Underwood New Music Readings – Composer Spotlight: Hilary Purrington

Hilary Purrington (b. 1990) is a New England-based composer whose music has been performed by many distinguished ensembles, including the Peabody Modern Orchestra, the Yale Philharmonia, the American Modern Ensemble, and the ChoralArt Camerata. Most recently, she was featured in the 2016 NY PHIL BIENNIAL. Commissions include new works for the Chicago Harp Quartet, the Musical Chairs Chamber Ensemble, and the Melodia Women’s Choir of NYC, and upcoming projects include commissions from Washington Square Winds, inFLUX, and the New York Youth Symphony. Purrington holds degrees from The Juilliard School and the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University. She is currently pursuing a Master of Musical Arts at the Yale School of Music.

Hilary’s piece Likely Pictures in Haphazard Sky was selected for the 2017 Underwood New Music Readings, where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and maestro George Manahan. Hilary spoke to us about the readings and her piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are free and open to the public on June 22 and 23 at The DiMenna Center for Classical (450 West 37th Street, NYC). RSVP here

Composer Hilary Purrington

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Underwood New Music Readings?
Hilary Purrington: I was thrilled! So many fantastic composers have been invited to participate, and it’s an honor to be one of them. 
ACO: Your selected work is named after a poem by William Meredith, which comments on, as you say in your program note, “our natural fear of randomness and our instinctive desire to find or create meaningful patterns.” Can you talk about how your piece addresses this fear?
Poet William Meredith (1919 – 2007)

HP: I wouldn’t say that the piece is about fear. I’ve always been fascinated by our natural human tendency to organize randomness and find patterns where none may actually exist. Identifying and naming constellations, as described in Meredith’s poem, is an excellent example of this. The opening of my piece is sparse and unpredictable; gradually, by imposing regular patterns, I allow these fragmented materials coalesce into something identifiable and familiar.

ACO: Can you talk about your compositional process for Likely Pictures in Haphazard Sky? Did you start with a broad picture of the piece, or with smaller gestures? At what point did you begin to make decisions about the orchestration?
HP: The opening texture was the first thing I imagined, and much of the work grew out of that. The piece in its current form is so different from early drafts – at first, it was very sectional and episodic. Some of that remains, but it’s much more continuous.
In this piece, the melodic and harmonic materials rely on their orchestrations. So, I made my orchestrational decisions very early in the process!
ACO: What are you doing to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you are making to your piece?
HP: I made several small notational changes to clarify some things for the performers. The music has largely remained the same, though!
ACO: What do you hope to gain from the readings?
HP: Every rehearsal process and subsequent performance is a learning experience. Everything that I learn from the readings, whether practical or artistic/creative, will definitely influence how I approach future works. 
Learn more about Hilary at www.hilarypurrington.com
Follow Hilary on Instagram and Soundcloud
Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are free and open to the public on June 22 and 23 at The DiMenna Center for Classical (450 West 37th Street, NYC). RSVP here

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