Over the summer we found some time to connect over Skype with composer, oboist, installation artist and professor Sky Macklay, who was in the middle of what sounded like a truly magnificent residency at Civitella Ranieri in Umbertide, Italy. Macklay’s work, especially her chamber music and intermedia pieces, has been receiving more and more attention recently, especially in light of her 2017 Grammy nomination for “Many Many Cadences,” a chamber piece written for Spektral Quartet and appearing on their 2016 album, Serious Business.
The measured but sincerely eager thoughtfulness that Macklay employs in conversation about her art is also a key component of her work, which simultaneously revels in playfulness and freedom. The themes and concepts covered by her oeuvre, whether sociopolitical or linguistic or purely sonic, are almost as expansive as the tools she employs to explore them and convey her perspective on them. Her curiosity seems to be matched only by her omnivorous gravitational pull on the world around her: everything is on the table to explore via every means she can get her hands on. And the results are surprising, head-turning, eye-opening — and continuously exciting.
If a composer just so happens to also be a photographer, an essayist, and an activist both within the musical arena and outside of it, it seems fitting that she would describe her own work as “pan-genre and diverse – sometimes within the same piece!” Alex Shapiro’s extensive catalog encompasses film scores, chamber music and choral works, but it is in concert band music that Alex has been leaving her strongest mark as a composer.
Alex’s first foray into the concert band world came in 2007, when Major Tod A. Addison, Commander and conductor of the United States Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) Band, contacted her via MySpace to commission a piece. At the time Alex had never composed for, participated in or even attended a performance of a wind band in her life, but was encouraged by Major Addison’s openness to her ideas and decided to jump right in.
The final piece, titled “Homecoming,” folds Alex’s sophisticated take on symphonic and jazz-pop music into traditional wind band sounds, while also taking a nuanced, multi-dimensional approach to the concept of a “military theme.” The result isn’t a collection of recognizable layers of elements, but rather something entirely new.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we would like to recognize five important historical female composers who did not receive the recognition of their more famous male family members, although it was deserved. Prior to 1900, it was not uncommon to see women performing music. In fact, it was a requirement of all accomplished young ladies to play the keyboard. While performing music was encouraged, creating music was not, which is why we hear so little music by female composers before the twentieth century.
Anna Magdalena Bach (1701-1760) was the second wife of Johann Sebastian Bach. She was a professional vocalist, although not much is documented of her career. We know that she met her husband when he was the Capellmeister (a music director) in the German city of Cöthen and that she continued to sing professionally after they were married. Anna Magdalena Bach played an important role in her husband’s work, transcribing much of her husband’s music. Recent research by musicologists has suggested that several of J.S. Bach’s compositions were actually composed by his wife, including the famous Six Cello Suites.
Clara Wieck was a child prodigy virtuoso pianist and composer in Leipzig in the early 1800s.
Clara Wieck and Robert Schumann met at a concert Clara was playing a concert for a mental institute more specifically Colditz Castle. She was just 9 years old at the time and a decade later, they married.
At the age of 13, she was one of the first to perform from memory, which is now standard practice for all pianists.
In one of the greatest pairings of the greatest virtuosos, Niccolo Paganini agreed to play a concert with Clara while both were on tour in Paris. It was also the greatest pairing of virtuosos that no one heard, as thousands fled Paris because of a cholera outbreak. more “10 Facts about Clara Schumann”…