Q&A with Composer Gity Razaz

Composer Gity Razaz

Composer Gity Razaz’s work And the brightest rivers glide… was selected for the 2020 Underwood New Music Readings, where it will be rehearsed and performed by American Composers Orchestra under the direction of conductor George Manahan, with mentorship from composers Derek Bermel, Jonathan Bailey Holland, and Melinda Wagner. Reading sessions are free and open to the public at City College on March 12, 2020 at 9:30am and March 13, 2020 at 7:30pm. Click here for more information.

Hailed by The New York Times as “ravishing and engulfing,” Gity Razaz’s music ranges from concert solo pieces to opera and large symphonic works. With intense melodies and inventive harmonic languages, Ms. Razaz’s compositions are often dramatically charged. Her music has been commissioned and performed by Washington National Opera, National Sawdust, National Ballet School of Canada, Chautauqua Opera Company, Ballet Moscow, Seattle Symphony, Albany Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, La Jolla Symphony & Chorus, American Composers Orchestra, New York Choreographic Institute, and Amsterdam Cello Biennale, among many others. Her compositions have earned numerous national and international awards, such as the 2019 American Academy of Arts and Letters Andrew Imbrie Award, the Jerome Foundation award, the Libby Larsen Prize in 28th International Search for New Music Competition, three ASCAP awards, ASCAP Plus Award, to name a few. Ms. Razaz is a composition teacher and mentor for the Kaufman Music Center’s Luna Composition Lab since 2017. Ms. Razaz attended The Juilliard School on full scholarship, and received her Bachelor and Master of Music in Composition under the tutelage of John Corigliano, Samuel Adler, and Robert Beaser.

We spoke with Gity about her piece and the upcoming readings.


American Composers Orchestra: Can you talk about which aspects of orchestra writing you felt most comfortable with while working on And the brightest rivers glide…, and which aspects you are hoping to improve the most during the 2020 Underwood New Music Readings?

Gity Razaz: I was most comfortable with sections that are primarily melodically driven, however, I’m hoping to gather more experience with novel orchestration techniques.

ACO: Your website mentions that your selected piece And the brightest rivers glide… was initially completed in 2017 but revised in 2019. Can you talk about the changes you made during that time?

GR: I’ve made a few structural changes, including cutting out two large sections and rewriting transitional passages. I felt that the piece flows better and has a stronger dramatic arc with the new structure that I’ve created.

ACO: And the brightest rivers glide… takes its name from a poem by 13th-century Persian poet Rumi. Are there any other excerpts from his poetry that stand out as having a strong influence on this piece?

GR: I find inspiration for my compositions in literature, and poetry specifically. In the past, I’ve used several Rumi quotes, sometimes only a single line of text, that conjures a particularly strong imagery.

ACO: Can you talk about any moments in the piece that you are particularly excited or anxious to hear when ACO gives its first run-through?

GR: I’m quite excited about the opening texture comprised of strings, percussion, piano, and harp that underlie the brass in the beginning. The material and instrumentation are designed to work like intricate movements of wheels in a watch and I’m looking forward to hearing the effect.

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

GR: I enjoy writing orchestral music immensely and since this is my first orchestral reading in a while I’m looking forward to learning a lot while working closely with the conductor, the orchestra musicians, and the mentors.

ACO: In addition to Underwood, who are some of your collaborators that you’re especially excited to be working with this coming year?

GR: I’m very excited to be also working with the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Latitude49 contemporary music ensemble and Chamber Music America, violist Maggie Snyder, and violinist Francesca DePasquale on separate commissions.


Hear Gity Razaz’s And the brightest rivers glide… at the Underwood New Music Readings. Reading sessions are free and open to the public on March 12 and 13, 2020 at City College. Click here for more information.

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