UC San Diego's Department of Music

April 17, 2012

  UCSD composers Chen-Hui Jen and Adam Greene will put their music to the ultimate test when the San Diego Symphony takes it for a trial run. Their works were selected from among 250 submittals to the 2012 EarShot (National Orchestra Composition Discovery Network) New Music Readings program, where promising young composers develop their work with input from top-notch composers, conductors, musicians, and educators.

Chen-Hui's winning composition is titled yet the dew remains in pale. Adam won for his piece In Winter.

A "reading" is a sort of workshop session for a new composition. Chen-Hui and Adam join two other young composers whose music will be "read" on April 19 and 20 by the San Diego Symphony under the baton of guest conductor James Feddeck. During the process of working through the music, the composers will receive feedback from mentor composers Robert Beaser, John Corigliano, and UCSD music faculty member Rand Steiger, as well as from Feddeck and principal musicians.

For Jen, the EarShot award comes as she completes her Ph.D. at UCSD this spring.

"In terms of the younger generation of composers from Asia, she is one of the most promising," said Jen's mentor, UCSD faculty composer Chinary Ung. He said that he is particularly impressed with the subtle ways in which Jen draws from the traditional music of her native Taiwan in her own contemporary work. Her first-hand experiences of that music, he explained, allow her to incorporate various elements as part of the creative process, rather than using them as mere seasoning, as can be the case with a western composer.

"This is the first time my work will be played by an American orchestra," said Jen, who graduated from the Music Department of the National Sun Yet-San University and earned a masters at Taipei National University of the Arts. She came to the U.S. in 2007 to study music on a scholarship from the Taiwanese Ministry of Education. "This will be a good change for me to work with musicians here. Being selected is also a big encouragement to my efforts and my composition."

yet the dew is Jen's second orchestral work and "musically represents my spiritual journey that goes through the process of intoning, transcending, reaching another land, falling, and returning. Everything eventually falls into overwhelming thick fogs. During the past five years I've been focusing on tone colors and orchestration of different instrumental combinations, especially how they flow and move.

"When composing a new work, I'd always like to hear it played. Rehearsing and reading will give me ideas whether I realized my imagination right, and whether what I wrote is practical. These should be treasurable experiences for my future works."

Born in Chicago, Greene earned degrees in music and anthropology at Connecticut College and a masters in composition at the New England Conservatory of Music. He completed his Ph.D. in composition at UCSD, mentored by composer Roger Reynolds, whose Pulitzer Prize-winning work Whispers Out of Time made a lasting impression on Greene when he heard it in college.

The EarShot reading marks the first time Greene's music has been performed by a major symphony orchestra. He said that for a young composer, "it is extremely rare to get the opportunity to work with a professional orchestra on a new piece. There are a number of speculative elements to my score that I'll finally have the chance to hear and assess. EarShot also includes a series of meetings and lectures regarding the practical issues of being a composer (such as legal and copyright issues) that are unusual to encounter in one setting."

Greene composed In Winter in 2007. "The ideas for the piece emerged largely from the circumstance of having taught orchestration recently: the immersion in orchestral literature and the process of packaging the information for students was bound to spill over into my own creative project. In Winter is a quiet piece with a small repertoire of harmonic materials intended to reflect a sense of stillness I associate with winter. As I composed I was influenced by a haiku from Basho that reads 'Winter solitude/in a world of one color/the sound of wind.' This point of reference may explain the nature of the musical phrasing of the piece, which is aphoristic, and the sense of chilly austerity that characterizes its overall sound world.

"I will have one hour with the orchestra. The piece is nine minutes long. This is, among other things, a
heightened test of the practicality and aptness of my notation, since there is simply no time available to 'waste' on clarifying confusing issues with the score. It's a useful exercise, since all interactions with professional orchestras are compressed by nature of the unwieldy budgetary challenges of
assembling that many people in the same space.

"The reading should reveal critical information about the musical materials. For example, I'm anxious to hear whether some of the divisi strategies I've chosen achieve their intended spatial characteristics. More broadly, the scoring is quite transparent and I'm curious whether I've given enough weight to the materials and enough time to reveal some of the special sonorities I've imagined."

Meanwhile, both of UCSD's EarShot winners are looking ahead to the future.

Greene is composing two works for pianist and UCSD music alum Shannon Wettstein, his frequent collaborator. "We are particularly excited about a new concerto for piano and chamber orchestra that should be ready in 2014."

Once Jen completes her Ph.D. later this spring, she will move to Florida where her husband (and fellow UCSD music grad student) Jacob Sudol has a tenured faculty position at Florida International University. Yes, Sudol has already landed a tenured post before completing his degree, which he will accomplish later this spring.

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