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Michael Fiday

CCM Professor Michael Fiday teaching a composition student. Photo by Andrew Higley.

Composition Professor Michael Fiday Previews New Work at CCM

Cincinnatians can get an inside look at the development of a new work by CCM Composition Professor Michael Fiday at an informal workshop at 5:30 p.m. this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 at CCM’s Mary Emery Hall Room 3250.

The workshop will serve as an experimental laboratory for Fiday’s developing piece for New York-based music ensemble Mantra Percussion. While the workshop will not be a performance of the completed work, it is open to those who wish to hear the ensemble and witness Fiday’s compositional process in action.

The Fromm Music Foundation honored Fiday with a $12,000 grant to write the new work. He was one of twelve composers and one ensemble recognized by the foundation, which is housed at Harvard University.

The foundation requires that applicants submit a proposal of the details of the work and its potential performers, but there are no rules about what those details might be. Fiday’s proposal specifically focused on a new piece for Mantra Percussion because of its daring attitude and long relationship with the composer.

“My idea was to write a piece where each member of the ensemble plays an electric guitar, but plays it as a percussion instrument, i.e. laid flat and struck with various kinds of beaters and foreign objects,” Fiday said.

“This idea was the result of previous discussions I'd had with Mantra Percussion over the years, and it’s the kind of idea that can only come from players who do not shy away from a sense of risk and adventure.”

The final product will be somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes long, and Fiday expects that it will premiere either in 2019 or 2020.

Mantra Percussion will hold a guest artist recital from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 22 in the CCM Atrium. The lunchtime concert features Michael Gordon’s Timber. Mantra Percussion performs the piece in the below video, which can also be viewed online at mantrapercussion.org/timber.

In addition to the piece for Mantra Percussion, Fiday was recently commissioned to compose two other works for national and local arts organizations. He is currently on sabbatical from CCM to focus on his compositions.

Fiday was awarded a commission for $5,500 from the Barlow Endowment at Brigham Young University to write a 15-minute piece for the Hypercube ensemble. The quartet of saxophone, percussion, guitar and piano held a residency at CCM in February 2017, which included a workshop and two concerts.

“I'm infinitely grateful to both foundations for their generous support, and I’m especially grateful to CCM for the full-year sabbatical I've been granted during 2018, all of which will make conducting this work possible.”

The third major project in store for Fiday is a commission from CCM alumna Brianna Matzke (MM Piano Performance 2011). Matzke is the artistic director of The Response Project, a commissioning initiative that asks composers to write a piece of music in response to a pre-existing work or idea. 

Fiday is one of 12 composers who are writing works for The Response Project’s Something Is Happening Here, which will feature solo piano works in response to tracks from Bob Dylan’s 1964 album, Highway 61 Revisited. Fiday’s work is in response to “From a Buick 6,” and it will premiere, alongside the other new works, in fall 2018 in Cincinnati.

Fiday is regularly commissioned to write new compositions for multiple organizations, including the National Flute Association and the American Composers Orchestra. Last year, he was commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra to write a piece for the One City, One Symphony initiative.

He not only works to create his own new music but also fosters that creativity within his students. CCM has one of the nation’s top 10 music composition programs, according to the US News & World Report. Student composers enjoy opportunities to work with CCM ensembles and community organizations for hearings and performances.

Learn more about CCM's Composition program at ccm.uc.edu/music/cmt.

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Story by CCM graduate student Alexandra Doyle