When you see “commissioned by” written on a concert program, you can bet that the name of a performing arts or philanthropic organization will follow, since those are the groups that typically support the creation of new pieces of music. However, the L.A. Chamber Orchestra is trying something different with its Sound Investment campaign. Members of the community are offered the opportunity to invest as little as $300 towards the creation of a new piece.
This year, the composer selected was 26-year-old Matthew Aucoin, who was also just named L.A. Opera’s Artist-in-Residence and is one of three Dudamel Conducting Fellows with the L.A. Philharmonic. The result of the campaign is piece called Evidence, and you’ll be able to hear it on May 14th at the Alex Theatre and May 15th at Royce Hall.
“It’s very Bernie Sanders, isn’t it?” Aucoin says about the project. “It’s much more personal and I think it’s deeply Los Angeles-specific. There are a lot of art supporters—not all stereotypically super-rich—who want to support music however they can. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a room with so many new music donors as I have been at all of these salons [hosted by LACO in the year preceding the premiere.].”
Aucoin said he came up for the initial idea behind Evidence while in Wales. “I just heard the opening soundscape of the piece,” he said. “It’s kind of a hovering, bobbing motion, like being at anchor in a bay. I was thinking a while ago about the difference between making art and practicing western religion, as music has always felt like a religious practice—engaging with the unknown with whatever means you have, and meditating on it. I realize that most major faiths are not fond of evidence. They want you to take it on faith. That’s the deep difference between faith and proof. You wouldn’t trust a composer who said, ‘Take me on faith.’ So I figured I’d call the work Evidence.”
Besides this work, Aucoin is keeping busy, and has already composed four operas including Crossing and Second Nature. During the upcoming L.A. Opera season, he will be conducting Philip Glass’s Ahknaten and will premiere a new score he cultivated and composed for the 1922 silent film classic Nosferatu.
He says he’s excited about the opportunities Los Angeles offers. “I remember reading an article by [New Yorker music critic] Alex Ross where he said the gravitational center of music has shifted westward and Los Angeles was the cause of it,” he says. “As soon as I met the people at the Phil and the Opera and LACO, I sensed their hunger for new work. It just feels like the place to be.”
Although he’s already accomplished a lot, Aucoin says he’s keeping his options open about the future. “When you are a composer you can’t even look one step ahead because you are dealing with the musical problem directly in front of you. I’m not satisfied with any of it, ever. I’m in a state of perpetual growth and change, and I just want to ride that wave.”
Check out some of Matthew Aucoin’s music below. His opera Crossing features the American Repertory Theater.