NUNC! 4 Guest Composer Presentations
Part of the Northwestern University New Music Conference
Anna Thorvaldsdottir (b. 1977) is an Icelandic composer whose “seemingly boundless textural imagination” (NY Times) and “striking” (Guardian) sound world has made her “one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music” (NPR). “Never less than fascinating” (Gramophone), her music is composed as much by sounds and nuances as by harmonies and lyrical material, and tends to evoke “a sense of place and personality” (NY Times) through a distinctive “combination of power and intimacy” (Gramophone). It is written as an ecosystem of sounds, where materials continuously grow in and out of each other, often inspired in an important way by nature and its many qualities, in particular structural ones, like proportion and flow. Anna’s works have been nominated and awarded on many occasions—most notably, her “confident and distinctive handling of the orchestra” (Gramophone) has garnered her the prestigious Nordic Council Music Prize, the New York Philharmonic’s Kravis Emerging Composer Award, and Lincoln Center’s Emerging Artist Award and Martin E. Segal Award.
Anna’s music is frequently performed internationally and has been performed by orchestras and ensembles such as the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Ensemble Intercontemporain, London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, NDR Elbphilharmonie, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Yarn/Wire, The Crossing, the Bavarian Radio Choir, Münchener Kammerorchester, Los Angeles Percussion Quartet, Avanti Chamber Ensemble, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, CAPUT Ensemble, Oslo Philharmonic, and Either/Or Ensemble. In April 2018, Esa-Pekka Salonen lead the New York Philharmonic in the premiere of Anna’s work METACOSMOS, which was commissioned by the orchestra, and the work received its European premiere with the Berlin Philharmonic in January 2019, conducted by Alan Gilbert. METACOSMOS received its UK premiere at the BBC Proms 2019. Anna’s latest orchestral work—the large-scale AION—was commissioned by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra and premiered in May 2019, conducted by Anna-Maria Helsing. Anna is currently Composer-in-Residence with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.
Her music has been featured at several major venues and music festivals, including portrait concerts at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival in NYC, the Composer Portraits Series at NYC’s Miller Theatre, the Leading International Composers series at the Phillips Collection in Washington DC, Big Ears Festival, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Brooklyn’s National Sawdust, London’s Spitalfields Music Festival, Münchener Kammerorchester’s Nachtmusic der Moderne series, and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra’s Point Festival. Other venues include the BBC Proms, ISCM World Music Days, Nordic Music Days, Ultima Festival, Lucerne Summer Festival, Beijing Modern Music Festival, Reykjavik Arts Festival, Tectonics, Helsinki’s Musica Nova Festival, and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.
Anna holds a PhD (2011) from the University of California in San Diego. She regularly teaches and gives presentations on composition, in academic settings, as part of residencies, and in private lessons. In spring 2019, she was Composer-in-Residence at the Royal Academy of Music in London. She is currently based in the London area.
Jennifer Walshe was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1974. She studied composition with John Maxwell Geddes at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, Kevin Volans in Dublin and graduated from Northwestern University, Chicago, with a doctoral degree in composition in June 2002. Her chief teachers at Northwestern were Amnon Wolman and Michael Pisaro. In 2000 Jennifer won the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt. In 2003-2004 Jennifer was a fellow of Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart; during 2004-2005 she lived in Berlin as a guest of the DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramm. From 2006 to 2008 she was the composer-in-residence in South Dublin County for In Context 3. In 2007 she was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New York. In 2008 she was awarded the Praetorius Music Prize for Composition by the Niedersächsisches Ministerium für Wissenschaft und Kultur. In 2009 she lived in Venice, Italy as a guest of the Fondazione Claudio Buziol. In 2016 she was awarded the BASCA British Composer Award for Innovation. She is currently Professor at the Hochschule für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Stuttgart.
Jennifer’s work has been performed and broadcast all over the world by ensembles such as the Arditti Quartet, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Klangforum Wien, Alter Ego, ensemble récherche, the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Orchestra Sinfonica del Teatro La Fenice, Nadar Ensemble, Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop, Ensemble Resonanz, Apartment House, ensemble Intégrales, Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart, Stuttgarter Kammerorchester, Plus Minus, Schlagquartett Köln, Crash Ensemble, Con Tempo Quartet, ensemble ascolta, Champ d’Action, ensemble laboratorium, ensemble ]h[iatus, ensemble surplus, trio nexus, the Rilke Ensemble, the Irish Chamber Orchestra, the Irish Youth Wind Ensemble, Bozzini Quartet, Callino Quartet, Ensemble 2000, Concorde, Kaleidoscop, Black Hair, Continuum, Ensemble Musica Nova, ensemble chronophonie, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra Wind Quintet, the Hebrides Ensemble, Psappha, and Q-02 among others. Walshe has written many operas, ranging from XXX_LIVE_NUDE_GIRLS!!! (2003) for Barbie dolls and ensemble to Die Taktik, an opera commissioned by the Junge Oper Stuttgart, which Walshe also directed—the work received 14 performances in Stuttgart in 2012.
In addition to her activities as a composer, Jennifer frequently performs as a vocalist, specialising in extended techniques. Many of her compositions are commissioned for her voice either as a soloist or in conjunction with other instruments, and her works have been performed by her and others at festivals such as Liquid Architecture (Australia), Cycle (Iceland), Soundshapes (Italy), Ostrava New Music Days (Czech Republic), RTÉ Living Music (Dublin), Båstad Kammarmusik Festival (Sweden), Maerzmuzik (Berlin), Wundergrund (Copenhagen), Ultraschall (Berlin), Transit (Leuven), Ars Musica (Brussels), Sonorités (Montpellier), Ultima (Norway), Borealis (Norway), Experimental Intermedia (New York), November Music (Holland), All Tomorrow’s Parties (UK), Steirischer Herbst, Rainy Days (Luxembourg), Wien Modern, Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik, Donaueschinger Musiktagen, the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, Late Music Festival (York), Hamburger Klangwerktage, Gaida (Lithuania), BMIC Cutting Edge, Composer’s Choice (Dublin), SoundField (Chicago), the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik Darmstadt, Stockholm New Music, BELEF (Belgrade), Traiettorie (Parma), Cut & Splice (London), Lucerne Festival (Switzerland), SPOR (Denmark), Frau Musica Nova (Cologne), Performa (New York), Electric Eclectics (Canada), Dresdener Tage der zeitgenössischen Musik, Reihe 0 (Austria), Stimme+ (ZKM, Karlsruhe) and MATA (New York). Jennifer is also active as an improviser, performing regularly with musicians in Europe and the U.S., and in her duos Ma La Pert with Tony Conrad, PUTIF with Tomomi Adachi and Ghikas & Walshe with Panos Ghikas. Other collaborators include film-maker Vivienne Dick, artist Alice Maher and Drew Daniel’s The Soft Pink Truth.
The curious timbres, expressive noises, and kinetic structures of Katherine Young’s electroacoustic music explore the dramatic physicality of sound, shifting interpersonal dynamics, and associations with the familiar and the strange. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW, Internationales Musikinstitut Darmstadt, Third Coast Percussion, Ensemble Dal Niente, Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik, Spektral Quartet, Weston Olencki, Fonema Consort, and others have commissioned her work. She has also worked closely with Wet Ink, Ensemble Nikel, WasteLAnd and RAGE Thormbones, Distractfold Ensemble’s Linda Jankowska, Callithumpian Ensemble, Lucy Dehgrae, and Yarn/Wire. Her eight-channel outdoor sound installation, Resonance and the Inhibition of, was exhibited as part of the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art’s Chicago Sound Show in Fall 2019.
As a bassoonist and improviser, she amplifies her instrument and employs a flexible electronics setup. She often performs as a soloist, and her debut solo album garnered praise in The Wire (“Bassoon colossus”) and Downbeat (“seriously bold leaps for the bassoon”). Collaboration is central to her practice, and she also regularly performs in ad hoc improvised groups and with projects such as Beautifulish (duo with Sam Scranton) and Architeuthis Walks on Land (duo with Amy Cimini). She has documented her work on numerous recordings, including her quartet Pretty Monsters self-titled debut, a duo recording with Anthony Braxton, and the multi-movement work Diligence Is to Magic as Progress Is to Flight (Parlour Tapes+), created with violinist Austin Wulliman.
As a scholar, she researches the incorporation of idiosyncratic electronics and improvisation in contemporary notated music. She has written about Anthony Braxton’s operatic work, in particular.
She taught composition, electronic music, and improvisation at School of the Art Institute of Chicago and Berklee College of Music, before joining the faculty of Emory University in 2020.
She has deep ties to Chicago’s creative music communities, having lived and made music there for many significant years. She is now based in Atlanta.