Monday, March 21, 2016

Visiting Composers: Marc Satterwhite & Bernard Rands

Bernard Rands
Over the next two weeks, the Center is excited to host two visiting composers for our Guest Artist Series. Marc Satterwhite and Bernard Rands will present in the Composer Seminar series on Friday March 25, and April 1, respectively.

Marc Satterwhite has taught in Texas, Indiana, and Michigan, and is currently Professor of Composition and Music Theory at the University of Louisville School of Music.  His music has been heard around the world, from Japan and South Korea to England and Latin America, and has been performed and recorded by several notable ensembles, including the Boston Symphony, Utah Symphony, Eighth Blackbird, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Verdehr Trio, the London Composers Ensemble, and Percussion Group Falsa.  

Marc Satterwhite
Satterwhite was a member of the Grawemeyer Award Committee for a number of years, and currently serves as its director.  Named for the famous industrialist, entrepreneur, and philanthropist H. Charles Grawemeyer, the Grawemeyer Awards are five annual prizes given in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education, and religion.  The oldest of the five, the first award for Music Composition was presented in 1985 to Witold Lutosławski for this Third Symphony.  Other winners include György Ligeti, Harrison Birtwistle, Toru Takemitsu, Thomas Ades, and Louis Andriessen.  Recent Guest Artist to the Center Kaija Saariaho won the award in 2003 for her first opera, L'Amour de loin, and this year's award has gone to Hans Abrahamsen, a member of the 2016 June in Buffalo faculty, for his song cycle, let me tell you.  "I have one of the best jobs in the world," says Satterwhite.  "I have great students, terrific colleagues, and I get to direct the most prestigious award for composers in the world.  This puts me into constant contact with great musicians in the wider world, some of whom have become good friends as a result."

Satterwhite began his musical career as a bassist, studying the instrument at Michigan State University and playing full-time in the Orquesta Filarmónica de la Ciudad de México.  After deciding to pursue composition, he enrolled at Indiana University, where he studied with John Eaton and served as a research assistant to George List, one of the pioneers of the field of ethnomusicology.

As a composer, Satterwhite emphasizes adept instrumental writing, his music featuring elaborate gestures and fine textural subtleties which often outline familiar teleological narratives.  "I am most interested in music which has an immediate emotional appeal, but which is also intellectually stimulating enough to bear up to repeated hearings.  I tend to prefer music which is goal-directed, with clear buildups, climaxes, and dénouements."  His output is quite varied, ranging from large-scale works for orchestra or wind ensemble (including a 3-hour opera, Akhmatova, composed in 2000), to more compact chamber pieces and solos, like his Spiky Epiphanies for piano trio, or the dramatic solo 'cello work, Witnesses of Time:

Despite this varied oeuvre, Satterwhite's compositional voice is fairly consistent.   "Although I love a great deal of music which is on the lighter side, my own music is, with some notable exceptions, usually pretty serious.  This has always been true, and is generally true of my tastes in the other arts as well.  I usually prefer Shakespeare's tragedies to his comedies, I like sad songs more than happy ones-and so on."  Satterwhite's solemn, often elegiac approach can be heard clearly in his recent orchestral composition, Icons, which was partly inspired by Roman Catholic reliquaries—containers made to house relics of saints.  "The incongruousness of a few bone fragments housed in such a splendid piece of art struck a deep chord in me.  Despite its beauty, it still had a definite aura of the macabre and bizarre for me.  […]  I have attempted to recreate some of the beauty and mystery of such objects, but I will confess that it's really more about the darker images these creations conjure up for me."

The week after Satterwhite's visit, the Center is excited to once again host world-renowned composer Bernard Rands.  A member of the JiB 2015 faculty, and long-time friend of the Center, Rands will present some of his recent work, part of a vast and continually-expanding repertoire that includes numerous orchestral works, several celebrated vocal pieces, and a successful opera, Vincent, on the life of Vincent van Gogh.  Click here to read our full profile of Rands, written as part of last year's series on 2015 JiB composers.

Be sure to catch both of these skilled and highly-reputed composers during their visits in the coming weeks!