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Prof. Kathryn Alexander - Class of 1960 Music Lecture

Thu, April 20th, 2023
4:15 pm

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Prof. Kathryn Alexander of Yale University offers a Class of 1960 Music Lecture titled, Pathway(s) Towards A Musical Language. The talk reflects on the use of musical memory and transformation to coalesce a musical language that is a cohesive fabric of musical expressivity as seen in selected works from her solo, chamber, and music technological pieces in various genres.

Composer Kathryn Alexander was awarded the Arts and Letters Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters honoring her ‘outstanding artistic achievement’ in 2018. She has written a wide variety of works, both acoustic and technological that draw upon a range of disciplines, including literature, the visual and plastic arts, and technology to develop formal schema that distill from the abstract rather than from literal, programmatic meaning. When Alexander engages music with the other arts, whether for dramatic or abstract expression, or as sonic sculpture, she seeks to highlight the processes of transformation and the beauty of change. The result is a varied repertoire described variously by critics as music in which “… the gestures were bolder, the moods more volatile, the climaxes more clearly marked and – most significant – the sounds enormously more colorful,” and where “… the instrumentalists out-Bartoked Bartok in their extramusical pursuits.”

Alexander’s recent projects include a series of solo carillon works for carillon artist Tiffany Ng, an ongoing cycle of Frank O’Hara settings for mezzo-soprano Jennifer Beattie, a CD recording project of her piano trio with Music From Copland House, and a commissioning project for NYC new music flutist Margaret Lancaster. She has recently completed a new double bass concerto for Eric Snoza, a Fromm Foundation Music Commission. Other selected works include: AroundAbout (2007), a piano trio for the Williams Chamber Players; In The Purest Air, Sapphirine (2006), a chamber concerto for electric jazz guitar soloist, Mark Dancigers, and The NOW Ensemble; Dreams and Reveries (2005), a percussion quartet for the Yale Percussion Group; From The Faraway Nearby (2005), a piano trio for The Blue Elm Trio; … Mania REDUX! (2003), for virtual percussionist and controllist; and In Memoriam (2003), for vocal soloists Richard Lalli and Julia Blue Raspe with The Yale Camerata, Marguerite Brooks, conductor. 

In addition to the Arts and Letters Award in Music, Alexander was awarded a 2007-08 Aaron Copland Award, a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Study at Harvard University (2004-2005), a Computerworld Laureate Award from the Smithsonian Institute (2000-2001), a Composer’s Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (1989-1990), and the Rome Prize (1988-1989). She has won annual awards from ASCAP (1993-present) and has held residencies at the MacDowell Colony, The Millay Colony, The Virginia Center for the Arts, Yaddo, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Alexander was a composition fellow of American Opera Projects (2003), the Vermont Chamber Music Festival of the East (1998), the Culture/Rockefeller Exchange (1998), the Words and Music Festival at Indiana University (1994), June-in-Buffalo (1987), and The Tanglewood Music Center (1985). In 1995, Alexander won the Outstanding Young Alumna Award from Baylor University, her alma mater. 

A native Texan, Alexander comes from a musical family where she found it natural to be involved with music from an early age. She completed her Bachelor’s degree at Baylor University as a flutist, studying with Helen Ann Shanley, and then went on to The Cleveland Institute of Music to work with Maurice Sharp, principal flutist of the Cleveland Orchestra. While there she began to compose. Alexander studied with Donald Erb and Eugene O’Brien at The Cleveland Institute of Music and later earned her DMA in composition at the Eastman School of Music, working with Samuel Adler, Barbara Kolb, Allan Schindler and Joseph Schwantner, and pursued additional study with Leon Kirchner at the Tanglewood Music Center. She has taught at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music (1994/1987-1988), Dartmouth College (1990-1993), the University of Oregon (1995-1996), and currently teaches composition and music technology at Yale University.


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