Announcing the 2021 Dorothy and Sherrill C. Corwin Awards Winners

Hosted annually by the UC Santa Barbara Department of Music, the Dorothy and Sherrill C. Corwin Awards recognize excellence in Music Composition, and are open to all UC Santa Barbara undergraduate and graduate student music majors in the Department of Music, the College of Creative Studies, and the Media Arts and Technology Program. The 2021 Awards included four categories: Work for Large Ensemble, Work for Chamber Ensemble, Electronic/Audio-visual Work, plus a special category for Works for Marimba and Bass Clarinet, to be premiered by the duo Transient Canvas.
 
Every year, three external judges are nominated by the Corwin Chair to evaluate student scores and recordings and award prizes linked to monetary rewards, concert performances, and studio recordings. Nominated by Corwin Chair of Composition João Pedro Oliveira, this year’s jury included Elainie Lilios from Bowling Green State University, Ken Ueno from UC Berkeley, Rodrigo Sigal from Centro Mexicano para la Musica y Artes Sonoras, and Amy Advocat and Matt Sharrock of Transient Canvas. Read on to learn more about each of the 2021 Awardees and their works. 
 
The Dorothy and Sherrill C. Corwin Awards are generously supported by the Corwin Family Foundation. 

First Prize, Work for Chamber Ensemble (Graduate)

Rodney DuPlessis

Rodney DuPlessis, Doctor of Philosophy

Coacervate for violin and electronics

Program Notes

Certain mixtures of polyelectrolytes can spontaneously form dense liquid droplets (called coacervates) suspended in water (dilute phase). These liquid droplets are often filled with complex molecules, proteins, polymers, and nucleic acids. Coacervate formation has been suggested as a possible mechanism through which the first simple cells formed on earth (Abiogenesis). In composing Coacervate, I worked closely with violinist and chemical engineer Chelsea Edwards to create a sonic narrative from this chemistry. Distinct musical motives are inserted into dilute textures where they compartmentalize, chain together like charged polymers, and erupt into the beginnings of life.
 
Listen here.

About the Composer

As a composer and researcher, Rodney DuPlessis primarily explores the intersections of science, mathematics, software, and music. He is interested in creating powerful sonic experiences grounded in scientific models of physics, chemistry, biology, thermodynamics, and meta-science. His music has been performed and recognized internationally. As a programmer, DuPlessis develops synthesis, control, and sound transformation software that expands the artist's toolbox. He has also directed multiple festivals and concerts, and he is co-creative director of the Nomadic Soundsters art collective. His teachers have included Curtis Roads, Clarence Barlow, João Pedro Oliveira, and Martin Kutnowski. He's currently at UCSB completing a PhD and MSc. Learn more at rodneyduplessis.com.

First Prize, Electronic Music (Graduate)

Dariush Derakhshani

Dariush Derakhshani, Doctor of Philosophy

Pārsa

Program Notes

Pārsa can be categorized as a programmatic piece. The inspiration of its form and direction came from the history of Persepolis and its demolition by Alexander the Great. The initial section is meant to represent a grand sound which is slowly ravaged as the piece continues. What remains by the end are broken parts and pieces representing the slow destruction of Persepolis by fire. The final section (A’) is a distorted memory of the grand sound heard in the beginning which quickly crumbles into a minuscule sound with a high amount of tension in its core.
 
Listen here.

About the Composer

Dariush Derakhshani is a German-born Iranian composer/performer of concert and electroacoustic music. He has written for numerous acclaimed soloists and ensembles, with whom his works have been performed internationally.
 
He also attended IRCAM Manifeste, where he had the opportunity to work closely with members of Ensemble Intercontemporain, and Altitude Festival where he worked with l’ensemble Multilatérale. Other notable festival appearances include Impuls Academy, the Madeira Residency, Festival DME, Barcelona Mixtur, and Kyiv Contemporary Music Days.
 
He has studied and participated in masterclasses with the composers Patricia Alessandrini, Raphaël Cendo, Francesco Filidei, Beat Furrer, Philippe Hurel, Helmut Lachenmann, Mauro Lanza, Fabien Lévy, Tristan Murail, Gilbert Nouno, Åke Parmerud, Jaime Reis, Yann Robin and Alexander Schubert.
 
Derakhshani recently completed the one-year course at Koninklijk Conservatorium’s Institute of Sonology. Currently he is a Ph.D. student in Music Composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara under the supervision of João Pedro Olivera. Learn more at derakhshani.me.

First Prize, Special Category for 2021:

Works for Transient Canvas (Graduate)

Alexandra Jones

Alexandra Jones, Master of Arts

In All My Born Days...

Program Notes

In All My Born Days... is originally from a collection of five pieces that vary in the way that they allow either the composer or the performer musical freedom and power. In this piece in particular, there is an equal balance between performer and composer; with a large use of improvisation and open scoring the performers have as much say in the music as the composer. Contrasting sections are the very essence of the piece. Musical characters are pinned against each other: angularity and placidness; agitation and equilibrium; competition and harmony. However, the lines between these differences become muddled and the listener is left with an amalgamation. The fight between living and dying is the underlying theme; however, one cannot exist without the other. The combination of the two is life itself. The title comes from a common southern quote that expresses shock at something never before seen; there is nothing more shocking than life.

About the Composer

Alexandra is a contemporary, classical composer from Evergreen, Colorado. She began learning piano at the age of four and had started violin soon after. Performance has always been a key interest, and she has participated in numerous orchestras, choirs, and other ensembles since a very young age.
 
Since relocating to Los Angeles in 2013, she has worked as a studio musician and vocalist. She had also started studying under David Koplin as part of Santa Monica College's Applied Music Program.
 
Alexandra had received her Bachelor’s degree in music composition at California State University, Northridge in 2020. She had had the privilege of working under both A.J. McCaffrey and Thomas Kotcheff during this time; she has also been able to have multiple pieces performed by renowned ensembles such as Hocket, The Brightwork New Music Ensemble, and Argus.
 
Currently, she is working towards her Master's in Music Composition at The University of California, Santa Barbara. Musically, she is looking forward to blending the art of composition and performance even more.

First Prize, Special Category for 2021:

Works for Transient Canvas (Graduate)

Stewart Engart

Stewart Engart, Doctor of Philosophy

A More Sound Outlook ® for bass clarinet and marimba

Program Notes

A More Sound Outlook ® was composed during the 2020-2021 COVID global pandemic. Unlike other pieces that I composed during this period, which served as a means of escape, I used this piece to document what my life has been for the last year. I began by creating a list of the most common sounds heard around my apartment, then asked my partner to order my list along a spectrum of anxiety that each sound causes.
 
The original list:
 
The first note of the American The Office theme music
My dog barking
Computer mouse click
Boiling water
Toilet flush
Dishwasher
Toaster
Snoring
Fire Alarm
Santa Ana Winds
Kitchen cabinets slamming
The Microsoft Outlook® email notification
 
I analyzed each sound through standard Music Information Retrieval (MIR) techniques, such as, f0 estimation, harmonic spread, noisiness, and power, intending to use all of the sound samples as musical material. Through the composition process, I realized that I had enough material in one, single sound: the sound that caused my partner the most stress, her work email notification. This piece is both composed by data extracted from this stressful sound and serves as a way to re-contextualize and remove the anxiety associated with it. The title is a nod to the source material and a hopeful look to the future as the vaccine rollout continues.

About the Composer

Stewart Engart (b. 1991, he/him) is a Southern California based composer, performer, sound artist, and creative coder working in the fields of experimental electronic music, audiovisual installation, and innovative chamber music. His work explores computer-assisted musical form and gesture, as well as experimental synthesis techniques. Stewart is currently a PhD Candidate at University of California, Santa Barbara. For more information, see stewartengart.com.

First Prize, Work for Large Ensemble (Undergraduate)

Eric Huang

Eric Huang, Bachelor of Music (College of Creative Studies)

The Odyssey Suite

Program Notes

The Odyssey Suite was inspired by the brilliant and evocative orchestration of Holst’s The Planets and by the colorful imagery in Greek mythology. Each movement portrays different events that happen on Odysseus’s journey homeward. While each of the five (ultimately fourteen) movements can stand as separate works, taken together, the suite aims to bring the listener along to experience the journey with Odysseus.
 
I - Island of the Cyclops
Odysseus and his men explore the Island of the Cyclops, also inhabited by giant sheep. Trapped in a cave by the cyclops Polyphemus, Odysseus and his crew free themselves by poking Polyphemus’s eye with a burning stick. The movement ends with a trumpet solo representing Odysseus mocking Polyphemus, which unfortunately causes the cyclops to identify Odysseus and pray to Poseidon for help.
 
II - The Wrath of Poseidon
While Odysseus and his crew are traveling back home on their ship, they are met with waves sent by Poseidon to throw them off their course. While the waves build up, a motif is repeated and gradually builds in terms of instrumentation. After much struggle with the waves, a large final wave capsizes the ship.
 
III - Aeolus, Keeper of the Winds
In this movement, Odysseus and his crew land on an island ruled by King Aeolus. Aeolus is very welcoming and this hospitality is portrayed by the uplifting main theme. However, the middle section of this piece provides a reflective moment as it portrays Odysseus’s longing for home. This movement then ends with Aeolus sending Odysseus and his crew on his way with a bag of wind to blow their ship home.
 
IV - Circe the Sorceress
Odysseus and his men arrive on another island, home to Circe, a Sorceress renowned for turning intruders into animals. In the introduction, the tone creates a sense of mystery and magic. This foreshadows the more jagged section representing Odysseus’s men getting turned into pigs. The music calms as Odysseus, unaware of Circe and her magic, looks for his men. He is then met by Hermes, who warns Odysseus and gives him a herb that protects him from Circe’s magic. This movement ends with Odysseus confronting Circe where he is victorious and saves his crew.
 
V - Odysseus in the Underworld
Prevented by Poseidon from going home, Odysseus heeds Circe’s advice by traveling to the underworld. There he summons his dead relatives and war companions and asks them for advice on how to get home. This movement starts with a brief introduction before going into a string feature in a minor mode. This string feature also ends the movement, with some chords altered to become major. This mirrored motif represents Odysseus entering the Underworld with uneasiness and then returning to Earth at the end with a more hopeful outlook. Muted strings and choir represent ghosts in the underworld. (The title is a reference to Orpheus in the Underworld by Offenbach but the movement is not.)
 
Listen here.

About the Composer

Eric Huang (b. 2000) is a composer of film scores as well as chamber and orchestral works. Originally from Arcadia, California, Eric is currently an undergraduate at the University of California – Santa Barbara studying Music Composition in the College of Creative Studies where his primary mentors for composition are Leslie Hogan and Andrew Watts. Eric’s primary instrument is the trombone. At UCSB, he has played in a brass trio as well as the University Wind Ensemble. Currently, Eric is collaborating with student directors at UCSB's Department of Film and Media Studies on short films. Listen to more of Eric's work here.

First Prize, Work for Chamber Ensemble (Undergraduate)

Kailee Lencioni

Kailee Lencioni, Bachelor of Music (College of Creative Studies)

Flickering Innocence for piano quartet

Program Notes

In writing this piece I sought fluidity––the transmutation of tension into light, and pulses of dysphoria into a kind of bittersweet beauty. As I composed the shifting, blending melancholy of this piece, I envisioned many veiled menaces, dancing on the periphery of childhood memories. These are perils unseen, shadowed by a sense of disquiet which swells, ebbing and flowing softly, then growing swiftly to bursting point.
 
Floating down in a gentle confetti-debris,
there is a calmness.
There is an echo.

About the Composer

Kailee Lencioni is a composer and multi-instrumentalist from Northern California. As an undergraduate at the University of California Santa Barbara, she studies Music Composition under Professors Sarah Gibson and Leslie Hogan. Deeply stirred by both tonal and atonal influences, her compositions spring from a desire to write honestly and freely. Guided by improvisational outbursts and the pricking of her ear, her music places faith in an innate sense of flow and disruption, as well as resolution and dissonance.
 
In her time as a musician, Lencioni has performed with UCSB’s Gamelan Ensemble, and received both performances and commissions from UCSB’s Ensemble for Contemporary Music. Her experiences in ECM have unearthed a new vigor for film scoring and multimedia experiences.
 
Lencioni also serves as president of UCSB’s Music Connection organization (2020-current). In providing an inclusive environment for performers, UCSB MC simultaneously offers concert experiences to Goleta’s elderly and the broader community.

 

Dariush Derakhshani