Iconic composers Derek Bermel, Gabriel Kahane, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Steven Stucky, and Augusta Read Thomas talked with 21CM about their creative process, the glorious advantages and limitations of technology, and how being a composer has changed with the times, and remarkably stayed the same.
Artist: Derek Bermel
Grammy-nominated composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity. Equally at home at Carnegie Hall and at pop music clubs and festivals worldwide, Bermel’s music is omnivorous. Joshua Kosman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, “To listen to his music is to run across a wealth of influences, from Bartók and Stravinsky to big band, and from early-period rap to Bulgarian folk music to West African drumming. Also, it seems, theoretical physics.” Alongside his international studies of composition, ethnomusicology and orchestration, an ongoing engagement with wide-ranging musical traditions has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language, in which the human voice and its myriad inflections play a primary role. Emusic writes, “Like the best American composers, Bermel has a trickster’s impulse, an irrepressible will to scramble that makes his music such rich traveling.”
In his role as Artistic Director of the American Composers Orchestra Bermel has become recognized as a dynamic and unconventional curator of concert series, presenting music of hundreds of composers via ACO’s concert season, the SONiC Festival, Earshot Readings, and Jazz Composers Orchestral Institute. He also directs programs for emerging composers at the Copland House (CULTIVATE) and at the Bowdoin International Festival. He served for four years as Artist-in-Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, hosting a diverse range of programs and conversations and collaborating with world-renowned scientists and mathematicians.
Bermel has received commissions from the Pittsburgh, National, Saint Louis, and Pacific Symphonies, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, WNYC Radio, La Jolla Music Society, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, eighth blackbird, Guarneri String Quartet, Music from Copland House, Music from China, Asko | Schönberg Ensemble, violinist Midori, pianist Christopher Taylor, and electric guitarist Wiek Hijmans among others. His many honors include the Alpert Award in the Arts, Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, American Music Center’s Trailblazer Award, and an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; commissions from the Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations; residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Sacatar, and Civitella Ranieri.
Recognized as a world-class clarinetist, the Boston Globe wrote of him, “There doesn’t seem to be anything that Bermel can’t do with the clarinet.” His discography features three critically-acclaimed discs: an all-Bermel orchestral recording that includes the Grammy-nominated performance of his clarinet concerto Voices, (BMOP/sound); Soul Garden, his small ensemble/solo music (New World/CRI); and his most recent disc, Canzonas Americanas, with Alarm Will Sound (Cantaloupe). Recent and upcoming are appearances or premieres include the Intimacy of Creativity Festival in Hong-Kong; Hyllos, his evening-length collaboration with The Veenfabriek and Asko | Schönberg Ensemble in Leiden, Groningen, and Amsterdam; performances and recordings with the JACK quartet and the Albany Symphony Orchestra; and new consortium commission from the New Century Chamber Orchestra, ROCO, A Far Cry, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.
- New York City, NY
- Princeton, NJ
- Soul GardenCanzonas AmericanasVoices
American Composers Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Institute for Advanced Study
Alpert Award in the Arts
Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts, US & Canada
Rome Prize in Musical Composition
Trailblazer Award, American Music Center
Academy Award, American Academy of Arts and Letters
University of Michigan
1998 | D.M.A.
1989 | B.A.