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14 July 2008

A Piece a Day

Jane Stanley reports from Tanglewood

Jane Stanley Image: Jane Stanley  

I am writing from the Tanglewood Music Center (TMC) in the United States, where I am currently a Composition Fellow. Tanglewood is a summer academy for composers, conductors, singers and instrumentalists. Each year there are six composition fellows. This year, the five others are Charlotte Bray (UK), Helen Grime (UK), Matti Kovler (Israel), Jeff Stanek (USA) and Yao Chen (China). Over the course of two months we are assigned three projects. I have just completed the first project, which was to write a short piece for mixed ensemble and conduct it.

We were allowed two weeks to compose the piece. The project, which seeks to develop our skills in conducting and rehearsing our music, was overseen by members of Tanglewood’s conducting and composition faculty, namely Stefan Asbury (conductor), John Harbison and Michael Gandolfi (composers). We also had the privilege of working with The New Fromm Players. During rehearsals, Stefan Asbury coached us in our conducting technique. The final presentation of our work took place in Ozawa Hall.

Our second project, which I have just started, involves writing a piece for voice and piano, setting poetry by American poet Lloyd Schwarz. I have selected a poem called Six Words. The piece will be performed by TMC fellows Ashley Logan (soprano) and Nolan Pearson (piano). During the course of this project we will meet with Lloyd Schwarz to discuss the process of setting his words to music. The third project is called A Piece A Day. As this title suggests, we will be required to write a piece every day for four consecutive days and our pieces will be performed in a concert by TMC performance fellows.

Other composers with whom we will study include Augusta Read Thomas and Shulamit Ran. In addition to working on our projects and participating in master classes, we attend some rehearsals and all performances by TMC performance fellows. Last night the TMC orchestra performed Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony, conducted by Bernard Haitink.

Tanglewood is also the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. As fellows, we are permitted to attend all of their performances. Last weekend we heard Berlioz’s Les Troyens conducted by James Levine, featuring Anne Sophie von Otter, Christin-Marie Hill and Matthew Plenk.

This year, Tanglewood’s 2008 Festival of Contemporary Music features the music of Elliott Carter. The celebrated composer, who turns 100 this year, will be in attendance, and I am looking forward to meeting him.

My piece for percussion duo, Triptych, will be performed on 3 August in Ozawa Hall.

Further links

Jane Stanley is an Australian composer and a lecturer in composition at the University of Glasgow.


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