Kronos: Under 30 Project

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The Kronos Quartet / Kronos Performing Arts Association is pleased to announce the recipient of the fifth Kronos: Under 30 Project commission: Mary Kouyoumdjian. A New York City resident, Kouyoumdjian was chosen from a call for composers that yielded nearly 400 applicants in 43 countries on five continents, the largest response in the program’s history. Launched in 2003, the Under 30 Project is designed to help nurture the careers of young artists, while enabling Kronos to forge stronger connections with the next creative generation.

As the composer chosen for Under 30 / #5, Kouyoumdjian will be commissioned to write a new work for Kronos. She will meet with the group in early May during their New York visit to perform at Zankel Hall, and will be in residence this fall at the Lucas Artists Residency Program at the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, California, where she will work in close consultation with Kronos. The resulting composition will premiere in Spring 2014 in San Francisco as part of Kronos’ 40th anniversary season, and will also be recorded.

In conjunction with the announcement of the latest Under 30 commission, Kronos Quartet is releasing a digital-only compilation of the four previous commissions, available starting today on Kronos’ website. Titled Under 30 Project: 1 – 4 and performed by the quartet, the recording includes: Alexandra du Bois, String Quartet No. 1 (2003); Felipe Pérez Santiago, CampoSanto (2004); Dan Visconti, Love Bleeds Radiant (2005); and Aviya Kopelman, Widows & Lovers (2007). Diverse in style, these pieces have all been championed by Kronos in major venues all over the world. For a limited time, the complete album is available for $1.99. 

The latest installment of the Under 30 Project was open to all composers who had not reached the age of 30 by the application deadline. (Kouyoumdjian was 29 at the time; she has since turned 30.) Choosing a recipient from the hundreds of applicants was no simple matter: “What people are writing now is amazing, just thrilling,” says Kronos Quartet’s Artistic Director, David Harrington. “As we narrowed down the field, we were looking for someone who seemed poised to write their breakthrough piece. And every time I came back to Mary’s work, I was magnetized. She’s an exceptional composer, incredibly creative, and her connection to her family’s Armenian history has brought her sensibility into a very beautiful place.” 

Says Kouyoumdjian, “I grew up listening to Kronos Quartet’s recordings, so Kronos already holds a special place in my musical development. I’m thrilled and inspired to be writing for them – aside from their incredible musicianship, their openness to political and world music really excites me, and the fact that this collaboration stems out of my hometown of San Francisco makes for an even more personal connection. For a composer, working with a group like Kronos opens amazingly imaginative possibilities – their music is truly without borders, and that’s how I want my music to be.”

Kronos: Under 30 Project / #5 is supported by Hancher at the University of Iowa, Syracuse University, the Board of Directors of the Kronos Performing Arts Association, and individual backers of the Kronos: Under 30 Project / #5 Kickstarter campaign. Additional support was provided by The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Sally and Don Lucas Artists Residency Program at Montalvo Arts Center.

PREVIOUS UNDER 30 PROJECT COMMISSIONS

Under 30/#1 The first work commissioned through the Kronos: Under 30 Project, String Quartet: Oculus Pro Oculo Totum Orbem Terrae Caecat (2003) by Alexandra du Bois was premiered in April 2003 at Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH. The piece has been performed by Kronos in major venues throughout the United States and Europe, including Théâtre de la Ville (Paris), the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, and the Barbican (London). Her piece was also featured in Kronos’ 2005 performance at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. She was subsequently commissioned to write another quartet, Night Songs (Nachtliederen), for Kronos in 2006.

Presenter Partner: Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College
Additional Partners: Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, Kronos Performing Arts Association, American Music Center

Under 30/#2 Felipe Pérez Santiago’s CampoSanto (2004) premiered in April 2004, and has been heard in major cities in 17 countries, including Moscow, Madrid, and Sydney. Along with Alexandra’s piece, Felipe’s piece was featured in Kronos’ 2005 performance at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall. He was commissioned to write another quartet for Kronos, Encandilado (Blinded by Light), which was premiered in July 2007 at the Festival Saint-Denis in Saint-Denis, France. 

Presenter Partner: Stanford Lively Arts/Stanford University
Additional Partners: National Endowment for the Arts, San Francisco Foundation, American Music Center, Board of Directors of the Kronos Perorming Arts Association on the occasion of Kronos’ 30th anniversary

Under 30/#3 Dan Visconti, commissioned in the third round of the Kronos: Under 30 Project, has heard his piece Love Bleeds Radiant performed in Washington D.C. and cities throughout the U.S. since its world premiere in January 2006 at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College.

Presenter Partner: The Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College
Additional Partners: Angel Stoyanof Commission Fund, The James Irvine Foundation, Margaret E. Lyon Trust, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Fleishhacker Foundation, American Music Center, Kronos Performing Arts Association, Sally and Don Lucas Artists Programs at Montalvo Arts Center

Under 30/#4 The fourth and most recent work commissioned through the Kronos: Under 30 Project is Aviya Kopelman’s Widows & Lovers (2007).  Her piece was premiered at Carnegie Hall in February 2008 and was performed at Théâtre de la Ville in Paris.  In February of 2009, the piece had its West Coast Premiere in Berkeley, California presented by Cal Performances.

Presenter Partner: The Carnegie Hall Corporation, Cal Performances, Kronos Performing Arts Association
Additional Partners: National Endowment for the Arts, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Stephen K. Cassidy, Sally and Don Lucas Artists Programs at Montalvo Arts Center

Program Notes:

Alexandra du Bois (b. 1981)
String Quartet, Oculus pro oculo totum orbem terrae caecat (An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind) (2003)

Alexandra du Bois grew up in Virginia, playing the violin from age two and composing at 15. At age 17, she began formal studies in composition, studying with Howard Frazin, David Patterson and Osvaldo Golijov. Du Bois then received her BM from Indiana University in 2005, studying with Sven-David Sandström, Claude Baker and Don Freund and her MM from The Juilliard School, studying with Christopher Rouse. Du Bois, described as “an intense, luminous composer,” (L.A. Times) and “a painter who knows exactly where her picture will be hung,” (New York Times) has previously been Composer-In-Residence at Dartmouth College, Carnegie Hall through The Weill Music Institute’s Professional Training Workshop Kronos: Signature Works, Mammoth Lakes Music Festival, Merkin Concert Hall’s Zoom: Composers Close Up series, Harrison House, and with Southwest Chamber Music throughout Vietnam and California.  Alexandra du Bois’ commissions include those from the Kronos Quartet, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Beaux Arts Trio, Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, Bargemusic, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, the Savannah Music Festival, Merkin Concert Hall, Present Music with the Milwaukee Choral Artists and the Milwaukee Children’s Choir, PALS Children’s Chorus, MAYA Trio, The Piano Project at the Kaufman Center NYC, Bang on a Can Festival, the Chorus and Chamber Singers at the University of Massachusetts and the Azure Ensemble, among others. Her awards include those from The Netherland-America Foundation, the BMI Foundation, Meet the Composer, The Juilliard School, Indiana University and UMASS-Boston. Alexandra du Bois has lived in New York City since 2005.

In 2002, du Bois was the first recipient of the commission offered through the Kronos: Under 30 Project.  The Kronos: Under 30 Project is a commissioning and composer-in-residence program for composers under 30 years of age, created to acknowledge the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Kronos Quartet in 1973. The program supports the creation of new work by young artists, and helps Kronos cultivate stronger connections with young composers in order to develop lasting artistic relationships with the next creative generation.

About her piece, du Bois writes:

“The growth of hours before dawn can be seen in two ways. There is dawn as clarity, renewal, and revered splendor of a new day. As the piece begins, the mourning dove is heard singing by the violins, exchanged sometimes with the viola in a darker character, always with a continuous drone played by the cello showing a stasis of time. When we hear the mourning dove sing, it never sounds nearby but as coming from a distance—as if asking a question or giving a sorrowful declamation. In this piece I exaggerate this feeling. New light slowly emerges. But gradually, out of the stillness, dawn is also seen as a time when human beings do intense preparation—whether simply heading to work, or, far away from their homes, in the early hours of dawn begin preparing vehicles, guns, missiles—quietly, quickly.

“Dawn is not only beautiful but also very ominous; beauty and peacefulness, and preparation for destruction and terror exist in equal proportions at dawn. These images, this dichotomy, and the subtle transformation of the call of the mourning dove as well as other imagery and gestures are developed throughout the entirety of the piece. Oculus pro oculo totum orbem terrae caecat was written for the Kronos Quartet and finished in February of 2003. I ask myself if it sounds any different today than when it was first performed in April 2003. That answer I leave to the listener.”

Felipe Pérez Santiago (b. 1973)
CampoSanto (2004)

Felipe Pérez Santiago, a Mexican-born composer working in Rotterdam, Holland, received degrees in Composition from the Centro de Investigación y Estudios Musicales (Mexico) and the Rotterdam Conservatory, where he also received a Master’s in Electronic Music, supported by the National Funds for Culture and the Arts in Mexico. He has studied composition with Peter-Jan Wagemans and Klaas de Vries, and electronic music with Rene Uijlenhoet. He has been a Resident or Guest Composer at Phonos at the Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona; the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich; the Drzwi Otwarte (Doors Opened) Festival in Krakow; the Centre de Création Musicale Iannis Xenakis in Paris; the Studio for Electroinstrumental Music (STEIM) in Amsterdam; and the Centrum voor Elektronische Muziek in Amsterdam. He was recently awarded grants by the Rotterdam Fund for the Arts, the Fund for the Creative Tone Arts in Amsterdam, and the National Fund for Culture and Arts in Mexico.

Pérez Santiago received the Residence Prize of the Institute de Musique Electroacoustique de Bourges for his piece Ofaniel (angel de la luna). Cempoal, for string quartet and electronics, was commissioned by the Rotterdam Philharmonic String Quartet. Besides concert music, his work includes pieces for dance, opera, video, film and multimedia productions, and has been commissioned and performed internationally in Holland, Mexico, France, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina, United States and Poland.

In 2003, Pérez Santiago was selected as the recipient of the second commission offered through the Kronos: Under 30 Project.  The Kronos: Under 30 Project is a commissioning and composer-in-residence program for composers under 30 years of age, created to acknowledge the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Kronos Quartet in 1973. The program supports the creation of new work by young artists, and helps Kronos cultivate stronger connections with young composers in order to develop lasting artistic relationships with the next creative generation. 

CampoSanto was composed during the composer’s residence at STEIM. About the piece, Pérez Santiago writes:

CampoSanto is a word used in Latin America to define graveyard, but its literal meaning is ‘holy ground.’ For some ancient cultures, that is what a graveyard represents: the holy, the sacred, the place where our ancestors rest. In some countries like Mexico, the graveyard is also a place for celebration; death is associated with the beginning of a new cycle, a new beginning, and therefore, like birth, is celebrated in a festive manner.

“This way of regarding death has always been a great influence in my writing. For this piece I had three sources related to the subject that served as inspiration and a departure point for the composition: the creation of the catacombs in Paris in 1786, in particular the inscription at the main entrance ‘Arrête ! C’est ici l’empire de la mort’ (Stop! This is the empire of death); the animation film The Second Renaissance, by the Japanese director Mahiro Maeda; and the book Martin Fierro by the Argentinean writer José Hernandez. Each of these sources has a particular view about death that inspired the different parts of the piece.

“Death is the beginning of a journey, the entrance to a new dimension. Everyone is afraid of the unknown, but who is not excited about a place you have never been before?”

Dan Visconti (b. 1982)
Love Bleeds Radiant (2005)

Dan Visconti was selected as the recipient of the third commission offered through the Kronos: Under 30 Project in 2005.  Begun in 2003, the Kronos: Under 30 Project is a commissioning and residency program for composers under 30 years of age, created to acknowledge the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Kronos Quartet. The program supports the creation of new work by young artists, and helps Kronos cultivate stronger connections with young composers in order to develop lasting artistic relationships with the next creative generation.

Visconti studied composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Yale School of Music, primarily with Margaret Brouwer, Aaron Jay Kernis, Ezra Laderman, and Zhou Long. His works have been commissioned and premiered by ensembles including the Kronos Quartet, the Minnesota Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, and the Berlin Philharmonic Scharoun Ensemble, at venues such as Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

His compositions have been honored with the Berlin Prize, the Bearns Prize from Columbia University, and the Cleveland Arts Prize; awards from BMI and ASCAP, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Society of Composers, and the National Association of Composers USA; and grants from the American Music Center, the Barlow Endowment, the Fromm Foundation, Meet the Composer, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bascom Little Fund, the Annenberg Foundation, and Chamber Music America. He has also been the recipient of artist fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, Copland House, the Lucas Artists Program at Villa Montalvo, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

About Love Bleeds Radiant, Visconti writes:

“There’s a fascinating disconnect between the tough swagger of many early blues lyrics and the underlying subtext of vulnerability, tenderness, and grief. Often, a superficial statement of machismo can shelter a fragile interior flawed with sadness; likewise, sometimes a veneer of slick, stylized pathos conceals the devastation of a violent, brooding core. This pronounced schism lends interest and depth to an otherwise straightforward genre, and the way in which the slight crack of imperfection can grow to become a portal into private darkness continues to engage me each time one of those old records is spun.

“I’ve sought to develop this musical stance in Love Bleeds Radiant, a work informed by my experience as an electric guitarist as much as my background as a classically-trained violinist. The piece betrays my affection for the subtle lyricism and bittersweet flavor of the blues even as it embraces a more traditional sense of developmental logic; in addition, amplification, distortion, and other live electronics have been utilized in order to evoke the gritty, raw emotion that permeates the language of the blues.

“The piece opens with the sounds of an old 78 RPM recording, replete with static pops and the hiss of surface noise—this all recorded earlier by the Kronos Quartet and sonically manipulated by myself. This warping and slow (but inexorable) degeneration of sound into pure noise resurfaces in various guises throughout the piece and in this sense forms a musical metaphor from which the main part of the piece emerges. This central section is marked by the entrance of the live quartet, which reacts musically and emotionally to the recording, extracting the contradictory strands of tenderness and bombast and reconciling them over a broad narrative. The initial tune, which I’ve written in reference to (more than in imitation of) actual blues recordings, expresses its tensions on several levels that must be dealt with, like painful memories, by the live quartet before reconciliation can be achieved.  The process by which the quartet sheds this musical burden—stammering and thrashing its way toward a release into lyricism and flowing melisma—is literally the process of our grieving, the means by which our often irrational and complex human emotions take shape into a single desolate arc.

“Gracious thanks go out to both Villa Montalvo and Copland House for more than a few moments of precious, piercing solitude.”

Aviya Kopelman (b. 1978)
Widows & Lovers (2007)
I. White Widow
II. Lovers
III. Black Widow

Aviya Kopelman was selected as the recipient of the fourth commission offered through the Kronos: Under 30 Project.  Begun in 2003, the Kronos: Under 30 Project is a commissioning and residency program for composers under 30 years of age, created to acknowledge the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Kronos Quartet. The program supports the creation of new work by young artists, and helps Kronos cultivate stronger connections with young composers in order to develop lasting artistic relationships with the next creative generation.

Kopelman was born in Moscow in 1978 and immigrated to Israel in 1987. She began taking piano lessons at her own initiative at the age of 12. She graduated from the Rubin Music Academy in Jerusalem, where she studied composition with Prof. Tzvi Avni. In 2000, she was commissioned by composer Michael Wolpe to write a string quartet for the Sounds in the Desert Festival, and since then her works have been performed regularly in Israel and abroad by the Israel Chamber Orchestra, The Israel Camerata, Tel Aviv Chamber Choir, Conjunto Iberico Octet, Ensemble de la Paix, Les Solistes de Waterloo, and Jerusalem Trio, among others. Last year she was commissioned to write an obligatory work for the 12th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition. She has worked with and been influenced by composers such as Andre Hajdu, Oded Zehavi, Ronen Shapira. Kopelman teaches composition at the Hed College for Music in Tel Aviv and at the Rimon School of Jazz and Contemporary Music.

About Widows & Lovers, Kopelman writes:

Widows & Lovers  consists of three parts: ‘White Widow,’ a potent and rare species of marijuana; ‘Lovers’; and ‘Black Widow,’ a species of spider whose female consumes the male directly after mating.

“It was crucial for me to question the relevance of such a homogeneous ensemble as a string quartet in a time when electronic music has stretched the limits of orchestration and sound. I wanted to address the sonic universe that surrounds me, exploring and using the numerous technical possibilities for live performance offered by Kronos Quartet, but without forsaking the strength of the strings as I perceive it: a warm, living, breathing and deeply expressive sound, which echoes in the heart over centuries. 
“The position of an amplified string quartet was another issue to be examined. Technically, nothing inhibits a string quartet from performing in a concert hall as well as in a club. This allows for different listening experience and a different audience. While writing this piece, I imagined it in both contexts.

Widows & Lovers developed out of a game of free associations, and moves between who I am and who I wish to be, between Kronos Quartet and myself, between classical chamber music and contemporary life.”

Loop programming by Roy Yarkoni and Aviya Kopelman.

Photos

Under 30/#1: Alexandra du Bois / String Quartet: Oculus Pro Oculo Totum Orbem Terrae Caecat
Presenter Partner: Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College
Additional Partners: Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, Kronos Performing Arts Association, American Music Center

Under 30/#2: Felipe Pérez Santiago / CampoSanto
Presenter Partner: Stanford Lively Arts/Stanford University
Additional Partners: National Endowment for the Arts, San Francisco Foundation, American Music Center, Board of Directors of the Kronos Performing Arts Association on the occasion of Kronos’ 30th anniversary

Under 30/#3: Dan Visconti / Love Bleeds Radiant
Presenter Partner: The Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College
Additional Partners: Angel Stoyanof Commission Fund, The James Irvine Foundation, Margaret E. Lyon Trust, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Fleishhacker Foundation, American Music Center, Kronos Performing Arts Association, Sally and Don Lucas Artists Programs at Montalvo Arts Center

Under 30/#4: Aviya Kopelman / Widows & Lovers
Presenter Partners: The Carnegie Hall Corporation, Cal Performances, Kronos Performing Arts Association
Additional Partners: National Endowment for the Arts, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, San Francisco Foundation, Stephen K. Cassidy, Sally and Don Lucas Artists Programs at Montalvo Arts Center

Under 30/#5: Mary Kouyoumdjian / Bombs of Beirut
Presenter Partners: Hancher at the University of Iowa, Syracuse University
Additional Partners: Board of Directors of the Kronos Performing Arts Association, individual backers of the Kronos: Under 30 Project / #5 Kickstarter campaign, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Sally and Don Lucas Artists Residency Program at Montalvo Arts Center

DateLocationVenuePresenter
2-8-14San Francisco, CaliforniaZ SpaceKronos Performing Arts Association
2-7-14San Francisco, CaliforniaZ SpaceKronos Performing Arts Association
2-6-14San Francisco, CaliforniaZ SpaceKronos Performing Arts Association
1-27-12London, EnglandWilton's Music HallBarbican
1-12-12Novi Sad, SerbiaSerbian National TheaterCultural Centre of Novi Sad
7-18-11Valletta, MaltaArgotti Gardens - FlorianaMalta Arts Festival
7-7-11Fresno, CaliforniaJohn Wright TheatreCSU Summer Arts, Fresno
2-5-11Minneapolis, MinnesotaMcGuire TheaterWalker Arts Center
10-9-10New York, New York(le) poisson rouge(le) poisson rouge
9-23-10Juarez, MexicoExplanada Centro Cultural Paso del NorteFestival Internacional de Chihuahua

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Concert Schedule

Oct25College Park, MarylandKay Theatre
Nov6Belgrade, SerbiaSava Center
Nov7Novi Sad, SerbiaSerbian National Theatre
Nov9's-Hertogenbosch, The NetherlandsGrote Zaal - Verkadefabriek ‘s-Hertogenbosch
Nov11Lisbon, PortugalGrande Auditório
Nov13Prague, Czech RepublicRudolfinum, Dvorak Hall

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