• Violinist Wendy Case Records Rising on the Wings of Dawn

    Blue Griffin is releasing The Tiger and the Clover, a CD of new works by diverse composers for solo violin and violin and electronics featuring violinist Wendy Case. This includes my Rising on the Wings of Dawn for solo violin. It was a joy collaborating with Wendy during the compositional process and experiment with timbral shading as I found ways to metaphorically encompass the sense of delicate rising that the image suggests. The title is taken from Psalm 139 and is the second piece I have composed based on this psalm. The first was And the Night Will Shine As Day, for soprano and organ. I am drawn to the surrounding and encompassing imagery, here “the wings of morning” and in my earlier piece, that “darkness will shine as day.”

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  • Adventure on Mt. Hehuan

    Instrumentation: Solo bass drum with optional interactive electronics
    Duration: 9:00
    Premiere: 11/18/2021
    TechnoSonics XXI
    University of Virginia

    Adventure on Mt. Hehuan (Mountain of Joy in Chinese) is named for a mountain in Taiwan, where percussionist I-Jen Fang grew up. It is scored for solo bass drum and optional interactive electronics and is dedicated to Ms. Fang, with whom I long studied percussion. She premiered it in the version with interactive electronics with myself performing the electronics. The interactive electronics draw on a Max patch created by composer/technologist Maxwell Tfirn in consultation with me.

    Adventure on Mt. Hehuan speaks to the joy in the journey of timbral exploration and to its role in musical design. The title and compositional design was inspired by the mountain paintings of I-Jen’s father, and by this well-known and massive mountain in Taiwan. There is beauty and struggle in both. I composed the piece after exploring the extended timbral potential of the bass drum, including such details as mallet types and their placement on the drum. The decision to include optional interactive electronics grew from the additional timbral opportunities that these afford, creating a new world of timbral shading, as well as the additional adventure of the duet between the bass drum and electronics performer. Rather than choose between the purely acoustic and electroacoustic options, both of which have powerful individual identities, I decided on both.

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  • Kassia

    The Kassia Ensemble commissioned Kassia in honor of their namesake, the 9th-century Byztantine Abbess, poet and hymnographer, and the only woman whose hymns are included in the Eastern Orthodox liturgy. She is also likely the first woman whose music has survived until now. Kassia is scored for the entire ensemble of clarinet, harp and string quintet. I drew some motivic shapes from two of her most well-known chants: The Fallen Woman and Augustus, the Monarch. I am grateful for the important work of musicologist  Diane Touliatos-Banker both for her translation of Kassia’s music into contemporary notation, and for her deep study of Byzantine music. I was also inspired by rhythms of Kassia’s poetry, and had verses read in the original Greek by Christina Boltsi to get a better feel for them. Kassiaunfolds in one movement, whose emotional character ranges from the gentleness of the opening to wild cries of pain, from pensive yearnings to dreams of the world beyond. While the Covid-19 pandemic precluded the planned meeting with the entire ensemble during the compositional process, virtual sessions with the individual members provided welcome connections in dark times. I also wish to thank the Spark Foundation and Opportunity Fund of Pittsburgh for their support of this project.

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  • Terra Infirma

    Instrumentation: Sop. Sax.. Trpt., Trmb, Vln, Vla, Vc, Perc, electronics
    Duration: 15:00
    Commission: Michigan Technological University in collaboration with the Great Lakes Research Center
    Premiere: 10/2021
    Note: Image credit: NASA/JSC

    Program Note:

    The Great Lakes, formed from receding glaciers, and holding 20+% of the volume of the world’s surface fresh water, provide habitat for all manner of flora and fauna in the massive region they anchor. They are also vital to many human activities, from hunting and fishing to transport of goods through a massive series of purpose-built channels and locks, to a huge variety of enjoyable activities: camping, hiking, water sports and more. Many population centers have grown around them as well, all depending on the bounty they provide.  Unfortunately, such growth, as well as the introduction of invasive species and pollution from developments far beyond this region, has caused degradation of the lakes as well as the habitats they provide. While there are increasing efforts to protect the lakes and life they support, stiff challenges remain. Organizations such as  The Great Lakes Research Center and numerous others are enriching our understanding of the multiple aspects of the region and what needs to be done to ensure its longterm health. And a host of organizations, such as the Nature Conservancy, the National Audubon Society, and many, many others, are working to protect our natural world and its inhabitants. I am also  grateful to organizations including the Macaulay Natural Sound Library, the Sound Library of the US Park Service, naturalists such as Lang Elliott and individuals such as Dr. Bernard Wessling who has done such outstanding work on whooping crane conservation. A complete list will be added as this project comes to completion.

    Terra Infirma features some of the animals most at risk of extinction. However, the near-term projection of climate change dramatically expands those in danger . Each of three movements, built upon the cycle of the seasons, features the sonic interplay of the calls of animals and those of the human-engineered  instruments. Such interactions range from  cooperation to hindrance, from discord to harmony, from adaptive to restrictive. Each movement also reflects the abundance of the natural world and the dangers facing it; the calls of animals gradually filtering out to those still trying for a place in this changing ecosystem. The challenges are daunting. The question remains: can we mitigate our effects  so that humans are not, ourselves, a dire pandemic for the rest of earth’s inhabitants and the planet itself?

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  • Shatin interviewed by Ching Juhl

    Ching Juhl interviews Judith about a variety of topics: approach to composition, current and past projects. The interview starts with Wiilliwaw, movement 4 of Tower of the Eight Winds

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  • Terra Infirma Commission

    Michigan Technological University in collaboration with the Great Lakes Research Center has commissioned Terra Infirma, scored for septet (sop sax, trpt, trb, vn, vla, vc, perc) and electronics. The Great Lakes are a crucial source of water as well as critical habitat for a vast array of fauna, but both the lakes themselves and the creatures that depend on them are suffering from the myriad contributors to climate change. Many of the animals are threatened as are the vast number of people living in this region.  I have drawn on field recordings of the lakes as well as  many of the fauna, especially those in immediate or near-term danger. I am indebted to many naturalists and institutions such as the outstanding Macaulay Library at Cornell University.  For more info, go here. Looking forward to the premiere during the weekend of 10/8-9/21.

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  • La Frontera

    I felt called to compose La Frontera (The Border). a setting of the poem for SATB + piano. The poem bears witness to the struggles of an undocumented  youth trying to immigrate, but held in a maximum security detention center in the US. Information about the piece and free download of the scores are available here. Performance royalties will go to the Detained Children’s Program of CAIR, as do profits from the book Dreaming America: Voices of Undocumented Youth in Maximum Security Detention, published by Settlement House Books. Thanks go also to poet Seth Michelson, who led poetry workshops in one of these centers resulting in these poems.

    This image is by Tony Webster, and licensed via Wikimedia Commons   CC BY 3.0 ; it has not been altered.

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  • La Frontera
    La Frontera (The Border) is a setting of a poem by that name for SATB Chorus and piano. The poem was written by an undocumented immigrant youth imprisoned in an American maximum security detention center. The full program notes are available below. Given the extraordinary cruelty and tragedy of the treatment of immigrants, I was moved to set this poem to music both to bear witness to the problem and to help bring more attention to the issues of immigration. We need comprehensive immigration reform and we need it now!

    The above image is by Tony Webster, and licensed via Wikimedia Commons   CC BY 3.0 ; it has not been altered in any way.

    Program Note

    La Frontera (The Border ) is a poem by an undocumented immigrant youth imprisoned in an American maximum security detention center. Sadly, wecannot know the identity of the author due to governmental restrictions. But the words cry out to be heard and immortalized in music, scored  for chorus and piano, with additional versions for solo soprano or tenor and piano. I was drawn to set this poem because it captures the dark realities of the immigration process as well as the powerful desire to immigrate to America.

    As the granddaughter and wife of immigrants, indeed as a citizen of the UnitedStates, I am deeply aware of both the astonishing and ongoing contributions of immigrants as well as the despicable treatment so many experience. Why do we forget our own status as immigrants or descendants of immigrants, and then deny the status of those who descend from indigenous peoples?

    This poem, and the others published in the collection Dreaming America , was written during workshops held for immigrant youths in detention led by poet Seth Michelson. Some were created in collaboration with students from Washington and Lee University; others benefitted from visits by guest artists Jimmy Santiago Baca and Ricardo Dominguez. Larry Moffi, publisher of Settlement House Books, brought the book Dreaming America: Voices of Undocumented Youth in Maximum Security Detention to fruition and kindly granted permission to set this poem to music. Profits from the book sales are donated to the Detained Children’s Program of the Capital Area Immigrants’ Rights Coalition (www.caircoalition.org), to whom I will also donate my royalties. The .pdf of the  score is  available free of charge and choruses are invited to contribute to this organization in lieu of score purchase. Here are the links to .pdf’s of the various versions: piano/vocal choral version, open score choral version, soprano & piano, tenor & piano. –JS

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  • Rising on the Wings of Dawn

    When I was approached to compose a short piece for violinist Wendy Case, I  immediately thought of Psalm 139.  I had been partial to it for quite some time, and previously set verses from it for soprano and organ in a piece named for another of its images: And Night Will Shine As Day. It seemed especially apt while the Covid pandemic was raging and we were in a time of   great sorrow. Psalm 139 speaks of the intimacy of being known by God through beautiful images. This time I chose Rising on the Wings of Dawn. I with a piece that embodies a rising shape in its overall structure, its melodic design and the prominence of harmonics. The overtone series itself is a wonder in its magical vibration as a whole and whose individual harmonics have a glowing shimmer. Collaborating with violinist Wendy Case in exploring the various timbral shadings was a joyful, comforting experience itself during these dark days and I have dedicated the piece to her.

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  • Zamir Chorale Interview

    “…Part of the the Zamir Chorale of Boston’s series “Kolot Nashim: The Many Voices of Women in Jewish Music.” Prof. Judith Shatin discusses her career and her Jewish-themed compositions with Prof. Joshua Jacobson. The recording of Shatin’s “Hark My Love” has been graciously provided by the Milken Archive of Jewish Music ©Milken Family Foundation. The full-length version of this interview is also available. www. JewishChoralMusic.com www.Zamir.org….”

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