Thursday, March 17, 2011

Composer Evan Johnson: UB remembered with "intense affection and gratitude"

Evan Johnson received his PhD from UB's composition program some five years ago, and his career is off to a flying start. Recent and upcoming highlights include performances at festivals in Darmstadt, Huddersfield, Witten, and others, as well as in Japan and Singapore; residencies at Copland House and the Millay Colony in 2011; and recordings on the HCR, Metier, and (later this year) Mode labels.  In June, at the Issue Project Room in New York, Claire Chase of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) will premiere a piece for bass flute commissioned by BMI and the Concert Artists Guild.

Says Evan, "When I came to do graduate work at Buffalo, it was a bit of a shot in the dark; I knew little more of the department than the June in Buffalo festival and the fact that David Felder and some of the other faculty were interested in having me there.  It turned out to be a tremendously significant decision for my professional career.  Buffalo is a unique place for composers, in that absolutely any sort of investigation is permitted and encouraged -- pieces written bycolleagues during my tenure included both works of incredible complexity and intricacy and a piece for amplified styrofoam cup -- as long as you continually question your assumptions and strive to improve your understanding of your own work.   David himself is the best composition teacher I have ever had, despite the fact that his own music has virtually nothing to do with mine, and his own approach to his craft and his profession have been crucial models for me to a degree I doubt even he understands.  And, five years after I received my Ph.D., some of the most significant relationships I have with performers around the world arose from visits they made to UB while I was a student there.

"The only thing I wish would change about UB's graduate composition program is that it would become better known, and its singular place in the American musical landscape more celebrated; but I remember UB with intense affection and gratitude, and I credit a good deal of my own musical and professional development to my experience there."

Visit the "Sounds" area of Evan's website for some intriguing excerpts from his work.

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