Skip to main content
  1. AXS Entertainment
  2. Arts & Entertainment
  3. Music

Further work by a ‘guerrilla composer’ performed at SFCM

See also

At the end of last month, I reported on how the International Low Brass Trio used their portion of a brass recital at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) to showcase the music of three composers presented at a concert by the Guerrilla Composers Guild (GCG). Last night in their end-of-term New Music by Conservatory Composers concert, the SFCM New Music Ensemble provided another opportunity to listen to the work of one of those composers, GCG founder Nick Benavides. This past March saw the premiere of Pain Has an Element of Blank, Benavides’ song cycle of poems by Emily Dickinson scored for mezzo and piano, at the Hot Air Music Festival; and last night the New Music Ensemble performed orchestrations of three of these songs.

Setting Dickinson can be a formidable challenge. While her poems are brief and seem almost simplistic on the surface, that surface almost always conceals enigmatic depths. To make matters worse for any composer today, the work of Aaron Copland continues to cast a long shadow over Dickenson’s words, since his settings of twelve of her poems continue to be popular with recitalists.

Benavides had the courage to take on two of the poems that Copland had already set, “Heart, we will forget him!” and “I felt a funeral in my brain.” Fortunately, he had no trouble finding his own voice to express his own interpretation of these texts. Furthermore, he is now exploiting the resources of a chamber orchestra to flesh out the context in which the mezzo delivers those texts. Last night there were still problems of balance to be resolved, since the vocal line did not always come through with the crisp clarity that any reading of Dickinson merits. Nevertheless, the performance emerged as a highly individual approach to poems that tapped into the soul of a highly individual woman.


Today's top buzz...

  • Coachella
    The set times you need to know have been announced for Coachella
    Festival Buzz
  • Lamar Odom
    The New York Knicks are giving Lamar Odom another shot in the NBA
    NBA Buzz
  • Porsha Williams
    See why 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' star Porsha Williams posed for this mug shot
    TV News
  • NHL tickets
    If you're looking to catch an NHL playoff game in NYC, don't expect to do so on a budget
    NHL Buzz
  • Transcendence
    Review: ‘Transcendence’ fascinates, but does it rise above the field?
    Movies Buzz
  • Kobe Bryant
    Kobe Bryant has agreed to cooperate with an all-access documentary about his life
    Sports Buzz

User login

Log in
Sign in with your email and password. Or reset your password.
Write for us
Interested in becoming an Examiner and sharing your experience and passion? We're always looking for quality writers. Find out more about and apply today!