2009 Prize Winner
For more information about Benjamin Ellin, Barlow 25th Anniversary Prize Winner, consult his website.
he Barlow Endowment for Music Composition at Brigham Young University is pleased to announce the commission winners for 2009, celebrating the Endowment’s 25th anniversary.
After reviewing 209 composer applications from 19 countries worldwide, the judging panel awarded Benjamin Ellin from London, England, the $20,000 Barlow Prize to compose a major new trombone concerto. The judging panel also granted Enrico Chapela, of Mexico City, Mexico, the Honorable Mention award in this competition.
Born in 1980, Mr. Ellin graduated from London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 2002. Recent composition projects include his Tafahum, a concerto for Ney and Orchestra; a major viola work for Rivka Golani; a setting of Akhmatova poems; and Ellin’s first opera, Welcome to Deen. Mr Ellin also enjoys an active conducting career and currently serves as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of Every Music For EveryBody (EMFEB). In 2007, he won the highest prize from the Evgeny Svetlanov International Conducting Competition in Luxembourg. His other musical interests include links with youth orchestras, composer collaborations, and world music cultures.
General and LDS Commission Recipients
fter considering 117 applications in our General and LDS commissioning programs, the Endowment granted $45,000 to nine composers who will write works for the following ensembles and musicians:
Lawrence Moss’ Barlow Commission, New Paths, premiered on March 28, 2009 in the Terrace Theatre at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC.
Alvin Singleton’s new commissioned piece, After Choice, premiered on June 10, 2009 at the Miller Theater at Columbia University in New York City. It was performed by the League of Composers Orchestra.
Michael Gandolfi’s Barlow Endowment commissioned piece, History of the World in Seven Acts premiered on May 1, 2009 at the Tsai Performance Center in Boston, Massachusetts. The piece was performed by Boston Musica Viva, with Richard Pittman conducting.
Christian Asplund’s Barlow commission, Time and Eternity, premiered on October 20, 2009 at Brigham Young University. The piece was performed by Gamelan Bintang Wahyu with Asplund accompanying on the violin as part of a concert dedicated to new music.
Christopher Tignor’s 2007 Barlow commission, Together Into This Unknowable Night, for the Brooklyn Rider String Quartet premiered on November 24, 2009 as part of the Five Boroughs Music Festival in New York City. The performance was held at the Dean Project in Long Island City, Queens, NYC.
The Boston Modern Orchestra Project premiered Eric Moe’s Barlow commission, Kick & Ride, a concerto for drumset and orchestra, on May 22, 2009. The piece was performed at New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall in Boston, Massachusetts.
T his year we celebrated our 25th anniversary of the Barlow Prize with a $20,000 competition—the highest dollar amount ever awarded by the agency. A national judging panel chose the winner in August 2009, Benjamin Ellin, who is composing a new trombone concerto to be premiered in 2011 by Brigham Young University’s Philharmonic Orchestra. Arguably one of the greatest trombonists in the world, Joe Alessi, principal trombonist with the New York Philharmonic, will be our special guest soloist on that occasion. This represents the first collaboration between Mr. Alessi and the Barlow Endowment.
The economic downturn of the past two years has forced the arts community to grapple with their financial security and survival. Endowment investment portfolios have not returned to former levels. As individual and corporate donations dwindle, state arts budgets encounter cutbacks. Consequently, several arts organizations have come face-to-face with the distressing possibility of failure. Just look at the venerable institution of major American orchestras as an example. The Honolulu Orchestra declared bankruptcy and is now undergoing a restructuring. Orchestras in Charlotte and Baltimore recently peered into this abyss, only to be rescued at the last minute by their communities. Other orchestras have squeezed all they can from their musicians and staff, yet still find survival imperiled.
Although the Barlow Endowment’s operations differ from an orchestra’s, each relies on the earnings of an invested, principal corpus. In the Endowment’s case, we depend entirely on that resource. As with all arts organizations, the Barlow has felt the sting of stretched resources.
Still, through careful financial management, a supportive home at Brigham Young University, and the generosity of board members, professional musicians, and staff, the Endowment’s status remains surprisingly stable. We do not face bankruptcy, the elimination of any of our commissioning programs for composers, or a cessation of any other of our operations. On the contrary, the Endowment’s reputation continues to spread, and I sense a genuine excitement for our upcoming 2010 Barlow Prize competition for a new piano trio. You will find information regarding details for this and our other commissioning programs elsewhere on this web site.
W e always devote a large share of our funding to scholarships, Barlow-meeting internships, student-performer fees (for composition classes), and travel support for student composers to hear their works performed–as was the case, most notably, with Ben Taylor, who used combined awards to travel (along with faculty performer Eric Hansen) to Penn State for some additional score preparation and the premiere of his first-place award-winning work FE26 at the International Society of Bassists conference in June. That resulted in new commissions for Ben and the ongoing promotion of his piece by the society (see http://www.isbstore.com/fe26–ben-tayl26.html).
We also support student education and achievement via the guest residencies we arrange. In 2008, those included visits by the fantastic US Coast Guard Saxophone Quartet as well as two legendary figures in the experimental/improvisational world. For the former, we had to provide very little (local travel, food) since they are funded principally by the Department of Defense—yes,“the common defense” includes traveling the nation to perform new music! This group performed not only two amazingly virtuosic works by Neil Thornock, but also rehearsed and recorded new student compositions, now firmly entrenched in those students’ audio portfolios. Meanwhile, assisted by Laycock funding, we brought composer-performers Stuart Dempster (trombone) and Malcolm Goldstein (violin) for separate brief residencies with our Group for Experimental Music. They not only taught our composition students generally, but also coached GEM brilliantly in common techniques of non-idiomatic (i.e. “free”) improvisation and the aesthetics and practices of experimental music. All this is not to mention their daily inspiring tales of life on the “tone roads” of working avant-gardists in the 1960s and beyond.
As you know, the tools of the compositional trade continue to evolve: recordings and scores thrive more online than in hard copy. So the older copying and mailing costs dwindle, though compositional software and studio recording costs continue, as do production costs for CDs—our “audio brochures”—that feature our faculty’s music. This year we funded studio work for Steven Ricks and also sessions for a new compilation of Christian Asplund’s complete organ music (performed by Neil Thornock). We expect actual products in hand in the coming year.
Meanwhile, we were able to provide Ricks, Asplund, and Thornock with travel support for premieres. On a larger scale, for the second of three years ongoing, we combined our funds with other sources to send Steve Lindeman to the BMI Jazz Composers Workshop for advanced training and workshopping of his jazz compositions (examples of which one can hear on the latest CD by our faculty jazz quartet, Q’d Up 3 [Tantara 77941]). Partly as a result of his BMI work, he says, Lindeman won a large ensemble commission for the Utah Arts Festival in summer 2009 and has been invited to the American Composers Orchestra/Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University’s Jazz Composers Orchestra Institute in summer 2010.
Even amid recessionary times, it has been a rich year for the Barlow Education Grant. Already 2010 looks as promising, if not more so. Stay tuned.
I thank the Barlow Endowment for the impressive item on my résumé. Because of the opportunity it has provided, I have associated with some of the greats in the world of composition.
In my second time through as an intern for the competition, I had the great pleasure of mingling with composers and musicians I greatly admire. Outside of the judging rooms, I got familiar with their personalities as I sat with them for lunch and dinner. I made contacts that will enhance and strengthen my network of associates for the rest of my career. This is not to mention the strengthened friendships I now have with the other interns involved.
Inside the judging rooms, I learned much of what it takes to win a composition competition. Presentation of scores and materials, quality of recordings, and the caliber of musicality in the compositions themselves were paramount in the selection process. Reputation had no apparent impact on the decisions made by the judges as to whether or not the composer deserved the prize or the commission. In addition to these lessons learned, I was encouraged by the impartiality displayed in the judging rooms. I am committed to entering the competition myself as often as it will be possible in my future career.
The experience on the whole was extremely motivating. I believe the purpose for the internship was absolutely accomplished. The interns have all expressed some degree of an increase in the confidence they have that their music can succeed in competitions like this one. If I were not so anxious to begin entering the competition myself, I would likely make an attempt to serve as an intern for a third time.
All my thanks to the Barlow Endowment and those associated with it; the experience was richly rewarding.
A pproaching the Barlow from the standpoint of two years of participation as an intern, I can honestly say the Barlow Endowment is a wonderful opportunity for composers around the world, but especially for LDS composers.
The prize judging this year was rather different from last year; far more people have written for string quartet than for solo trombone, so there were fewer submissions and some of them were very unusual. In any case, the cream rose to the top and some very good music was brought to the judging room. During the final judging, part of the discussion focused on easily-digestible music versus adventuresome and exploratory music. While judges expressed sharply conflicting opinions on the matter, I was impressed that the subject was always treated respectfully, both during the judging and afterwards, and that the winner of the prize, Benjamin Ellin, was chosen as someone who could unite the two disparate artistic camps. I am grateful that the Barlow Endowment exists to make new music of this caliber possible and I look forward to hearing Joseph Alessi and the BYU Philharmonic’s excellent performance of it.
I was interested that this year, as last year, several composers, of the sort who make it into music history textbooks, did not advance to the final round of judging for General Commissions and some well-known composers who did make it to the final round were not commissioned. This showed me that the judges were willing to consider factors other than popularity or reputation in their judging and that the music they chose was really the best music brought to the judging room.
I am glad to know that there are funds available specifically for the commissioning of LDS composers whose contributions to the canon new music have, in my estimation, not been proportional to the ability and talent within the Church. I was dismayed to see that only a very few LDS composers even submitted to the competition. I feel that the Church has yet to come into its own as a contributor to the arts in general and that the Barlow Endowment as a resource for the advancement of LDS composition has up to now been extremely underutilized. I plan on submitting to the Barlow Competition in the future in the hope that even though music will not be my primary profession, I can still create works of beauty that will represent the Church and uplift those around me.
E arly this June, I began my work for the Barlow Endowment by being introduced to “the cage.” In a caged off portion of a basement workroom sat all the submissions for this year’s Barlow competitions. It was our job as interns to sort and record all the submissions preparatory to the judging in August. So there we sat, over the course of several weeks, labeling, filing, and recording submission data deep underground. It all felt so disconnected from music and artistry, let alone the outside world and the beautiful summer weather.
Two months later, I got to see the rewards of all our preparations. The three days of judging more than made up for the previous drudgery. The mix of judges was electrifying. They were all as passionate about new music as they were diverse in their tastes and backgrounds. Initially, the best part of judging was that although it was indoors for this part of my internship, I could actually see the sunlight.
I quickly learned that it got better than feeling connected to the outside world. I got to help judges Ethan Wickman and John Costa. Watching them judge opened my eyes to how unique great art actually is. As a composer, I would have suspected that it would have taken a long time for them to go through the 50 prize entries we had in our judging room. However, as good as many of the entries were, there was a clear difference between most of the entries which were competent and the exceptional ones, which, in addition to being competent, were compelling. It was interesting to see that even though Wickman and Costa had different aesthetic sensibilities they both agreed on what was great and what was average. This experience showed me that it isn’t enough to write technically sound music. For music to stand out, it needs to make a distinct artistic statement, and if it does this, it will often transcend the listeners’ aesthetic preferences. The experience I had working with Wickman and Costa was mirrored in the other judging session in which I participated.
Not only did I learn much from the judges’ evaluation of the music, but I was also impressed by the perspective in which they placed the endeavor. It was clear that every participant in the Barlow Endowment was dedicated to the cause of advancing new music. However, in conversations I had while eating meals and during breaks, the theme that kept coming from the judges—and I can’t think of a judge with whom I did not have some variation of this conversation—was the value of human relationships over music. For such highly successful composers as David Rakowski and Daniel Gawthrop to give their work a backseat to the friendships and family relationships in their lives reinforced to me the message that although what we do as composers has the power to change people, it is ultimately the people that matter, not what we do.
Sitting in a dark basement at the beginning of the summer, I could have never suspected that the internship would have taught me so much both about composition and about life.
Barlow Board of Advisors
[mk_dropcaps style=”fancy-style”]R[/mk_dropcaps]ecent commissions for Daniel E. Gawthrop have included choral works for The Furman Singers of Furman University and for the Riverwood Singers of Riverwood International Charter School in Atlanta, Georgia. Both of these works will receive their world premiere performances at the 2010 Southeastern Division Convention of the American Choral Directors Association in Memphis, Tennessee. Concert Organist Dr. Joby Bell will give the world premiere performance of Gawthrop’s Three Floral Preludes for organ in January 2010 at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC.
Upcoming projects include recording sessions in February for a complete CD devoted to Gawthrop’s choral music. A release date in mid 2010 is planned.
I n May 2009, David Rakowski was awarded the Jeanette Lerman-Neubauer ’69 Prize for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring by Brandeis University. He also recently had two CDs released. The first, titled Winged Contraption, was recorded with Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Marilyn Nonken, piano soloist, and was released on the BMOP Sound label. The CD includes David’s piano concerto Persistent Memory, a Pulitzer finalist in 1999. The second CD, titled Etudes Volume 3, was released on the sound label Bridge Records 9310. The recording, performed by pianist Amy Briggs, includes 24 piano etudes—78 1/2 minutes of music—from Books V, VI, and VII of David’s etudes.
Several of David’s compositions have been premiered this year. In March, Phillis Levin Songs, written for voice and the Pierrot Ensemble, was premiered by Collage New Music and soprano Judith Bettina in Boston, Massachusetts. Stolen Moments, written for woodwind quintet, string quartet and piano, was premiered in May at the Merkin Concert Hall in New York City. The piece was commissioned by Merkin Concert Hall with a grant from the NEA and was premiered as part of “Writing Jazz: An Epilogue on Influence.” Two Flutudes were premiered by Mary Fukushima in Overland Park, Kansas, in October, and Mikronomicon, a mini-concerto for piano and the Pierrot ensemble with percussion, was commissioned and premiered by Boston Musica Viva in November. In addition, David gave the keynote speech at the Festival of New American Music at Sacramento State University in November.
I n February 2009, Steven Ricks’ piece Amygdala received its New York premiere, which was performed by Jean Kopperud and Stephen Gosling. In addition, Amygdala was recorded with producer Judith Sherman. The song will appear on a forthcoming double-CD release by Jean Kopperud on Albany Records called Xtreme Measures. The world premiere for this piece took place at the TRANSIT New Music Festival in Leuven, Belgium in October 2008.
Flexible Music recently recorded Steven’s piece Extended Play with Judith Sherman, as well and it will appear on his next CD release alongside two other pieces: Waves/Particles (recorded by Morris Rosenzweig and Canyonlands) and Anthology (recorded by the Portland, Oregon-based group fEAR no MUSIC). The world premiere of Force of the Mind was performed by trombonists William Mathis (BGSU) and Will Kimball (BYU) at the Bowling Green State University/MACCM New Music Festival, and included live electronics and a sculpture by artist Brian Christensen. The instrumentalists performed the piece again at the US Army Band’s Eastern Trombone Workshop in March 2010.
Steven’s current projects include an electronic/improvisational work for the Karnatic Lab concert series in Amsterdam, scheduled for May 2010, and a new orchestra piece for the BYU Philharmonic Orchestra.
C omposer Ethan Wickman has received grants and commissions from the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition, Meet the Composer, the American Composers Forum, the Wisconsin Music Teachers Association, Fulbright (for study in Madrid, Spain), the Norfolk Contemporary Music Workshop/Yale Summer School of Music, the Wellesley Composers Conference, the Utah Arts Council, and the Aspen Music Festival where his orchestral work Night Prayers Ascending won the Jacob Druckman Prize.
His works have been hailed as “clever, elegantly crafted and deliriously charming” (Steve Smith, Night after Night) and possessed of “a flair for colorful orchestration” (San Francisco Classical Voice).
Recent projects have included new pieces for Flexible Music, Zeitgeist, Piotr Szewczyk’s Violin Futuraseries, the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Wind Symphony, the Avalon String Quartet, and a forthcoming work for guitarist Daniel Lippel.
Two new works, Namasté for string quartet and Angles of Repose for chamber ensemble, have recently been recorded by the Avalon String Quartet and the Zeitgeist Chamber Ensemble respectively, for commercial release on the Albany Records and Innova labels.
Barlow Board of Directors
Stephen M. Jones
Alice Barlow Jones
Scott M. Boyter