Nimbus

I want to share with you the story behind a piece of music I am working on. I have been researching and conceptualizing this work, a collaboration between poet Colette Inez and myself, for more than a year. The music is based on seven of her poems – specifically those that deal with her childhood. The final work will be for chamber ensemble (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, bass, piano and percussion), voice and spoken word. It will be premiered by Fuse Ensemble on Saturday, October 6, 2018, at St. Stephen and the Incarnation Episcopal Church in Washington, DC. The concert is free and open to the public. The ensemble will also perform works by Caroline Shaw, Mark Mellits and Bertram Turetzky and will feature video work by visual artist Ethan Jackson.

 

For social media, I’ve divided the story into several parts, and will be releasing them individually. It’s a lot to read – but I think it’s an interesting story, and I hope you will too. On this website you'll find the whole story in one piece.

Part I, Colette

In 2010, while at an artist residence in the mountains of Virginia, I met a poet named Colette Inez. We had much in common -- a zest for life, a feisty feminist nature, and even a Catholic upbringing and later abandonment of the church for the spirit and solace we found in nature. We lunched together at the fellow’s table and went for walks on the bucolic property of the residence. Once we both returned to our homes, she to New York City, and I to Northern Virginia, we kept up our friendship through letters – many of which I would read to my children at the dinner table because of the beauty of her prose. The year after we met I created a piece of music based on her poem Empress in the Mirror, which was premiered by Fuse Ensemble in New York.   I found Colette to be the most remarkable woman – vibrant, humorous, grounded, wise, liberated, self-made, humble, and kind. She wore a red hat and bright lipstick the day we met and I remember thinking I wanted to be like her when I grew up. 

Part II, Colette’s Story

It wasn’t long after meeting her that she shared her extraordinary story. Colette Inez was the love-child of a French/American Catholic priest (a well-known and highly respected Monseignor) and a French scholar (the young researcher assigned to assist him). As an infant, Colette was left at a Belgian orphanage and raised in austere surroundings by strict Catholic nuns, where she lived until the age of eight, when she was brought to the United States to live with a foster family.

The life she had with this family was quite difficult -- even harrowing at times. Only through her own astonishing resilience, intelligence and chutzpa, plus a few kind adults along the way, did she find the means to break out on her own after high school and work her way through college.

Shunned by her parents because of the scandal their illicit relationship - if discovered - would create, the young Colette was hidden away. But the girl grew into a woman who lived to tell the tale and create a beautiful life for herself. Colette Inez became an award-winning poet, going on to publish eleven books on poetry and a memoir. She taught at Columbia University and won numerous prestigious awards including the Guggenheim, National Endowment for the Arts and Rockefeller Grants. Her work was included in hundreds of poetry anthologies and textbooks. She found love with Saul Stadtmauer, her husband for over fifty years, a kind and wonderful man with whom she flourished. Both writers, they lived a meaningful, beautiful life together in New York City, enjoying concerts, readings, the nature of Central Park.

Part III, Nimbus

 

During a trip to New York in December 2016, Colette and I met for lunch in the Upper East Side neighborhood where she lived. I told her I was interested in applying for an artist residency at Moulin a Nef in Auvillar, in the southwest of France. She said that her mother’s family hailed from the area very near there. On my way home on the bus from NYC, I was inspired while reading her gift of a collection of her poems entitled “Spinoza Doesn’t Come Here Anymore”; specifically her poem “My Priest Father’s” and the idea started to form. By spring of 2017, I wrote to tell Colette that I would like to create a work based on her early life, and ask for her blessing. Colette said she didn’t want it to be too dark, and I readily assured her that I saw it as a work of transformation, resiliency, the creative force behind anger and the creative power of love.Of the many poems she wrote about her early years and her imaginings of her parents’ moments together, I chose seven. As I read through the stack of poems Colette mailed me -- those that dealt with her thoughts on her father, on the feelings her mother had or did not have about the relationship, and on her own memories of life at the orphanage – I was struck by her frequent use of the word clouds within these poems. Colette told me that she finds solace in nature, in the trees and especially the sky. Forever in search of visual components to my work, I immediately thought of Ethan Jackson, an artist I met while on retreat at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts – the same place I had met Colette ten years prior.

So Nimbus would be an artistic collaboration between Colette, visual artist Ethan Jackson and myself, a music composer. It would be a work for chamber ensemble, voice and spoken word. Ethan’s work with camera obscura, time-lapse landscape, sky imagery and interactive digital video techniques would create a visual representation/projection of the clouds and a space in which Nimbus might exist – tying it all together and realizing a third element to our music/words collaboration. 

Part IV, Recording, Pizza and Red Wine

In June of 2017 I set off to New York, visited Colette and her dear husband Saul in their apartment just off Central Park. I recorded her reading the seven poems I had chosen from the set of a dozen or so she had mailed me. Since I was there, I also recorded her reading of “Empress in the Mirror,” since the piece I composed around that poem was to be on our upcoming album (Fuse Ensemble 3, Ravello Records). We spent the rest of the evening enjoying these most gracious hosts for dinner, wine and much laughter. 

We enjoyed several months of collaboration by letters, phone calls and an occasional email. I then applied to the VCCA France residency. Writing this music in southwest France, so near Nerac, the hometown of her mother’s family would be relevant, meaningful, inspiring.

Part V Colette, Saul and the Cousins

On February 7, 2018, upon realizing she hadn’t returned my last letter or the email I sent  -- I called her home phone. It was then that Saul told me with unbelievable sadness  “she was no longer with us”.  Colette had passed away on January 16, 2018 at the age of 87. It was understandably very difficult for Saul to talk; he told me he would call me the following week to talk, and I was glad when he did.

 

Saul and I speak often. Sometimes I bake things and mail them to him. He has been incredibly helpful with the project, and I have loved having him become a part of it. One of the first things he asked me was whether I would continue with it, which of course, I would. Honoring Colette in any way I can helps with the sadness of losing her. I only hope I can do it justice.

 

Saul suggested I contact Colette’s cousin Jean-Jacques Dulong, a lawyer and writer who lives in Paris. The only problem, Saul said, was that he didn’t speak much English. (Saul was surprised and relieved when I told him I was fluent in French). Jean-Jacques and his father, Maurice Dulong, (now deceased first cousin of Colette) had held Colette in high esteem. As Colette shared in her biography “The Secret of M. Dulong,” Maurice had helped her piece together her family history -- one that had been deliberately hidden from her for much of her life – and she adored him.

Part VI   Jean-Jacques, Nerac and Auvillar

 

I immensely enjoy corresponding with Colette’s cousin Jean-Jacques, who is gracious and friendly and quite an amazing writer! I told him of my Artist Residency at Auvillar, France (through the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts or VCCA), and he invited me to stay in their family residence (the home of Colette’s mother Marthe) in Nerac, a very short drive from Auvillar. I was speechless, and so grateful for the opportunity to meet him, and to stay and begin writing the piece there in Nerac. I will spend my first nine days at the Dulong home, and then move on to the Moulin a Nef Artist Residency for the remainder of my stay.

If you want to check out the Moulin a Nef Artist Residency in Auvillar, France, here’s the link:  http://www.vcca.com/main/vcca-international/vcca-le-moulin-nef

The story will continue on August 2, 2018, when I arrive in Nerac...

           

Kickstarter Succeeds!

We are so happy to report that our Kickstarter campaign to provide funding for our recording project with PARMA was a success, thanks to 57 awesome backers. The ensemble has completed the recordings and is preparing to hand it over to PARMA to do the rest, preparing it for a fall 2018 release. 

KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN FOR FUSE ENSEMBLE!!

Fuse Ensemble is in the throws of a Kickstarter campaign to help fund our new release on PARMA Recordings. Come on board! Be a part of the community that makes this happen! https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/943723707/fuse-ensembles-new-music-release-on-parma-recordin   @PARMARecordings

 

 

Film Score for Edgar Endress Film

This summer, I will begin composing the score for an 8-minute art film called "How To Make It Rain" by artist Edgar Endress. Edgar filmed scenes for the film while in Bolivia; I am excited to say that percussionist Scott Deal will be performing (with the film) for a live premiere of the score during our upcoming Fuse Ensemble season. 

Nightingale Premiere

Nightingale, a new piece of mine for SATB, flute, violin, cello, bass, premiered at Highland United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina on April 2, 2017. I've just posted the recording of the premiere on my Music page, so please check it out!

Happy 2017!

Just a quick note to say Happy New Year! 2017 promises to be fun, when Poetry Stalled -- the newest film I scored with Matching Sweaters Productions -- will be shown at the Richmond International Film Festival in March;  and a premiere of my new choral work Nightingale will be held on April 2, 2017 at the lovely Highland United Methodist Church in Raleigh, NC. 

Filmscore: Poetry Stalled

This summer, I've been working with Matching Sweaters Productions on the score for our latest short film Poetry Stalled, written by Legrand McMullen, Directed by Steven Biver. We will be submitting it this fall to film festivals and I'll keep you posted on how it does! You can also check out our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/MatchingSweatersProductions/?fref=ts

 

NYCEMF

We had an awesome time performing at the 2016 New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival in June! Ina Mirtcheva (piano) and Pam Clem (cello) performed my piece The Cellar Door for piano, cello and 4-channel audio. Watch it on the Music page! 

 

News of the Day!

Jeez, it's been a long time since I posted! Sorry about that. Finally have a moment here at the end of my artist retreat at the VCCA. Here's some news: 

I've had an amazing week at my residency at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. I've completed a new piece for SATB choir and flute, violin, cello, contrabass. It's called Nightingale. I hope to have it premiered in the fall, but will make a recording of it very soon. More details will come on that in May. 

So Fuse Ensemble has been trying hard to book more gigs for our current season. Funding for this season has been spotty at best, but I am still pushing forward. For now, here's what we've got: 

Fuse Ensemble will be performing SKETCH, Musical Explorations of Identity, Image, and the Art of Becoming, at The Firehouse Space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on Sunday June 5th at 5:00 p.m. Its a great place to hang, watch a performance and have some wine or beer! What could be better than that? Percussionist Scott Deal will join us again, this time to premiere my new composition “We Meet Ourselves” for marimba and triggered audio, and will be performing works by Eve Beglarian, Linda Dusman, Steve Antosca and Gina Biver. Come on out!! Check out the Firehouse Space here. www.thefirehousespace.org

The second week of June will see Fuse Ensemble pianist Ina Mirtcheva and cellist Pam Clem perform Gina Biver’s The Cellar Door (2011) for piano, cello and 4-channel audio, at the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival on Thursday June 16th at the Abrons Arts Center Playhouse in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Check out the festival at www.nycemf.org and the venue at www.abronsartscenter.org

After that, I'll be teaching at the Levine School of Music's summer program in Washington, DC. Looking forward to that!

Recording Project Kickstarter is underway!!

I've launched a kickstarted to help fund Fuse Ensemble's recording of five new compositions of mine.  We will be working at Cue Studios in Falls Church, VA and will be working with Parma Recordings production and engineering team.  What an awesome opportunity!  Come and get involved -- there are lots of fun rewards!  Here's the link -- have a look! 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/943723707/fuse-ensemble-recording

2014 in a nutshell

So here we are on the last day of 2014.  Some highlights of the year were:  a springtime artist retreat at the wonderful Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA) where I composed Girl, Walking, for electric guitar, contrabass, flute and found percussion; having won the 2014 Strauss Individual Artist Grant which enabled me to get a new iMac, upgrade to LPX and PT11, and other equipment I use to compose and perform (SO grateful!); working all summer on a score for a Chambers Group video (lots of fun); rehearsing with Fuse Ensemble for the AtlasPAC gig in November (always amazing to work with angela/martha/ina/pam/greg/ethan/jenny!); creating the score for Edgar Endress's video piece Media Vomit, for audio, video, live percussion and live opera singer (!) and getting to spend time with Scott Deal, the brilliant percussionist and awesome guy who came in to perform with Fuse at the Atlas and spend a couple days with the fam.  December performances by my middle school student performing groups at Browne Academy were loads of fun too!   2015 promises to be a year of some big changes, growth, collaborations and excitement!   Stay tuned...