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Inside out: composer offers public journal of creative process

Dan Visconti teaching in the Young Composers program at the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Dan Visconti teaching in the Young Composers program at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Visconti is composing a piece through the "Kronos: Under 30 Project" that will debut at the Hopkins Center on Jan. 14. (Photo courtesy Dan Visconti)

Musical composition is a private process but young composer Dan Visconti is providing public insight through a blog - an online journal - hosted by the Hopkins Center's Web site. Visconti is blogging about a new work he is composing for the Kronos Quartet that will debut at the Hopkins Center on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 8 p.m. The work is being commissioned by the Hopkins Center and the "Kronos: Under 30 Project."

Visconti's blog, provides a window into the composer's mind as he navigates the creative process. Joe Clifford, Outreach & Arts Education Manager for the Hopkins Center, asked Visconti to create the blog - a first for the Hopkins Center. "It's important for us to make the work of living composers accessible and to build audiences for contemporary music," said Clifford. "By harnessing technology as a learning tool, Dan is able to present his thoughts on the compositional process and share work samples along the way. I'm hopeful that students will draw inspiration from his words and music." Audio samples from Visconti, including improvisational guitar and his orchestral work Black Bend, which was written for the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, are posted on the blog.

Visconti is known for a compositional style that draws freely from the expressive language of rock. He is pursing his doctorate at the Yale School of Music and is a faculty member in the Young Composers Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music.

The early blog entries focus on tonal elements of the piece and the often-frustrating creative process. In later entries Visconti discusses the less abstract issues of composing, such as creating the electronic components of the piece that will accompany the Kronos Quartet during the live performance. "The creative process is only a minor piece in composing," explained Visconti. "The tweaking and mechanics of a piece after it has been composed are what takes more work."

Visconti is the third recipient of the commission offered through the "Kronos: Under 30 Project." The first work, Oculus Pro Oculo Totum Orbem Terrae Caecat by Alexandra du Bois, made its premier at the Hopkins Center in 2003 and has since been performed in major venues throughout the United States.

The Kronos Quartet is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that promotes contemporary music and expands the repertoire for string quartets. Kronos created the project to support stronger connections with young composers in hopes of cultivating the next musically creative generation.

"When I was growing up, I became absorbed in the Kronos Quartet's visceral and adventurous recordings in much the same way that many adolescents obsess over the albums of the great, iconic rock bands. I'm thrilled for a chance to work with the ensemble that, more than any other, reflects my hopes of all that music can be," said Visconti.

Visconti will be in residence at the Hopkins Center on Jan. 12 and 13, 2006, when he will meet with Dartmouth student composers. A post-performance discussion will follow the Jan. 14 premier of his composition. To purchase tickets, call 646-2422 or visit online.

By LAUREN LOTKO '06

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Last Updated: 12/17/08