Program Notes

. . . within the shifting grounds . . .

BORN: 1985. Shiraz, Iran. Currently residing in San Diego

COMPOSED: 2017-18

WORLD PREMIERE: At this concert. The work was commissioned by the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra in collaboration with the International Contemporary Ensemble and friends of the Youth Orchestra 

INSTRUMENTATION: 3 flutes and piccolo, 4 oboes, 3 clarinets and bass clarinet, 4 bassoons, 4 horns, 4 trumpets, tuba, 2 harps, piano (prepared), and strings. Supplementing the onstage orchestra are additional instrumental groups positioned around the hall. The percussion section is divided into 6 groups playing bass drums, bongos, China cymbals, Chinese opera gongs, crotales, flexatones, gongs, guiros, metal chimes, rainsticks, shakers, snare drums, sets of stones, temple blocks, and woodblocks. 6 solo instruments (tenor and soprano saxophone, bassoon, 3 trombones, and violin) are integrated into the various instrumental groups

DURATION: About 15 mins

Iranian composer Anahita Abbasi graduated from the University of Music and Performing Arts in Graz, Austria where she studied music theory with Clemens Gadenstätter, composition with Beat Furrer and Pierluigi Billone, and worked closely with Georges Aperghis, Franck Bedrossian, and Philippe Leroux. She is currently pursuing her PhD in composition with Rand Steiger at the University of California, San Diego.

In 2014, Abbasi received the work scholarship from the SWR Experimental Studio in Freiburg, Germany. A recipient of a 2015 Morton Gould ASCAP Young Composers Award, she was also nominated as one of the European-Egyptian Contemporary Music Society’s 2017 Women Composers of Our Time, alongside Kaija Saariaho and Isabel Mundry. She is one of the founders of Schallfeld Ensemble in Graz, Austria.

Abbasi’s works have been performed around the world in various festivals such as Darmstadt Ferienkurse (Germany), IRCAM Manifeste Academy (France), Matrix–Experimental Studio of SWR (Germany), BIFEM (Australia), Klangspuren Schwaz (Austria), MISE-EN Festival (USA), Impuls Festival (Austria), Time of Music (Finland), Atlas Festival and Grachten Festival (Netherlands), and many others.

Abbasi’s music reveals a fascination with instrumental color and a sense of music unfolding in the moment. Austrian writer and director Ernst M. Binder observed that “She has the tendency to take us with her music on a mystical, puzzling journey and leave us within our thoughts, to find out the “ending” ourselves.”

. . . within the shifting grounds . . .  is a unique collaboration between the SFS Youth Orchestra and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). ICE regularly works with youth orchestras around the country as part of its education program, EntICE. The expert musicians of ICE have been equal partners in the creation of this new work: seeking out composer Abbasi for the commission, offering expert mentorship in rehearsals, and appearing onstage in the piece’s world premiere performance this afternoon.

The composer offers these comments:
SHIFTING: qualities and forms of changing, transferring and moving from one place, person, position, direction, attitude, or emphasis to another. To shift can also mean to replace, to allow a new entity to take over or supplant that which came before. 

The orchestra is divided into four sub-groups and positioned spatially around the hall. These sub-groups behave as diverse and distinctive entities of sound and color, unfolding and transforming themselves and their surroundings in time.

The sub-groups are:

  • The orchestra itself, on the stage with two additional soloists (violin and saxophone)
  • The four percussion setups, surrounding the audience
  • A trio of trombones (scattered in space)
  • A trio of saxophone, bassoon, and trombone (also scattered)

The musical material has its own life and is in a constant fluid motion. The foundation, the ground, on which this material is built is invariably “shifting”—sometimes even stretching and breathing. Sounds and colors continuously move and alter their direction, their attitude and their function.

—Anahita Abbasi

Artist Spotlight: A Conversation with Composer Anahita Abbasi

(February 2018)

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