Thursday, June 3, 2010

Composer Spotlight: David T. Little

One of the benefits of doing this program has turned out to be the number of living composers featured.  Of the eleven composers whose works I'm performing, five are still living.  To my colleagues in the musical theater world, that might not sound like a big deal.  It is, however, a big deal in the classical singing world since a great majority of our time is spent singing music by composers long since dead.  Throughout this year, I'll be posting about these composers, my conversations with them (if I've had one), and their music.

As I said in an earlier post, when I began researching this recital I knew that I wanted to commission a work for the program.  Whitman is the most frequently set American poet, so one would think that there was plenty of material to choose from.  There is a lot of material, however, I felt like this program in particular afforded me the opportunity to add to that collection by commissioning my own song.

After I graduated high school in 1996, I toured Europe with a group called The Sound of America Honor Band and Chorus.  We met for a week or two of rehearsals in Carlisle, PA, then jetted off to Frankfurt, Germany for a month long tour of Germany, Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France.  Playing in the band was a percussionist named David T. Little.  Being a singer who was somewhat shy then, I stayed with the group of primarily singers I had attached myself to in Carlisle, though I do remember a couple of times when my path crossed with David's.  Once the tour was over, we went separate directions.

In 2008, our paths crossed again at New York City Opera's VOX Festival, a showcase of new American opera, where David's piece, Soldier Songs was being presented.  I wasn't singing David's work, but I was singing two other pieces in the festival.  We did some catching up after the concert, Facebooked each other and went on with our lives again.  When it came time to commission this piece, David's was the first name that popped into my head.  I wanted someone who was out in the field working as a composer, someone whose work was getting attention, and someone who was a close contemporary.  David was a perfect fit. 

Here's a little about him from his website.

The music of American composer David T. Little has been described as “dramatically wild…rustling, raunchy and eclectic,” showing “real imagination” by New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini, and his work “completely gripped” New Yorker critic Alex Ross: “every bad-ass new-music ensemble in the city will want to play him.”  Little’s highly theatrical, often political work draws upon his experience as a rock drummer, and fuses classical and popular idioms to dramatic effect.

His music has been performed throughout the world—including in Dresden, London, Edinburgh, LA, Montreal, and at the Tanglewood, Aspen, MATA and Cabrillo Festivals—by such performers as the London Sinfonietta, eighth blackbird, So Percussion, ensemble courage, NOW Ensemble, the New World Symphony, American Opera Projects, the New York City Opera, the Grand Rapids Symphony and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under Marin Alsop.  He has received awards and recognition from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, the Harvey Gaul Competition, BMI, and ASCAP, and has received commissions from Carnegie Hall, the Albany Symphony, the New World Symphony, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the University of Michigan, and Dawn Upshaw’s Vocal Arts program at the Bard Conservatory.
Upcoming projects include the opera Dog Days (2011; Robert Woodruff, director and Royce Vavrek, librettist), as well as new works for violinist Todd Reynolds, violist Nadia Sirota, pianist Kathleen Supové, cellist Brian Snow, baritone Scott Guinn, Third Coast Percussion, the New World Symphony, and Newspeak.

In 2004, Little founded the amplified octet Newspeak, for which he is also the drummer and artistic director.  Hailed as “potent”  (, “innovative” (New York Magazine), and “fierce” (Time Out New York), Newspeak explores the relationship of music and politics, while confronting head-on the boundaries between the classical and the rock traditions.  A New Amsterdam Records artist, Newspeak will release its first CD of commissioned works in November 2010. 

Little holds degrees from Susquehanna University (2001), The University of Michigan (2002) and Princeton University (2006)–where he is currently completing a PhD in composition—and his primary teachers have included Osvaldo Golijov, Paul Lansky, Steven Mackey, William Bolcom, and Michael Daugherty.   He currently teaches music in New York City through Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections program, and serves as the inaugural Digital Composer-in-Residence for the UK-based
 For more information about David and his music, go here.  I'll talk more about the poem we decided to set when it comes up for discussion.

For a taste of David's music, here is a video from Soldier Songs as performed in it's premiere at Le Poisson Rouge in New York, 2008.

1 comment:

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