Composer Perry Goldstein, a professor in the Department of Music at the College of Arts and Sciences, was Stone’s composer-in-residence from this year to the recent 29e Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival. The festival, which featured a wide range of composers including Stony Brook faculty, featured more than 30 concerts and events in and around Detroit, including the Detroit Institute of Art.
SBU’s presence at the festival included two members of the Emerson String Quartet – Paul Watkins, cellist, served as artistic director, and Philip Setzer, violinist, led the Shouse Institute, which is the educational arm of the festival. Department of Music faculty composer Matthew Barnson also presented a piece at the festival, as did Alan Hankers, who recently graduated with a doctorate in music composition. The Pelia String Quartet, recent winners of the Wigmore International String Quartet Competition, performed in five of the festival concerts.
Three pieces by Goldstein, including two premieres, have been programmed by the festival, including the premiere of “Birding By Ear”. The text of the work – six poems on the theme of birdsong – was composed by Richard Powers, author of 13 novels and 2019 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the Novel Overstory. Lifelong friends for nearly five decades, Goldstein and Powers have collaborated on four projects since 1998. The work was performed by baritone Randall Scarlata, a former faculty member of the Department of Music, along with Setzer and Watkins, along with the pianist Gilles Vonsattel. Goldstein and Powers also gave a talk, “Beyond the Notes: In Conversation with Richard Powers and Perry Goldstein”, during which the ensemble performed excerpts from three of the songs.
“I set four lyrics to music, each time relying on my dear friend, Rick Powers, to provide his moving and inspiring poetry,” Goldstein said. “In his set of poems, ‘Birding By Ear’, we hear a foreshadowing of his forthcoming novel, Overstorythe monumental and moving novel dealing with the destruction of our planet.
On the collaboration, Powers, who also won the National Book Award in 2006 for his novel The Echo Makersaid, “I wrote this cycle of six poems with the aim of inspiring Perry’s virtuosity and range as a composer. I tried to give it a wide range of emotional and rhythmic possibilities. Although the poems deal with the mystery of birdsong, they also deal with the mystery of human music and its uncanny ability to stir our deepest feelings of sadness and joy.
Other performances include the 2006 composition, “Quintet for Alto Saxophone and String Quartet”, performed by University of Michigan saxophone professor Timothy McAllister and the Pelia String Quartet, made up of doctoral students from the department music from the Emerson String Quartet Institute. Additionally, a piece called “Jittery Engine”, commissioned for the festival, was performed by the F-Plus ensemble of the Detroit Institute of Art.
Goldstein noted the top-notch performances among many superb musicians who participated in the festival. “It is a great honor to find my name on a list of distinguished composers in residence which includes John Corigliano, Joan Tower, Ned Rorem, William Bolcom, John Harbison, Lera Auerbach and Piers Hellawell.
Goldstein’s music has been widely performed around the world by renowned artists. A faculty member of the Department of Music since 1992, Goldstein has composed more than 50 works and his music appears on 21 compact discs. He received the SUNY Chancellor’s and President’s Awards for Teaching Excellence in 1998 and was named a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in 2016. He chaired the music department for nine years, from 2012-2021, after being the department’s undergraduate program. Director and Graduate Program Director. Goldstein also served as the first principal of the Undergraduate College of Arts, Culture, and Humanities from 2001 to 2004.