VCFA 2017 Music Composition alumnx Kyle Pederson has recently been awarded the 2020 ACDA Genesis Prize for his collaborative composition, “Call Across.” In his piece, “Call Across” speaks to the current events of 2020, COVID-19, isolation, the need for human connection, and the hope that lies beneath it all.
This is what Kyle has to say about capturing current events through music:
ON THE 2020 ACDA GENESIS PRIZE
Conceived as a response to the difficult times recently facing our world, and choral art in particular, the Genesis Prize is a new initiative of the ACDA Composition Initiatives Standing Committee. The prize seeks to stimulate art emerging from crisis by funding both poets and composers to create new choral works that speak to our time with voices of comfort, hope, peace, and justice.
The prize is essentially a commission to create a new work. In my application I submitted a full proposal for [“Call Across”] as well as a sample of my past choral work.
Here’s a good summary of our proposal:
Across cultures, ages, languages, and geography, the human animal is made for connection. This fact of our humanity has been painfully clarified as COVID-19 shut down huge swaths of human activity, and silenced choral singers everywhere whose very art is made only in community. Racial tensions and political polarization have further isolated neighbor from neighbor. But ultimately, all of us will instinctively reach out to break our isolation. We have to. “Call Across”—for SATB choir with piano, djembe, and optional hang drum—will give voice to this elemental human need for connection and leave the audience with an empowering question of unity. The piece will present three “characters” from around the world, each seeking to break out of their particular isolation, each ending their call across physical space, history, or silence with the same declaration of the simple power of presence: “There is no beauty without your voice.” All choral and instrumental forces join in a layered climax and proclaim a powerful message of hope and promise.
I’m primarily in the research phase right now, where I’m having conversations with instrumentalists, singers, and ethnomusicologists from around the world. This is especially important as I “get out of my bubble” and seek to honor the cultures whose music is inspiring this particular work.
ON HIS HOPES FOR THE IMPACT OF “CALL ACROSS”
This entire project is conceived as a response to the madness of 2020. It aims to give voice to our elemental need for connection—a connection that is currently threatened by a pandemic, racial inequity, injustice, and extreme political polarization. It is our hope, too, that this piece spurs deep reflection and conversation among the choirs that prepare it and audiences that hear it.
I’d hope that, at some level, listeners would have a sense of our connection and commonality across humanity….that we’d be at least a bit more inclined to call out—to reach out—across all the various chasms we’ve erected to keep out our neighbor. That we’d be more likely to call out to others in a spirit of grace and compassion, rather than anger and judgement.
ON THE IMPACT OF VCFA
One of the pieces in my [“Call Across”] application portfolio was a piece created as part of my VCFA coursework with John Fitz Rogers. That’s on a super “tangible” level, but more broadly, VCFA encouraged all of us Music Composition students to think broadly—to take risks—and to think collaboratively. Without that encouragement and training, this sort of project could easily seem overwhelming.
Not a day goes by where I’m not grateful for my experiences at VCFA. Each faculty member and student at VCFA has left a bit of their legacy with me as I move into the world as a composer…and an increasing confidence in my compositional process and ability to navigate the interesting facets of the life of a composer.
ON HIS ADVICE FOR CREATING ART ABOUT CURRENT EVENTS
Follow your heart and your gut…but run your ideas past lots of other people of various backgrounds to gain perspective. It’s so easy to live in our own echo chamber on social media and in our friend and family circles that we can easily lose sight of how current events are impacting people unlike us.
“I call across canyons
I call across plains
I call across colors
I call across time.
What beauty might we make
if our voices join?”