Composer Lisa Bielawa Celebrates 2017 Music Award from American Academy of Arts & Letters
Composer Lisa Bielawa celebrates the receipt of a 2017 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, an honor society of the country's 250 leading architects, artists, composers, and writers. In 1941, the Academy established awards to encourage creative work in the arts and each year the Academy honors over 70 composers, artists, architects, and writers with awards and prizes ranging from $5000 to $100,000. Candidates for awards must be nominated by an Academy member and the recipients are chosen by committees whose members are drawn from the Academy's roster. Now $10,000 each, Arts and Letters Awards are given annually to five artists, eight writers, four composers, and four architects. Composers receive an additional $10,000 toward the recording of a work.
On Sunday, March 18, 2018 at 3pm, the Academy will present An Afternoon of Music and Art featuring music by Lisa Bielawa and the other 2017 Music Award recipients (Yu-Hui Chang, Jan Krzywicki, and Andrew Norman) performed by Ensemble Échappé at the American Academy of Arts and Letters' Library and Galleries (633 W. 155 St.). Bielawa will perform as vocal soloist on her piece, Incessabili Voce (2013) with saxophonist Wonki Lee, clarinetist Vasko Dukovski, violinist Emilie-Anne Gendron, cellist Caleb van der Swaagh, and pianist Conor Hanick. Incessabili Voce was commissioned by Radio France for Ensemble Variances with Bielawa as vocal soloist and was premiered on April 5, 2013 at l'Arsenal de Metz.
Tickets are free with advance reservation: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/an-afternoon-of-music-and-art-tickets-42944023731
On composing Incessabili Voce, Bielawa says, "As vocal soloist in my own work, I wanted to explore some of the performance implications of various texts (the Book of Common Prayer translation of the Te Deum: To thee Cherubim and Seraphim continually do cry; Xenophon's Anabasis; and Heinrich Heine's The North Sea) that had entered my process. In designing material for the voice, I thought about singing in church, the ecstatic singing of angels, the roar of soldiers, the mannerisms of Greek storytelling in the great oral tradition, the traditions of Gregorian and Anglican chant. The vocal part coaxes cries of various sorts out of the instruments. The texture of the ensemble writing bears witness to my preoccupation, still as lively as when I was six years old, with the sloppy joyfulness of a multitude crying ceaselessly all together - whether angels or soldiers.
I let all of these images, texts, traditions and energies enter the piece and mingle together, without strict dramatic intent. It is more of a dreamscape than a story, more cry than word."
About Lisa Bielawa
Composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. She takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Her music has been described as "ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart," by The New York Times, and "fluid and arresting ... at once dramatic and probing," by the San Francisco Chronicle. She is the recipient of the 2017 Music Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters.
Lisa Bielawa recently completed her unprecedented, made-for-TV-and-online opera Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser with librettist Erik Ehn and director Charles Otte. Vireo was produced as part of Bielawa's artist residency at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California and in partnership with KCETLink and Single Cel. The opera was filmed at locations across the country - Alcatraz Island, a monastery on the Hudson River, an abandoned train station in Oakland, the California Redwoods - and featured over 350 musicians in support of its core cast, including soprano Deborah Voigt, Kronos Quartet, violinist Jennifer Koh, cellist Joshua Roman, Alarm Will Sound, and many others. All 12 episodes were broadcast on KCETLink's Emmy® award-winning series Artbound, as well as online for free, on-demand streaming. The Los Angeles Times called Vireo an opera, "unlike any you have seen before, in content and in form," and the San Francisco Classical Voice described it as, "poetic and fantastical, visually stunning and relentlessly abstract."
Lisa Bielawa's music is frequently performed throughout the US and abroad. Two of her works received their world premieres at the 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL: My Outstretched Hand by The Knights, San Francisco Girls Chorus, and Brooklyn Youth Chorus, which was recently given a second performance at The Kennedy Center; and Vireo Caprice by violinist Jennifer Koh at National Sawdust. The Seattle Chamber Music Society recently commissioned and premiered Bielawa's Fictional Migrations, which The Seattle Times called, "sophisticated, propulsive, complex, and often beautiful." In December 2016, the Orlando Philharmonic performed the world premiere of Bielawa's Drama/Self Pity for orchestra and in January 2017, The Kennedy Center presented two of her works with Bielawa as soloist as part of their KC Jukebox series. Recent highlights also include performances ofStart for piano and chamber orchestra by pianist Andrew Armstrong and the Orchestra of the League of Composers; 50 Measures for Aaron by SOLI Chamber Ensemble; One Atom of Faith by violinist Rebecca Fischer of the Chiara String Quartet; and The Trojan Women by the String Orchestra of New York City.
Bielawa's music can be found outside the concert hall as well, with two major works written for performance in public spaces. Chance Encounter, a piece comprising songs and arias constructed of speech overheard in transient public spaces, was premiered by soprano Susan Narucki and The Knights in Lower Manhattan's Seward Park. Airfield Broadcasts is a 60-minute work for hundreds of musicians, which was premiered on the tarmac of the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin in May 2013 and at Crissy Field in San Francisco in October 2013.
Born in San Francisco into a musical family, Lisa Bielawa played the violin and piano, sang, and wrote music from early childhood. She moved to New York two weeks after receiving her B.A. in Literature in 1990 from Yale University, and became an active participant in New York musical life. She began touring as the vocalist with the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1992, and has also premiered and toured works by John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, and Michael Gordon. In 1997 she co-founded the MATA Festival, which celebrates the work of young composers. Bielawa was appointed Artistic Director of the acclaimed San Francisco Girls Chorus in 2013 and recently completed her residency at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California. Her discography includes albums on the Tzadik, TROY, Innova, BMOP/sound, Orange Mountain Music and Sono Luminus labels. In 2016, Bielawa was awarded grants from New York Foundation for the Arts, the MAP Fund, and New Music USA.