Archive for the ‘Composing Insights’ Category

Orchestral Notes, Two

Posted: August 29, 2017 in Composing Insights, Press

Every orchestra in America that isn’t serving it’s community with music composed by living composers, and programming that does not engage or reflect the ethnic diversity of its city or community at large, should be terminated. Any orchestra not serving it’s community and/or humanity is misusing the power and gift of music! It’s no good.

Conductors and programmers alike should be fired; as many are no doubt working against the culture rather than with it.

Why be a part of something that doesn’t act toward the interests or benefit of the people? We need new orchestras! We need new orchestras led by forward thinking programmers, conductors, and musicians who appreciate all music, and who are willing to develop orchestras for presenting fresh ideas on top of a respected, proven foundation.

 

K!

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Orchestral Notes, One

Posted: August 29, 2017 in Composing Insights

When an orchestra decides to program a particular orchestral work by a composer, generally that means they are committed to honoring the instrumentation.

After seeing the L.A. Phil perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad”, I refuse to let ANYONE convince me of diminishing my designated instrumentation for any piece I’ve composed!

To all you composers out there, be bold, and write the damn music that you envision being performed. Do not, under any circumstances, rescind and make it less than your true intentions. The instrumentation for Shostakovich 7 is 3343/8661/timp+7, 2hp, pf, stgs, and it’s duration is 80 minutes. Be BOLD!

What do you say to that?!
Write the damn music that you want to hear!!!!


K

Guanyin of the Southern Sea - Nelson Atkins Museum 2Kerwin Young composes Guanyin of the Southern Sea, a fantasy for guzheng, women’s chorus, and orchestra. Young is no stranger to Chinese instruments, having composed solo works for zheng, as well as suites for pipa, erhu, and guqin. His work has been performed by Music From China, and he’s also been honored by the Chinese Music Society of North America. A student of Chen Yi and Zhou Long while at the UMKC Conservatory of Music and Dance, Kerwin made plans for the current work in 2012; though it has taken quite awhile to begin working on it.

Historically, Guanyin is revered as a goddess of mercy, compassion, and kindness, and a guide for those who travel the sea. She also represents purity, harmony, and peace.

When asked what inspired the work, Kerwin responded with the following:

My mom and I, while visiting Savannah, Georgia, sometime during 2005-06, heard this beautiful instrument resonating along the waterfront. I stepped away from my mom and walked toward the sound I was hearing. From a distance, I noticed a canopy, and underneath saw an old man in a white tee-shirt playing a long, table top zither. At the end of the song, I approached the elder musician and asked what the instrument was, and how it was tuned. I learned that it was the guzheng, and that he was from China. I’d never heard anything quite like it before, and since then have been drawn to its warm sound. I collected the notes I received that day, and eventually added to them while studying at UMKC.

While in college, I befriended quite a few zheng players; many who were invited guests of Chen Yi and Zhou Long. I studied with Chen Yi from 2009-2015, and really absorbed quite a lot. I composed three solo works for zheng, and in 2012, had a successful premiere of I Walk Alone at the Nelson-Adkins Museum in Kansas City, Mo. At the time of the premiere, the Nelson-Adkins Museum had on display, a giant, life-sized statue of a Guan-yin (see the photo above). I was awed, and began fantasizing about a prospected work for zheng and orchestra.

Kerwin originally intended for this work to include two full-sized orchestras; one Chinese, and the other western. That idea, although a great one, was significantly chopped down as Kerwin began to flesh out some of the orchestration for his thematic ideas.

He did retain some Chinese instruments within the work, and those are the yangqin, yunluo, diyin daluo (better known as the tam-tam), xiaogu, and huapengu.

Both the brass and percussion sections are heavily stacked. The sopranos and altos, being the core of the women’s chorus, add a wealth of sonic flavor. Kerwin explained how his choice of instrumentation is necessary for telling a variety of stories within the overall work. He says, “On one hand, you’ve got the main subject of the Guan-yin representing her basic descriptives/attributes, and on the other hand, the mythology amongst cultures from Southern India to Japan; which open up new doors for my artistic expression.

2017 has been quite busy for Kerwin, who since January, has composed three major orchestral works: Symphony No. 5, Season of Autocracy, and Bolivar, totaling approximately one hour and ten minutes worth of music. Kerwin expects to complete Guanyin of the Southern Sea by late October 2017.

 

Ka’ness M’dolothongo – Author, Biographer

One of our era’s brightest composers of prolific orchestral works, Kerwin Young again puts the pencil to the paper for his third orchestral work in 2017. On the heels of Symphony No. 5 and Season of Autocracy, there are no signs of Kerwin slowing down anytime soon. His new work, Bolívar, is well underway; with an expected completion in September.

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A short orchestral work inspired by the life of Simón Bolívar, Bolívar, when completed, will serve as a grand prelude or overture to Kerwin’s collected orchestral works. When asked why the sudden outpour of creativity has his attention, Kerwin replied,

“I’ve always composed mass amounts of music concurrently. Always! No one’s been paying attention to my career. While no one is commissioning me to compose new works, it should be noted that none of my orchestral works have yet to be performed. I refuse to allow any of these to deter my passion. Besides, I enjoy telling stories through music, and I’m taking advantage of what time I’ve got, as I await to acquire film scoring opportunities for feature films.”

Kerwin, who composes an average of two to four minutes of music daily is proud of this capability. Though it may seem rather small, I assure you it is quite the opposite. Kerwin admitted that prior to composing in this fashion had shown a lack of self-trust, and had a constant battle between what he wanted and what has been accepted as standard. Once he abandoned from the traditional path, his own way was made clear.

I’ve totally dismissed anyone’s view of how things should be done musically. I’ve got my own way. When I’m composing a new work, I’m free from having to accommodate the personal wishes of a film producer, director, featured performer, or commissioning party.  I can let loose and really dig into what I want to say musically, and I also have the freedom of choosing any instrumentation I want. I don’t really care if these works ever get performed, but I will make certain to compose and orchestrate my works according to my tastes. And, these works will have a life of their own because of it. Screw any adherence to any standard instrumentation. If you’re a composer, and you hear the most odd; yet unique instrumentation for the work you’re writing, you ought to follow along with that notion. To ignore oneself is slavery, because that is a sure sign that you are governed by an outer force. When you don’t trust yourself, that right there is a problem. There can be no true self expression; no freedom of expression with such limitations. You cannot be afraid. Write! Compose! Create!

Big salute to Kerwin as he continues his work, and by the way, he’s got eight orchestral works to follow. Among the slated eight are two opera’s, another symphony, two suites, an orchestral fantasy, and two dramatic shorts.

 

Ka’ness M’dolothongo – Author, Biographer

New Orchestral Work

Posted: June 26, 2017 in Composing Insights, Press

Within a few days of completing Symphony No. 5 (Perseverance), I began a much shorter work for orchestra, Season of Autocracy; which I’ve just completed.  With a duration a little north of nine minutes, it’s now edited, compiled, and ready for marketing. I feel quite confident about this work being programmed by major orchestras during this life on earth.

Next on the plate is a long overdue work for zheng and orchestra, followed by more works for orchestra.  Yes, I enjoy composing for the orchestra; but more importantly, I enjoy telling stories through music. Whether or not any orchestra commits programming my work, I will continue to compose the music I hear; regardless of the instrumentation.

I’ve written several epic orchestral works fit for an over-sized film studio Regardless as to whether I am commissioned to compose these works, it’s all about the artistry and the freedom of expression. I will continue to write whatever I feel like writing. A lot of people scrutinize my passion, by stating these works will never be performed and such. But hey, these works could also be a source of musicological study for future generations. I’m writing a serious book of orchestral literature that will speak to many. Composition is the best meditation; plus it’s great practice as it keeps me learning/studying scores, various textbooks, recordings, conducting techniques, films, etc…

Until next time….

 

K

2Q17 Update

Posted: May 26, 2017 in Composing Insights, Press

Symphony No 5 Cover PageI just wrapped up Symphony No. 5 (Perseverance). It’s approximately 46 minutes, and it about wraps up my lengthy orchestral works for awhile. The next group of orchestral works I’ve got lined up are all single movement works, and a lot shorter than my five symphonies. However, Symphony No. 6 has quite a large percussion section.

I can slow the pace down a bit now, taking my time to write the slated works on my to do list. There are about 9 works I’ve got slated. Until I lock down a major motion score, I will continue to compose works based on either a non-fictional subject/character, folk-lore, current events, or my Kasuf series. Like Bartok or Penderecki, my orchestral works could easily be adapted to any motion picture. Though, they do need to be performed and recorded first; which is another drama in itself. Knowing that most orchestras haven’t evolved to accept the works of living composers, having one’s work programmed, performed, and recorded is quite a task, and requires strong political connections. Seriously!

Today is May 26th, Miles Davis Day, and I’m playing some Miles of course. I’ve got some edits to make to my violin suite. I really need to get the score done so I can market it.

Stay tuned, and hopefully the next blog I write will make mention of a film I will be underscoring.

 

K!

Recent Concert Works

The recent success of Songbirds: Suite for Violin and Piano, has had seven performances since January, and it is my first breakout piece EVER. Inspired by its success, currently, I’m simultaneously composing Symphony No. 5 (Perseverance), and Symphony No. 6 (Deeqo).

        Symphony No. 5 (Perseverance) has gone through so many drafts since the first sketches in 2015, but finally the first and third movements are complete. I’m halfway to completion, and should wrap up in the fall of 2017.

This work is about the resilience one must possess to forge through life’s challenges. In a recent interview with Spitfire Audio, composer Dario Marionelli stated, “as a composer, you’ve got to be strong“.  Damn if that aint true! Symphony No. 5 is a journey through hard, lonesome times; arriving at a place much better than before; but quite uncertain of its stability. So, it’s a lingering drama! Damn I wish I were writing this for a film!

As for Symphony No. 6, it will be a one-movement work in honor of Fadumo Dayib (a/k/a “Deeqo”), a recent presidential candidate for the country of Somalia. She is also that nations first woman to run for president. Although she did not win, her bravery and self-determination sparked my imagination to compose a work dedicated to her. Symphony No. 6 is now 3 years in the making, and I should be complete by January 2018.

In-between my symphonic writing, I took time to compile a near 3-hour tetrology based upon my Kasuf character. Compiling four related orchestral works, the Kasuf Tetrology concert works order consists of:

1. Escape from the Evil Empire
2. Symphony No. 1 (Empire of Kasuf)
3. Symphony No. 4 (Kasufhetep I)
4. Symphony No. 2 (Khemet West)

What an exciting, epic concert this will be! 

 

Music Producer/Recording Artist

Another new album recording will be released shortly. This one, a tribute to my Caribbean heritage, influences, and recording producers as Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and Lee “Scratch” Perry; along with the many friends representing the islands of Trinidad, Jamaica, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Barbados, British Guiana, and Saint Kitts.

The album, Caribbean Heights is another soundtrack album project, displaying my talents as the one-man band, and multi-genre composer/producer. Why the soundtrack album format? Because I want to showcase a diverse array of my genius, and in what better format is there to do that? Huh? Multi-media! My fascination with film, huge landscapes, and fantasies will continue to drive such diverse projects.

 

Media Composer

Following Spike Lee’s 1989 cult classic, Do the Right Thing, the first film to include a song produced by Kerwin Young was the movie Green Card (1990). The first weekly television series I composed for was in 1994 (New York Undercover), and the first film I scored was in 1997 (Tar). For me, it’s been a brutal up-hill climb to have more opportunities as a media composer; especially securing projects that are not ethnic specific, but rather more diverse. It’s been twenty years since I scored my first film, but I’m almost there to where I will have a steady flow of films to score. I’m thankful to have a steady career in music; though not as stable as I would have liked thus far. But, steady and consistent is far greater than never working at all. I’ve never had any representation, so I think I’ve done pretty good as a self made man.

 

Mix Engineer

Just for kicks, I recently mixed a song for a buddy of mine; just to keep busy. Not bad…not bad!

 

We have to keep busy no matter what, and stay positive. I’ve got more exciting news coming soon about a residency I will begin!!! So, stay tuned!