Category Archives: News

SCI Region VI 2017 Conference

The 2017 SCI Region VI conference was hosted by Dan Cavanagh and UT-Arlington this year. My colleague Ben Justis and I took the trip down from the University of Kansas and we had an absolute blast. I can confidently say that Dan ran one of the best SCI conferences I’ve ever been to and many attendees echoed this sentiment.

Below is a list of my favorite works I heard at the conference (in no particular order). This is by no means to say that there were not other great works that were performed; the list below signifies those pieces which had an immediate impact on me. One can never really say they don’t like a piece without listening to it more than once.

 

Waves by Dan Cavanagh

Hear Us by Micah Hayes

Echo Caves by Igor Karaca

Up In Smoke by Ben Justis

Wooden Triptych by Bryce Craig

Veiled Expanse by Natsumi Osborn

5:1 by Joseph Bohigian

Wax Argument by John Huenmann

Essay for Cello by Dan Racer

Pistol Pete’s Passacagilia by Mike D’Ambrosio

Una Reunion Nocturne by Eric Lara

I encourage everyone to see out these works and these composers! Buy their music and show some love.

New Music, New Life

Since last posting about my trip to Finland to discuss my research on Julius Eastman, a lot has changed.

me pla

-I played bass in a 90’s and early 2000’s cover-band…which led to me playing bass in the musical “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” I AM STILL A GUITARIST, but I can bass if you need me to- apparently. The name of the band was Dunewalker. They rock Mid-Michigan. Check em out.

-I no longer live in my native land of Michigan

-A cat occupies my new home

-My new home is in Kansas

-I am a graduate teaching assistant and a doctoral student at the University of Kansas

-I am currently in the process of launching an organization called Art Music for All.

Art Music for All (AMFA) is an organization dedicated to disseminating art music and ideas about art music that promote radical notions about how music can influence politics, society, and everyday life.

AMFA Logo

The genesis for AMFA came after a long beer fueled talk with my comrade in music, John Jansen. More to come on AMFA has things begin to take off…

This talk about music’s role in society is a good segue into quick spiel about my new music. One of my most recently produced recordings is of a piece called What Democracy Looks Like. Here are the program notes:

What Democracy Looks Like utilizes a fixed media track to accompany a solo guitarist. The fixed media contains several elements: 1) Audio from a protest I participated in at an appearance of a US presidential candidate during the 2016 election cycle. One of the call and response chants at this protest was “Tell me what democracy looks like! / This is what democracy looks like!” 2) Audio of a conversation with my cousin and uncle regarding money in politics and the role of government in people’s lives. 3) Audio of several friends whose opinion I regard highly giving me their thoughts on what democracy is. I was expecting there to be a consensus; democracy is a good thing. Instead, I got rather diverse views on democracy. Because I was unaware of the outcome of asking people their thoughts on democracy, I did not know what the piece was going to be about until it was finished. For me, these diverse views provoked some stimulating contemplation about the frailty and efficacy of democracy in a free-market capitalist society.

The most recent recording of my new music is a piece called Fo’ You Get Rolled Up On. Here are the program notes:

Dedicated to my good friend John Jansen. If you ever owe John or any other friend or family member of mine some money, you better pay up fo you get rolled up on.

For a snapshot of the music that I wrote between Fall 2015 and Spring 2016, check out the following playlist:


The last order of business:

I will be adding three new tabs on the homepage of www.FrankNawrot.com to display my research on composition pedagogy, my research on Julius Eastman, and a tab dedicated to AMFA.

New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival: Acts of Artistic Confidence

This article is about confidence.

After a 4 hour train ride, a 12 hour layover in Chicago, and a 19-hour train ride, I had finally reached Penn Station in Manhattan. On June 23rd my piece Prozium was be played at the Abrons Art Center as part of the 2015 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival (NYCEMF). During the first two days of this long trek, I encountered a lot of acts of confidence.

I spent some time exploring all the art on display at the Gold Coast Art Fair while in Chicago. There were a few artists whose work stood out to me: Melvin McGee, Kana Handel, and Gabor Koranyi. Of the hundreds of booths that featured some very impressive visual arts, these three artists were my favorite. Koranyi’s art was especially appealing to me due to a technique he employed in all of his works which exaggerates the human figure through the use of curves and circles. At the risk of over simplifying things- think cubism but at the opposite end of the technical spectrum.

Gabor Koranyi

Koranyi was a very nice man who graciously endured my curiosity about his works. What I found most profound about our encounter was the act of confidence he had carried out by displaying somewhere between 15 and 30 pieces that are so similar. Each piece was distinctly beautiful, but they all employed his signature technique.

During intermission at the NYCEMF 8pm concert on Monday, June 22, I met a very nice Danish composer named Kenn Mouritzen. We got into discussing different cultures in Europe. This somehow led to a lengthy discussion about Iannis Xenakis. Kenn told me a revealing anecdote about Xenakis and his daughter. Apparently, her father would sometimes take her canoeing off of the coast of his native Greece in the Mediterranean Sea. Sometimes these outings would be less than safe due to storms and intense waves. Not deterred by a little danger, Xenakis would paddle him and his little girl out to sea and experience all the glory of Mother Nature’s power. Kenn observed that this behavior perfectly captured Xenakis’ character. The mathematician turned architect turned composer was not timid about his aesthetic decisions. His compositional methods were cerebral and detailed, but they were also unique and effective; as evidenced by his legacy. He was confident that his methods were worthy of being shared with the world.

My good friend John Jansen and I recently discussed the role confidence plays in the work of an artist. We pondered the role our own confidence plays in our compositions and in those of others. We have a mutual friend and comrade in new music by the name of Matt Finch. A couple of years ago I saw him play a gig at a venue in Grand Rapids, MI and it truly blew me away. Up to that point I did not know much about Matt’s music. After the concert I offered him a hearty congratulations and said “That…that is what you have to do.” I made that statement due to, perhaps, an ill-conceived assumption that he was still in search of his unique voice, like many of my comrades studying under Bill Ryan at Grand Valley State University. Whether or not that was the case is mere conjecture at this point. But I did notice a lot of the other audience members congratulating him on his successful performance of vivid and intoxicating atmospheric grooves. From that point on I have followed what he has been doing and I am excited to see my friend make a name for himself. He recently released an album on the slashsound label and he has performed with increasing frequency. Whether it was the performance in Grand Rapids a couple years ago, or a gradual series of successes, or a sheer sense of will and direction, something at some point gave Matt a boost to jump into his canoe, despite the possibility of choppy waves and rapid currents, and embark on his artistic voyage.

Koranyi, Xenakis, and Matt Finch, were confident that their aesthetic decisions are worthy of spreading to those who are willing to listen. This type of confidence is one of the first signs of a mature composer.

Having your music performed anywhere takes a lot of confidence, especially if you are sitting in the room when it happens. Luckily, the NYCEMF is a wonderful place to have this done. Other than receiving commissions, the first step one must take to get one’s music performed is submitting it to calls for scores or contacting people in your network about concertizing new music. The nature of the electroacoustic music genre is often experimental, so for some finding the confidence to believe the strange and beautiful sounds you have created are worthy of being shared with the world can be hard. I can assure my readers that I met some of the most down-to-earth and friendly people at this festival. The sense of community was comforting. I had at least one mutual friend with nearly every person I met! If you have an electroacoustic piece, I implore you to submit to next year’s festival.

I was only at the festival for a few days, but I will share some details about my favorite performances.

Eric Chasalow’s Scuffle and Snap is a playful piece for violin and electronics. Mari Kimura performed energetic pizzicato passages broken up by familiar and tuneful sounding bowed phrases. The electronic media interacts with the plucked strings to create driving rhythmic polyphony. At other points, glassy pads create an ethereal harmonic backdrop to the bowed gestures.

William Dougherty’s piece for bass clarinet and surround-sound fixed media Nyuijd is a breathtaking piece inspired by a ceremony performed by indigenous people of Australia to honor the dead. From the program notes: “…a songman plays the didgeridoo while beating sticks and singing songs…” The clarinetist took on the role of songman and the fixed media took on the role of the surrounding tribesmen beating sticks and echoing rhythms played by Liam Kinson. The performance of rapid key clicks duplicated in the recording engulfs the audience in an eerie cloud of noise. At times, one certainly feels like they are amid furious tribal percussion, but our songman comforts us with his somewhat tuneful baritone gestures.

Tae Hong Park’s Bass X Sung closed out the June 23rd festivities. This piece is a semi-improvisational work for bass guitar and signal processing. The piece began with tidal synth-pads and slowly evolved into a toe-tapping 5/4 groove in the high range of the instrument. This groove grew louder and lower over several minutes with the bassist (Park himself) adding interlocking rhythms and the signal processing adding exciting electronic textures. The way that Park played and interacted with the audience before and after his performance signaled to me that this guy definitely had some experience playing rock music. My suspicion was later confirmed by the composer.

I am not as well-versed as I would like to be in the electroacoustic repertoire. Perhaps that is obvious due to my favorite pieces being for live instruments and electronics. One of the beautiful things about this festival was the diversity of styles. Roughly half the pieces I heard were for fixed media only. Pieces without live instruments are still somewhat foreign to me and they often contain unique chronological developments. The more I hear these types of pieces, the broader my frame of reference becomes. This festival presents twenty-seven concerts of electroacoustic music making it one of the easiest times to immerse yourself in the experimental genre which it hosts. If you are like me, somewhat new to the genre, sometimes your ears can grow fatigued from attempting to actively listen to the multitude of unusual pieces. It is the pieces with live instruments that can give you a somewhat familiar place to take a mental rest. Hubert Howe, director and co-founder of NYCEMF, does an excellent job of curating concerts that are both artistically stimulating and accessible to both artists and patrons of the arts.

 

New Music

Hello all!

For those of us lucky enough to remain in the world of academia, the slow turbulence that is the Fall Semester has been well under way for about a month.

I recently created a playlist of a few pieces I’ve written over the past seven months for those of you interested in what I have been up to musically. I hope you like the playlist I have curated!

In other news:

As I have mentioned in the past, Dr. Casey Robards commissioned me to write a piece for two pianos. As of today, the duet is complete! All that is left to do is edit, hand off the final copy and sit back and let the master work her magic on it. I am so honored that such a talented performer will be playing my music. The piece is called It’s Okay to Clap. It’s in three movements, and, as the name suggests, has an interesting theatrical element to it.

Lastly, I recently compiled a list of works. Email me at fnawrot@gmail.com if you are interested in performing any of these works. Of course these are not all the pieces I’ve ever written. Just the ones I’m willing to share with the world:

Wonder: an Ode to Carl Sagan (for SATB or TTBB choir)

The Children of Abraham (for orchestra)

It’s Okay to Clap (piano duet for 2 pianos)

Lamb of Light (for multiple 7 seven string guitars and backing track)

Exoplanet (for trombone, tuba, drum set, and electric guitar)

Lament (for Alto Sax and Fixed Media)

Songs of Informality #2 and #4 (open instrumentation, lead-sheet)

A Dance Not To Be Danced To (for saxophone quartet)

Unhinged (for tenor sax, bass clarinet, and clarinet)

Odyssean Steps (for soprano sax and tenor sax)

Alten’s Bullfight (for viola, clarinet, and alto sax)

Ektos (fixed media)

One Thing (for guitar, spoken word, and fixed media)

Shake ’em (for bass clarinet and maracas)

Phantasy for Piano (for solo piano)

Prozium (fixed media)

A Little Trip (for woodwind quintet)

Jukai (for flute/pic, violin, 2 cellos, bass, guitar, 2 tam-tams, bass drum, and vibraphone)

 

Your comrade in New Music,

Frank Nawrot

“Phantasy for Piano” and “Unhinged”

Summer break is finally upon us college folks! I have several exciting projects in the works right now.

My last project before the summer was to finish editing some recordings to share with you-

If you know some pianists or are one yourself, the score is available for purchase!

Here are a few excerpts from my piece Unhinged-

I am very proud of these pieces and thrilled to have worked with such great performers on them!

Residency at Eastern Michigan University and “Songs of Informality #4”

This past Monday I was a guest at Eastern Michigan University.  In December, EMU saxophone student AJ Pratt commissioned me to compose a piece for alto sax and fixed media. On Monday he gave a stellar premier of Lament for alto sax and fixed media. His quartet also gave a wonderful performance my piece A Dance Not To Be Danced To. The saxophone studio at EMU are definitely friends of new music. Thanks to AJ and Woody Chenoweth for having me!

Speaking of friends of new music, I found another ally yesterday. Dr. Casey Robards, the professor of collaborative piano at Central Michigan University, has commissioned me to write her a piece for piano duet. We had a long chat yesterday, throwing around ideas and discussing the state of contemporary classical music. I am very honored to have someone of her caliber interested in my music. Stay tuned for updates on this project!

Last order of business- here is a recording of my piece Songs of Informality #4 performed by Trio Insurgent.


 

 

Trio Insurgent’s First Concert and “Shake ’em”

My good friends, Kelly Vander Molen, Bryce Craig, and I formed a trio dedicated to commissioning , writing, and performing new music called Trio Insurgent. We had our very first concert this past Friday. It could not have went better. People ate cookies and interacted with us throughout the show. As as a music student immersed in a world of classical music concerts in which audiences are so often physically and mentally distant from performers, it was great to be able to make such a connection with people.

If you want to see the concert and get a sense of how it went and what kind of music we played, check out this playlist-

Here is a higher quality recording of a brief improv session we had as part of the concert-

This past Saturday I was lucky enough to get a performance of two new pieces of mine- Shake ’em (performed by Vanessa Heuck on bass clarinet and Breana Meyers on maracas) and Phantasy for Piano (performed by Yaqin Wang.) A recording of Phantasy will be available soon. Here is the recording of Shake ’em

 

April 2014 News

2014 has been a busy and productive year.

FIRST very important order of business- my web designer has added a plugin to my site that enables me to finally sell my music online! I am very excited to be able to remotely sell scores and parts in pdf form. It is not set up yet, but will be up and running soon, at which time I will let everyone know how to easily purchase pieces online.

Here is a (hopefully) concise look at what has been going on for me this year-

-In the beginning of January of this year, two very talented saxophonists (Evan Harris and Emily Loboda) premiered my work for soprano and tenor sax entitled Odyssean Steps.

-My new band dedicated to performing music by living composers was formed. The group is Bryce Craig on percussion, Kelly Vander Molen on amplified and acoustic violin, and myself on electric and acoustic guitar. We are Trio Insurgent. We are currently accepting commissions from composers of any age, nationality, and style. Send us a message on Facebook if you are interested in collaborating.

This Friday we will be performing our first concert. Bryce will be performing his own arrangement of the 2nd movement of Reich’s Electric Counterpoint for malletKAT, we will be performing a new lead-sheet composed for us by our good friend Mike Romaniak, there is a brand new piece composed for us by another good friend, Daniel Rhode, and of course Bryce and I composed a few fun pieces that will be performed. The setting is informal and laid back! We are looking to change performance practice. Classical music concerts are becoming all too pretentious…we want our audience to dance and shout when moved to do so, we want them to be so close when we perform that they can see the notes on our parts reflected in our eyes, and we want to give attention and priority to LIVING composers.

-At the end of 2013 I was commissioned to write a piece for solo piano by an excellent pianist and fellow CMU graduate assistant, Yaqin Wang. I completed the piece, entitled Phantasy for Piano, in February of this year and it is to be premiered this Saturday along side my piece Shake ’em (performed by Breana Meyers on maracas and Vanessa Heuck on bass clarinet- it is a fun little piece!) Ms. Wang has done a couple preview performances of Phantasy to some small crowds including this past Wednesday at Art Reach of Mid Michigan.

-In early 2014 I was commissioned by saxophonist Aj Pratt to compose a piece for alto sax and fixed media. I am very excited about this new piece, Lament for Alto Sax and Fixed Media, which is to be officially premiered at Eastern Michigan University on April 21st. A couple of weeks ago Aj performed a surprise pre-premiere  at The Avenue in Lansing, Michigan.

-On March 29th the CMU New Music Ensemble performed my new piece Look at me! Hear me! See me! for drum set, electric bass, electric guitar, amplified violin, tenor sax, alto sax, bass clarinet, and trombone. This group has done some really great stuff over the past couple years and I am really proud to be a part of it. Keep on eye out for what we have in store next. My awesome trombonist-composer friend Nathan Brown is taking over the group for the next year!

 

I have written so much music this year that I really want people to hear, so I cannot wait to get some of those pieces up for sale for everyone to preview! Until next time…

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(Trio Insurgent, your friends in New Music)