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)
Get to Know...Emanuela Ballio
We’ve been working on a fun project to promote the 2017 FNMC Composition Contest which we’ll be sharing very soon and we discovered that we receive a lot of entries from Italy! We knew Italy has long been known for the production and support new music and we were pleasantly surprised to see that Italian composers frequently enter our competition. In fact, Italians are the second most frequent entrants (to the US…and of course in much smaller numbers, but still a fun fact.)
This year, Italian composer Emanuela Ballio was a finalist in the flute alone category for Gocce. Although it has been recorded (see below), it has not been performed live. Nicole Riner will present the world premiere during her spring tour at Indiana University of Pennsylvania April 13, 2017. We’re so happy to play a part in bringing her wonderful work to the United States!
Q&A with Emanuela Ballio…
What about new music for the flute appeals to you?
I like the flexibility and the agility of the flute, its colors and its great expressivity, and its abiity to produce several "special effects".
Who is/are your favorite “new music” composer/s and why? I don't like any contemporary composer in a special way. I'm interested in all new composers, and I try to listen to new pieces as much as possible. I can find atmospheres, colors, situations, effects that like me, and that can suggest me an idea for a new piece.
Describe your musical background and current activities.
I’m an Italian composer. I graduated in Composition from “G. Verdi” Conservatory in Milad under Umberto Rotondi’s guidance. Then I was awarded an advance degree in Composition with Franco Donatoni at “Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia” in Rome. I won many international and national composition competitions, my pieces have been performed in concerts worldwide. I get regular commissions not only for usual ensemble, but also for unusual instrument or chamber groups, such as Barberia’s organ, accordion quartet, recorder ensemble, mandolin orchestra, and military band. I teach Composition at “Luca Marenzio” Conservatory of Brescia.
More About Emanuela…
At the age of 22 she graduated in composition with top marks from “G.Verdi” Conservatory in Milan under the guidance of U.Rotondi. She studied electronic music and film music and was awarded an advanced degree in composition with F.Donatoni at the “Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia” in Rome. She teaches Composition at the Conservatory “Luca Marenzio” of Brescia. Emanuela Ballio’s approach to composing is characterised by an intellectual curiosity and versatility that has led her to write not only for orchestra, choir and solo instruments, but also for unusual chamber groups, such as accordion quartet, recorder ensemble, mandolins orchestra and military band.. She has obtained many honours both in national and international competitions, like “INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION VIOTTI – VALSESIA” (Vercelli 1986), “NATIONAL COMPETITION K.CZERNY” (Torre Pellice 1989),“3° INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION FANNY MENDELSSOHN” (Unna, Germany 1991), “GUIDO D’AREZZO” (Arezzo 1991), “GRAND PRIX DE COMPOSITION DE VILLE D’AVRAY” (Paris 1992), “NATIONAL COMPETITION AGIMUS” (Varenna 1993), “NATIONAL COMPETITION A.BACCHELLI” (Livorno 1993), “GEDOK: 10° INTERNATIONAL COMPOSERS COMPETITION FOR SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA” (Mannheim 1994), “INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION JEWISH CONCEPTS OF ECOLOGY” (Los Angeles 1994), “INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION CONTEMPORANEA NEOPOIESIS “ (Palermo 1994), “NATIONAL COMPETITION CITTA’ DI SCICLI” (Ragusa 1994), “INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION FOR COMPOSERS OF CHAMBER MUSIC” (Winterthur 1996), “PREMIO VALENTINO BUCCHI” (Rome 1997 and 1999), “INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION PAOLO BARSACCHI” (Viareggio 1997), “NATIONAL COMPETITION PREMIO MANDANICI” (Barcellona P.G. 1997), “IBLA GRAND PRIZE 2000” (New York 2000), “MANUEL VALCARCEL” (Santander 2001), “PROGETTO GIOVANI COMPOSITORI” (Milan 2001), “INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION POESIE IN MUSICA” (Cesenatico 2001), “SEPTIMA EDICION DE LOS PREMIOS A LA COMPOSICION Y EXPRESION CORAL” (Canary Islands 2001), “3rd BIBF COMPOSITION COMPETITION” (Great Britain 2003), “3rd INTERNATIONAL COMPOSITION COMPETITION FOR ORGAN OF BARBERIA” (Cesena 2007), “LONGFELLOW CHORUS INTERNATIONAL COMPOSERS’ COMPETITION” (Portland, Maine, USA, 2007), “3 rd LE NOTE RITROVATE Composition Competition” (Avellino 2011), “INTERNATIONAL MUSIC PRIZE tm for Excellence in Composition” (Colorado 2011). Her compositions have been played in concerts and festival all over the world, in important cities like BOSTON, LOS ANGELES, NEW YORK, HARTFORD, BUENOS AIRES, ROSARIO, KIEV, ODESSA, TALLIN, MELBOURNE,TOKYO , MADRID, SANTANDER, LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA, CORFU’, MALTA, BASEL, PARIS, LONDON, YORK, LEICESTER, MUNICH, HEIDELBERG, KARLSRUHE, BUCHAREST, TIMISOARA, CLUJ-NAPOCA, BELGRADE, MILANO, ROMA, VENEZIA, TRIESTE, PADOVA, BRESCIA, BERGAMO, COMO, NOVARA, ALESSANDRIA, BOLOGNA, LIVORNO, SIENA, PERUGIA, BARI, FORLI’, TERAMO, NAPOLI, AVELLINO. Her works are published by Curci, Edipan, Sconfinarte, Casa Musicale Eco, Wicky, Berben, Fonè, Taukay, MAP, Gavino de Franchy Editores, Centro Musica Contemporanea , Edizioni per Caso sulla Piazzetta, Edizioni Progetti Sonori, MC Harmony, Aliamusica Records, QTR Productons, Acadia Recording. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you liked Gocce…
The Flute New Music Consortium is an organization dedicated to the creation and support of new music for the flute.