’mon.

      I also can’t help but point out the only composer you directly lambasted here is also the only woman on the list (note the above gripes in the comments section), who I am quite certain takes her art very seriously, and does not merely make it for “her own private pleasure” (you’re clearly a talented wordsmith, and I hope the connotations you leave there were not lost on you).

      Blunt criticism is a rare find, and I personally appreciate it when I see it (even if it burns a bit). But trying to dismiss outright the entire work (oh, and the whole creative impetus) of seven composers in one paragraph is a bit of an overreach.

      • Alex says:

        This John Borstlap claims to have had the chance to “explore the music of the mentioned composers through what could be listened to on their websites” and collectively dismissed all of them (except 2) “as composers with nothing to say”! Wow.

        He can’t possibly have listened to the representative and substantial works of these composers in a few minutes, LOL! (Also, composers’ works do not all end up online.)

        How credible is this guys’ taste anyway…composer or musician he may be. One should be careful with disparaging pronouncements. Remember…those who CAN’T — usually criticize. LOL!

        To the nine composers…CHEERS! You deserve the recognition. Celebrate your artistry and your unique voice.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    True artistry in composition is dead, and has been for awhile. Only Babbitt, Boulez, and Stockhausen bothered to do anything original or noteworthy. We now live in a musical world where cliche and derivative music win the day. Welcome to the new artistic abyss we are now approaching.

    • Sally says:

      So true!!!

    • Ida Faiella says:

      Ridiculous and ignorant comments. There are many competent and talented composers working today.

      • John Borstlap says:

        Indeed….. the problem is, that ‘the repertoire’, consisting of works that can bear repeated playing and hearing, has been filtered out of a sea of lesser works which have been forgotten. What we hear of new music today, is the sea of today, within which the endurable works will drift here & there, waiting to be discovered. It is crazy to expect new works be presented everywhere ready to enter the repeatable repertoire.

        Another problem is, that a cultural framework which can provide the filtering process, has eroded, with the result that thousands of people see their chance to be ‘a composer’ who don’t really have the talents for it, like in the visual arts thousands of ‘artists’ jumped upon the bandwagon of ‘concept art’ for which artistic talents are merely a hindrance.

        However, it seems that the Copland Residency Awards programme has – with this selection – been able to avoid the worst.