Monadnock Ledger-Transcript – Jaffrey native honored with American Prize in Composition



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Posted: 08/25/2021 16:54:56 PM

The US Composition Award recognizes and rewards America’s best composers, and according to this year’s judge Leah Reid, a Jaffrey native, is at the top of the professional vocal chamber music division.

Reid, an acoustic and electroacoustic music composer who now lives in Woburn, Mass., And teaches at the University of Virginia, was chosen for honor from six finalists and countless other submissions. Reid entered two tracks in the competition, Single Fish and Apple, with sheet music and recordings.

“I was a little surprised,” Reid said of the award. “It is certainly quite an honor and I did not expect that I would be chosen as the winner.”

According to Reid, “Single Fish is an aphoristic composition for three sopranos and hand percussion. The work explores the sounds and rhythms present in Gertrude Stein’s poem “Single Fish” by Tender Buttons. The piece is divided into four sections, each examining a subset of the text. Singers are encouraged to explore a wide repertoire of theatrical characters and styles of singing. The composition begins with delicate whispered and spoken phonetic textures and slowly incorporates high pitched material: ranging from honky-tonk piano imitations to lush melodic lines. The piece was composed using a multidimensional stamp model that Reid developed at Stanford University. The model is based on studies of perceptual timbre and was used by the composer to explore compositional applications of ‘timbre spaces’ and the relationship between reverberant space and timbre, or rather the concept of ‘timbre in the timbre’. space “.

Apple, which was written during a residency at MacDowell Colony, explores the sounds and rhythms present in Gertrude Stein’s poem “Apple” from Tender Buttons. It was written for four sopranos.

The book contains eight sections that examine the poem from different angles. The work is highly theatrical and the performers are brought to explore a wide repertoire of dramatic characters and styles of singing. According to Reid, “the first section explores the phoneme / aep / and a ‘normal’ singing style; the second section explores the whispered and spoken percussive consonants from “apple” to “shake”; the third explores spoken vowels and Sprechstimme from “apple” to “please”; the fourth explores half-sung syllables from “apple” to “no, no gold”; the fifth section explores spoken / Sprechstimme / and sung words and groups of words through “change sweet is”; the sixth section is the most melodious and explores “painty” to “a bit” with the melody, and “apple” to “please” in the accompaniment; the seventh section explores the whole of the poem, moving from whispered textures to half-sung textures, examining “apple” to “ham”; and the 8th section focuses on the last sentence: “this is the use”.

“I explored and really focused on the timbre of the voice and the different ways of approaching vocal composition,” Reid said. “Because the voice itself is an instrument, and it’s a rich material to work with. ”

The headliner of the American Prize in Composition isn’t the only accolade Reid has received since early 2020. She received first prize in the KLANG! International Electroacoustic Composition Competition, second prize in the International Music Competition electronic Iannis Xenakis – both in 2021 – and second prize at the XIII International Destellos Competition 2020 – all for his piece Rêverie.

For much of the past year and more, Reid was unable to produce his compositions for a live audience, which is an important component of his work. Although the time spent at home allowed her “to undertake a lot of projects” because it was “a moment of creativity and work towards my profession”.

“It’s been a pretty productive year,” said Reid.

She only recently started in-person performances, traveling to Italy last month “for my first in-person performance with musicians” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reid did some work online, as she just had to adapt and change locations – but she never lost sight of the fact that she would showcase her creative works to an audience again.

“There was just a lot of hope for the future – and future performance,” she said.

Reid said she often applies for competitions and being stuck at home allows her to apply for quite a few things.

And in the eyes of the American Composition Prize judges, Reid’s work for Single Fish and Apple stood above the rest.

To learn more about Reid’s work and to listen to his award-winning compositions, visit



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