Fabiola Gianotti

For those of you who don’t know, Fabiola Gianotti is the current Director General of CERN, the largest particle physics research institution in the world. You may know CERN as the home to the Large Hadron Collider – the 27 km long particle accelerator that discovered the Higgs Boson.

As TIME seems to show, she is an incredibly respected person even outside of her field. So when I got the chance to speak to her, even for a brief moment, at the 2016 International Conference for High Energy Physics, I took it.

Of all things I could have expected, this was what I found out – she has a piano performance degree from the Milan Conservatory! She spoke of music always having been a huge part of her life and that she couldn’t see it being any other way. It was an incredible reassurance for me to hear her convictions on music and science coexisting in her life.

Film Scores

Thought I should give a quick update – as the school year wraps here at Northwestern, I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to compose for two films this year. One, a Studio 22 Productions film called Lottery Lad! and the other, a feature length film called Trust (and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves to Sleep at Night). Both were composed with the assistance of good friend and guitarist Ethan Roubenoff, who was invaluable in the completion of both scores.

Trust was an especially formative experience to my film composing as it was my very first feature length film. The time crunch, the sheer amount of music I had to write, the recording of live musicians, the mixing and producing, and the list goes on… But all in all it was a fantastic learning experience, and a rewarding one at that.

Keep an eye out for more updates on both films in the near future!

Atlas Quintet

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of performing a piece of music I really enjoy as a part of the Atlas Quintet – a group composed of me and some very close friends. With so many other things going on in my college life, especially as a composer, I had forgotten what it feels like to be a performer. Looking back to the recent weeks of all the rehearsals, it’s good to be back at it again. I’ll miss playing with this group in the Spring!

Landsailor

This one’s a labor of love.

Oh, and Vienna Teng is one my great role models – she got a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Stanford, worked in the industry, then decided she wanted to do this for a living so she just up and did it! Incredible. I have so much respect for her.

Chaos and Chorale, Recorded by the Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble

The Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble is an ensemble of incredible caliber. This comes as no surprise to anyone at Northwestern who is familiar with the ensemble, but here’s basically what happened this past Wednesday:

During their regularly scheduled rehearsal, they rehearsed my new work for concert band, Chaos and Chorale, for about 10 minutes. Conducted by the wonderful graduate assistant Dominic Talanka, they touched some difficult spots and transitions. Then, we recorded the piece from top to bottom – that was the first time this piece was played from start to end. Ever. By anyone. And that’s the recording you can hear here. Go ahead, check it out – can you believe that recording is an ensemble that’s reading the piece for the first time? It sounds crazy, even still to me, who watched it happen right there. It just goes to show the caliber of the musicians in the ensemble.

I learned a lot of good things by having my piece played by SWE, as they are lovingly called in the Bienen school of music. It would not have been possible without my composition professor, Juan Campoverde, and Dr. Mallory Thompson, director of bands. Of course, a huge thank you to Dominic Talanka who rehearsed and conducted the piece. It was very clear from his preparation that he cared very much about the presentation of my work, and that means the world to me.

I think I’m hooked on this wind ensemble thing. Here’s to more pieces for wind ensembles and concert bands!

Chaos and Chorale (for Concert Band)

I wrote my first band piece!

I say ‘first’ even though I’ve technically written works for band (and even had the unusually lucky opportunity of having them read) because this is the first work for concert band I have finished with a working knowledge of music theory. To think of it, I don’t even know how I managed to write pieces for band without even knowing things like correct voice leading for resolving cadences..

The Northwestern University Symphonic Wind Ensemble, holds a score reading for new student works every spring, and I am hoping that my piece will be one of those that are chosen to be read this year. It would be an incredible opportunity to have my new work performed by one of the most incredible performing groups in the country.

Some things I learned from finishing this piece:

  • Without deadlines, I would never finish a piece of this size
  • If writing for a quintet is like driving a sedan, writing for a full band is like driving an 18 wheeler. There are so many more decision to make, so much more to wrestle with. It was physically more taxing.
  • It’s so true that you are a culmination of all those who have influenced you, especially considering the fact that I was raised in the band world and its (modern and not) core works are what I’m most familiar with. It really shows in this work.
  • Formatting, typesetting, removing collisions, improving legibility, the list goes on… These are all things that don’t really have anything to do with the actual composition process, but I still have to do all of them to make the score look presentable. It’s so crazy how much time that takes – I wish I had enough money to hire someone.

If SWE ends up recording the piece I’ll be sure to put it up online. I’m very anxiously waiting to hear back from the conductor. Hopefully it’ll happen within the next week!