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January 26, 2018

Alumni Spotlight: Anna Clyne

Alumna Anna Clyne (MM ’05) is a Grammy-nominated composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music whose work often includes collaborations with cutting-edge choreographers, visual artists, filmmakers, and musicians worldwide. Anna has served as a Composer-in-Residence for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and L’Orchestre national d’Île-de-France and is currently an Artist-in-Residence at National Sawdust. 

Anna has been commissioned by the American Composers Orchestra, BBC Radio 3, BBC Scottish Symphony, Carnegie Hall, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Houston Ballet, London Sinfonietta, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Seattle Symphony, and the Southbank Centre, and her work has been championed by conductors such as Marin Alsop, Pablo Heras-Casado, Riccardo Muti, Leonard Slatkin, and Esa-Pekka Salonen. Anna has received awards from the League of American Orchestras, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Meet the Composer, the American Music Center, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the Jerome Foundation, ASCAP, and SEAMUS.

We asked Anna some questions about her thriving career and the impact MSM has had on her life:

How did your education at MSM impact you or prepare you in life?

Being a student at MSM allowed me time and resources to refine my craft, but of equal importance it offered an opportunity to work with, and learn from, some incredibly talented musicians and student ensembles. Writing music for specific musicians allowed me to work closely with them, and several of these artistic relationships have continued to this day. MSM introduced me to a diverse and exciting musical community that is still thriving.

Do you collaborate with anyone from MSM? Are there any specific MSM collaborations that were educational and helpful in your career?

I composed several works for solo instruments with tape at MSM, which allowed me to work closely with individual musicians and to learn the intricacies of their instruments. The tape components, which comprised recordings of their instruments spliced, processed, and re-assembled, also allowed me to create a very full sonic palette for just one performer – a good fit for choreographers on a shoestring budget! These works included Rapture – a work for amplified clarinet with digital effects and tape for clarinetist Eileen Mack (MM ’06), Fits + Starts – a work for amplified cello and tape for cellist Ben Capps (BM ’08), and Choke – a work for baritone saxophone and tape for saxophonist Argeo Ascani (BM ’03, MM ’05). All three of these works included collaborations with artists that I met in New York during that time – visual artist Joshue Ott, filmmaker Jon Nibor Speier, and choreographer Kitty McNamee. All of these relationships which began during my time at MSM – with musicians and artists alike – have continued to the present day.

What projects are you currently working on and what’s next?

I am currently working on Eva, a chamber opera about the artist Eva Hesse, which we are workshopping in spring 2018 at National Sawdust where I am currently an Artist-in-Residence. I am then looking forward to composing a new cello concerto along with some other orchestral works and chamber ensemble works. I am currently a Composer-in-Residence with the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra, so I am involved with some educational projects there and also at El Puente through an educational partnership with National Sawdust.

What do you hope to compose outside of your current obligations? What is your “dream project”?

This is such a wonderful question. I would like to explore the use of technology in the interplay between music and dance in future projects. This could include some kind of tracking device to translate or trigger physical gestures into sounds and vice versa.

What career and life advice would you give to new grads entering the “real world”?

One of the wonderful things about MSM is that it offers an opportunity to hone your craft whilst also developing new artistic relationships within the school and within the city. My main advice to recent graduates is to create and develop inspiring collaborative relationships by finding like-minded artists and artistic communities. New York is an incredibly rich resource for this. For composers, go out and see and experience as much as you can across all of the arts, and introduce yourself and your music to ensembles, dancers, choreographers, filmmakers, artists, and others whose work you find inspiring. Collaboration is fundamental for a thriving and nourishing artistic life and career – be it with musicians or artists from other fields. One of the things that I most enjoy about collaborating with other artists is that it allows me to view my own work from a different perspective – exploring musical ideas and threads that I might not have explored ordinarily.

There are also a number of fantastic resources and opportunities for emerging young composers. Graduating from MSM with a strong portfolio can really help to set some wheels in motion. A significant turning point in my work post-MSM was participating in the American Composers Orchestra’s Underwood New Music Readings, and later in the Minnesota Composers’ Institute – both workshopping Rewind, my thesis composition from MSM. After being given these two extraordinary opportunities to refine it, Rewind also provided a door into the orchestral world, most notably with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra where I served as a Mead Composer-in-Residence from 2010 to 2015.

What is your favorite MSM memory?

I have many wonderful memories from MSM. In addition to my composition lessons, I particularly enjoyed our analysis classes with Nils Vigeland and Reiko Futing. For one of our classes we composed a composition based on one single pitch for an ensemble comprising the instruments that we, the composers in the class, played.

What is the most surprising track on your playlist?

Perhaps the most surprising tracks on my current playlist are the sounds of squirrels, pigeons, and fire explosions – these were used as part of the electronic component for Beltane, a work that I recently composed for orchestra and electronics based on the Celtic-based Beltane Fire Festival for the BBC Scottish Symphony.

Name something outside of music and your career that you are passionate about.

I love to escape the hustle and bustle of New York by getting out into nature – be it out to the Rockaways to surf in the summer, or up the Hudson River to enjoy the fall colors – or a little further upstate for some local skiing in the winter.

A “composer of uncommon gifts and unusual methods”
New York Times

“dazzlingly inventive”
–Time Out New York

More about Anna Clyne…

During the 2017–18 season, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Thomas Dausgaard performed the world premiere of Anna Clyne’s Beltane in Glasgow on December 9, 2017. Recent highlights include the premiere of her mandolin concerto for Avi Avital, Three Sisters, performed with the Kremerata Baltica; Masquerade for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Marin Alsop at the Last Night of the Proms; This Lunar Beauty for the Britten Sinfonia and soprano Julia Doyle; RIFT, a symphonic ballet in collaboration with choreographer Kitty McNamee for Marin Alsop and the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra; Pocket Book VIII for Roomful of Teeth; and her violin concerto, The Seamstress, performed by Jennifer Koh with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Her music is published exclusively by Boosey & Hawkes: boosey.com/clyne