Stephen Hartke to Chair Oberlin Composition Department

Hartke Ohio mapOberlin has appointed distinguished composer Stephen Hartke as its new Chair of Composition starting July 2015. The announcement highlights the history of collaboration between the conservatory, one of America’s most respected and innovative music institutions, and Hartke who is among America’s most respected and innovative living composers.

One example of the synergy that has existed between Hartke and OC can be readily found in the new music ensemble Eighth Blackbird, a group founded originally by Oberlin students and now one of the most creative artistic forces in new music. Eighth Blackbird commissioned Hartke’s Meanwhile, which ultimately earned both composer and musicians each a Grammy Award in their respective categories.

Hartke attended student performances while visiting Oberlin in in December 2014, which included Wulfstan at the Millenium on Dec. 9 and The Rose of the Winds for double string quartet on the 11th.

In other news, the composer’s new piano trio, The Blue Studio premiered at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia on Feb. 27, 2015. Additional performances this year will include University of Southern California in April, and this summer at the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Festival.

Stephen Hartke’s Meanwhile wins 2 GRAMMY® Awards

Composer Stephen HartkeCalifornia resident composer Stephen Hartke was awarded the 2013 GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for his chamber work Meanwhile: Incidental Music to Imaginary Puppet Plays. The piece was commissioned for the Chicago new music ensemble eighth blackbird by the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition. Their album featuring Meanwhile as the title track also received a GRAMMY for Best Chamber Music Performance is available from Cedille Records, CDR90000133. Read on for more about the work and how to order a limited-edition autographed score.

Reflecting on the occasion Hartke writes, “It was nice to get the award, especially because of eighth blackbird, who have been such big supporters of me and my work in general.” Indeed, the ensemble has toured extensively with Meanwhile, performing it frequently since the 2007 premiere at the University of Richmond, VA. The Los Angeles Times recaps both awards in its February 10 article.

About Meanwhile

Like several of Hartke’s works, Meanwhile grew from a long-standing fascination he’s had for various forms of Asian court and theater music, and from a fantasy in which Hartke writes, “I imagine myself the master of my own fictional non-Western musical tradition.” In preparing to write this piece, he studied video clips of quite a number of puppet theater forms, ranging from the elegant and elaborate, nearly-life-sized puppets of Japanese Bunraku, to Vietnamese water puppets, both Indonesian and Turkish shadow puppets, and to classic Burmese court theater that mixes marionettes with dancers who look and act like marionettes. All of these theatrical forms have their own distinct musical styles and structures, by which the composer was especially fascinated by the stark vividness of their instrumental coloration and the often unexpected structural quirks that they have evolved as these traditions have taken shape over the centuries and become stylized.

Meanwhile is a set of incidental pieces to no puppet plays in particular, but one in which the imaginary scenes have given rise to an idiosyncratic sequence in which the sound of the ensemble has been reinvented along lines that clearly have roots in these diverse Asian models. It is played as a single movement, with 6 distinct sections. The piano is prepared for much of the piece with large soft mutes used to transform the color of the middle register into something that rather resembles the Vietnamese hammer dulcimer. The viola is tuned a half-step lower in order to both change its timbre and to open the way for a new set of natural harmonics to interact, sometimes even microtonally, with those of the cello. The percussion array includes 18 wood sounds, from very high Japanese Kabuki blocks to lower range slit drums, plus 4 cowbells, 2 small cymbals, and a set of bongos. Finally, there is a set of Flexatones, which are rather like small musical saws and are played by the pianist with a mallet, their pitch being altered by pressing down on their metal flanges. The tone is rather like that of small Javanese gongs.

To download a free PDF perusal score, visit our downloads page.

We are offering a Limited Edition Score which features full color covers designed by Stephen Hartke, hand-autographed by the composer. To purchase, order by February 28, 2013 by clicking here. For performances, contact our rental department.

For additional media and stories about Meanwhile, click below.

Stephen Hartke new chamber recordings 2012

The ever-innovative and intrepid new music ensemble Eighth Blackbird took inspiration from the title track of their new Cedille album, “Meanwhile” to create a quirky and entertaining video promoting the release. Underscored by their spellbinding performance of Stephen Hartke’s eponymous chamber piece which the group commissioned and feature on the album, the musicians’ enact stylized domestic scenes in a nod to the puppet theater genres, riffing on similar themes which fueled Hartke’s original score.

Also just out on Delos is Chamber Music Northwest’s latest album, David Shifrin and Friends, featuring Stephen Hartke’s The Horse With the Lavender Eye for clarinet, violin and piano. This marks the second commercial release for this work, after the 2009 Chandos CD (10513).  Stephen Hartke’s music is available from Keiser Classical.

Stephen Hartke’s Meanwhile Announced for Cedille Release

Cedille Records announced the release of Meanwhile by Stephen Hartke on an upcoming Eighth Blackbird album scheduled for 2012. The 17-minute work for flute, clarinet; viola, cello, percussion and piano incorporates various forms of Asian court and theater music from Japanese Bunraku, to Vietnamese water puppets, both Indonesian and Turkish shadow puppets, to classic Burmese court theater. Eighth Blackbird commissioned Meanwhile and has programmed the work frequently in concerts since its composition in 2007. Their new recording will represent the first commercial release. For more information regarding this or other compositions by Stephen Hartke, email Keiser Classical.

Australian Concert Review – “Meanwhile”

Stephen Hartke’s Meanwhile for six players was performed on May 2 at the Metropolis New Music Festival by Eighth Blackbird at the Melbourne Recital Centre in Australia. The work, commissioned by the ensemble, received a brief but laudatory review in The Age. Performance materials are available from Keiser Classical.