• For the Birds on Sophie-Justine Herr’s Album Innen Drops on 3/8/24

    Cellist Sophie-Justine Herr’s album Innen (Within) drops on 5/8/24 with a concert on March 8, International Women’s Day, in Network Seilerei in Frankfurt am Main. Her wide-ranging repertoire includes music by Elisenda Fábregas.  (Catalonia).  Teresa Grebchenko (Poland), Young Pagh-Paan (South Korea), Kaija Saariaho (Finland), as well as Shatin’s (USA) For the Birds. This is the third recording of For the Birds, the first by US Cellist Madeleine Shapiro, with the second by Mexican cellist Iracema de Andrade. As birds have become increasingly decimated by climate change, building strikes and other habitat loss, it is ever more important to listen to their voices and move to protect them.

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  • Ruah, Flute-Piano Version
    Flutist Renee Siebert & Pianist Cynthia Siebert: World Premiere Performance
    Instrumentation: Flute & Piano
    Duration: 23:00
    Renee and Cynthia Siebert
    National Flute Association Convention, Kansas City, MO
              Ruah , pronounced with a guttural “h”, is a Hebrew word that translates as air, wind, or breath. In Cabalistic mysticism it also refers to the part of the soul that mediates between the body and the spirit. Both the colloquial and spiritual meanings are at work here. The images of breath and air inform  the timbral stretching of the flute’s sound, with the flutist using the voice and its breath flow in conjunction with played tones. The image of the wind is captured in the swirling lines of the first movement, marked Soaring, and in the third, titled Impassioned. The second movement, Tender,  emerges from a dynamic stillness, with far-flung registral limits, and large internal spaces. Its three-part  organization mirrors the larger-scale three movement plan of the entire piece. The final movement is a spin through space, and reflects a more tightly wound, assertive character than the first two movements. Howevr, it also refers to the preceding movements. The spiritual reference is embodied in the role of the flute as it variously springs forth from and mediates between the instruments of the ensemble.
              Ruah was composed for and is dedicated to Reneé Siebert, who premiered and the recorded it with the Prism Chamber Orchestra. Originally scored for solo flute with an additional wind quartet, brass trio and strings, an optional percussionpart was created for the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, who premiered it with flutist Mehrdad Gholami and conductor Timothy Weiss. Composition of Ruah was made possible in part by an NEA Composer Fellowship and a residency at the VCCA (Virginia Center for the Creative Arts), where the flute/piano version was also created. It was premiered by Reneé and Cynthia Siebert at the NFA Convention in Kansas City in 1994. As a flutist in my early years, extensive exploration and experimentation with the instrument has informed Ruah as well as multiple other flute-focused compositions.
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  • For the Fallen on Wanchi Huang’s New Album Drops on 1/5/24

    Violinist Wanchi Huang’s new album, Imagining Worlds, will be released in January on the Navona label. I created a new version of For the Fallen, for violin and electronics fashioned from the Peace Bell in Rovereto, IT. Originally commissioned by Rovereto-based trumpeter Ivano Ascari, each of the subsequent versions has involved a reimagining based on the world of the particular instrument. The collaboration with Wanchi Huang was outstanding, and enabled me to recalibrate the timbral elements in a way that serves both the violin and the electronics. This new album also features a wonderful panaoloy of music by Adolphus Hailstork, Meira Warshauer, Jeffrey Mumford and John Corigliano.

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  • Commission for Canta da Sal for horn, cello & piano

    Canta da Sal, scored for horn, cello and piano, was inspired by initial discussions with hornist Anne Howarth followed by Pablo Neruda’s vivid poem Oda a la sal. It is a co-commission of Anne Howarth,  the Juventas Ensemble and the Boston Conservatory at Berklee and is funded in part by the Meir Rimon Commissioning Assistance Program of the International Horn Society. The Neruda poem eloquently speaks of salt, its connection to the sea and to life, to its song as it is mined and as it moves through the entire chain of life. Salt is both necessary for life, and can destroy it, as in the siege of Carthage, or throughthe malfunction of our own bodies. We cry and we shed salty tears. Salt is within us and of us.   The premiere will be at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge, MA on January 27, 2024.

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  • In a Flash

    Instrumentation: 3-manual organ
    Duration: 2:00
    Commission: Fintan Farrelly
    Maynooth College Chapel
    Maynooth, IE

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    In a Flash is my response to organist Fintan Farrelly’s commission for a two-minute piece to open a short recital. The idea suddenly came to mind and its development was inspired by the meaning of the word flash: a sudden burst of light or very swift motion. I sought to capture the energy and intensity this suggests through the fast tempo and quick movement among keyboards and pedals. I would like to thank organist Jeremy Thompson, Music Director of the First Presbyterian Church in Charlottesville, Virginia, for his willingness to share his knowledge of both the intricacies of organ terminology and the thickets of registration options. It has been an exciting experience to delve into the timbral worlds of the organ. –JS

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  • Chai Variations on Eliahu HaNavi (String Quartet Version)

    Instrumentation: String Quartet
    Duration: 20:00

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    Program Note:

    Chai Variations on Eliahu HaNavi was inspired by the folk song Eliahu HaNavi (Elijah the Prophet), often sung during the closing service of the Jewish Sabbath. The letters of “Chai,” which means “life” or “living” in Hebrew, symbolically stand for the number 18; hence, 18 variations. I decided to give the performer(s) a choice regarding the ordering of the variations as a reflection of my sense of performance as a collaboration between performer and composer (and, for that matter, listener). It also reflects a dynamic conception of musical form. This means that there are 18! Or 6,402,373,705,728,000 possible orderings. In other words, six quadrillion, four-hundred-two trillion, three-hundred-seventy-three billion, seven-hundred-five million and seven-hundred-twenty-eight thousand possible versions! I composed this work while in residence at Brahmshaus in Baden-Baden during the summer of 1995. Originally scored for solo piano, Chai Variations on Eliahu HaNavi has  been recorded by new music champion Mary Kathleen Ernst, on her album Keeping Time, and by the distinguished pianist Nathan Carterette on his Poets of the Piano – Acts of Faith CD, available directly. Both are available on multiple streaming services. I decided to create a version for String Quartet as I thought the timbres of the ensemble would create a fascinating timbral interplay, but still allow the compositional ideas to shine through.

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  • The Gift to Sing

    Instrumentation: SATB
    Duration: 3:30
    Premiere: 04/29/2023
    Zephyrus, conductor Megan Sharp
    St. Paul’s Memorial Church
    Charlottesville, VA

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    Program Note:
    The Gift to Sing is an SATB setting of the poem of that name by James Weldon Johnson – poet, novelist, major civil rights activist and more. His poem touches on the wondrous way in which singing can take us beyond our troubles and give us joy. While composing this, and finding ways to embrace these words in music, I had that same experience. The images combine plain-spokenness with imaginative use of poetic elements, as in the beautiful alliteration of ‘Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing.’ The description of music’s ability to pierce the darkness is particularly vivid, as is the increasing power ascribed to singing, from the softness of the first mention, to the strength of the last statement, suggesting how the act of singing can bring transcendence. The Gift to Sing was commissioned by Zephyrus, Central Virginia’s Early Music Vocal Ensemble, and is dedicated to them. –JS

    The Gift to Sing

    by James Weldon Johnson

    Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
    And blackening clouds about me cling;
    But oh, I have a magic way
    To turn the gloom to cheerful day¬–
    I softly sing.

    And if the way grows darker still
    Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
    With glad defiance in my throat,
    I pierce the darkness with a note,
    And sing, and sing.

    I brood not over the broken past,
    Nor dread whatever time may bring;
    No nights are dark, no days are long,
    While in my heart there swells a song,
    And I can sing.

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  • Bialik-inspired Trio Commissioned & Recorded by the Atar Piano Trio

    The Jerusalem-based Atar Piano Trio, directed by pianist Ofer Shelley, commissioned a trio, To the Bird from a Distant Land, for their  program celebrating the 150th birthday of  iconic poet Hayim Bialik. The premiere at Studio Annette was such  a great success that they are now recording it!  Rather than create a song, I composed a piano trio inspired by his touching poem To the Bird, The bird forms the connecting link from the narrator’s home in the harsher climate of Europe, to the land of Israel, though his location is mentioned only elliptically, and that of the ‘hot land,’ by the reference to Zion. While the narrator nonetheless wonders whether some of the difficulties of his current situation are to be found in hot land as well, the dream of this land, and the hope for a peaceful, welcoming existence there are central. The bird functions as a symbol of Bialik’s flights of imagination.

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  • Concert of Shatin’s Flute Music at the NFA Phoenix Convention

    An entire  program of Judith’s flute music is set for August 6 at the  National Flute Association Convention in Phoenix, AZ. Three flutists are participating: Lisa Bost, Sarah Brady and Leonard Garrison. They will be performing Coursing Through the Still Green, Penelope’s Song, Gabriel’s Wing and  For the Fallen, combing acoustic and electroacoustic music before performing Grito del Corazón, in this special version for flute trio and electronics. Coursing Through the Still Green is from the volume The American Flute, a collection of pieces to introduce flutists to contemporary music organized by Timothy Clark and Judith Shatin at the request of multiple flutists at an NFA Convention in Kansas City. The entire volume, as well as the individual pieces, are available from Subito Music

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  • Cellist Sophie-Justine Herr Records For the Birds

    The distinguished cellist Sophie-Justine Herr. based in Frankfurt am Maim will record For the Birds this spring. She is the third cellist to record this homage to birds,  following New York-based  cellist Madeleine Shapiro and Mexico City-based cellist Iracema de Andrade. The album will also feature music by Saariaho, Pagh-Paan, Fábregas and Grebchenko. Inspired by the birds of Yellowstone, For the Birds is both an homage to these amazing creatures and a call to do what we can both as individuals and as a society to save them, as their numbers have dramatically declined. Here is a link for more information about the piece, and here is one to the discography page you can follow to streaming services.

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