Kari Besharse


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Embers Recording Project

This summer I have been involved with my first studio recording project. My piece “Embers” for saxophone and piano has been recorded and will be part of an album of new & adventurous music for saxophone, piano, and electronics. The star of this CD is saxophonist Richard Schwartz, who commissioned and premiered “Embers” to begin with. I am super excited as this will be the first time a piece of mine has been professionally recorded and set for release on a commercial CD. The album also includes works by Philip Schuessler (who plays piano on Embers), Stephen Suber and Ray Pizzi. We recorded the album in June & July in the recording studio at Louisiana State University with a great recording engineer, Bill Kelley. It has been an interesting process and now we are in the final stages of getting this project completed!

Even though this has been a minimal, bare bones recording project involving only a few performers, the costs still add up. We have launched a Kickstarter project to help generate funds to bring the project to completion. You can check out our Kickstarter video below and then head on over to our Kickstarter page for more information.

Project page: http://kck.st/1d7IPD5


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Summer Update!

Hey all,

It’s been a while since I’ve posted any updates. Here is what has been going on!

The Anemone Fragments for cello and electronics recently received its second performance at Music on the Mountain, Birmingham Alabama. The piece was once again performed by Craig Hultgren, cello accompanied by *yours truly* on electronics. Craig performed a whole concert of new/recent music for cello with and without electronics. The concert also contained a follow-up presentation of Craig’s Vox Novus project, 15 Minutes of Fame. Here is a recording of the performance.

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In other news, saxophonist Richard Schwartz is recording a new album of newish pieces for solo saxophone, with or without piano and/or electronic accompaniment. My piece Embers, is set to be the title track of his album, which will be released on Centaur Records later this year.

I’ve also been working away on finishing two pieces, Icons for clarinet, violin, bass, electric guitar, and percussion and Crickets and Gongs for orchestra.


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Worlds of Discovery and Loss: The Art of Migration

A few weeks ago I attended the Worlds of Discovery and Loss: The Art of Migration, a festival hosted at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts at UC Davis. This festival was more than a new music festival, it was a collaboration between several artistic disciplines including visual arts and theater. The festival was also infused with scholarly discourse through the inclusion of fascinating scholars like Isabel Wilkerson, Professor of Journalism and Director of Narrative Nonfiction at Boston University and Peter Kulchyski, Professor of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba. This diversity created an interesting environment of dialogue and cross-pollination between disciplines with space to reflect on the overall theme of the festival, which was to examine “the creative worlds generated by different kinds of migration” and to explore “the ways in which artists cross various boundaries, both real and imagined.”

Within the larger theme of the festival, the musical offerings were diverse and quite strong. Participating ensembles included The Empyrean Ensemble, Rootstock Percussion, the Calder Quartet, and the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra performing five concerts over the course of three days. The concerts included a variety of recent works, some classics, and works by composer fellows and the composer-in-residence, Lei Liang. As a composer fellow, I was fortunate to get the know the other composer fellows during seminars, concerts, meals and walks. Our guides were Lei Liang, the composer-in-residence along with UC Davis composition professors Laurie San Martin, Sam Nichols, and Kurt Rodhe.

Annie Hsieh, Ryan Suleiman, Tina Tallon, Kari Besharse

Composer Fellows Annie Hsieh, Ryan Suleiman, Tina Tallon, Kari Besharse duing a pre-concert talk

The Empyrean Ensemble premiered Black Grey Red Orange Grey Blue Grey for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion, written last November specifically for the festival. When I was composing this piece, I was feeling an intense connection between emotional states, colors, and sounds almost in a synaesthetic way. Here is the recording from the world premiere performance:

“From glowing prismatic intensity to the blackest black, this piece explores specific colors and associated psychological states such as anger, despair, passion and contemplative sublimity. The emotional states came first, and when immersed in these states, one cannot help but see vivid colors and hear prismatic sounds. The colors refract and collide, ebb and flow, bleed into one another, intensify, are erased, then dissipate.”


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The Anemone Fragments

For the past several months I have spent every ounce of time I could squeeze from my busy teaching schedule into composing a new work for cello and electronics for new music cello guru Craig Hultgren. “The Anemone Fragments” was premiered October 31 at the Southeastern Louisian University. Craig put on an exceptional concert that was well received by students and faculty who took time out of their busy Halloween evening schedules to come hear some crazy new music.

“The Anemone Fragments” was a product of many ideas that I have been deeply engaged with over the course of the summer and into the fall. One of the main ideas, or I should say sounds that has been foremost in my mind has been the wind. Not the generic “wind” but the multitude of unique-to-the-moment wind sounds that can be experienced if one just breathes and listens. Like today for example, I have experienced some great wind sounds in Hammond, the hard steady wind through slowly drying oak leaves, and I felt the wind on my face and skin, always varying in its caress.

When the piece was just an unformed fragment of something “I was to write in the near future,” I spent a month (June) at the Brush Creek Center for the Performing Arts in Wyoming. I loved the wind sounds there, especially the wind through the aspen groves up in the foothills of the Medicine Bow National Forest (the wind on Medicine Bow Peak is an altogether different story). Throughout the summer, I kept coming into contact with more and more mystical wind experiences (dawn wind on Frosty Mountain off the AT in GA, sea wind at Buccaneer State Park in MS), so these sounds and the experience of these sounds was deeply imbedded in my mind before writing the piece.

Of course, the piece isn’t just built on wind sounds, there are many other conceptual ideas behind the piece, most of which are hard to explain.

Here is my official program note:

The Anemone Fragments, for cello and live electronics draws together several aspects of human experience and myth, most importantly, the emotions of solitude and passion. The experience of listening to the various qualities of wind also figures prominently in this piece, for example, the subtle contrasting sounds of a gentle breeze through aspen leaves, or the wind through an oak forest at dawn.

“Love shook my heart

Like the wind on the mountain

rushing over the oak trees.”

― Sappho  

I have grown weary of the winds of heaven.

I will not be a reed to hold the sound

Of whatsoever breath the gods may blow,

Turning my torment into music for them.

They gave me life; the gift was bountiful,

I lived with the swift singing strength of fire,

Seeking for beauty as a flame for fuel —

Beauty in all things and in every hour.

The gods have given life — I gave them song;

The debt is paid and now I turn to go.

— Sara Teasdale, Rivers to the Sea, (1915), “Sappho (Rivers to the Sea)”

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Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts

I spent the majority of June at Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, a unique slice of artistic paradise near Saratoga, Wyoming. This residency center is on a 15,000 acre ranch, traditionally used for ranging cattle and horses. This place is truly amazing and inspiring. I spent my mornings, early afternoons, and evenings working on a new orchestra piece (still pending), and my late afternoons hiking around the ranch. The setting was incredible, high dry mountains (about 7,500 feet) with rocky outcroppings, moosey wetland areas, magical aspen groves, spring wildflowers, and the rocky creek itself, there was a lot of space and things for me to lose myself in. The other artists were fascinating, and I enjoyed our dinner conversations and extracurricular activities (Saratoga hot springs, Encampment Woodchoppers Jamboree and Rodeo, and Medicine Bow Peak hike) immensely.

The accommodations were great. I am especially missing my studio, The Armstrong Cabin, which was the original homesteader cabin on the ranch from the 1800’s. I especially loved my cliff swallows which nested right outside the window of the cabin and my Bosendorfer (I am currently piano-less).

I have left this paradise, but I hope to keep its magic and peace with me for a long time. I’m back in Louisiana now, working away on my orchestra piece and moving on (real) soon to a cello and electronics piece for Craig Hultgren.