40 Years of Music Composition

If you watch the MCC’s 40 Years of Fellowships videos, which tell the stories of some of the incredible artists we’ve funded since 1975, the over-arching story (as we see it, anyway) is that when a community supports artists, the impact is wide-ranging and profound. But the project also tells a parallel story: each video features music by a past MCC Music Composition Fellow, and each composer offers a glimpse into the rich musical legacy of Massachusetts.

Here are the composers that we have been honored to partner with in the project, to date.

Laura Andel (Fellow ’99)
Originally from Argentina, Laura Andel studied jazz composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston before receiving her 1999 MCC Fellowship. Laura’s 1997 song “Sao Dao” (it was part of her 1999 MCC application!) moves and feels like a living creature: vivid, multi-textured, and vibrant. A section from the song accompanies the animated title sequence that plays before each of the videos. Longer sections from “Sao Dao” are featured in the stories of photographer Rania Matar and sculptor Niho Kozuru.

Deborah Henson-Conant (Fellow ’84, ’87)
Deborah Henson-Conant is a fascinating, one-of-a-kind performer and creator, with innovative compositions and performance techniques for the harp. Excerpts from her songs “996” and “Merceditas” are featured in the stories of playwright Melinda Lopez, filmmaker Alexandra Anthony, and the 40 Years of Fellowships Highlight Reel (embedded above). Deborah wrote that winning the state fellowships was a big part of the reason she chose to stay and create in Massachusetts.

Shirish Korde (Fellow ’79, ’01, ’07, ’11)
Highly respected and internationally acclaimed, Shirish Korde creates lush, textured, and sophisticated works drawing from diverse world traditions. He’s one of the most highly awarded artists in the history of the fellowships program; fitting, then, that his violin concerto “Svara-Yantra” is featured in the story of choreographers Diane Arvanites and Tommy Neblett, who have likewise won numerous awards over multiple decades.

Lewis Spratlan (Fellow ’75, ’88)
Lewis Spratlan‘s operas, choral works, and orchestral and other compositions are intellectually fertile and alive with surprises. His composition “Hesperus Is Phosphorus” is featured in the highlight reel above, as well as in Lewis’s own video for the series, which illuminates the long arc of a creative work (and the long arm of artist support!).

Sai Ghose (Fellow ’03)
Sai Ghose‘s jazz composition “The Changing Table” felt like a perfect fit for our conversation with poet Carl Phillips, for whom the fellowship marked the beginning of an incredible career. Whether it’s the title or the spontaneity of the Sai Ghose Trio‘s performance, the song seemed to us to exemplify the moment of change, when a new array of possibilities opens up (such as, say, the sudden windfall from an artist fellowship).

Scott Wheeler (Fellow ’05)
Scott Wheeler is a highly-acclaimed composer of concert music, often choral or dramatic work. Like other composers in this article, his MCC award is just one of many, many honors, including a Guggenheim Fellowship and multiple MacDowell Colony Residencies. An excerpt from “City of Shadows,” a work of haunting beauty and precision, accompanies the story of paper artist Lisa Nilsson, and multiple excerpts accompany a video featuring Cambodian master potter Yary Livan.

Eric Hofbauer (Fellow ’09)
Innovative and powerful jazz compositions are the specialty of Eric Hofbauer. His song “Surely Some Revelation Is at Hand” is complex, driving, and (we thought) a fine complement to the story of painter Sean Greene. Eric’s own story of winning the MCC Fellowship is a memorable one: at the time he won, the Great Recession was in full effect, and he called the fellowship his “jazz bailout” when it allowed him to keep several of his numerous musical projects afloat.

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