Zimbel Press recently published the complete collection of Rider University associate professor Christian Carey’s compositions for organ.
The anthology includes spiritual variations, chanson variations, preludes, a fugue, and settings of carols. It also includes two hymns co-authored with his wife, Kay Mitchell, and works dedicated to American composer friends Robert Morris (Rochester, New York), Andrew Mead (Bloomington, Indiana), and Ken Ueno (Berkeley, California).
An associate professor of music composition, history, and theory, Carey has created more than 80 musical works in a variety of genres and styles and performed throughout the United States, England, the European Union, and Japan.
His works for organ have been performed at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity Church Wall Street, Harvard Memorial Church, Princeton University Chapel, Grace Church in Newark, and LaVerna International Organ Festival in Italy. And his vocal, choral, and orchestral compositions have been performed by the Atlantic Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Players of the League of Composers, East Coast Contemporary Ensemble, Manhattan Choral Ensemble, New York New Music Ensemble, Westminster Choir, Westminster Kantorei, and others.
His score for “Gilgamesh Variations” was staged at Bushwick Starr Theatre in Brooklyn, and recordings of his work are available on the New Focus, Tundra, Perspectives of New Music/Open Space, and Westminster Choir College labels.
Carey also writes about music and has published in Perspectives of New Music, Intégral, Open Space, Tempo, Musical America, Time Out New York, Signal to Noise, Early Music America, Sequenza 21, Pop Matters, All About Jazz, NewMusicBox, and the “Grove Dictionary of American Music and Musicians.”
In the following excerpted essay, Carey shares some thoughts about 21st century “classical” music:
There’s no way around it: describing something as “classical music,” particularly if it is music written by living composers, has become increasingly cumbersome. It is unlikely that we can forgo the term “classical” altogether: too many radio stations, stores (digital and brick-and-mortar), and arts organizations perpetuate the use of it.
When connecting music that is being created today to the classical tradition, the terms “contemporary classical,” “new classical,” and “new music” are often used interchangeably. All three are somewhat problematic.
Both contemporary and new classical connect something happening today with something that all too many people — call them “civilians” — think was made exclusively by Austrian men in powdered wigs. Calling today’s classical music “new music” seems to ignore all of the new music in other genres that is currently being created. What happens to new music by composers once they have passed away: should we call (20th century Italian composer Luciano) Berio’s music “Near-contemporary Classical?”
Partly in response to this conundrum, I am big on breaking down genre barriers. That said, here I will focus on what is going on in “New Classical” music, however loosely defined.
There are a lot of reasons to be excited about New Classical music today. The entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit of a number of ensembles, record labels, and concert series have provided us with a plethora of options to hear. Despite gloom and doom predictions about music’s future, there seem to be more and more composers interested in writing classical music and talented performers willing to play it.
As one can readily see from the biographical snapshot above, my pursuits are eclectic and tastes are catholic. And I am not alone. Many of the practitioners of New Classical music are interested in many different styles and are omnivorous in their listening habits. This informs their work with contemporary flavors that couldn’t be further removed from “music by dead white guys.” That said, among these adventurous souls there is often a profound respect for and connection to the classical canon. Unlike the style wars of the Twentieth century, where composers had to choose sides based on the kind of music they wrote and the composers that camp permitted into their sphere of influence, musicians today ask, “Why does it have to be either/or?”
I frequently tell my composition students that their musical path can now be more varied than ever, that style has become just one aspect of making a new piece. Much like trying various orchestrations, composers can now experiment with composing in different styles from piece to piece while trying find a compositional identity that will serve them as a through-line. In a culture of streaming, shuffling, mixing, and remixing, composers are able to enjoy being part of a variegated, in some ways fragmented, music scene.
For more on Christian Carey, visit his website at www.christianbcarey.com.