Underwood New Music Readings – Composer Spotlight: Jack Hughes

Jack Hughes is a Chicago-based composer who is interested in exploring the ways in which the inner life of sound interacts with a listener’s mind, body and soul. While Jack avoids being prescriptive in the response his music elicits, one of his core values is for his music be meaningful on some level to all audience members, regardless of their musical knowledge. He seeks to foster musical experiences in which imagination, empathy, and trust flow in all directions among the composer, performers, and listeners. He is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago, where he studies with Augusta Read Thomas. Jack Hughes received his Bachelor of Music degree in composition and theory at the Cleveland Institute of Music, in the studio of Keith Fitch. Jack served as composer fellow of San Francisco’s Volti choral ensemble in 2017 and of the Canton Symphony Orchestra in 2014.

Jack’s piece Needlepoint was selected for the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings where it will be workshopped and read by American Composers Orchestra and conductor Ludovic Morlot. Jack spoke to us about the readings and his piece.

Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU’s Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Composer Jack Hughes. Photo by Phillip Sossenheimer

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Underwood New Music Readings?

Jack Hughes: I was thrilled. Right after receiving the email I found myself reflecting on the two weeks in August when I was working on one of the most difficult sections of the piece. It was incredibly hot in Chicago and composing felt exceedingly slow and difficult. To keep myself motivated I would imagine how exciting it would be to hear the work performed live, and it was so gratifying to find out that this hypothetical performance was going to become an actual performance!

ACO: What are you doing to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you have made to your piece?

JH: I’m trying to study my score in a more detached and practical way–almost as though I didn’t write the piece. This more detached relationship to the piece is a nice contrast to the intensely personal connection we often feel to our pieces while composing. I’m trying to think very practically: highlighting spots that might potentially be difficult for the orchestra and coming up with some potential alternative dynamics or registral changes in case a passage needs revision. Most of the changes I’ve made to my piece have just been small tweaks and formatting changes. With orchestral music the editing never ends!

ACO: What are you looking forward to about the workshops and readings? What do you hope to learn from the experience?

JH: I’m so excited to meet the other participating composers and to hear their works. And I look forward to speaking with audience members about their experience of the concert. Hearing ACO read and assemble my piece will be a special experience that will help me understand orchestral composition in a deeper way.

Hear Jack’s piece at the 2019 Underwood New Music Readings. Rehearsals, workshops, and final readings are open to the public on May 23 and 24 at NYU’s Frederick Loewe Theatre (35 W 4th St). RSVP here

Follow Jack on Soundcloud

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