Member since May 2018
CAROL BARNETT – BIOGRAPHY
Carol Barnett’s music has been called audacious and engaging. Her varied catalog includes works for solo voice, piano, chorus, diverse chamber ensembles, orchestra, and wind ensemble. She was awarded the 2003 Nancy Van de Vate International Prize for Opera for her chamber opera, Snow; her music theater work Meeting at Seneca Falls was featured at the 2006 Diversity Festival in Red Wing, MN. The World Beloved: A Bluegrass Mass, commissioned in 2006 by VocalEssence and written with Marisha Chamberlain, had its Carnegie Hall debut in February 2013, and has become a favorite across the country. Barnett is a charter member of the American Composers Forum and a graduate of the University of Minnesota, where she studied composition with Dominick Argento and Paul Fetler. She was composer-in-residence with the Dale Warland Singers from 1992 to 2001, and an adjunct faculty member at Augsburg College from 2000 to 2015. Further information is available at <www.carolbarnett.net>
My music has its roots in the Western classical tradition, supplemented by explorations of the Jewish liturgical tradition and the folk music of Greece, Italy, Russia, Southeastern Europe, and the Middle East. I often use preexisting material—folk melodies, literary influences and texts. I believe that music is a language based on nostalgia—remembered sounds which evoke other places, times and emotions. I am most interested in communicating with my listeners by using musical language familiar to them, then adding something new—more complex harmonies, elements from a different musical tradition, or departures from the expected formal structure. I work rather slowly, striving for a balance of well-grounded formal structure with effortless flow from one event to the next. Since I am a performer as well as a composer, I understand the occasional need to write within the parameters of limited rehearsal time and modest technical accomplishment without “writing down” to the performers. While writing accessibly, I try to find something unusual to say, something unique, magic, that bypasses intellect and goes straight to the heart.
Listen to works by Carol Barnett
I Should Be Glad
SSAA + vibraphone
I should be glad of loneliness
And hours that go on broken wings,
A thirsty body, a tired heart
And the unchanging ache of things,
If I could make a single song
As lovely and as full of light,
As hushed and brief as a falling star
On a winter night.
In the Pursuit of That Perfection
SATB + cello
What you hold, may you always hold.
What you do, may you always do and never abandon.
But with swift pace, light step,
and unswerving feet,
so that even your steps stir up no dust,
securely, joyfully, and swiftly,
on the path of prudent happiness,
agreeing with nothing
which would dissuade you from this resolution
or which would place a stumbling block for you on the way,
so that you may offer your vows to the Most High
in the pursuit of that perfection
to which the Spirit of the Lord has called you.
Clare of Assisi (1194-1253)
My People Are Rising
SA, violin, doumbek
I first heard this text in a 2016 BBC podcast; it is part of a longer work by Mohja Kahf entitled “My People Are Rising: An unfinished poem begun in Spring 2011 for an unfinished Revolution begun in March 2011.” It spoke so viscerally of the tragic events in Syria that it was impossible for me to imagine setting it with Western harmonies. And so began an exploration of Arabic music, with its quarter-tone scales, its lack of vertical chordal structures, its abundantly ornamented heterophony. Since quarter-tones are not a part of our Western choral
training, I opted to temper the scales a bit, resulting in a fair number of augmented seconds, and added a violin to
the melodic mix for pitch support. The voices and violin are accompanied by a doumbek player, who is highly
encouraged to improvise; the written notation is only there as a guide.
Near Odessa was written for Bella Voce, a women's choir based in Reno, Nevada, and conducted by Jennifer Tibben. The poem is from a recent volume by Minneapolis writer Patricia Kirkpatrick, written during a time when she was making frequent car trips through the western Minnesota landscape to the tiny town of Odessa. The images of golden fields, clattering harvest machinery, the far-off cry of geese, the hum of tires on the highway and the waves on the river, all are fodder for sound pictures.
McKay (from An American Thanksgiving)
A spirited meditation on S. M. Denson's hymn tune from the Sacred Harp.
O the transporting, rapturous scene
That rises to my sight!
Sweet fields arrayed in living green,
And rivers of delight.
There gen’rous fruits that never fail
On trees immortal grow,
There rocks and hills and brooks and vales
With milk and honey flow.
Samuel Stennett, 1787
Dance of Zálongo
SA/SATB, percussion, piano
This Greek folk song recalls an heroic action by the women of the village of Souli, who danced to the edge of the nearby Zálongo canyon and one by one leapt to their death rather than be captured by the enemy.
As composer in residence, I listened to the Dale Warland Singers rehearsing Poulenc's Quatre motets pour le temps de Noël. I loved the first three; the fourth, not so much. This is my own interpretation of the "Hodie" text.