Stephen Feigenbaum, composer

 

 

 

 

Selected Works

Choral

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duration 3' 30"

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Text

by Elisa Gonzalez

I.
Mama sings of the sea when she does laundry,
or she sings of God in old hymns she learned in West Virginia.
So God washes up on shore the color of sand.
And the sea shanties keep us company
in the mornings, and in the evenings when she gathers up the laundry
after a long day hanging on the line.

II.
I am a gatherer of magnolia stories
for Mama,
a colonial explorer with hundreds of cases
for biological specimens,
a thousand flower presses, a gun.
Sweetbay, Mama loves the name

Sweetbay
the underbelly of a secretive jungle bird
found at long last.

III.
Mama sobbing by the sink as she soaps the dishes,
watching the backyard grow indistinct
fading into green swirls.

Mama in bed all day: I only want to sleep.
I want to sleep forever.

I fall asleep with Mama, dreaming.
I stand between her body and a black wave.
The wave has reached us where we huddle.

Wake up, wake up.
I can show you the color of water.
Mama, to everything that’s sad
I can add something happy.
A pure unwasted yellow.
The sun will come alive.
And finally the boats will come too, circling under the sun.

Performances

Premiered by the Yale Glee Club at its Yale Commencement concert in Sprague Hall on May 18, 2013.

May 21, 2013, by the Yale Glee Club in Sanders Theater at Harvard.

June 1, 2013, by the Yale Glee Club at the Tianjin Grand Theater, in Tianjin, China.

Clair de Lune

duration 3'

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Program note

Clair de Lune attempts to paint the text of Verlaine's poem by constantly playing with the rhythmic relationship between the female and the male sections of the choir. The harmonic ambiguity symbolizes the emotional ambiguity of the text. I tried to use extremely spare motivic material and bring a minimalistic aesthetic to the world of choral music.

Text

From a poem by Paul Verlaine.

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.
Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune
Ils n'ont pas l'air de croire à
leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,
Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres.

Translation

Your soul is a chosen landscape that
mummers and masked dancers charm,
playing on the lute and dancing and almost
sad beneath their fantastic disguises.

While singing in the minor key of love the
conqueror and easy life, they don't seem to
believe in their happiness, and their song
mingles with the moonlight ...

... the calm moonlight, sad and beautiful,
which makes the birds dream in the trees and
the fountains sob with ecstasy, the tall sweet
fountains among the marbles.

(French Poetry from Baudelaire to the Present. Ed. Elaine Marks. New York: Dell, 1962)

Awards

The 2010 Sacra/Profana Composition Contest.

Cambridge Chamber Singers 12th annual Composition Competition (Cambridge, Mass.), winner: 2009.

Cantemus Choral Composition Competition (Ipswich, Mass.), for students in New England colleges and universities, third place: 2008.

Performances

May 2, 2009, at Lindsey Chapel at Emmanuel Church (Boston), and May 3, 2009, at St. John's Episcopal Church (Arlington, MA), the Cambridge Chamber Singers, in their O Joyous Spring! concert.

February 19 and 20, 2011, Sacra/Profana in San Diego.

Premiered by the Yale Camerata, Woolsey Hall, New Haven, March 2008.

When the Sun Rose Up this Morning

duration 3'

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Lyrics

by Mark Sonnenblick

When the sun rose up this morning
I was smooth as a pebble
I was fresh as a river
When the sun rose up this morning

When the stars come out tonight
I'll be tough as a saddle
I'll be tired as a prairie
When the stars come out tonight

In the blink of an eye
I will live, I will die
This is sure to be
They've given me fair warning

But you can't imagine darkness
When you're all awash in light
And I can't believe in darkness
Since the sun rose up this morning
Since the sun rose up this morning

Performances

April 30, 2013, The Yale Choral Society performed When the Sun Rose Up the Morning lyrics by Mark Sonnenblick.

April 29,, 2013, Voices of the Knight and Knightingales performed When the Sun Rose Up this Morning.

April 17, 18, 21, and 22, 2013, When the Sun Rose Up this Morning was broadcast on WCRB in Boston.

January 20, 2013, the Boston Children's Chorus performed When the Sun Rose Up this Morning in their annual Martin Luther Kind Day concert in Jordan Hall in Boston (also broadcast on WGBH)

Finish Every Day

duration 5'

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Text

by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finish every day and be done with it.
You have done what you could.
Some blunders and absurdities
no doubt have crept in;
forget them as soon as you can.

Tomorrow is a new day;
begin it well and serenely
and with too high a spirit
to be cumbered with
your old nonsense.

This day is all that is
good and fair.
It is too dear,
with its hopes and invitations,
to waste a moment on yesterdays.

Performances

Premiered by the NEC Youth Chorale under Jonathan Richter on May 29, 2013 at Jordan Hall in Boston.

Orchestra

My Shade

duration 11'

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Program note

Because contemporary popular music has a big influence on what I write, orchestral pieces that capture that style intrigue me. For the most part, I don't think they work well (a drum set doesn't sound good in Woolsey Hall). In this piece I have tried to avoid the cliches that I have come to associate with that kind of orchestral writing. Instead I have aimed to capture sounds that are similar to electronic music, involving slow, blended sounds of pitched instrucment, rather than to capture a "groove" using percussion. When I do resort to cliches, they are of the classical orchestral kind, reflecting the way electronic music artists sometimes reference the orchestra but only in a shallow way-- huge timpani rolls or full string sections--as if played on a synthesizer instead of written for an actual orchestra.

Performances

Premiered by the Yale Philharmonia at New Music New Haven in Woolsey Hall, New Haven, December 6, 2012.

Landings

duration 3' 30"

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Program Note

Landings attempts to extrapolate in two opposite directions material contained in its opening phrases. Gradually the material separates into contradictory aesthetic poles. One consists of only a sustained tone in the strings, representing nothing; the other consists of frenetic, scurrying music, primarily in the piano, representing everything. These opposite textures correlate to different key centers. At the climax of the piece, the two textures are played alternately with extended silences between them. The remainder of the piece attempts to reconcile its dichotomies.

Awards

New York Art Ensemble Young Composer Competition winner, 2008.

Performances

Premiered on February 28, 2008, at Whitney Humanities Center, New Haven, by counter)induction.

The Anonymous Three in Moscow, Idaho, on February 29, 2008, at the Music School Recital Hall.

May 10, 2008, Tribeca New Music Festival at The Flea Theater, New York City.

August 4, 2010, Nick Bleisch, violin, Clare Monfredo, cello, and Naomi Woo, piano, at the Studzinski Recital Hall in the Bowdoin International Music Festival.

February 9, 2011, Ashley Tini and Jude Mollenhauer at the University of Kansas.

April 14, 2012, by the Yale Symphony Orchestra at Woolsey Hall in New Haven.

Murmur

duration 5'

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Program Note

In "Murmur" I aim for an expressive, romantic sound from the orchestra while thwarting its players' ability to produce such a sound. Most of the gestures consist either of short repeated figures or extremely long notes that change only every several seconds. Often I compromise the expressive ability of the instruments by requiring the players to mute their instruments or to play in a part of the instrument which naturally creates a harsher, brighter sound. Or, through careful use of register and dynamic, I force the players to struggle against their instruments' innate difficulties. Also I have changed the way an orchestra is conventionally used, by doubling passages at almost every point in the piece with solo string instruments (while the full string sections play other music) to create an exceptionally bright surface texture. For example, a warm trumpet solo is doubled at the unison with a solo violin furiously playing tremolo.

Performances

April 29, 2010, the student-run Berkeley College Orchestra premiered Murmur, on its final concert of the season, in Battell Chapel at Yale.

May 19, 2011, the Albany Symphony Orchestra read Murmur in its Composer to Center Stage program.

Chamber Ensemble

Strange Dances

duration 22' (four movements)

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Movement I (Gatekeeper)

Movement II (Parachute Dance)

Movement III (Lost Waltz)

Movement IV (Night Cap)

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Program note

In Strange Dances, I paint a bizarre and abstracted picture of a night on the town. In the first movement, one encounters the unbending, unthinking bouncer of the club. In the second movement, one attempts to engage with an un-danceable dance whose main musical motive is the opposite of a clear downbeat. In the third movement, one reaches for a memorable tune but fails to fully recall it. In the last movement, one finally utters a full melody, quaintly, before retiring for the night. These movements and the pictures they conjure might also be taken as an imagined encounter between a lover of 19th century music attempting in vain to "dance" with the world of 20th century music.

Performances

The second movement was performed by JACK quartet on April 5, 2011, at Beinecke library at Yale.

The first movement was performed by members of the JACK quartet and students at New Music On the Point in New Hampshire.

The entire composition was performed by Hen-Shuo Chang, Hye Jin Koh, Victor Fournelle-Blain, and Christopher Hwang at New Music New Haven on October 4, 2012, in Morse Recital Hall at Yale.

Elegy

duration 5'

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Program note

Elegy is a brief and chilly homage to older styles of music, mis-remembered and assembled freely into a new work. This will be the second movement of a three-movement work for violin and piano, in composition now.

Performances

January 8, 2011, Andrew Sords (accompanied by Anita Pontremoli) performed Elegy at the Flagler College Auditorium (presented by the EMMA Concert Association); also performed at the Bethel Methodist Church on the island of Anguilla on Feburary 2, 2011.

December 17, 2011, at a recital at the Pro Musica Series in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, violinist Andrew Sords (accompanied by pianist Elizabeth deMio) performed Elegy.

July 14, 2010, Rachel Koblyakov, violin, and the composer, piano, performed Elegy at the Studzinski Recital Hall in the Bowdoin International Music Festival.

Premiered September 8, 2009, by Caroline Goulding, accompanied by the composer, at le Poisson Rouge in New York City.

Cliff Notes

duration 7'

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Program Note

This piece is meant to evoke the experience of peering from a high cliff into a ravine and the extremes of peace and violence of such an experience. I also used sounds I had never heard on brass instruments. The texture in the first part of the piece is woven by four instruments playing a pattern using practice mutes, which render the instruments almost silent. In a live concert setting, it can be mind-boggling to hear such a quiet sound coming from brass instruments. On top of this rests a high tuba line, performed by singing into the tuba, another sound I had never heard before, which helps to create the lonely sense I sought.

Performances

February 7, 2013, New Music New Haven in Sprague Hall at Yale.

Slow Dances

duration 3'

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Program note

Slow Dances is my fourth work featuring solo double bass. I wanted to do something different this time, so I opted not for a typical fast or virtuosic contemporary piece. Instead I tried to create a sound world that was beautiful and dark in the way that only a bass can do. All the movements are slow dance movements of some kind, and I imagined weird visual worlds conjured around the different dances, as reflected in the titles. The bass is a unique instrument; I aimed to create a unique piece to show off its rare beauty.

Performances

Slow Dances for double bass and piano was performed by Michael Cameron (double bass) and Casey Dierlam (piano) on June 6, 2013 at Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music, for the convention of the International Society of Bassists.

Band

Rooms by the Sea

duration 9'

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Performances

October 8, 2010, premiered by the Yale Concert Band at Woolsey Hall in New Haven, under the direction of Thomas Duffy.

May 6, 2011, the University of New Orleans Wind Ensemble performed Rooms by the Sea.

October 17, 2011, by the Eastman Wind Ensemble in Kilbourn Hall at the Eastman School of Music, Rochester, NY.

November 18, 2011, by the University of New Orleans Wind Ensemble.

November 20, 2011, by the University of New Orleans Wind Ensemble at the Louisiana Music Educators Association State Convention, Baton Rouge, LA.

Short and Sweet

duration 7'

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Movement 1 (Manic Button)

Movement 2 (The Simplest Gifts)

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Program note

In "Short and Sweet" I set out to create a perfectly balanced pair of brief movements. The first, Manic Button, is a fast movement, but not a typical fast movement. I wanted it to be a little TOO exciting. At times it should sound like it is barely holding together, an inch away from careening off course. I introduce a wide range of musical figures in a short time and try to cram them into a coherent work more or less by brute force. This should leave the listener out of breath when the second movement arrives. "The Simplest Gifts" is about what I felt is the simplest gift music can give a listener: a gentle resolution out of fraught tension. The movement is built around the idea of an intensely pointed, dissonant chord giving way to a gentle, beautiful harmony. It never arrives firmly in a home key, but simply establishes moments of great tension and almost immediately relieves them. This simplicity and gentle care should provide the perfect balance to the uncontrollable mania of the first movement.

Performances

Premiered by the Yale Concert Band on April 12, 2013, in Woolsey Hall.

   
 
     

 

© Copyright Stephen Feigenbaum 2017