Two students from the School of Music will have the opportunity to have their own compositions performed by the BYU Philharmonic and the BYU Symphonic Band.
The first of the concerts will be the BYU Philharmonic, conducted by Kory Katseanes, which will perform two famous works inspired by literature alongside the student composition on Feb. 9.
Austin Lopez was awarded the 2017 Barlow Student Composer Award this last summer. Lopez is a senior studying composition at the BYU School of Music. His composition is titled “Hardline” and was inspired not only by orchestral composers, but by heavy metal bands.
“I purchased my first electric guitar when I was 12 years old,” Lopez said. “I played in punk bands, hard rock bands and even death metal bands. Ever since my youth, I have always wanted to bridge the worlds of orchestral and heavy metal music. I am not the first to make this attempt and I wanted to add my voice to the conversation of genre blending. Some of my heavy metal inspiration originates from bands like Animals as Leaders, The Faceless, Born of Osiris and Dream Theater.”
“It will be fun to hear a brand new piece of music by a student,” Katseanes said. “It is always inspiring to see student composers growing and building their craft.”
Lopez admits that creating the piece was filled with sleepless nights but was ultimately fulfilling. He credits his professors, Steve Ricks, Michael Hicks, Stephen Jones and Neil Thornock, as well as Kory Katseanes and the BYU Philharmonic, for helping him bring the work to life.
“In this piece, the audience will hear things that may challenge their listening palette and maybe even offend it,” Lopez said. “I hope the audience will leave their ears open to new sounds that might inspire them to find goodness in a new world of music that they have not yet explored. It is my desire that they will feel invigorated and take something positive from this music that they need in their life.”
The other two works are thematically tied as they are both “literary works that have been captured in music,” as Katseanes put it. However, both pieces and the literature they are based on could not be more different.
“Suite from Mother Goose” by Maurice Ravel is based on well-known fairy tales such as Tom Thumb, The Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast.
“‘Mother Goose’ is an audience favorite,” Katseanes said. “The stories are so charming and they are all captured very well. The use of instruments to portray the characters of Beauty and the Beast, how they come together and the magical transformation when he becomes a prince again is marvelous, brilliant writing. The last piece, ‘The Fairy Garden,’ is one of the most beautiful pieces in classical music. It is rapturous, luscious and almost overwhelmingly, achingly beautiful.”
“Also Sprach Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss is inspired by Friedrich Nietzche’s philosophical novel of the same name. The work is seldom performed by college orchestras due to its complexity. This will be the first time it is performed at BYU.
“Strauss was the ultimate composer of tone poems, pieces of music that tell stories,” Katseanes said. “Zarathustra is a giant of orchestral literature that every orchestra knows.”
“Also Sprach Zarathustra” opens with one of the most famous pieces of classical music ever written. It was used in the Stanley Kubrick film “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and has since become iconic and universal throughout modern culture.
“Strauss described ‘Sunrise,’ as man feeling the power of God,” Katseanes said about the first movement. “The whole piece is about man and his struggles, longings, urgings, aspirations and the power of love in man’s life. It doesn’t really have anything to do with Nietzche, it has to do with Strauss.”
The BYU Symphonic Band, under the direction of Kirt Saville, will perform music inspired by far-off countries on Feb. 10. The concert will highlight a new work by Caleb Cuzner, a music composition major at BYU.
Cuzner’s piece is titled “Travelers in a Foreign Land,” which Saville adopted as the title of the concert as it perfectly describes the program selections as a whole.
“While ‘Travelers in a Foreign Land’ can depict the imagery of many different situations,” said Cuzner about his piece, “I imagine this piece resembling a group of travelers exploring a busy, foreign city.
“It features the doumbek, a middle-eastern drum which produces a very resonant tone. The middle features a duet between the alto saxophone and piccolo, accompanied by a quiet male vocal drone and a repeating rhythm on the doumbek. This piece progresses to a fast and exciting finale, which includes melodies traded between different sections of the band.”
Two other pieces, “Symphony No. 4 Bookmarks from Japan” and “Shadow Rituals,” feature asymmetrical rhythms with exotic scales..
“Bookmarks from Japan is a major work with six movements,” Saville said, “each inspired by different woodblocks from Japan. It is a wonderful piece and will certainly take you to the far east. It is also a very challenging work that provides wonderful opportunities for our outstanding soloists.”
The band will also play “Grace” by Brian Balmages. Like “Bookmarks from Japan,” “Grace” was specifically written for wind band. It includes hints of “Amazing Grace” but is largely an original composition.
“I think it is a piece that people will easily relate to,” Saville said, “just because of its sheer beauty.”
As the finale of the concert, the band will play an arrangement of the main theme from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” by Jerry Goldsmith.
“Jerry Goldsmith is amazing,” Saville said. “What better example of strangers in a foreign land than the Star Trek Voyages—to go where no one has gone before. I think it is a delightful way to send the audience out with one we all know.”