Composer Spotlight...Alexis Bacon
Get to Know...Alexis Bacon
One of the great things about new music is that sometimes you find really effective and interesting combinations that you would never have thought could make great music. In Yodeling Song, a finalist work in the 2014 FNMC Composition Contest, Alexis Bacon did just that in writing a work for alto flute, percussion, electronics and yodeling.
Q&A with Alexis…
What about new music for the flute appeals to you?
What I love about the flute is its agility, the way flute players can play virtuosic runs and trills with the seeming greatest of ease. I also appreciate how the flute can blend into a texture or be more brilliant, and the sound of the lush, rich texture of low notes on the flute. And I enjoy working with flute players because I find them to be very adventurous in experimenting with new sounds and techniques.
Describe your musical background and current activities.
My background is that of a composer of both electroacoustic and acoustic music, as well as a violist and pianist. I started composing electroacoustic music in college and soon became fascinated by the idea of using speech that was sometimes intelligible and narrative-driven and sometimes purely sonic and musical. Where does speech leave off and music begin? I'm also very interested in American oral traditions, particularly those that might be threatened or dying. Besides my electroacoustic flute/percussion work "Yodeling Song," I've written a piece for percussion and fixed media called "Cowboy Song," based on auction calls. I'm currently finishing a work commissioned by a consortium of ten percussionists called "Ojibwe Song," about the disappearance and reemergence of the Ojibwe (Chippewa)language.
Describe “Yodeling Song “ (Alto Flute, Percussion, Fixed Media)
Yodeling Song was written for the duo Due East, flutist Erin Lesser and percussionist Greg Beyer. When I composed it, I was living in Indiana and came to know of a community of Swiss descendants in rural Adams County, some of whom had kept up a tradition of yodeling. Through a chain of connections, I met Wayne Dubach, a retired farmer who had yodeled since he was a young man. Wayne was kind enough to let me come to Adams County and record an interview with him to use as source material for my piece. A second source was another local yodeler, professional bass trombonist Bryan Heath who moonlit in a cowboy band. Some themes emerged during my interviews with these yodelers. Wayne Dubach, the farmer, spoke of how he used to yodel to pass the time and keep himself company while driving the tractor on his fields late at night during intensive work periods. Bryan Heath, the musician, spoke of how he had taught himself to yodel from listening to the radio program “Riders Radio Theater,” as he tried to adjust to city life while in grad school in Boston. Both men seemed to practice yodeling to help them to combat loneliness and find joy. Indeed, in my own experience, the mere mention that I was composing a piece based on yodeling often made people smile. Yodeling Song is in three interconnected movements. The first, Pastorale, is a tribute to yodeling’s rural roots. The second, Nocturne “Years ago, before I was married” is based on Wayne Dubach’s account of his days of nighttime farming. The third, Yodeling Song, is a celebration of the pure joy that yodeling and the idea of yodeling seems to bring to so many.
More About Alexis…
Alexis Bacon is a composer recognized nationally and internationally for her acoustic and electroacoustic music, having won awards such as the IAWM Search for New Music Pauline Oliveros Prize, the Ossia International Composition Prize, and the ASCAP/SEAMUS student composition commission. She has also received grants and awards from the Indiana Arts Council, the Percussive Arts Society, the American Music Center, and ASCAP, and commissions from the duo Due East, the Bro-Fowler Duo, and violinist Robert Simonds. A Fulbright scholar to France, she studied music composition in Paris with Betsy Jolas before attending graduate school at the University of Michigan, where her composition teachers included William Bolcom, Michael Daugherty, Evan Chambers and Susan Botti. Also skilled as a violist and pianist, she remains active as a performer. She has taught at the University of Michigan, West Texas A&M University, Indiana StateUniversity, and the University of Indianapolis, and spends her summers teaching at Interlochen Arts Camp. She is currently Assistant Professor of Music Composition and Media at Michigan State University. www.alexisbacon.com
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The Flute New Music Consortium is an organization dedicated to the creation and support of new music for the flute.