ACF | create Selected Composers 2019-2020

ST. PAUL, MN – The American Composers Forum is pleased to announce the 2020 recipients of its ACF | create program (formerly JFund – Jerome Fund for New Music). For 41 years, the Jerome Foundation has supported American Composers Forum’s programs commissioning and supporting the production of new works by early career composers in a variety of genres. Through ACF | create, ACF seeks to boost a music creator’s career by offering an important commission and collaboration opportunity at an early stage in their professional development. Composers receive funding to both underwrite the commissioning fee as well as support performance production and promotion to help the project reach its maximum potential.  Five projects totaling $55,000 were funded this year. Each composer is awarded $11,000 for their project ($8,000 in commissioning funds and $3,000 in production and promotion support). The panelists for this grant round of ACF | create were composers Nicolas Lell Benavides (Los Angeles, CA), Theron Brown (Akron, OH), and Lisa Renée Coons (Kalamazoo, MI).

About the winners

Michael Maiorana (Minneapolis, MN) with Project Partner Aliro Voices (Minneapolis, MN)    

Michael Maiorana will compose 30 minutes of music for chamber choir Aliro Voices, setting portions of a speech given by Harry Hopkins, who was Secretary of Commerce under FDR and director of the Works Progress Administration. Michael writes, “In his speech on federal relief at a WPA event in 1936, Hopkins eloquently and fervently defends New Deal principles, particularly ideas of dignity in social welfare and society’s responsibility to care for all of its members. This is immediately relevant today with current crises of healthcare, affordable housing, and livable wages, and I’ve selected portions of the speech that highlight these parallels. My setting will weave between using the full chorus, soloists, sections of the choir, and spoken text, along with wordless sections of music for reflection on the ideas in the speech.”

Anaïs Maviel (Brooklyn, NY) with Project Partner The Rhythm Method (Brooklyn, NY)

Composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Anaïs Maviel with string quartet The Rhythm Method together enact a metaphor for our humanity in relation to what we’ve created: what we call nature in the face of so-called culture, reworking its connections.

listen to the rain is a meditative chamber opera, an intimate conversation between morphing dynamic agents of this organism we call earth. It approaches listening as performative and performance as meditative. Words are used as vibration, bodies as archives. The string quartet is simultaneously a vocal quartet, implemented by a fifth performer on voice & n’goni. Embodying the archetypes of the musician-poet – singing to their lyre the stories of past present and future, and the symbolics of the Amazon – referring to both rain forest and warrior femmes, the piece investigates our relation as humans to the earth, mediated by fear and desire, seeking aesthetic epiphany towards ethical re-examination.

The piece builds upon the theory of the five elements, or dynamic agents, drawing from their generative cycles in the body as well as on this earth. As ancient Chinese medicine was based on observation of nature, the composition follows this methodology in order to reveal distinct languages through which an organism can speak, listen and transform.

At an era of humanity’s geological agency – the anthropocene – we find ourselves questioning the ways in which we interpret and represent our environment: The earth, an organism of which we are made and from which we drew all human knowledge, language & science, that we contemptuously distinguish as culture. listen to the rain explores creative potentials of aliveness shifting paradigms, hopefully bringing insight to the ideological crisis of our times. 

Mary Prescott (Minneapolis, MN) with Project Partner Living Arts (Tulsa, OK)  

Tida is an evening-length interdisciplinary piece about intergenerational cultural identity through a Thai-American woman’s maternal lineage. Integrating music, movement and word, Mary Prescott investigates her mother’s undocumented Thai ancestry and experience as a Southeast Asian immigrant raising biracial children in America, and the resulting impact of these histories on her, her daughters and granddaughters.

Through interviews with family members, Prescott will research the experiences of Thai-American females to identify how their cultural identity has developed from 1st to 3rd generation. Prescott is interested in what was important for her mother to pass on culturally, what she wanted to and had to erase, and how and why circumstances and choices during her immigrant experience led to certain outcomes for her and her descendants. Prescott will use this research to create a work that shares a significant but unheard perspective, giving voice to a social, racial, cultural, generational and artistic minority, offering respect to and valuing the Asian female immigrant experience and legacy, and taking steps to protect an important history and cultural identity.

Tida will feature 4 performers. Music will include piano, voice, traditional Thai instruments and electronics. Movement and word will be derived from everyday experiences and Thai dance. By integrating piano and electronics with Thai instruments, and intertwining music with movement and text in English and Thai languages, Prescott creates work that reflects a simultaneous untangling and crossing of cultures, and the resonances and dissonances that occur as a result.

Richard Sears (Brooklyn, NY) with The Owl Music Parlor (Brooklyn, NY)   

Confetti Palace, a performative text for two characters by Prajna Desai, forms the basis of a score by Richard Sears, realized for sung and spoken voice, piano, viola, cello, and percussion. The narrative begins on a bridge where separated lovers Jun and Sora meet to discuss their split. Rather than ending things outright, they transpose their conflict by taking turns recounting a fable about the Meidosems, a mysterious troupe of creatures on a mission to escape a city of sugar. Before long, the plot takes on a life of its own. The Meidosems wrest free of the confused narrators and strike out on their own, leaving the narrators to their own devices. This story about heartbreak and freedom translates and rehabilitates French verse by Henri Michaux to consider the cruel pleasure of crafting one’s own archive in the face of uncertainty, and the odds in its way. The writing style and ensemble feel shifts between that of a chamber trio and jazz trio, with cello and percussion sometimes affecting the role of bass and drums. 

Sugar Vendil (New York, NY) with Project Partner Box Not Found (Boston, MA)  

Sugar Vendil will compose a piece inspired by walking: how a seemingly generic action of getting from one place to another holds an imprint of our life experiences and world view. Vendil’s partner ensemble is Boston-based duo Box Not Found, comprised of violinist Natalie Calma and clarinetist Kevin Pierce.

Vendil writes, “Moving Imprints (working title) came from thinking about the way I walk around to get from place to place (left forearm guarding my torso; lightning speed, to avoid catcalls; eyes at half mast; stone-faced; ready to defend myself, all subconsciously). I hold my body differently when I am with my partner or my friends. I receive zero sexist or racist interactions from strange men when I walk around with another man, no matter his size. I live in New York, one of the busiest cities in the world where I am forced to interact with people whether I want to or not. I infer that the smallest interaction can hold residue from a past experience, learned behaviors, or fodder from the day.

I am interested in how our seemingly generic action of getting from one place to another holds an imprint of our life experiences and world view, and how such a simple task can sometimes create such much tension and angst. In Moving Imprints I aim to build a microcosm in sound that exemplifies the way disparate identities co-exist in conflict, apathy, or harmony, as they do on a daily basis, and I am interested in exploring extended techniques, live electronics effects, and microtonal tunings.”

Program Funding

The Jerome Foundation, created by artist and philanthropist Jerome Hill (1905-1972), seeks to contribute to a dynamic and evolving culture by supporting the creation, development, and production of new works by early career/emerging artists.

The Foundation makes grants to early career artists and those nonprofit arts organizations that serve them in the state of Minnesota and the five boroughs of New York City.