Composer-vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in Musical Composition. She takes inspiration for her work from literary sources and close artistic collaborations. Gramophone reports, “Bielawa is gaining gale force as a composer, churning out impeccably groomed works that at once evoke the layered precision of Vermeer and the conscious recklessness of Jackson Pollock,” and The New York Times describes her music as, “ruminative, pointillistic and harmonically slightly tart.”
Born in San Francisco into a musical family, Lisa Bielawa played the violin and piano, sang, and wrote music from early childhood. She moved to New York two weeks after receiving her B.A. in Literature in 1990 from Yale University, and became an active participant in New York musical life. She began touring with the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1992, and has also premiered and toured works by John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, and Michael Gordon. In 1997 she co-founded the MATA Festival, which celebrates the work of young composers. Bielawa was appointed Artistic Director of the acclaimed San Francisco Girls Chorus in 2013 and is an artist-in-residence at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, California.
Lisa Bielawa’s music is frequently performed throughout the US, and in France, Italy, the UK, and Finland. Recent highlights include a Radio France commission for Ensemble Variances – the new 15-minute work was performed in Paris, Rouen, and Metz as part of a program called Cri Selon Cri or “Cry by Cry” which explores the idea that the cry is a primary sound shared by animals and humans from all cultures of the world. In addition, Bielawa composed a piece for the 50-member Finnish male choir Akademiska Sångföreningen on a text from Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra. Both works featured Bielawa as the vocal soloist.
Other recent highlights include the world premieres of Rondolette by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and pianist Bruce Levingston, Double Duet by the Washington Saxophone Quartet (with subsequent performances by the Prism Saxophone Quartet), Graffiti dell’amante by Bielawa with the Chicago Chamber Musicians in Chicago and with Brooklyn Rider in New York, Harrisburg, and Rome. The Project of Collecting Clouds at Town Hall in Seattle by cellist Joshua Roman and chamber ensemble, Double Violin Concerto and In medias res by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, The Right Weather by American Composers Orchestra and pianist Andrew Armstrong at Carnegie Hall, and The Lay of the Love and Death at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.
Bielawa’s work Chance Encounter is a piece comprising songs and arias constructed of speech overheard in transient public spaces, which was premiered by soprano Susan Narucki and The Knights in Lower Manhattan’s Seward Park. A project of Creative Capital, the 35-minute work for roving soprano and chamber ensemble has since been performed at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, in Vancouver, Venice, and in Rome on the banks of the Tiber River in partnership with urban placemaker Robert Hammond, a founder of The High Line in New York.
Bielawa’s latest work for performance in public places is Airfield Broadcasts, a massive 60-minute work for hundreds of musicians that premiered on the tarmac of the former Tempelhof Airport in Berlin (May 2013) and was also performed at Crissy Field in San Francisco (October 2013). Bielawa turns these former airfields into vast musical canvases, as professional, amateur and student musicians execute a spatial symphony.
Bielawa’s discography includes A Handful of World (Tzadik); The Trojan Women on a disc entitled First Takes (TROY); Hildegurls: Electric Ordo Virtutum, (Innova); The Trojan Women in a version for string quartet performed by the Miami on The NYFA Collection (Innova); In medias res (BMOP/sound), a double-disc set of Bielawa’s solo and orchestral works; the world premiere recording of Chance Encounter (Orange Mountain Music), and Elegy-Portrait on pianist Bruce Levingston’s 2011 album, Heart Shadow (Sono Luminus).
For more information, please visit www.lisabielawa.net.
Articles by Lisa Bielawa:
"Vireo: The Spiritual Biography of a Witch's Accuser" was more than two decades in the making. Here composer Lisa Bielawa recounts the evolution of this ambitious work from idea to...
Commissions are not always the best funding model. Some projects are more like entrepreneurial ventures, and as such, they require financial risk-taking and the willingness to take on fiscal as...
I don't have The Answer. But I have had many of the problems, and I am discovering ways—through experimentation and desperation—to navigate through many of these challenges more effectively.
Lisa Bielawa [Ed note: Lisa Bielawa‘s The Right Weather, for piano and chamber orchestra, was premiered by the American Composers Orchestra and pianist Andrew Armstrong at Carnegie’s Zankel Hall on...