Composer Gabriella Smith grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area playing and writing music, hiking, backpacking, and volunteering on a songbird research project. Described as “the coolest, most exciting, most inventive new voice I’ve heard in ages” (Musical America) and an “outright sensation” (Los Angeles Times), Smith’s music comes from a love of play, exploring new sounds on instruments, building compelling musical arcs, and connecting listeners with the natural world in an invitation to find joy in climate action. Recent highlights include the premiere of her organ concerto, Breathing Forests, written for James McVinnie and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen; and the release of her first full-length album, Lost Coast, recorded in Iceland with cellist Gabriel Cabezas, named one of NPR Music’s “26 Favorite Albums of 2021 (So Far)” and a “Classical Album to Hear Right Now” by The New York Times. She recently debuted a (cello-violin-voice-electronics) duo version of Lost Coast with Gabriel Cabezas at the Philharmonie de Paris, and she is currently working on a version of Lost Coast for cello and orchestra, to be premiered by Gabriel Cabezas and Los Angeles Philharmonic in May 2023, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Cabrillo Festival has commissioned two works by Smith: Tumblebird Contrails (2014) with the Pacific Harmony Foundation, and Field Guild (2017) in honor of John Adams’ 70th birthday.
Gabriella has held residencies with the Nashville Symphony; Instituto Sacatar on the island of Itaparica in Bahia, Brazil; and a Copland House Residency at Aaron Copland’s home in upstate New York. She received her Bachelors of Music in composition from the Curtis Institute of Music and later returned to Curtis as an ArtistYear Fellow, dedicating a citizen-artist year of national service in the Philadelphia region. She attended Princeton University for graduate school. Her mentors have included Arkadi Serper, John Adams, David Ludwig, Steve Mackey, Dan Trueman, and Donnacha Dennehy.
When not composing, she can be found hiking, backpacking, birding, recording underwater soundscapes with her hydrophone, and volunteering on ecosystem restorations. In recent years, she has lived in France, Norway, and the U.S. She currently lives in Seattle.
Julia Wolfe’s music is distinguished by an intense physicality and a relentless power that pushes performers to extremes and demands attention from the audience. She draws inspiration from folk, classical, and rock genres, bringing a modern sensibility to each while simultaneously tearing down the walls between them.
Wolfe’s Her Story, a 45-minute semi-staged work for orchestra and women’s chamber choir, received its world premiere in September 2022 with the Nashville Symphony and conductor Giancarlo Guerrero. Co-commissioned by a consortium of five American orchestras, all performances feature the vocal ensemble Lorelei, with stage direction by Anne Kauffman, lighting design by Jeff Sugg, costumes by Márion Talán de la Rosa, and sound design by Andrew Cotton. The world premiere was followed by performances in the 2022-23 season by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, and most recently the San Francisco Symphony; the National Symphony Orchestra performance is upcoming. Her Story invokes the words of historical figures and the spirit of pivotal moments to pay tribute to the centuries of ongoing struggle for equal rights and representation for women in America.
Other recent works include Fire in my mouth (2019), a large-scale work for orchestra and women’s chorus, commissioned and premiered by the New York Philharmonic with The Crossing and the Young People’s Chorus of New York City; Forbidden Love (2019), a string quartet performed by percussionists, written for Sö Percussion and co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the LA Philharmonic, and the Kennedy Center; and Flower Power (2020), a concerto for the Bang on a Can All-Stars co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Danish National Symphony.
In addition to receiving the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in Music, Wolfe was a 2016 MacArthur Fellow. She received the 2015 Herb Alpert Award in Music and was named Musical America’s 2019 Composer of the Year. Wolfe is co-founder/ co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can, and she is Artistic Director of NYU Steinhardt Music Composition.
Wolfe was in residence at the 2004 Cabrillo Festival for the U.S. premiere of My Beautiful Scream featuring the Kronos Quartet as soloists with the Festival Orchestra.
Latin GRAMMY-nominated Gabriela Ortiz is one of the foremost composers in Mexico today, and one of the most vibrant musicians emerging in the international scene. Her musical language synthesizes tradition and avant-garde, balancing highly organized structure and improvisatory spontaneity and integrating folk music and jazz in novel, entertaining, and sophisticated ways.
Gustavo Dudamel, the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, called her recent work Téenek “one of the most brilliant I have ever directed. Its color, its texture, the harmony, and the rhythm that it contains are all something unique. Gabriela possesses a particular capacity to showcase our Latin identity.”
Ortiz has written music for dance, theater and cinema, and has actively collaborated with poets, playwrights, and historians. Her music frequently addresses gender and racial issues, social justice, and environmental concerns, as well as the phenomenon of multiculturality caused by globalization, technological development, and mass migrations.
Although based in Mexico, Ortiz’s music is commissioned and performed all over the world. Her music has been commissioned and performed by prestigious ensembles around the world, including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, National Orchestra of Bretagne, and Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; and conducted by such renowned artists as Gustavo Dudamel, Esa Pekka Salonen, Carlos Miguel Prieto, and Louis Langrée, among others.
Ortiz has been honored with the National Prize for Arts and Literature (the most important award for writers and artists given by the government of Mexico), The Mexican Academy of Arts, The Bellagio Center Residency Program, Civitella Ranieri Artistic Residency; John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship; the Fulbright Fellowship; the First prize of the Silvestre Revueltas National Chamber Music Competition, the First Prize at the Alicia Urreta Composition Competition; Banff Center for the Arts Residency; the Inroads Commission, a program of Arts International with funds from the Ford Foundation; the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mozart Medal Award.
Born in Mexico City, her parents were musicians in the famous folk music ensemble Los Folkloristas founded in 1966 to preserve and record the traditional music of Mexico and Latin America. She trained at the National Conservatory of Music, the National University of Mexico, The Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and in 1992 completed Ph.D. studies in electroacoustic music composition at The City University in London. Ortiz currently teaches composition at the Mexican University of Mexico City.
Robert Hughes, composer of orchestral, chamber and vocal works, six ballets, eighteen film scores, and a body of electronic music, studied composition with Aaron Copland, Carlos Chávez, and Luigi Dallapiccola. He studied conducting at University of Buffalo and the Mozarteum in Salzburg; and modern music with Pierre Boulez at Darmstadt. His instruments were bassoon and contrabassoon. His studies with Lou Harrison in Aptos, 1961, developed into a musical partnership and friendship for over forty years, and included the founding of the Cabrillo Music Festival.
In 1972, Hughes introduced Chávez, then Music Director of the Festival, to hear the Moog synthesizer at Mills College. In a subsequent letter to Hughes, Chávez wrote of “the necessity of recognizing the existence of electronic experiments within the Festival,” and commissioned three electronic works by Hughes for the Festival: Auras (1972) and Quadroquartet (1973) for chamber ensemble and Cones (1975) for full orchestra.
In addition to works included in this season’s tribute, three highlights from Hughes’ oeuvre are Music for the Kama Sutra for large ensemble with contrabassoon solo, Western orchestral and Asian instruments; Silenus’ Antiphonary–a “summation project” of lifelong pursuits hand-written and hand-drawn in color pencil to score the intersection of visual art, literature, and music; and a corpus of challenging symphonic works for Youth (young adult) Orchestras. In 1964, Hughes founded the Youth Chamber Orchestra to promote contemporary and world music from the ground up. The precocious group recorded Harrison and Ned Rorem for the commercial label Desto, as well as a trailblazing project, “The Black Composer in America,” which they toured across the American South in 1970. He conducted The Arch Ensemble for Experimental Music (1975–1986); Frank Zappa ballets for Lyons Opera Ballet (1992); and numerous Lou Harrison works for CRI, New World Records, and 1750 Arch Records (1961–1988). An active researcher and lecturer in the humanities, he co-published with his wife, choreographer Margaret Fisher, the entirety of Ezra Pound’s music in five volumes (Second Evening Art Publishing).
Recipient of Fulbright, Rockefeller, NEA, and Exploratorium awards, and commissions from San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Ballet, Cal State Hayward, Alaska Arts Council, the U.S. Department of Interior, among others, Hughes was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, 2004.
Olga Neuwirth was born in 1968 in Graz, Austria, and studied at the Vienna Academy of Music and San Francisco Conservatory of Music, as well as painting and film at San Francisco Art College. Her composition teachers included Adriana Hölszky, Tristan Murail, and Luigi Nono. She gained international prominence in 1991, at the age of 22, when two of her mini operas with texts by Nobel Prize winner Elfriede Jelinek were performed at the Vienna Festwochen. Since then, her works have been presented worldwide. She is professor for composition at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, and a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts, the Academy of Arts (Berlin) and the Royal Swedish Academy of Music.
Neuwirth’s works explore a wide range of forms and genres: operas, radio-plays, sound-installations, artworks, photography, and film-music. In many works, she fuses live-musicians, electronics, and video into audio-visual experiences. Among numerous prizes, she was the first-ever woman to receive the Grand Austrian State Prize in the category of music (2010). Further awards include the Deutscher Musikautorenpreis (2017, “Komposition Orchester”), Robert Schumann Prize for Poetry and Music (2020), Wolf Prize in Arts Laureate in Music 2021, and the 2021 Opus Klassik’s Composer of the Year Award. In 2022, she received the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for her opera Orlando. Orlando, after Virginia Woolf, was premiered at the Vienna State Opera in 2019; it was the first commission to a woman in the 150-year history of the house and was named ’World Premiere of the Year’ by the magazine Opernwelt.
In 2022, Neuwirth was composer in residence at the Trondheim International Chamber Music Festival with performances of many of her works including the world premiere of According to What for cello, percussion and orchestra. She was Stockholm Philharmonic’s featured composer in November 2022; and featured composer with Dresden Staatskapelle throughout 2022-2023. The Festival d’Automne in Paris celebrated her music in 2022, with performances in three concerts of three major works–The Outcast, Masaot, and Encantadas. Her orchestral piece Dreydl was premiered in May 2022 as part of her residency at Orchestre National de Lyon and will receive its U.S. premiere this season at the Cabrillo Festival.
Gabriella Smith (b. 1991)
[West Coast Premiere]
When I think about music (my own and others’), I often first think about it in terms of the overall arc and shape of the piece. I picture it as a curve that moves horizontally from left to right as time progresses and moves up and down as the energy and dynamic content of the music changes. You can describe any of these curves as a mathematical function. This way of thinking about the shape of music is independent of the normal way we think about form in music, which typically involves the recurrence of themes. So you can think of any piece of music this way regardless of whether it’s a sonata or a pop song or a work without an codified form–it’s fun, try picturing a curve as you listen to music. The energy and dynamic contour of this work look roughly like the following curve:
Mathematically, if you’re into that sort of thing, the curve follows a section of the function f(x)=sin2x-1/x (on the interval x = 2 (pi symbol) to x = 0) where the horizontal axis, x, represents time and the vertical axis, f(x), indicates the energy and dynamic content of the piece. In practical terms, this means the music begins quietly and builds up to a small climax, decays, and then builds again and continues to build to the end of the piece.
The function serves as an overall map for the piece, but the individual music ideas were intuitively generated. The title f(x)=sin2x-1/x describes the form of the piece, in the same way that composers of the past titled pieces sonata or rondo in reference to their form. So while the inspiration for this work comes from a mathematical function, you don’t need to remember your high school math to experience and enjoy it!
riSE and fLY (2012)
Julia Wolfe (b. 1958)
riSe and fLY was inspired by New York City street beats and the rhythm of American work song. In New York there is an amazing array of live street musicians gracing subway platforms and street corners–accordion players, singers, Chinese erhus, and more. But perhaps the most amazing music comes from the street drummers. Banging out grooves on plastic tubs and pots and pans, they speak the rhythm of the city. They make me smile and I am one of their most attentive listeners. When Colin Currie asked for a new work I thought of them. I also thought Colin is amazing. He can do anything. But I don’t want to just write him another percussion concerto. I wanted to take him to a new place and to bring something earthy and visceral to the orchestra–to break with formality and get down and dirty. It is urban folk music for the orchestra. riSE and fLY connects to my love of American folk as does much of my recent work including my art ballad, Steel Hammer, telling the story of the story of the John Henry legend. While there is no direct narrative in riSe and fLY it is in a sense its own short history–moving from the American folk tradition of body percussion to the contemporary urban “folk” rhythms of the street. The title, riSe and fLY, is taken from a phrase of a chain gang work song from the collection of Alan Lomax, the great American folksong collector.
Gabriela Ortiz (b. 1964)
[West Coast Premiere]
Her water washes air,
Her breathing–wakes the sun.
She has a name that can be found in every tongue
But the earth is not her name.
The earth refuses to be tamed.
Due to circumstance that are entirely personal, heartfelt emotivity is conveyed in TZAM through a musical discourse that is, in turn, deeply rooted in the experiences life has to offer. Over the past two years, I have lost my father and two dear friends who were fundamental not only to me, but to musical development in Latin America: Carmen Hena Téllez, and orchestra conductor and tireless promoter of contemporary Latin American music, and Mario Lavista, my mentor and professor of musical composition. Somehow, as I began to compose TZAM, I found it impossible to defer what I felt was a pressing need to express my gratitude toward all of them through music.
Dedicated to the memory of Mario Lavista, TZAM means “dialogue” in Ayapaneco, one of more than 60 indigenous languages found in Mexico today although, with fewer than ten speakers, it is lamentably on the verge of extinction. I chose TZAM as a title not only for its attractive sound, but also because implicit in its meaning is our ability to converse and dialogue, not only with all that surrounds us and nourishes us as human beings within this secret, timeless space, but also and above all with what it means to be a human being on this Earth.
Parting from the action of dialogue as a primal concept, I decided to position the brass section differently, dividing it into two instrumental groups situated across from one another in a circular fashion, so that the stereophonic exchange of ideas could arise among them. Parting from this unusual instrument placement of the brass, I thought it would be congruent to start out with a fanfare. This material acts as a leitmotiv or recurring idée fixe. Immediately afterwards, I carefully chose the main axes of harmony and textured timbre for each of the sections. I then tried to emulate the idea of representing an ocean of sounds–its rising and ebbing tides, acting time and again as a colorful harmonic and instrumental surprise.
The central portion of TZAM includes the introduction of new music materials as a personal tribute to remind us of the intimate, delicate realm of Lavista’s music. Its development features a surprising and contrasting adagio for strings that, beyond a shadow of a doubt, originated in a genuine attempt to dialogue with Carmen, with Mario and with my father, perhaps for the last time. Finally a brief epilogue appears in which I revisit the beginning of the work, thus reviving the primal concept that sparked its development.
Robert Hughes (1933-2022)
A posthumous tribute–In memory of Robert Hughes, co-founder of the Cabrillo Festival who died August 11, 2022.
Uutiqtut is an Inuit word meaning movement and associated with the migration of the herds. The indigenous Inuit tribes occupy land across Alaska, the Yukon to the East, and the Northwest Territories, still further East and North. The Alaskan wilderness was a continued source of inspiration for the composer from the mid-1970s for about a decade. The Alaska Arts Council first commissioned Hughes to write an orchestral work on an Inuit theme (Edge, 1975). Works for the U.S. Department of the Interior, PBS, and Disney followed. Hughes composed the large orchestral work Uutiqtut and a companion work Ublarpaluk (Alba, or Dawn) as the culminating expressions of a personal fascination with the Pacific Northwest. In the 2010s, he drew Uutiqtut forward into his last work, Silenus’ Antiphonary, a mixed-media score based on the transitions between seasons as the loci of heightened perception, unexplored synaesthesia, and accidental sensuality.
Olga Neuwirth (b. 1968)
Dreydl is a one-movement orchestra piece. It emerged out of my preoccupation with memory and the passing of time, which was also why I used a small fragment of Mordechai Gebirtig’s “Hulyet hulyet kinderlach” with the line “Wayl fun friling bis tsum Winter is a katzenshrpung” in my first opera, Baalambs Feast, in 1994. Dreydl also stems from my more recent interest in restyling and reinventing dance-like rhythms or patterns that have nearly no development.
The title was inspired by the first line of the Yiddish children’s song “Ikh bin a kleyner dreydl.” A dreydl is a spinning top that children still play with today during the Festival of Lights, Chanukah. As with dice, the dreydl is a game of chance. Incessantly it spins and spins and is therefore for me a symbol of life: “The wheels are turning, the years are passing/ Alas without end and without goal/ Bereft of luck, so I stayed…” says a passage in the song “Dem Milners Trem” (“The Miller’s Tears”) by Mark Markowystch Warschawskyi. The continuous rhythmic patterns in Dreydl are used to underline the fatal circularity of destiny such as we have experienced during the two years of the pandemic–where time has been suspended and nobody knows what the future will bring.