Kari Besharse


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My biggest composition this year…

For the past few months I have been working feverishly on a huge “composition” project. Undoubtedly, it has been a time-sucking black hole, but one that has generated much excitement and many possibilities for the future. Learning how to construct and problem-solve for this project has been pretty absorbing – sometimes in a good “I’m fascinated” way and other times in an obsessive “how is this ever going to work” way. This huge project is still a work in progress, and always will be. It’s like a huge shape-shifting monster, with its own microbial colony always changing the game beneath the surface. The project I am referring to is Versipel New Music, an organization built from the ground up by Philip and I. We had been contemplating creating an organization like this for several years, and have poured over the questions and problems that doing something like this would entail. At the heart of the problem, we had moved to a place where contemporary classical music hardly seemed to exist. The rare offerings that did exist seemed rare, small and ancillary, never really reaching beyond the token presentation of a new work. We started to brainstorm on ways that we could push new music more into the forefront of the New Orleans concert music scene. We created Versipel to be a multi-tiered organization. We structured it to tackle the challenges we perceived in presenting new classical music in our area. We created a visiting artist series which will bring in top-level new music specialists from all over the place to perform works that they personally believe strongly in. In collaboration with several universities in the area, these performers will frequently interact with students through workshops, masterclasses and occasionally, perform with them. Secondly, the heart of Versipel New Music is The Versipel Collective – a collective of local musicians who will present several types of concerts, thereby nurturing our local performance scene (see our 2014-2015 schedule!). The Versipel Collective also has composer members who are the workhorses of our organization, organizing shows, applying for grants, schlepping gear, and sometimes performing on our shows. Our organization also serves to help promote their music. Most importantly, this collective serves the purpose of building a community of musicians who can share knowledge, ideas and grow over time. So what was the final straw in taking the plunge to start this group? Honestly, it was feeling that I have no control over any aspect of my life. Maybe this isn’t P.C. to bring up in a “business” site, but for me, all of this is very personal. I have many altruistic reasons for starting Versipel as well – I really want to raise the profile of new music in the New Orleans area. A concert music scene that has an organization dedicated to presenting new music will make the entire music scene in New Orleans more robust. It will also make for a healthier environment for the many composers in the area. I want Versipel will help bridge the gaps between different audiences and styles in the multifaceted New Orleans music and art scene. So, please check out our page. If you’re local, come to our shows. We also have a call for scores up, that anyone (regardless of age or nationality) can submit to. Last but not least, we are a new organization. In order to get our organization started, we have launched an Indiegogo campaign! Please check it out and support this exciting endeavor! Watch our fundraising video:


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Icons!

So, I’ve been sitting on this piece for quite some time. About three years to be exact, working on it here and there amidst many other projects. I recomposed this piece four times which I don’t think of as a bad thing at all. The first three compositions just weren’t all they could be, they didn’t reach certain states of being/feeling that I am interested in creating in my music.  Now the piece says and does more of what I originally intended it to do and more. It’s a piece that I am exited about, a piece I would love to hear and love to play.

Here is the program note, which describes Icons reasons for existence…

As a guitarist, I grew up listening to and playing classic rock and heavy metal during its peak years, the 1980s and 90s. The guitar icons I looked up to included Jimmy Page, Dave Mustaine, Marty Friedman, Tony Iommi, Dimebag Darrell, Randy Rhodes, and Zakk Wilde among others. These guitarists all had a great sound and a powerful mode of expression – wild solos and riffs immersed in a crunch of amplified noise, reverb and distortion. For this piece, rather than incorporating or emulating the melodic, rhythmic and harmonic material typical of this style, I took a couple of iconic guitar sounds and distilled them down to their very essence. The pluck (picked – clean and distorted), the trill, and the bow (à la Jimmy Page) formed the primary seed materials for the entire composition. Other elements of the piece extracted from rock gestalt include distortion, noise fills, and feedback. There are several underlying processes used to alter these basic materials over time, which in turn govern the overall structure of the piece.

Icons is for flute, clarinet, violin, bass and electric guitar.

 

Icons-cover

Icons-p1

 

Icons-p11 Icons-p20

You can download a pdf preview of the notes and first five pages here: Icons-preview

You can download a full pdf of the score here: Icons-fullscore


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Rails

Alarm Will Sound has posted the world premiere recording of Rails on their soundcloud page.

Rails premiered in July 2011 at the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival.

Here are the program notes for the piece:

Rails (2011) was inspired by the soundscape of Hammond, Louisiana. More specifically, it engages the sounds that I have heard on a daily basis since moving from Champaign, Illinois, to Hammond, Louisiana in August 2010. My apartment is two blocks away from two intersecting railroad tracks. One is the Illinois Central line, which runs from Chicago to New Orleans, the other is a freight track. Intermittently all day (and all night) I hear trains approaching and passing from different directions. These trains are too loud to simply ignore, and often it feels like there is a low-level earthquake shaking the apartment. The conductors of these trains tend to lay on the horn as they are passing through town, creating a long and varied sound as the train whistles are warped by their own mechanism, the atmosphere, and by speed and distance. Additionally, each of these trains has its own unique rhythmic profile, its own pattern of creaks, clicks and knocks, and its own speed. Each time a train passes; a unique sonic experience is created. Therefore, the sounds of these trains are very much a part of my piece, the spectra of their whistles, the rush of sound when they pass by, and their creaky mechanical rhythms. My apartment also looks out over a park, so my piece is also populated by pastoral sounds such as birds and wind chimes.


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MIZZOU New Music Summer Festival

The Columbia Theater

The Columbia Theater

Wow. The Mizzou New Music Summer Festival was an intense experience. The performance of Rails by Alarm Will Sound on Saturday night was truly the best performance I have ever had. Hopefully, I will be able to post some audio in a few weeks.

I have been blogging about the festival at NewMusicBox.org, where I have written a series of four posts about the festival.

Additionally, the press for this festival was amazing. I had three interviews for three separate newspapers:

Now, I’m just trying to catch my breath a bit before leaving for ICMC at Huddersfield, England next Tuesday…

Resident composers in the "Hall of the Ducks" at MU

Resident Composers Steven Snoweden, Liza White, David Biedenbender, and Michael Fumai enjoying pizza and a pitcher at Shakespeare's Pizza

Alarm Will Sound during the dress rehearsal on Saturday


A group meeting with Anna Clyne and resident composers David Biedenbender, Michael Fumai, and Patrick Clark


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MIZZOU new music festival is approaching fast!

It’s only five days until I leave for the MIZZOU New Music Summer Festival.

Alarm Will Sound recently interviewed me and the other resident composers (David Biedenbender, Pat Clark, Michael-Thomas Foumai, Yotam Haber, Clint Needham, Steven Snowden, and Liza White) by e-mail.

Follow the link below and scroll down a bit for the interview questions which give some insight into how we all thought about our works and prepared for the festival.

Alarm Will Sound – Home.


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Rails

For the past couple of months I have had my head completely underground composing a work for the MIZZOU New Music Summer Festival coming up July 10-17. This piece was written for Alarm Will Sound, one of the top American new music ensembles directed by Alan Pierson. This year, the festival will feature the music of guest composers Roger Reynolds and Anna Clyne. There is an interesting lineup of daily masterclasses, presentations and concerts. Although resident composers were not able to include electronics in their works, I am psyched to see that many of the other concerts will include electroacoustic works and pieces for instruments and electronics. I am really looking forward to this festival!

The piece that I wrote for Alarm Will Sound is titled Rails, which was inspired by the soundscape of Hammond, Louisiana (my current home). Here is the program note:

Rails (2011) was inspired by the soundscape of Hammond, Louisiana. More specifically, it engages the sounds that I have heard on a daily basis since moving from Champaign, Illinois, to Hammond, Louisiana in August 2010. My apartment is two blocks away from two intersecting railroad tracks. One is the Illinois Central line, which runs from Chicago to New Orleans, the other is a freight track. Intermittently all day (and all night) I hear trains approaching and passing from different directions. These trains are too loud to simply ignore, and often it feels like there is a low-level earthquake shaking the apartment. The conductors of these trains tend to lay on the horn as they are passing through town, creating a long and varied sound as the train whistles are warped by their own mechanism, the atmosphere, and by speed and distance. Additionally, each of these trains has its own unique rhythmic profile, its own pattern of creaks, clicks and knocks, and its own speed. Each time a train passes; a unique sonic experience is created. Therefore, the sounds of these trains are very much a part of my piece, the spectra of their whistles, the rush of sound when they pass by, and their creaky mechanical rhythms. My apartment also looks out over a park, so my piece is also populated by pastoral sounds such as birds and wind chimes.

Jasmine

Jasmine assisting with the composition of "Rails" (and no, I didn't stab her in the throat with the pencil)

With my piece finished, it’s time to satiate some of my wanderlust.  Phil and I will be taking off in a couple of days for a 2-week camping adventure in Colorado or Appalachia. In July, after the MIZZOU New Music Summer Festival, I am also looking forward to ICMC in Huddersfield, England.