Composing personal experience into music

Last spring, I spent just a couple of days with a rental car, chasing down sites in North and South Dakota where my paternal grandparents grew up in the 1890s/1900s. It was late March and still frigid cold. Snow was drifted everywhere, and had an alarming tendency to blow as a skim coat hiding the roads I drove.  I spent a day in Aberdeen, where my grandmother grew up, and another day finding the site where a town called Wiprud briefly stood. There were deeply meaningful moments and sights in all of this.  Beyond telling the tale to relatives, I felt a need to say something more, something more lasting, through music – piano music that I can actually play. But how?  What does it actually mean to take an experience

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Intercultural Inspirations

Music turns me on. Often, it’s music in the tradition I understand deeply.  I cannot sit still during the finale of Mozart’s JupiterSymphony.   Bach’s b minor Mass puts me into another realm.  Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux Etoilesis an out-of body experience. But sometimes, tellingly, inexplicably, it’s music I don’t understand at all that turns me on.  Something new hits me like a ton of bricks – an immediately thrilling sound that gets stuck in my head and gets me thinking, like an itch that needs scratching.  

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Amazing Grace: Bridging Lakota and Classical Music

The Creekside Singers hold nothing back. Four to six big men sit around a big drum beating in unison. They uncork big, raw voices higher than you ever thought chest voice could go. Phrases begin with gutsy swoops, notes waver with exertion, lines weave downward and end in expressive drop-offs. This is Northern Plains singing – fierce, dauntless, proud.  

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Are We Ready Yet?

I’m not sure I would have gotten it, if I hadn’t been through it already, or at least begun to go through it. But now I’m excited and optimistic about orchestras beginning to examine themselves internally for unconscious bias, non-inclusive culture, outmoded policies, and more.   

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The Conundrum of the Title

Am I the only composer who obsesses over titles?  The more personal a new composition is, the harder it can be to title.   Why the stress? The music speaks for itself, right?  As the saying goes, music takes over where words stop.  What words can possibly suggest the journey of the music?  The truth is, the title is likely to be the first thing your listeners or viewers experience. Instantly and inevitably, a title triggers impressions and expectations, which color the experience of the work itself. Forever after, the music will be thought to convey that image perceived in the title.   

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Upcoming Events


American Violin Concertos

american violin concertos theodore wiprud ittai shapira katrina

Violin Concerto (Katrina) performed by Ittai Shapira and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

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gamin nong theodore wiprud

The first recording of Wiprud's Mudang for p'iri and strings, by dedicatee gamin and string quartet ETHEL.

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Fire In Heaven And Earth

fire in heaven and earth theodore wiprud

The first recording devoted to the composer's work, featuring four works of vocal, chamber, and orchestral music.

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