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Department News

Nathan EricIn fall 2015, Albany Records will release the debut CD of alumnus Eric Nathan’s (DMA, 2012) chamber and solo music, entitled “Multitude, Solitude: The Music of Eric Nathan.” Nathan, who is serving as an visiting assistant professor of music at Williams College, said he is “thrilled to have Grammy-winning producer Judith Sherman recording and producing my CD, and to have a stellar lineup of artists joining me including the Momenta Quartet, trombonist Joseph Alessi, violist Samuel Rhodes, oboist Peggy Pearson, pianist Mei Rui and trumpeter Hugo Moreno.” Follow this link for more information.

Cello/percussion duo New Morse Code (Director of Percussion Michael Compitello and Hannah Collins) and composer Christopher Stark have been awarded a 2014 Classical Commissioning Grant from Chamber Music America, to support the creation of a new piece for cello, percussion, and electronics to be premiered in the 2015-2016.  The grantees in each of Chamber Music America’s highly selective program were selected by independent peer panels of prominent musicians and composers.

Christopher’s piece, The Language of Landscapes, will leverage the unexpected and unique sonic terrain of cello and percussion to transform real and imagined landscapes into compelling musical spaces, tracing a musical journey starting from Michael’s desert southwest home, traveling through the deciduous hills of upstate New York (Hannah’s home), and finally reaching towards the endless sky of Christopher’s northern Rockies.  Christopher and New Morse Code will spend the next year developing the piece together, generating and refining musical material in a series of residencies, gathering field-recordings and objects from the representative regions, and developing a set of custom-built live electronics.


Lecturer Annie Lewandowski has released her third full-length recording under the name Powerdove. The album, titled Arrest, was issued on CD and LP in France by Murailles Music on September 15th. Arrest features Lewandowski on vocals, accordion, and piano; John Dieterich (Deerhoof) on guitars and bass; and Thomas Bonvalet (L’ocelle Mare) on banjo, small instruments, body percussion, and electronics.

In his review for The Drone magazine (France), Olivier Lamm writes ” “The new album from Annie Lewandowski’s trio is already a classic.”

On October 2–4, 2014, the conference and festival “Sensation and Sensibility at the Keyboard in the Late Eighteenth Century: Celebrating the Tercentenary of C. P. E. Bach” kicks off a new $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies at Cornell.

In concerts and talks over three days, guest performers and scholars, as well as Cornell faculty and graduate students, will explore late eighteenth-century theories of sentiment and feeling in Europe and America, focusing on the music of C. P. E. Bach and the holdings in Cornell’s collection of historic keyboard instruments (fortepiano, organ, harpsichord and clavichord).

Participants will include seven distinguished Department of Music alumni: Tom Beghin DMA ’97 (McGill University), Geoffrey Burgess PhD ’98 (Eastman School of Music), Emily Dolan PhD ’06 (Harvard University), Nick Mathew PhD ’06 (University of California, Berkeley), Pierpaolo Polzonetti PhD ’03(Notre Dame), Andrew Willis DMA ’94 (University of North Carolina at Greensboro), and Steven Zohn PhD ’95 (Temple University). A highlight of the event will be the Atkinson Forum concert, “America in Sentimental Europe,” featuring the celebrated and strange glass harmonica, and given by the award-winning period instrument ensemble Ars Lyrica Houston.

The event is organized by Cornell University Organist and Professor of Music Annette Richards. Richards’s talk, “Sensibility Triumphant: C. P. E. Bach and the Art of Feeling,” will also be featured as a keynote speech next November at the University of Oxford as part of a conference on “C. P. E. Bach and Eighteenth-Century Keyboard Culture.”


The Cornell music department became home to the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies in 2011 thanks to two initial grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation totaling $470,000.The new grant from the Mellon Foundation funds activities on and off campus, including the upcoming festivals “Environs Messiaen: Nature Rendered at the Keyboard” on March 5-8, 2015 and “Forte/Piano: A Festival Celebrating Pianos in History” on August 5-9, 2015, as well as “Technologies of the Keyboard,” a joint multi-year initiative exploring the keyboard arts across the centuries. For more information, see


James Spinazzola, DMA, will serve as Interim Director of Cornell University Winds for the 2014-2015 academic year.

James has extensive conducting experience; he was formerly Associate Professor of Music and Director of Instrumental Activities at the University of Indianapolis, where his duties included the direction of the Symphonic Wind Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra, and the instruction of courses in conducting and woodwind techniques. He also served as Conductor of the New World Youth Philharmonic, and, as a guest conductor, he has worked with numerous regional, all-state, and collegiate bands, orchestras, and jazz ensembles.

As part of a postdoctoral fellowship, James has worked over the past two years under outgoing Director of CU Winds Cindi Johnston Turner, who has accepted a position at University of Georgia, Athens, and Director of Orchestras Chris Younghoon Kim. An accomplished saxophonist, he has also coached combos in Cornell’s Jazz Ensembles program and has provided individual instruction to saxophone students.

shepherd_sean_ Alumnus Sean Shepherd’s Songs will be premiered by the NY PHIL on June 18th as part the Beethoven Piano Concertos Festival.  Commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Shepard’s Songs will be performed between Beethoven’s Piano Concertos No. 2 and No. 3. Additional performances will be given June 19-21 as part of the month-long festival.  Shepherd earned his DMA in composition in May 2014 and has a Faculty Residency at the Tanglewood Music Center this summer. Congratulations Sean!

julia-webAlumna Julia Adolphe’s Dark Sand, Sifting Light received its world premiere on June 5th by the New York Philharmonic as part of the inaugural NY PHIL BIENNIAL.  The piece was one of three works chosen, out of a field of over 400, as part of American Composers Orchestra’s EarShot: the National Orchestra Composition Discovery Network. Earshot gives emerging composers the opportunity to have their work realized by professional orchestras.  As an undergraduate, Adolphe studied composition with Steven Stucky and voice with Judith Kellock. She is now pursuing her DMA at USC’s Thornton School of Music. For more information about the premiere, read Anthony Tommasini’s article in the NY Times.

Orchestra and Solosti

Cornell Orchestras earned 2nd place in the collegiate orchestras category for the 2013-2014 ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming.  Announced at the League of American Orchestras National Conference in Seattle, WA on June 5th, the awards are presented each year to orchestras of all sizes for programs that challenge the audience, build the repertoire, and increase interest in music of our time.  Since 2008, Cornell Orchestras have garnered one of the top three prizes six times due to their strong commitment to new works and living composers. Composers featured this year include: Roberto Sierra, Joseph Phibbs, Niccolo D. Athens, Lou Harrison, Ian Doyle, Ray Li and Soundspace Team, James Spinazzola, and Tania Leon. Congratulations to Cornell Orchestras!



tomorrow is the questionTomorrow is the Question
New Directions in Experimental Music Studies

In recent decades, experimental music has flourished outside of European and American concert halls. The principles of indeterminacy, improvisation, nonmusical sound, and noise, pioneered in concert and on paper by the likes of Henry Cowell, John Cage, and Ornette Coleman, can now be found in all kinds of new places: activist films, rock recordings, and public radio broadcasts, not to mention in avant-garde movements around the world.

The contributors to Tomorrow Is the Question (edited by Benjamin Piekut) explore these previously unexamined corners of experimental music history, considering topics such as Sonic Youth, Julius Eastman, the Downtown New York pop avant-garde of the 1970s, Fluxus composer Benjamin Patterson, Tokyo’s Music group (aka Group Ongaku), the Balinese avant-garde, the Leicester school of British experimentalists, Cuba’s Grupo de Experimentación Sonora del ICAIC, Pauline Oliveros’s score for the feminist documentary Maquilapolis, NPR’s 1980s RadioVisions, and the philosophy of experimental musical aesthetics.

Taken together, this menagerie of people, places, and things makes up an actually existing experimentalism that is always partial, compromised, and invented in its local and particular formations-in other words, these individual cases suggest that experimentalism has been a far more variegated set of practices and discourses than previously recognized. Asking new questions leads to researching new materials, new individuals, and new contexts and, eventually, to the new critical paradigms that are necessary to interpret these materials. Gathering contributions from historical musicology, enthnomusicology, history, philosophy, and cultural studies, Tomorrow Is the Question generates future research directions in experimental music studies by way of a productive inquiry that sustains and elaborates critical conversations.

“Tomorrow Is the Question brings together eleven essays with a pithy and thorough introduction that beg new questions for experimental music studies from a global perspective. This book will set scholars on new paths waiting to be trod.”
-Pauline Oliveros

“This book explodes the traditional map of experimental music. Rather than drawing a new one, the authors invite us on a journey of global exploration, where we encounter a creative landscape of astounding richness and diversity.”
-Anne C. Shreffler, Harvard University

“Tomorrow Is the Question provides a welcome break from conventional approaches to the study of experimental music.  The result is a stimulating collection of essays that highlight the rich and irreducible variety of experimentalist practices. By opening up these new avenues, this book will have a decisive impact on future research in this field.”
-Bernard Gendron, author of Between Montmartre and the Mudd Club

On April 23, 2014, the music webzine The Drone hosted the internet premiere of Domestic Infelicity’s animation for “Under Awnings,” a song from lecturer Annie Lewandowski’s 2013 recording Do You Burn?. Watch the animation here: