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Pushing Boundaries with Annea Lockwood

Melissa Smey

Miller Theatre commissioned writer Lara Pellegrinelli to create the program notes for the 20th year of Composer Portraits as well as a series of Q&As with Executive Director Melissa Smey. Here is the third installment, centering around our upcoming Portrait featuring the music of Annea Lockwood.

Q. Annea Lockwood strikes me as a wildly adventurous sound artist and composer. She’s burned, buried, and beached pianos. She’s created what she refers to as “sound maps” of rivers across the globe. One of her pieces is built from a recording of a tiger purring. How did Lockwood become the subject of a Composer Portrait?

A. She is adventurous! And she just turned 80 years old in July. Annea is someone who has pushed the boundaries of musical experimentation. Because of the nature of her work, she tends to fall outside the mainstream of contemporary composition that is featured in a concert hall setting, though she is very much part of an American tradition of sound exploration. Including her on Composer Portraits expands the range of artistic sensibilities that we feature, both on this 20th anniversary season and on the series as a whole. 


Photo by Kyle Dorosz for Miller Theatre

To feature a composer at Miller, their work needs to be a match for this space. It was an interesting challenge to think about how we could create a portrait for someone like Annea, who thinks outside the box quite literally in that much of her music cannot be contained within the four walls of a venue.

Q. How did you face that challenge?

A. Russell Greenberg of Yarn/Wire is the person who pitched the idea for this portrait to me. He already had some repertoire ideas, including a new piece that Annea was going to compose for Yarn/Wire. He and Annea were in dialogue over a few months thinking about the right mix of repertoire to feature, that would fit well at Miller and also represent Annea’s body of work. One of the reasons I love Yarn/Wire is that they are wonderful collaborators, and over the years our projects together have really pushed those boundaries of mainstream contemporary composition. Knowing each other really well helps make this possible.

Q. This Portrait features two guest musicians, Nate Wooley and Estelí Gomez. Do they have connections to Lockwood?

A. Nate is one of Annea’s frequent collaborators. He’s someone known for stretching the capabilities of his instrument, who has worked in contemporary music and jazz. He organized a tribute to Annea at ISSUE Project Room two years ago on his FOR/WITH mini-festival. He’ll be performing a solo work with electronics that they developed together for him titled Becoming Air.

Annea Lockwood: Becoming Air Performed by Nate Wooley - November 1st, 2018 from ISSUE Project Room on Vimeo.

Estelí is a multiple Grammy Award winner, and will sing the lament I Give You Back. This will be her first time performing Annea’s music, but she’s another artist who has appeared here a few times. She’s a member of Etherea Vocal ensemble, Conspirare, and Roomful of Teeth.


Photo of Melissa Smey by Kyle Dorosz for Miller Theatre.

Related Composer Portrait posts:

20 Years of Composer Portraits and 10 Years as Executive Director

8 Questions to Executive Director Melissa Smey About Composer Portraits

The Path to Vijay Iyer's Composer Portrait

Melissa Smey on Anthony Braxton at 75

Cracking the Code: David T. Little 

How Tyshawn Sorey’s Portrait Came About 

Why is John Zorn so important?

More People Need to Know About Wang Lu

Building the Unique Universe of Du Yun's Composer Portrait

Bringing Kate Soper’s IPSA DIXIT to Miller