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A world premiere recording of 19 art songs by five American composers
A world premiere recording of 19 art songs by five American composers
A world premiere recording of 19 art songs by five American composers
62 backers pledged $4,011 to help bring this project to life.

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That Dare Not Speak: New American Art Song

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The Project

Composer/vocalist Dennis Tobenski and pianist Marc Peloquin have been performing together and championing new art song for nearly a decade. In February 2014, the duo gave a recital at The Duplex in New York City where they performed an evening of love songs by gay American composers. That program is the basis for this recording.

The album will feature 19 previously unrecorded art songs by five composers, and will lay the groundwork for planned yearly releases by the duo to highlight new and exciting vocal music.

Partly a look back to the 1996 CRI release Gay American Composers, this disc features two composers from the original CRI recording and three of their musical heirs. Spanning three generations, the composers featured on the disc are Pulitzer Prize-winning composer David Del Tredici, American Academy of Arts and Letters Award-winning composer Chester Biscardi, and emerging composers Darien Shulman, Dennis Tobenski, and Zachary Wadsworth.

The recording recently took place on November 9, 16, and 18 at Oktaven Audio in Yonkers, NY, and the duo performed the program on November 4 for the music students at Sarah Lawrence College in preparation for going into the studio.

This disc is the first of five planned releases by the duo over the next five years.

The Music

Dennis premiered the voice and piano version of David Del Tredici's Gay Life with the composer at the piano, and Dennis & Marc gave the premieres of Chester Biscardi's Modern Love Songs and Darien Shulman's Three Poems of Thomas Moore in June 2007. The five works on the disc have become staples in the duo's repertoire.

The Composers

With the appearance in 1976 of Final AliceDavid Del Tredici's hour–long setting of Lewis Carroll for high soprano and large orchestra – a new movement in music, Neo–Romanticism, was born.

In Del Tredici's post-Alice world, he has taken a startlingly different tack –– to create a body of music that celebrates his own gay sexuality. Among these is Gay Life (commissioned by Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony), Love Addiction (a baritone/piano song cycle to poetry of John Kelly commissioned in honor of the composer's 70th birthday), and Wondrous the Merge (a melodrama for baritone and string quartet to the poetry of James Broughton). His recent Bullycide for piano and string sextet, a composition dealing with gay teen suicide as a result of bullying, has garnered Mr. Del Tredici considerable media attention. OUT Magazine has twice named the composer one of its People of the Year.

Del Tredici has been, for more than 25 years, Distinguished Professor of Music at The City College of New York. He lives in Manhattan's West Village with his mate, photographer, blogger, biker Angellos Malefakis.

Chester Biscardi‘s music has been performed throughout Asia, Europe, and North and South America.

Recent works include Sailors & Dreamers, commissioned by The Serge Koussevitsky Music Foundation in the Library of Congress, premiered by tenor William Ferguson and Sequitur under the baton of Paul Hostetter. The 27-minute song cycle for voice and chamber ensemble is a collaboration between Biscardi and poet/artist Shirley Kaplan, and was premiered September 2011 at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City. Footfalls (after Beckett) for flute, oboe, two guitars, tingsha, violin, and violoncello is a musical response to Samuel Beckett's 1975 play Footfalls, and was commissioned by the Roger Shapiro Fund for New Music for "Sounding Beckett", a collaborative project between The Studio Theatre in washington, D.C. and the Cygnus Ensemble. The piece was premiered in September 2012 alongside a production of the Beckett play featuring actors Kathleen Chalfant and Holly Twyford.

Born in l948 in Kenosha, Wisconsin, he received a B.A. in English Literature, an M.A. in Italian Literature, and an M.M. in Musical Composition from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an M.M.A. and a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Yale. He is Director of the Music Program at Sarah Lawrence College, where he was the first recipient of the William Schuman Chair in Music.

Darien Scott Shulman is a composer and musician based in New York City. He received his B.Mus. from Northwestern University, where he studied with Augusta Read Thomas. Upon graduation, Darien returned to NYC where he studied with Daron Hagen, and completed the orchestral work, Glass Pyramids (2003), as well as the song cycle Whispers of Heavenly Death (2004). From 2004 to 2006, Darien studied with John Corigliano at the Juilliard School. In May of 2006, the Juilliard Orchestra, at Alice Tully Hall, premiered Darien's orchestral work Chroma's Morning.

After receiving his M.Mus from Juilliard, Darien formed a partnership with producer/engineer Ric Schnupp in producing various styles of music for film and TV. His music can be heard in national commercials, web advertisements, industrials, and promos. He has composed scores for numerous films and documentaries, most recently the hit viral short Shark Pool, directed by Tony Yacenda. Darien's music is prominently featured in Funeral Kings, which marks the feature-length directorial debut of the McManus Brothers and and stars Kevin Corrigan, as well as the comedy short Last Words, starring Mark Pellegrino (Lost) and Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead). Previous film scores include Trigger, Front Page, Laid Off By Lehman, At the Door, Write That Down, The Funeral, The Cure, Suture, and Life Is What Happens. As well as amassing a substantial client base of directors on both coasts, Darien has composed several tracks for various music libraries.

Zachary Wadsworth’s “vivid, vital, and prismatic” music has established him as one of the leading composers of his generation, especially among those writing vocal, choral, and operatic works. Praised for its “evocative mixture of old and new,” his music has been heard in venues around the world, from Takinogawa Hall in Tokyo to the Kennedy Center in Washington. After winning the 2011 King James Bible Composition Award, Wadsworth’s Out of the South Cometh the Whirlwind was performed by the choir of Westminster Abbey in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. For the 2012-13 season, Wadsworth is engaged in residencies with many leading North American opera companies as a recipient of the Douglas Moore Fellowship for American Opera.

Originally from Richmond, Virginia, Wadsworth (b. 1983) now resides at the foot of the Canadian Rockies in Calgary, Alberta. He has earned graduate degrees from Cornell University (DMA) and Yale University (MM), and is an honors graduate of the Eastman School of Music (BM). His principal composition teachers have included Steven Stucky, Martin Bresnick, Ingram Marshall, Ezra Laderman, and David Liptak. Since receiving his Doctorate, he has taught at the Interlochen Center for the Arts and the University of Calgary. He also maintains an active performing life as a tenor and pianist.

The Performers

A New York Times critic recently declared that Marc Peloquin's "energetic approach yielded a performance that was refreshing and alive. Individual lines rang out with remarkable definition and clarity." The pianist, called an "innovative ivory tickler' by Time Out New York, has appeared in a wide range of venues from MOMA, the Guggenheim Museum, the Look & Listen Festival and Bargemusic in New York City, to the Palacio de Belles Artes in Mexico City, the American Academy in Rome, the Darmstadt International Festival in Germany and the Cultural Center of Roubaix, France.

In addition to his longstanding piano partnership with Roberto Hidalgo as the Split Second Piano Ensemble, Marc Peloquin also collaborates with the Pulitzer Prize-winning American composer/pianist David Del Tredici, performing and recording his music. July 2012 saw the release of Gotham Glory, the first in a series of four recordings Marc is completing on the Naxos label of the complete piano works of the legendary composer. Gramophone's review of the disc stated: "A longtime Del Tredici champion and associate, Peloquin imbues these composer-supervised performances with idiomatic aplomb and a powerful yet flexible technique."

Dennis Tobenski is a composer of acoustic new music whose work has been described by Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times as "distinctive and engaging".

Dennis's Only Air, a 20-minute work for high voice and orchestra that memorializes the gay teenagers who have taken their own lives due to anti-gay bullying, was commissioned by the Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra, and premiered in April 2013. The Secret Opera premiered a version of the work for voice and chamber ensemble in March 2014, which was subsequently performed in November 2014 by members of the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony.

Called a "dynamic vocalist" by Mr. Tommasini, Dennis's focus as a vocalist is primarily on the works of the 21st and late 20th centuries. He has premiered works by David Del Tredici, Chester Biscardi, Ricky Ian Gordon, Darien Shulman, and Jeff Algera.

In 2010, Dennis founded NewMusicShelf.com, an online digital distribution service for self-published composers, as well as for performers looking for works outside of the traditional music publishing system. He also writes The Composer's Guide to Doing Business, a blog series that takes a look at the practical and financial aspects of the concert music business from a composer's point of view.

Dennis lives in New York City with his fiancee Darien Shulman and their cats Bond, Midget, and Pistachio.

You!

Your contribution to the project is incredibly important. Through performance fees and several generous private donations, we have secured enough funding to cover the costs of recording the CD. Now we're asking you to help us raise enough money through pre-order sales to cover our post-production, distribution, and promotional costs, as well as performer fees and additional incidental costs, so that we can present this wonderful music at as high a level of quality as possible.

Risks and challenges

Because of Marc's experience in the studio, Dennis's extensive budgeting, and our long-term involvement with the repertoire, we don't anticipate many hiccups in the process.

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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    Receive an early-release digital download of the album, with exclusive behind-the-scenes photos, audio, and video

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Receive a signed copy of the physical CD, a personal thank you note from Dennis and Marc, and a signed copy of one of the scores recorded on the album (limited to the Biscardi, Wadsworth, Shulman, or Tobenski).

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Receive a signed copy of the physical CD, a personal thank you note from Dennis and Marc, signed copies of the four full cycles recorded on the album (Biscardi, Wadsworth, Shulman, and Tobenski), and recognition as a Silver Level Donor in the liner notes.

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    Receive a signed copy of the physical CD, a personal thank you note from Dennis and Marc, signed copies of the four full cycles recorded on the album (Biscardi, Wadsworth, Shulman, and Tobenski), and recognition as a Gold Level Donor in the liner notes.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Receive a signed copy of the physical CD, a personal thank you note from Dennis and Marc, signed copies of the four full cycles recorded on the album (Biscardi, Wadsworth, Shulman, and Tobenski), recognition as a Platinum Level Donor in the liner notes, and a private concert in your home (within the Tri-state area) or during your next visit to NYC (email dennis@dennistobenski.com before donating to discuss basic logistics).

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Funding period

- (28 days)