Underwood New Music Readings: Composer Spotlight – Joel Rust

Music by composer Joel Rust has been performed internationally and broadcast on BBC Radio 3, Radio France Musique, and Radio 4 (Netherlands). In March 2014, Discantus released his work for six female voices, sunt etenim pennae volucres mihi, on their CD ‘Music for a King’ and chamber piece, an awakening voice, received an Honorable Mention in the ASCAP Foundation 2016 Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. Joel is currently studying for a Doctorate at New York University and was selected for the 25th Annual Underwood New Music Readings (Tuesday, June 14 at 7:30pm Miller Theatre, Columbia University) for his piece Beyond the Heart, which was commissioned by Melos Sinfonia and premiered in 2014.

Joel was kind enough to answer these questions for SoundAdvice.

Composer Joel Rust

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Underwood New Music Readings?
Joel Rust: I was really thrilled! I’m looking forward to an intense and exhilarating three days. I’ve been in the USA less than two years, and I’m especially delighted to have a chance to be working with so many great performers and composers in New York; it’s vital to build those relationships.

ACO: Beyond the Heart was premiered in 2014 by its commissioner, the Melos Sinfonia, alongside Sibelius’ Seventh Symphony, and draws on the Romantic gestures of Sibelius’ work. Why did you choose these “Romantic gestures” to inform and influence your piece? Do they speak to your personal voice as a composer?
JR: Orchestral music is one of the hardest media to get practical experience working with, even as it requires different and particular technical skills. So, I wanted Beyond the Heart – my first piece for full orchestra – to start from somewhere where the I felt the orchestra was at home, and it’s the orchestral music of the Romantic era that means that to me. I was very happy it was going to be premiered alongside Sibelius’ Seventh; it has those characteristics in a particularly rich and condensed form.

The more time I’ve spent with my piece, the less I think you can hear anything of Sibeilus in it. I think it’s a sign my approach worked; it gave me a strong foundation, which I built something very different on.

ACO: What have you done with your piece, score, and parts in preparation for the Underwood New Music Readings?
JR: Beyond the Heart had been performed before, and there were many changes I’d wanted to make after that; I didn’t want to alter the overall sweep of the piece, but there were many details I added or changed to make that sweep richer and more effective. I had very helpful advice from the ACO’s Derek Bermel, but also from the professors I’ve been working with at NYU – Louis Karchin and Jaime Oliver La Rosa.

I’d made enough changes that I needed to make the performing materials more or less from scratch. It was great to have comments on them from Bill Holab (ACO’s Orchestral Librarian); when they’re as clear as possible, you can spend the rehearsal time getting stuck into the musical content, rather than working on practical details.

ACO: What do you hope to gain from the workshops, and the feedback and guidance of mentor composers Derek Bermel, Sarah Kirkland Snider and Stephen Hartke?
JR: I love how open so many composers are with sharing guidance on matters from the very practical to the highly abstract. This piece has already grown from various people’s input; and as I work on new pieces, what people have said about previous works – what works or doesn’t work, and what feel like the truest and most important aspects of them – do influence me as I’m working out how to say what I want to say. In this case, I’m excited to have input from three composers working at the top of different fields; the broader the perspectives you can get, the better.

Find out more about Joel at www.joelrust.com

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