Get to Know...Alexandra Bryant
Like most of the composers we’ve had the privilege of getting to know through their success in the FNMC Composition Contest, Alexandra Bryant is a busy lady! She was appointed Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, MN beginning in the 2016-2017 school year, her ballet Becoming Sugar Plum (a prequel to The Nutcracker) was premiered in 2016 to very positive reviews, and she’s currently working on two new commissions (both of which involve flute!!!). We’re happy she carved out some time to speak with us!
Alexandra’s work for flute and piano, Ghost Stations, earned the honorable mention in the flute and accompaniment category of the 2015 FNMC Composition Contest. This four movement work, commissioned by flutists Douglas DeVries, depicts four different abandoned train stations; Detriot’s Michigan Central Station, Abkhazia station in the country of Georgia, New York City’s Broadway and Park Station, and the Algoma Central Railway Station in Searchmont, Ontario. Alexandra tells us about her love of multiphonics in the Q&A below and, having performed Ghost Stations in September 2016, I can attest that she uses them particularly effectively in the third movement, “The Hidden Underground,” which is composed entirely of multiphonics in the flute part!
Q&A with Alexandra…
Who are your favorite “new music” composers and why?
I guess it really depends on where we draw the line of "new music." I love the music of Arvo Pärt, Henryk Gorecki, and Alfred Schnittke - there is something so raw and real about all three of them that nudges you right where you need it the most. I also have a fondness for how the music of John Adams often puts me in a trance.
But if we get down to it, Bela Bartok and Ernest Bloch will both forever have a soft spot in my heart... Bloch, especially, is so evocative :)
Describe your musical background and current activities
I grew up in a very musical family - my mom was a violinist who taught privately, conducted a local youth orchestra and HS orchestra, and also performed in orchestra. My dad practiced his guitar every night and also had a few private students of his own. Although I toyed with a number of career paths, such as architecture and medicine, my love of music always won out.
Most of my time now is consumed with teaching activities - lesson planning, grading papers, etc - but I love my students, so it's okay! I try to fit in composition as much as possible and am looking forward to the summer break so I can get lots of music written!
I'm currently in the midst of a piece for Maundy Thursday services for baritone, flute, trumpet, and string trio and am also trying to juggle a trio for flute, soprano, and piano. (I have never had this much flute music!)
What about new music for the flute appeals to you?
I love the wide range of moods and characters the flute can achieve. I especially love the low, rich, and mellow register of the flute. I think the moment in Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10 with the low, low piccolo line really shifted my thinking about the flute and piccolo and how mysterious it can sound when pushed so low. I also love the stereotypical "drama" the flute can achieve as it quickly flourishes back and forth in the upper register. One of its greatest qualities, however, I believe are the eerie multiphonics. The tone is unlike any other instrument and is almost surreal in quality!
More About Alexandra…
Hailed as a “promising composer” by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Alexandra T Bryant has been lauded for her “ability to convey myriad moods through clear thematic materials and coloristic contrasts.” She has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, William Preucil, the Aeolus Quartet in collaboration with the Friends of Chamber Music of Reading with the NEA, The Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, the Santa Fe Youth Symphony Orchestra Association, the Tacoma Youth Symphony Association, The Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies, KINETIC, Cantare!, Katherine Murdock and Mark Hill, Duo Scordatura, and the Metropolitan Ballet Theatre & Academy. Alexandra has served on the faculty of the Luzerne Music Center as composer-in-residence and participated in the Cabrillo Festival.
Dr. Bryant is a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music (Margaret Brouwer, Paul Schoenfield), Shepherd School of Music (Pierre Jalbert, Arthur Gottschalk), and the University of Maryland (Mark Wilson, Lawrence Moss). Additional studies include George Tsontakis and Syd Hodkinson at Aspen, the Bowdoin International Music Festival with Samuel Adler, Claude Baker, and Simone Fontanelli, Tyler White at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chamber Music Institute, and the Czech-American Summer Music Institute in Prague with Ladislav Kubik.
Dr. Bryant has been a finalist or prizewinner in numerous composition competitions including Morton Gould, Lake George Music Festival, Garth Newel, USA International Harp Society, Flute New Music Consortium, and the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute.
Alexandra currently lives in the greater Twin Cities with her husband, Nicholas, and their dog, Maple. She is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition at Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, MN.
For more information visit: http://www.alexandratbryant.com/index.html
Listen to select recordings, including Ghost Stations visit her Soundcloud page
If you liked Ghost Stations…
Becoming Sugar Plum (ballet)
Instrumentation: flute, violin, cello, piano, percussion
Date of Composition: 2016
Instrumentation: woodwind quintet
Date of Composition: 2008 (rev. 2009)
Two works in progress (see Q&A)
The Flute New Music Consortium is an organization dedicated to the creation and support of new music for the flute.