Composer Spotlight – Angélica Negrón, 2014-15 Van Lier Fellow

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón is a Brooklyn-based composer whose music has been described as “wistfully idiosyncratic and contemplative” (WQXR/Q2) and “mesmerizing and affecting” (Feast of Music). The New York Times noted her “capacity to surprise” and her “quirky approach to scoring. Angélica was selected to be the 2014-15 Van Lier Emerging Composer Fellow. As part of the fellowship, she has been working closely with ACO, participating in planning educational activities and performances, and serving as liaison with student composers.

Composer and multi-instrumentalist Angélica Negrón

Angélica has been asked to write a piece for ACO this fall. She was kind enough to talk with SoundAdvice about the piece and her Van Lier Fellowship experience.

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out you had been selected as the 2014-15 Van Lier Emerging Composer Fellow?
Angélica Negrón: I was very surprised and honored.  I’ve been following for a while the extraordinary work that ACO does for living composers and I feel very lucky that I get to be a part of this and experience working closely with this organization as well as some of the talented artists featured this season.

ACO: Can you tell us a little bit about what you are doing as a part of your Van Lier Fellowship?
AN: I’ve been helping sort out the unsolicited submissions. Seeing the variety of composers that submit their work for consideration has been really interesting. I’ve also been learning more about ACO’s education division and sometimes interacting with students that come to the dress rehearsals, as well as learning more about grant writing and finding resources for funding projects. As part of my fellowship I also get to program a concert of my music, which I’m very much looking forward to, and learn about other facets of concert production and marketing.  

ACO: What has surprised you about working so closely with ACO?
AN: I would have to say the wide diversity in the artists and composers they work with as well as the short amount of time they have to put together sometimes very challenging pieces and programs.  It’s amazing to see how somehow it all comes together, like magic at the end.
The most fascinating thing so far has been attending the rehearsals and observing the process of putting together pieces as well as the interaction between performers, conductor and composers. It’s really interesting to see how each composer has their own unique way of communicating both verbally and musically what they’re looking for in their pieces and to see how the conductor and the performers interpret this and help bring the pieces to life.  For example, seeing one of my favorite composers Meredith Monk work with the orchestra was particularly enthralling as she’s a composer that often works with her performers for extended periods of time. A lot of her pieces are developed through this close collaboration with the performers.  It’s interesting seeing how composers negotiate the limits of time that working with an orchestra present and also how they each approach the huge endeavor of writing for orchestra – translating their voice to such a powerful medium while retaining the immediacy of their personal expression. Needless to say, it’s also a pretty amazing treat to be in close proximity to the orchestra in rehearsals and to hear everything up close and personal.

ACO: You have been asked to write a piece ACO this Fall. Anything you can tell us about the piece? 
AN: I’m very excited about writing a piece for the orchestra for ACO this Fall. I’m working on a new piece which uses the performance space as a compositional element featuring an ensemble of mechanical instruments, designed by instrument builder Nick Yulman, which will be placed in different locations in the space interacting with the orchestra to create an immersive sonic landscape that surrounds the audience.  I’ve been reading a lot of early twentieth century surrealist poetry from Latin American poets and have been specially inspired by the work of Argentine writer Oliverio Girondo for this piece.  I’m interested in exploring the possibilities of integrating robotics into orchestral performance and the potential of new sounds with the interaction of these two mediums. Though I’ve written three orchestra pieces in the past,  this new piece for the ACO is particularly important for me as it marks my first orchestra piece after a significant stylistic shift in my compositional voice which I’ve been developing over the past 7 years, mostly through chamber or solo works incorporating electronics combined with acoustic instruments.
I’ve been really intrigued for the past couple of years on how to make the live electronic performance more dynamic and engaging for audiences and for performers. Since meeting instrument builder Nick Yulman a lot of new exciting possibilities have opened up for me in this realm.  Besides this being the first time I’m exploring my current voice in such a massive medium,  I’m also really thrilled to be writing for such an exceptional orchestra and to have the opportunity to combine it with Nick’s wonderful instruments.

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