Composer-to-Composer Talks: Joan Tower / Conor Brown

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Event Details

The Composer to Composer series features major American composers in conversation with each other about their work and leading a creative life. The intergenerational discussions will begin by exploring a single work with one composer interviewing the other. Attendees will gain insight to each work’s genesis, sound, influence on the American orchestral canon, and be invited to ask questions of the artists. Events will be live-streamed and available for on-demand viewing for seven days following the live event.

On February 24, Conor Brown talks with Joan Tower about her work Sequoia. Sequoia was commissioned by ACO with support from the Jerome Foundation, and was first performed on May 18, 1981 in Alice Tully Hall by ACO with ACO co-founder, conductor Dennis Russell Davies. The piece is dedicated to the concertmaster and first horn player of the orchestra at the time, Jean and Paul Ingraham, respectively. Sequoia was Tower’s first major orchestral composition and remains one of her most performed works.

Tower writes of the piece, “I think most composers would have to admit that they live, to various degrees, in the sound-worlds of other composers both old and new, and that what they consciously or unconsciously take from them enables them to discover what they themselves are interested in. Long ago, I recognized Beethoven as someone bound to enter my work at some point, because for many years I had been intimately involved in both his piano music and chamber music as a pianist. Even though my own music does not sound like Beethoven’s in any obvious way, in it there is a basic idea at work which came from him. This is something I call the “balancing” of musical energies. In Sequoia, that concept is not only very much present in the score but it actually led to the title (which is meant in an abstract rather than a pictorial sense). What fascinated me about sequoias, those giant California redwood trees, was the balancing act nature had achieved in giving them such great height.”

Photo of Joan Tower by Bernie Mindich
Photo of Conor Brown by Michelle Christiance

The Works

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American Composers Orchestra (ACO) is dedicated to the creation, celebration, performance, and promotion of orchestral music by American composers. With commitment to diversity, disruption and discovery, ACO produces concerts, pre-college and college education programs, and emerging composer professional development to foster a community of creators, audience, performers, collaborators, and funders.

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