John Christian Orfe is a winner of a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, a Tanglewood Fellowship, the William Schuman and Boudleaux Bryant Prizes from BMI, ten Standard Awards and the Morton Gould Award from ASCAP, and first prizes in competitions held by the Music Teachers National Association, the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts, the National Federation for Advancement in the Arts, the National Association of Composers USA, and New Music Delaware. He participated in the 2004 Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute and Reading Sessions. He is a winner of a 2008 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and was awarded the DMA by the Yale School of Music in February 2009.
Notes from the Composer
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Performed by the Ohio University New Music Ensemble
Oyster was commissioned by the School of Music and School of Dance at Ohio University with funds from Arts for Ohio. It received its premiere in June, 2008; John Climer conducted the OU New Music Ensemble, and Ruben Graciani choreographed the dancers. When discussing dramatic scenarios with John and Ruben, their suggestions were optimistic in nature. One idea came from an NPR segment in which someone suggested that happiness is perhaps most fully appreciated in the context of remembered bitterness. This notion led me to consider the creation of pearls—how a speck of dirt, followed by layers upon layers of mucus, eventually results in something of great beauty and value. In the piece, a series of variants (not precisely variations) have at their thematic center a piano solo—the kernel/speck/bitter pill that the other variants surround in successively optimistic layers. The title is a salute to the crusty crustacean that accomplishes the task.
In the excerpt, we hear the last two-thirds of the final variant, in which percussive punctuations, a garrulous bass line, lyric wind lines and soaring strings all propel the piece to its exultant ending.
Performed by Alarm Will Sound, conducted by Alan Pierson
In two parts (as opposed to movements) and totaling twenty minutes, Chamber Symphony began as an abstract expressionist work. It opens with a bold chorale whose harmonic language might be described as a type of post-Wagnerian chromaticism. This is quickly torn asunder into a tonal null-space, out of which an adventurous whirlwind of energy picks up the narrative thread. Out of these three textures come the drama and architecture of the work. Its personal nature and heft led to its symphonic appellation. By work's end I came to realize that nothing is ever truly abstract.
The excerpt starts in medias res from the allegro of Part One through its apotheosis. Wind and brass instruments bring back the opening chorale line, which moves towards three climatic chords. Part Two then begins with an extended English horn solo.
Chamber Symphony was co-commissioned by Alarm Will Sound and Ludovico with generous assistance from the Jebediah Foundation for New Music Commissions; it received its premiere in March, 2008 by Alarm Will Sound under Alan Pierson at the Kitchen, New York City.