McMurtry master wins award for 15,000
The Thresher sat down with Composition and Theory Professor Karim Al- Zand, who was one of four composers to receive the 2011 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for $15,000 in music. These national awards are given annually to artists, writers, composers and architects. Al-Zand, a McMurtry College master, will apply half of his award toward a recording project for a
piece that he composed.Rice Thresher: Tell me how you heard about this award.
Karim Al-Zand: In December, I got a letter from the Academy saying I'd been nominated . You send in a portfolio where a committee reviews it. I tried to send in a good representative sample of what I do.
RT: Can you describe the type of music you do?
KA: I write concert music, or what some people say "classical" music. It's basically the music you listen to in a
concert hall or on stage. I write string
quartets, pieces for orchestra, chorale
pieces, some for voice and piano.
RT: How long have you composed music for?
KA: Since high school.
RT: How does this award differ from others you've received?
KA: It may be more prestigious than other awards I've received, since it's a national award. From my understanding, members of the academy, sort of luminaries of the field, nominate you. There aren't a lot of big monetary awards in music, so it's relatively sizeable.
RT: Does it carry monetary value?
KA: It's a monetary award and money for a recording project. That's kind of nice, since recording can be expensive (and hiring players, studio time, etc.) Recording the kind of music I do, [since it is] not commercial music, the return on investment is not that huge.
RT: Would you prefer performing or composing music?
KA: I definitely prefer composing. I mean, I can perform, but it's not my strength.
RT: When you're performing, what's your instrument of choice?
KA: My main instrument is piano. One of the challenges of a composer is that you write for a lot of instruments
you don't actually play.RT: So how do you write for an instrument that you don't play?
KA: You know a little bit about the instrument itself - its physical properties, its range, what it does well . listen to a lot of music written for that instrument . talk to people who play the instrument. Sometimes you can learn enough
to play the instrument, not very well, but enough to know what's possible.
RT: What does the award mean to you?
KA: It's encouragement. It's always nice to be recognized professionally. I spend a lot of time teaching, so when you get some measure of success as a composer . it's satisfying.
RT: Do your other roles on campus influence your composition writing? [i.e., as a McMurtry master]
KA: It may be too early to tell. I have written a piece for McMurtry, a fanfare for the McMurtry Dedication. Everything in life gets in there somehow.
Who knows? There may be a McMurtry symphony in me.
RT: Describe the music you compose in one or two words.
KA: Colorful. I hope it's entertaining, edifying, enjoyable.
RT: Favorite musical piece?
KA: Bach's Goldberg Variations.
RT: From where do you draw your inspiration to compose?
KA: A lot of my pieces are inspired by extra-musical things like art, dance and literary sources.
RT: Finish this sentence. When I'm not in the Shepherd School, I'm ___.
KA: I'm at McMurtry. Usually I compose in my office at the Shepherd School just because there's so much going on here.
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