Buzz (2001)

by James Matheson


Buzz is built from two ideas – one slow, meditative and perhaps a bit melancholic, and one fast, frenetic, and overtly “buzzing.” To my mind and ear there is the subtle (or maybe it’s not so subtle . . .) underlying suggestion of an updated, “crunchier,” more muscular and acerbic Flight of the Bumblebee, and like that classic encore, Buzz is often light on the wing

James Matheson has rapidly emerged as one of the most distinctive, vital, and creative musical voices of his generation. A 2000 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship recipient, Matheson's music has been programmed by such organizations as the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, the Chicago, Seattle and Albany Symphony Orchestras, American Composers Orchestra, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Orchestra 2001, LA's Monday Evening Concerts Series, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and at the music festivals including Ravinia, Aspen, Spoleto, Santa Fe and many others.


In September of 2009, James joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic as Director of the LA Phil's innovative Composer Fellowship Program. Upcoming projects include a new work for orchestra, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, a new work for violin and large orchestra, co-commissioned by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a piano quintet commissioned by the Cheswatyr Foundation for the Borromeo String Quartet and pianist Judith Gordon, and a new work for soprano and chamber ensemble for Sequitur.

In December 2007, the Los Angeles Philharmonic presented the West Coast Premiere of Matheson's Songs of Desire, Love and Loss, which was commissioned by Carnegie Hall and premiered in October, 2004 as part of Dawn Upshaw's Perspectives series. The Anatomy of Melancholy, commissioned by Antares, premiered at the Ravinia Festival in 2008. The 2006-07 season featured the NYC premiere of Colonnade on the 2007 MATA Festival, the World Premiere of Violin Sonata, commissioned by Brooklyn Friends of Chamber Music, West Coast performances of Falling, by Xtet on LA's Monday Evening Concerts series and by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and the Midwest Premiere of Buzz by the Orion Ensemble. April 2004 saw the premiere of Umbras and Illuminations by the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the second commission awarded to Matheson by that ensemble (Colonnade premiered in 2002-03; a third commission, La Seine for English horn, premiered in March of 2007). Buzz, for clarinet, violin, cello, and piano was extensively performed worldwide by Antares and Ensemble X, and Pull was recently released by The Ambassador Duo on the Equilibrium label. Orchestra 2001 premiered The Paces for piano and large ensemble at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in 2002-03. In previous seasons, Ensemble X featured three Matheson works in a Merkin Hall (NYC) performance, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra chamber series featured the world premiere of Falling and the local premiere of Spin, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago world premiered the CSO-commissioned orchestral work River, River, River, and the MATA Festival programmed Pound.

In addition to the Guggenheim, Matheson has received fellowships and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship in 2008 and the Hinrichsen Award in 2002), the Bogliasco and Sage Foundations, ASCAP, and the Robbins Prize. From 2005-2007, Matheson was Executive Director of the MATA Festival of New Music in New York, which commissions and performs the work of young composers who are making their entry into professional musical life. Matheson was a 2000 participant in American Composers Orchestra's Whitaker New Music Readings with Gliss, has held residencies at Yaddo and the Liguria Study Center, and has been a fellow at the Aspen Music Festival and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

[February, 2010]

and virtuosic. There is also, however, a hint of something both darker and weightier, particularly in the slower passages but also in some of the denser areas of the fast ones. Such plays of contrast – fastness and slowness, lightness and gravity, virtuosity and expressiveness – impel the work, generating both its substance and impetus.

Or, “Buzz,” ‘cause it does.

- JM

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