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Composition Studio with UW Modern Music Ensemble

Saturday, December 2, 2023 - 7:30pm
  • Modern Music Ensemble
    Modern Music Ensemble

The Composition Studio (Huck Hodge, director) and the UW Modern Music Ensemble (Cristina Valdés, director) present a program of works by Earle Brown, Morton Feldman, Katherine Balch, John Cage, and student composers of the UW Composition Program.


Ghastly Veneer of Benevolence (2023): Nicholas Mendonsa (b. 1984)
Nick Wees, trumpet, electronics; Nick Mendonsa, electric guitar, electronics

Durations 3 for Violin, Tuba, and Piano (1963): Morton Feldman (1926-1987)
Justin Zeitlinger, violin; Cole Henslee, tuba; Alex Fang, piano 

Ext. En route — Evening for Computer-Manipulated Sound (2023): Arshia Ashari (b. 2001)

Composition No. 1 “dona nobis pacem” (1971): Galina Ustvolskaya (1919-2006)
Rachel Reyes, piccolo; Cole Henslee, tuba; Alex Fang, piano 


musica spolia (2021): Katherine Balch (b. 1991)
Rachel Reyes, piccolo & flute; Justin Zeitlinger, violin; Alex Fang, piano; Melissa Wang, percussio  

Composition for Three Voices (1934): John Cage (1912-1992)
Rachel Reyes, flute; Alyssa Hironaka, piano; Melissa Wang, percussion

 Your Past Self (is Dead) for voice and percussion (2023): Melissa Wang (b. 1999)
Rose Martin, voice; Taryn Marks & Melissa Wang, percussion

Book One: Water for fixed media (2023): Taylor James Bellamy (b. 1993)

Four Systems (1953): Earle Brown (1926-2002)
Rachel Reyes, flute; Justin Zeitlinger, violin; Cole Henslee, tuba; Alyssa Hironaka,  piano; Melissa Wang, percussion

Program Notes

Mendonsa, most often under his stage name Nick Nihil, has been active in the Seattle music scene in the past two decades as a songwriter, composer, producer, and guitarist, as a leader and a sideman in both original and cover projects ranging from avant-garde jazz to Prince tributes. His highlights include several KEXP appearances, a Tokyo tour, several solo releases, multiple 48 Hr film scores, and upcoming score for a film by members of UW's Lux Film Club. As such, he has also pulled tens of thousands of espresso shots and wishes to never do so again except for him and his wife, Julia. Therefore, after having to leave college twice previously, he has returned to finally finish his degree in Music Composition.

A Ghastly Veneer of Benevolence

O, that the slightest worm on the floor
of my immaculate den,
so meditative that the molecules themselves
levitate rather than strive,

        my hereto fore
      un encumb 'rd
re                           pose 

Be his countenance vivacious or 
Should bloom inside of my
sleep's sleep

-Emily Sloughton

Durations (1960-1961) is a suite of five pieces for different instrumental combinations; in each, the instrumentalists begin simultaneously, then determine the duration of their interventions within a fixed general time. In each part very diverse qualities of timbre are explored. In Duration III (1961) for violin, tuba and piano, after a first chord played simultaneously by the three instrumentalists, the duration of each subsequent sound is left to the appreciation of each one. Numbers placed between sounds indicate times of silence. We can observe within section III a process which could be compared to a weaving process, and which we will find in the notion of pattern. During the first fifteen chords, three pitches (F sharp, G, A flat), in different registers, are exchanged in turn by the musicians, which causes both an impression of stasis (underlined by the repetitions of each sound) and subtle modulations brought about by changes in register and timbre. This piece differs from other Durations in particular in that it includes several movements, the last being marked “fast”, which always remains unusual for Feldman.

Jean-Yves Bosseur, extract from: Morton Feldman, Écrits et Paroles, L’Harmattan, 1998

Every now and then, I find myself at a particular place and time in which for a very brief period, the space between the me and the it disappears. I marvel at what is before me and I learn each time, as if for the first time, that this is all there is; whether in impression or in idea. This is the answer to Mr. Prufrock’s dreaded “What is it?”. This is the evening, morning, and afternoon. It is all beautiful, all frightening, at times serene, and sometimes, a little sad. And it is what I attempt to capture within this work in the form of an abstraction.

The sonic material within this piece are derived entirely from raw recordings of such commonly found sounds as that of cars traveling by, passing footsteps atop the pavement, and clattering dishes heard from a kitchen window facing a courtyard. Such sounds belong to the mundane. They comprise in part the minutiae of everyday life and function as the soundtrack to an ostensibly insignificant scene within some grand narrative. And yet, they are the very organic matter from which this work was born. Thus, in that regard, this piece serves as a recognition of the seemingly unimportant. It is an attempt to dilate the life within every fleeting moment, to prolong the presence of that which will inevitably come to an end, and to hear and maybe understand what is now—perhaps, in the hopes of evading an ultimate and irrevocable regret.

The sacred is explicitly manifested in Galina Ustvolskaya’s work through prayer, as reflected in Composition No. 1 — Dona nobis pacem… “The soul of orthodoxy is in the gift of prayer,” Vasily Rozanov once wrote. A prayer entirely imbued with a feeling of being powerless, limited. Symbolically, the motif flowing through Compositions No. 1 presents six notes corresponding to the silent inner pronunciation of Dona nobis pacem. Dona nobis pacem (“Grant us peace”) concludes the Mass: the litany of its first movement is based on the initial motif of the tuba, then disembodies through repetitions, contrapuntal superpositions, amplifications, reductions and compressions of the original theme. After the second movement, essentially entrusted to the tuba’s low C and to clusters at the piano, the third movement is very slow, interrupted by a short brusqueness, “espressivissimo”, briefly recalling the beginning of the work and presenting three harmonies on the piano, a tuba limited to low F# and a flute, trapped in the interval of a diminished fourth or major third, which defines the relationship between the extreme notes of the motif.
By Societe de Musique Contemporaine du Quebec

musica spolia seeks to capture the mischief, playfulness, and microcosmic world-building of childhood. I wrote this piece when living in Rome, Italy and found my own meanderings around the city as reminiscent of my dawn-til-dusk explorations of the desert canyon outside my house growing up in San Diego, California. The city of Rome is a pastel rendering of the brown and sage-green scraggly desert flora of my childhood. It is overgrown with spolia, like the campanula and ivy that spill out of the walls, statues and ornate treasures decorate the ancient monuments haphazardly, sometimes frantically. These found, recycled, or stolen materials and their misplaced, agitated energy find their way into this short piece, which I composed like my childhood hunter-gather self, collecting scraps and mementos from miniature adventures. This piece was co-commissioned by L’Instant Donné and Young Concert Artists, Inc., and exists as both a trio for flute, viola, and piano, and a quartet for flute, violin, piano, and percussion. It is dedicated with affection to Saori Furukawa and Anthony Trionfo.
By Katherine Balch

This piece was composed in Ojai, California, an idyllic San Fernando Valley community northwest of Los Angeles. The ranges of its instruments are specified as: I: d' - d"'; II: a - a"; and III: d - d". The title page of the manuscript score contains 24 measures of an unidentified work labeled "soprano-adagio," page 5 contains 7 measures of an unidentified work for brass along with two 12-tone rows used in its composition. Composition for 3 Voices is a chromatic composition dealing with the problem of maintaining extreme distances between the repetitions of individual tones of the twenty-five tone ranges of all three instruments.
By John Cage

Melissa Wang is a composer, educator, and percussionist. She received the Bachelor of Music with emphases in Percussion Performance and Instrumental Education at Northern Illinois University (NIU), under the direction of Dr. Gregory Beyer and Mr. Ben Wahlund. She received the Associate in Fine Arts in Music at the community college, College of DuPage (COD), under the direction of Mr. Ben Wahlund, Dr. Tom Tallman, Mr. Lee Kesselman, and Dr. Kenneth Paoli. Melissa is currently studying at the University of Washington (UW), focusing on Percussion Performance under the direction of Dr. Bonnie Whiting and Composition under the direction of Dr. Huck Hodge and Dr. Yiğit Kolat.

Your Past Self (is Dead)  for three or more performers explores failing to let go of intrusive thoughts.
The score can be followed from here:
Taylor is a 30 year old singer/chef/artist new to the Music Composition major at University of Washington. He has autism and fibromyalgia, which he feels are his superpowers when it comes to his creativity and unique perspectives in the many ways he approaches life. 
His favorite things to compose so far have been film-style music and opera, and he dabbles in many other forms of art as well.

Program notes:
Spoken Word and Found Sound

“ have elements exist in as an infinitude of directions from an infinitude of points in work (compositionally and in performance) to right, left, back, forward, up, down, and all points between...the score [being] a picture of this space at one instant, which must always be considered as unreal and/or transitory...a performer must set this all in motion (time), which is to say, realize that it is in motion and step into it...either sit and let it move or move through it at all speeds.” “[co-efficient of] intensity and duration [is] space forward and back.” The composition may be performed in any direction from any point in the defined space for any length of time and may be performed from any of the four rotational positions in any sequence. In a performance utilizing only three dimensions as active (vertical, horizontal, and time), the thickness of the event indicate the relative intensity and/or (where applicable instrumentally clusters. Where all four dimensions are active the relative thickness and length of events are functions of their conceptual position on a plane perpendicular to the vertical and horizontal plane of the score. In the latter case all of the characteristics of sound and their relationships to each other are subject to continual transformation and modification. It is primarily intended that performance be made directly from this graphic “implication” (one for each performer) and that no further preliminary defining of the events, other than an agreement as to total performance time, take place. Further defining of the event is not prohibited however, provided that the imposed determinate-system is implicit in the score and in these notes.
From Brown’s journal

Director Biographies

Cristina Valdés, piano

Pianist Cristina Valdés presents innovative concerts of standard and experimental repertoire, and is known to “play a mean piano.” A fierce advocate for new music, she has premiered countless works, including many written for her. She has performed across four continents and in venues such as Lincoln Center, Le Poisson Rouge, Miller Theatre, Jordan Hall, and the Kennedy Center. Ms. Valdés has appeared both as a soloist and chamber musician at festivals worldwide including New Music in Miami, the Foro Internacional de Música Nueva in Mexico City, Brisbane Arts Festival, the Festival of Contemporary Music in El Salvador, Havana Contemporary Music Festival, and the Singapore Arts Festival. 

An avid chamber musician and collaborator, Ms. Valdés has toured extensively with the Bang On a Can “All Stars”, and has performed with the Seattle Chamber Players, the Mabou Mines Theater Company, the Parsons Dance Company, and Antares. Her performances on both the Seattle Symphony’s Chamber Series and [UNTITLED] concerts have garnered critical acclaim, including her “knockout” (Seattle Times) performance of Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, and her “arrestingly eloquent performance” of Dutilleux’s Trois Preludes (Bernard Jacobson/MusicWeb International).

Ms. Valdés has appeared as concerto soloist with the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Philharmonic, the Lake Union Civic Orchestra, Johns Hopkins Symphony Orchestra, the Binghamton Philharmonic, NOCCO, Philharmonia Northwest, the Eastman BroadBand, and the Stony Brook Symphony Orchestra, amongst others. In 2015 she performed the piano solo part of the Ives 4th Symphony with the Seattle Symphony under the direction of Ludovic Morlot, which was later released on CD to critical acclaim and made Gramophone’s list of Top 10 Ives Recordings. Other recent recordings include Orlando Garcia’s “From Darkness to Luminosity” with the Málaga Philharmonic on the Toccata Classics label, and the world premiere recording of Kotoka Suzuki’s “Shimmer, Tree | In Memoriam Jonathan Harvey”. She can also be heard on the Albany, Newport Classics, Urtext, and Ideologic Organ labels.

In recent seasons she gave performances of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3, the world-premiere performance of Carlos Sanchez-Guttierez’s “Short Stories” for piano and string orchestra with the Orquesta de Cámara de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, and the U.S. Premiere of “Under Construction” for solo piano and tape playback by Heiner Goebbels at Benaroya Hall. Last season she was the featured soloist with the Seattle Symphony on two of their “[untitled]” new music series concerts.

Ms. Valdés received a Bachelor of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music, and a Master of Music and Doctor of Musical Arts from SUNY Stony Brook. She currently lives in Seattle where she founded the SLAM Festival, a new music festival dedicated to the music of Latin-American composers, and performs regularly as a member of the Seattle Modern Orchestra. She is an Artist-in-Residence at the University of Washington, and is the Director of the UW Modern Music Ensemble. 

Faculty Composer Huck Hodge

Huck Hodge is professor and chair of the composition program in the school of music. A composer of “harmonically fresh work", "full of both sparkle and thunder” (New York Times), his music has been praised for its “immediate impact” (Chicago Tribune), its "clever, attractive, streamlined" qualities (NRC Handelsblad, Amsterdam), and its ability to "conjure up worlds of musical magic” with “power and charisma" (Gramophone Magazine, London). There is a dramatic interplay of color, light, and darkness in his music, which emerges from an uncanny blending of pure and dissonant harmonies, widely spaced orchestrations and vast, diffuse timbres. 

Hodge is the recipient of many prestigious awards and distinctions. Among these is the Charles Ives Living, the largest music award conferred by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His other major awards include the Rome Prize (Luciano Berio Fellowship), the Gaudeamus Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University, the American Composers Forum (JFund), the Barlow Endowment, Music at the Anthology (MATA), the American Academy in Rome, Muziek Centrum NederlandMusik der Jahrhunderte, and the National Theater and Concert Hall of Taiwan, in addition to multiple grants and awards from ASCAP, the Bogliasco Foundation, Copland House, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), MacDowell, New Music USA, the Siemens Musikstiftung, and Yaddo.

His music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and at numerous major festivals — the New York Philharmonic Biennial, Berliner Festspiele, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, Shanghai New Music Week (上海当代音乐周), ISCM World Music Days, and many others in over twenty countries on six continents. Other performances include those by members of the Berlin Philharmonic and Ensemble Modern, the ASKO / Schönberg Ensemble, the Seattle Symphony, and the Orchestra of the League of Composers. His chamber music has been premiered, performed and recorded by a long list of soloists and ensembles such as the Daedalus, JACK, Mivos, and Pacifica string quartets, the Adapter, Aleph, Argento, Dal Niente, Divertimento, Insomnio, SurPlus, and Talea ensembles, and his colleagues David Gordon, Donna Shin, Cristina Valdés, Cuong Vu, and Bonnie Whiting. His published music is distributed by Alexander Street Press (US) and Babel Scores (France). Recordings of his music appear on the New World and Albany record labels and have been featured in numerous national and international broadcasts.

Before joining the University of Washington, Hodge taught composition at Columbia University, where he earned his M.A. and D.M.A. studying with Fred Lerdahl, George Lewis, and Tristan Murail. Prior to this, he studied composition, theory, and new media at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Stuttgart, Germany, with Marco Stroppa and Georg Wötzer as well as music, German literature and philosophy at the University of Oregon and the Universität Stuttgart. He has been a visiting professor/invited lecturer on music and aesthetics at a variety of institutions including the University of Chicago, CNMAT/UC Berkeley, UCSD, Columbia University, Eastman School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, NYU, and the Universität der Künste in Berlin, and he served for three years as the director of the Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop at the Seattle Symphony.

Composer Yigit Kolat

Yiğit Kolat’s music explores the liminal frontiers of musical activity and potentialities in processing extra-musical data as musical information. The complicated political and social environment of his native Turkey is a recurring theme in his diverse output, which includes acoustic, electro-acoustic, and electronic works written for orchestra, chamber ensembles, voice, and solo instruments.

His works, described as “touching and convincing...a multi-sensory universe,” (K. Saariaho) have been recognized by a prestigious array of international organizations, including the Bogliasco Foundation (2016 Edward T. Cone Bogliasco Fellow in Music), the Tōru Takemitsu Composition Award (1st Prize, 2015), the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Belgium (Finalist, 2013), and the Concours International de Composition Henri Dutilleux (2nd Prize, 2012).

His music has been featured throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia by leading ensembles and soloists, among them the Tokyo Philharmonic and Ryoko Aoki (Japan); Solistes de L’Orchestre de Tours, Donatienne Michel-Dansac, and Pascal Gallois (France); The Nieuw Ensemble, The Black Pencil Ensemble, and the Duo Mares (The Netherlands); Eric Wubbels, Jonathan Shames, the Talea Ensemble, and the Argento New Music Project (USA); the Presidential Symphony Orchestra of Turkey; Peter Sheppard-Skaerved and Aaron Shorr (Great Britain). His music has been broadcast by the Japan Broadcasting Corporation (NHK) and Turkish Radio Television (TRT).

Kolat earned his Doctorate of Musical Arts at the University of Washington, studying with Joël-François Durand.

Jeffrey Bowen, Composition (Photo: Steve Korn).

Jeffrey Bowen is a composer of acoustic and electroacoustic music, whose works have been performed by Pascal Gallois, Maja Cerar, Beta Collide, Ensemble DissonArt, and the Luminosity Orchestra, among other ensembles. He was awarded First Prize in the 30th International Composition Competition “Città di Barletta,” and has presented work at the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, the Darmstadt Courses for New Music, the International Computer Music Conference, and as a resident artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. His work What Will Sound (was already sound), for violin and electronics, was released by Parma Records in 2020, and recent work has been supported by the Jack Straw Foundation and the 4Culture and Artist Trust organizations.

He is currently based in Seattle, where he teaches music theory, composition, and guitar at Seattle University and is co-director of the Inverted Space Ensemble. He holds a BA in composition and guitar performance from Stanford University, and completed a DMA in composition at the University of Washington under Joël-François Durand.