Queer Composers to Know: Part 2

In honor of Pride month, celebrated throughout in June, comes part 2 of our features on Queer Composers to know! Check out these four Queer composers whose lived experience inspires their compositional work. (And in case you missed out, check out our first installment of Queer Composers to Know.)

Richard Brasseale

Richard Brasseale is a saxophonist, composer, and educator based in Chicago. Originally from Huntsville, Alabama, Richard moved to Chicago to complete his Bachelors of Music at DePaul University. He has since gone on to perform with ensembles across the Midwest, including the Milwaukee Symphony, Madison Symphony, Fulcrum Point New Music Ensemble, Camerata Chicago, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, among others. As a composer, Richard is dedicated to writing works that speak to the Queer experience. He has scored films that have appeared in the Queer Bits Film Festival, the Cleveland International Film Festival, and the DePaul Premiere Film Festival. He recently released an ambient, instrumental album, Boyfriend Songs, available on all streaming platforms. His piece, The Hardest Part, won the People’s Choice Award for the National Saxophone Museum’s Creative Saxophone Expression Prize. He premiered the piece On Coming Out at the 2020 North American Saxophone Alliance Conference in Tempe, Arizona. Richard is currently on faculty at North Park University and is also a CYSO@CPS coach.

On The Hardest Part, Richard says, “As a closeted kid, I would write pieces for myself to escape from the adversity I faced, almost as hidden diary entries. I wrote The Hardest Part right after getting accepted to DePaul University for classical saxophone performance. With the joy of knowing that I could fully be myself and pursue my dreams in a few short months, the hardest part would be to last until then. Looking back, writing pieces like this helped hone my technique, curiosity, and creativity. Now, as an openly gay classical musician, I can look back with the joy of knowing that I actually became a professional musician, and that my childhood dreams became realized.”

Devin Clara Fanslow

Devin Clara is a Chicago-based composer, performer, and game developer. As a performer, her interests vary widely, favoring unusual instrumentation such as with her tuba, bassoon, trumpet, clarinet, guitar, and mandolin comprised group, Fire Thief. After completing a Masters degree in Jazz Composition from DePaul University, Devin has since made efforts to involve herself in mixed media disciplines. She has a love for storytelling, music, and interactivity in video games, and strives to extend these qualities into the realm of live performance. As a transgender woman in the arts, she hopes to contribute to destroying notions that you must strictly conform to what is expected of you in both art and life.

In an interview, Devin spoke about Reflections on a Past Discord:

“My piece, an interlude I had prepared well before being asked to participate in this project, contains a lot of thoughts around the ways in which people are forced to process being ‘othered.’ Thoughts that are difficult to express with words alone, due to their emotional weight. I feel privileged to be granted a platform to express such things, publicly, in the best way that I know how.”

“Deciding to not lie to my world about my feelings towards my body, and towards love, was a moment encompassing many moments. Singularly, for a split point where you’re thrown into an intense desire to embrace truth. From there, it is a lot of playing it by ear. Remembering this, I opened up notation software and just began writing directly into the computer, essentially improvising. In three fairly manic hours, I had three minutes of music written. In three days, it was a nine-minute rough draft that was effectively finalized by the fifth day. At risk of dubious decision-making, writing myself into the piece as an improviser solidified it as a semi-fixed improvisational piece. Again, reflecting the actual experience of ‘flying by the seat of one’s pants.”

“In many ways, the events of the piece mirror the lows and highs of my coming out experience. It then culminates into a poem that marked a particular point in my experience as a now out transgender woman.”

Saunder Choi

Saunder Choi is a Los Angeles-based Filipino composer and choral artist. Saunder believes in music as advocacy, using the media as a platform for diversity, equity, inclusion, justice. His compositions are focused on narratives and conversations surrounding immigration, racial justice, LGBTQ+ advocacy, climate justice, and representations of his identity as Filipino-Chinese. He is currently Director of Music at Unitarian Universalist Community Church of Santa Monica and a teaching artist with the Los Angeles Master Chorale.

Saunder’s work, Verum Corpus, is a multi-movement work for choir and string quartet, and sets the text of Amir Rabiyah on the story of transformation, completion, and attainment of the true body. The text is inspired by the story of Caeneus, a mythological hero from Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Caeneus was born as Caenis, a woman, who after a series of misfortunes, demanded Poseidon transform her into a man. Many of the characters experience trauma in Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Amir wanted this to be a poem that addressed that, drawing parallels to the experience of queer and transgender survivors of abuse and marginalization. More importantly, Amir wanted this to also be about how our chosen families love us, and how love can lead us to loving ourselves, and finding freedom.

Eve Beglarian

Eve Beglarian is a contemporary American composer, performer, and audio producer whose work is often characterized as postminimalist. Beglarian’s concert music has been commissioned by the Los Angeles Master Chorale, the American Composers Orchestra, the Bang on a Can All-Stars, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Voices of Ascension, and the Paul Dresher Ensemble, among many others. Beglarian received her B.A. from Princeton University in 1980 and her M.A. from Columbia University in 1983.

On I will not be sad in this world, Eve says, “Originally written for alto (or bass) flute, I will not be sad in this world is based on the Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova’s song Ashkharumes Akh Chim Kashil. The piece is often played on the duduk, and [the] flute playing should respond to the ornamentation, intonation, and vibrato of traditional duduk playing.”

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