New music from a leader in his field

David Sanford's newest work will be performed on March 31 in Boston and April 2 in Amherst.

By Sasha Nyary

The compositions of David W. Sanford, the chair of the music department at Mount Holyoke College, have been performed across the country, including by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Chicago Symphony Chamber Players, the Cabrillo Festival Orchestras, River City Brass and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

The composer also explores the intersection between modern classical and jazz through his contemporary big band, Pittsburgh Collective. The band has performed widely, including a live recording at the Knitting Factory with cellist Matt Haimovitz. 

Now Sanford’s latest piece, “Black Noise,” will be performed by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, which commissioned the work with funds from the Fromm Music Foundation. Audiences will have two opportunities to hear this work: at the New England Conservatory’s Jordan Hall in Boston on March 31 and at Buckley Recital Hall at Amherst College on April 2. Gil Rose will conduct.

Sanford’s work is transformative, said music professor Ng Tian Hui, who directs the Mount Holyoke Symphony Orchestra, which performed the composer’s “Thy Book of Toil,” in 2014.

“It was immediately infectious for our students,” Tian said. “They loved the almost manic, Danny Elfman/circa ‘Men in Black’ opening, the luminescent orchestration, ridiculously fun harmonies and its relentless drive. We can't wait for the next opportunity to work with him and hear his music.”

Sanford is the Elizabeth Topham Kennan Professor of Music - Composition, Theory and has been at Mount Holyoke since 1998. His many awards and honors include being named a fellow of the Radcliffe Institute and recognition from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has received a commission from the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, a Guggenheim fellowship, and the Samuel Barber Rome Prize Fellowship.

One of the Rome Prize referees wrote, “David Sanford is the real thing, a composer in the American tradition of brash, open-eared exploration: no material is too exalted or too debased for him to transform into his living art.”

The Boston Modern Orchestra Project and its recording label, BMOP/sound, are known as leaders in the field for their exclusive dedication to performing and recording new music.

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