Underwood New Music Readings: Composer Spotlight – Paul Frucht

Composer Paul Frucht is currently a D.M.A candidate at Juilliard, studying with Robert Beaser, and an adjunct faculty member at NYU. He has had performances by the San Diego Symphony, the Milwaukee Symphony, the Juilliard Orchestra, the Weill Cornell Music and Medicine Orchestra, the Chelsea Symphony, American Modern Ensemble, and many others ensembles. Paul received the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2015 and is artistic director of the Danbury Chamber Music Intensive, a music festival and concert series he founded in Danbury, CT that champions the work of Danbury native, Charles Ives, as well as today’s living American composers.

Paul’s piece Dawn was selected for the 25th Annual Underwood New Music Readings (Tuesday, June 14 at 7:30pm Miller Theatre, Columbia University). The work is dedicated to Dawn Hochsprung, a teacher who Paul knew from middle school, and the other twenty-five victims of the Sandy Hook shooting and their families.

Paul spoke to SoundAdvice about the upcoming readings and his piece.

Composer Paul Frucht

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Underwood New Music Readings?
Paul Frucht: My immediate reaction was, of course, one of excitement, but also gratitude. This is such a fantastic opportunity for composers to hear their work performed by an orchestra, especially the ACO. When I found out, I felt and still do feel very fortunate to have been selected.

ACO: You founded and are artistic director of the Danbury Chamber Music Intensive in your hometown in Danbury, CT, which champions the work of another Danbury native, Charles Ives and today’s living American composers. Can you talk about what influence the music of Ives has had on your own voice as a composer?
PF: Ives has had an extraordinary influence on certain guiding philosophies I’ve grown to believe in over the years. His use of the music that surrounded him to create art that really resonates with people on a deep cultural level is something I find particularly inspiring. When I was writing Dawn, I was thinking about this a lot. Growing up in Danbury and listening to Ives’ music, I just get this sense he felt he was indebted to his community in some way, since his music really tells their story. After the Sandy Hook shooting, I went home for the holidays early to attend Dawn Hochsprung’s memorial service, during which I waited in line for six hours with two close friends whom I’d gone to school with in Danbury. That was a truly moving experience and in the days that followed, Ives’ way of telling the story of his community was on my mind. This felt like a story that I needed to tell.

ACO: Dawn was originally written for a 5-piece ensemble. Why did you choose to expand the piece for full orchestra? Can you talk about how you translated the parts for alto flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and harp into an orchestral setting?
PF: The reason I chose to expand the piece for full orchestra is very much related to my answer above. Sandy Hook has become a flash point in what has become a national movement to reduce gun violence. I think that’s in part because of how many of the families of those who were lost have become national leaders on this issue, including Dawn’s daughter, Erica. Their relentless and passionate push in the face of unimaginable grief inspired me and motivated me, from a musical standpoint, to improve the piece and re-create it for orchestra, to continue to tell Dawn’s story through music. While there was some translation involved from the smaller version to the larger version, I re-wrote most of the piece and for the parts that weren’t re-written, I used the smaller version as a short score. The biggest challenge was taking moments of intimacy in the smaller version, which I thought were the best moments of that version, and re-creating those moments in a large orchestra.

ACO: Your piece is dedicated to Dawn Hochsprung, the other twenty-five victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, and their families. Can you talk about any of the musical elements which you feel particularly reflect Dawn’s legacy of selflessness, positivity, and courage?
PF: I wanted to create a bright sound world with a lot of percussion that reflects hopefulness, especially in the first part of the piece. The thematic material is often jubilant and cautiously optimistic. At the same time, I also felt it was necessary to reconcile with the inherent pain of this tragedy. The music reflects that in how these themes progress and evolve throughout the piece and in what new contexts they appear, many of which are darker as the piece progresses to a climax, at which point the brighter musical forces and the darker musical forces come to terms with each other.

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?
PF: As always, I’m looking for constructive criticism, particularly in the areas of orchestration and writing for the orchestra in general. It’s a wonderful opportunity to receive feedback from composers such as those. I’m also looking forward to learning from my fellow participating composers. Environments such as these always provide a great and truly inspiring experience.

For more information on Paul, visit www.paulfrucht.com

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