Underwood New Music Readings: Composer Spotlight – Jules Pegram

Composer Jules Pegram is one of the seven selected composers for ACO’s 24th annual Underwood New Music Readings on May 6 and 7. His selected piece Shadows of the Studio is a “musical tribute to the glory days of Hollywood’s ‘studio system.'” Read his full program note here.

Jules was kind enough to answer some questions for SoundAdvice.

Composer Jules Pegram

What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Underwood New Music Readings?
My first reaction to being selected for this year’s Underwood New Music Readings was one of sheer shock and gratitude.  All it takes is a glance over the impressive roster of past Underwood participants to know what an honor it is to be selected, and I’m truly humbled to join the ranks of such illustrious company.  I’m grateful to the American Composers Orchestra and their music director George Manahan for providing this opportunity to young composers, and for supporting new music through their constant championing of contemporary composition.

The ability to hear one’s orchestral music realized is always an invaluable learning experience, regardless of who’s playing.  But to work with an ensemble of the ACO’s caliber, with their immense performing talents and storied legacy, is beyond informative — it’s exhilarating.

What preparations are you making ahead of the readings with the American Composers Orchestra?
In advance of the Underwood New Music Readings, I have spent hours fine-tuning my score and parts.  For me, this meant making sure the score is impeccably precise and the parts clear and well laid-out; it is my hope that all of my musical intentions thus come across in as direct a way as possible, and that none of our precious rehearsal time is spent on dealing with errors or inconsistencies.  I have also spent time tweaking the orchestration of several sections of the piece, and I can’t wait to hear what works well and what might still need some refining, particularly with regards to dynamics, timbre, and register.

I’m also eager to share insights into what inspired my piece Shadows of the Studio in the first place: early American film history.  Before and during the composition process I spent a great amount of time researching this rich topic, with a special focus on the rise and fall of Hollywood’s so-called “studio system.”  My continuing fascination with early Hollywood has led me to study countless historical texts, watch tons of old films, and delve ever deeper into classic film music, a life-long passion, and it is my sincere hope that this will all better help me express my motivations for writing my composition when I’m in New York for the readings.

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