"Pictures at an Exhibition, 1990's"
A Project in Progress
There is an extensive list of musical compositions based on or inspired by works of art. Perhaps the most well-known composition in this category is Modest Moussorgsky's piano collection entitled Pictures at an Exhibition. Composed in 1874 and later transcribed for orchestra by Maurice Ravel, this piano suite was based on nine black and white sketches representing a wide variety of subjects.
In 1987, Thomas C. Duffy contacted five composers with the idea for a project that would generate a minimum of five musical compositions based on art works. The conditions of the commissions included: the composition must be for some combination of instruments found within or up to the full complement of the standard American concert band; the art work upon which the piece is to be based must be in the collections of the Yale University Art Gallery; the composer must come to campus and select the artwork personally; the composer must attend the premiere performance and have the opportunity to meet and work with the Yale Concert Band.
Part 1: Midsummer Music
The first composer to complete the Pictures at an Exhibition, 1990's commission is this evening's artist, Byron Adams. He selected as his inspiration the painting Summer, by Thomas Wilmer Dewing (a reproduction of Summer is on display in the rotunda before and after the concert and during intermission). The dedication on the score reads: Commissioned by and written for Dr. Thomas C. Duffy and the Yale Concert Band, and dedicated to Professor John Davis of Smith College. (Prof. Davis is one of the leading authorities on the work of Thomas Dewing.)
Byron Adams (b. 1955) holds degrees from Jacksonville University, where he received a Bachelor of Music degree magna cum laude in piano performance, studying with Mary Lou Wesley Krosnick, and composition with the late Gurney Kennedy; from the University of Southern California, where he studied with Halsey Stevens and William Kraft; and from Cornell University, where he received his doctoral degree studying with William Austin, Steven Stucky, and composition with Karel Husa. Internationally recognized as a composer, Byron Adams has had frequent performances of his music in Europe, such as at the 26th "Warsaw Autumn" International Festival of Contemporary Music and the Charterhouse Special Choir in England, as well as numerous performances in America at such institutions as the Eastman School of Music, Yale University, Harvard University, and Carnegie Recital Hall. Byron Adam's scholarly work was recognized when he received the first Ralph Vaughn Williams Research Fellowship. He is presently Associate Professor of Music at the University of California, Riverside, where he conducts the university choral ensembles. During the summer of 1992, he taught solfŽgŽ, composition, and conducted the chorale at the Conservatoire AmŽricain du Musique in Fontainbleau, France.
Music by Byron Adams is published by the Brass Press, Southern Music Co. and Earthsongs, and is available on the Orion Master Recordings, Pantheon and Mark record labels. Articles and reviews by Prof. Adams have appeared in Music and Letters, MLA Notes, Current Musicology, and The Musical Quarterly.
Project Status Report
The remaining parts of this project are in negotiation at the present. The next two artworks to be set are The Night Cafe by Vincent Van Gogh, and Rooms by the Sea by Edward Hopper (both on display in the Yale University Art Gallery). The composers will be announced before the end of this academic year.
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