Meet Finale Composition Contest Finalist Eric Lindsay

Back in February we announced the three finalists in the Finale National Composition Contest. All three were asked to submit final scores (by October 1, 2011) and will workshop their pieces with the Grammy-winning ensemble eighth blackbird in Chicago on December 7 and 8. The contest will culminate with a concert of all three works for invited guests on December 8. The judges will subsequently select the recipient of the final prize, who will receive an additional cash award and a future public performance by eighth blackbird.

This week we’ll meet finalist Eric Lindsay. Eric was born in 1980 and grew up on Whidbey Island, WA. Like so many of us, Eric’s early musical development was fueled by an attentive music educator:

“I was first introduced to Finale in the sixth grade with the encouragement of my band director. He had spotted me improvising at the piano before rehearsals and encouraged me to write down my improvisations so that my peers could play them on their respective instruments. It was through the experience of working with Finale, learning what a score should look like, and how to prepare music for each instrument, that I gained a taste of the activities that would follow me into adulthood.

The first piece that I premiered in public (with the exception of a solo piano piece that I had composed for myself) was a work for my 60-piece sixth-grade wind ensemble. The thrill of having that many performers simultaneously playing a work that I had devised at a piano – such a modest genesis for such a large final product – was so awesome that I knew immediately that I would be a composer for the rest of my life. I doubt that this could have happened without Finale’s flexibility and intuitiveness scaffolding my introduction to this critical aspect of composing.”

Eric subsequently studied at Indiana University-Bloomington, the University of Southern California, and at King’s College in London, and is currently pursuing a doctorate in composition at Indiana University-Bloomington. Eric is the recipient of several national honors and awards, and his scores are published and distributed through Peermusic Ltd. and the Theodore Presser Company.

Scott Yoho: Your website indicates that your music “defies easy categorization.” What do you say when asked to describe your “style?”

Eric Lindsay: “As much as I try to create a singular identity for my music, I feel as though each work turns out wildly different. This might be a result of my early music experiences, which were steeped as much in orchestral music as they were in jazz, musical theatre, and the fabulous scores from the golden era of cartoons, including the work of Carl Stalling and Winston Sharples. But there is usually a thread that ties these pieces together, as I consistently try to weave in some elements of zaniness and the unexpected.

I’m also fascinated with the idea of throwing two or more stylistically different things in the same piece, to see how they merge or otherwise influence each other. I’m intrigued by styles that break free of their trademark identities and slowly transform into “something else” – I find that ambiguous yet propulsive state of transition very exciting.

And as much as I try to avoid it, something pretty usually works its way into my music. “Go AWAY!” I typically exclaim when I notice it’s there, but it subversively finds its way back in (in usually a more covert way) before the double bars are drawn.”

SY: What or who influences or inspires your work?

EL: “Investigating cultural phenomena, from Elizabethan nursery rhymes, to the Monopoly game, to the Hopkin Green Frog meme, is another fascination of mine. Surely, reexamining traditions as they adapt through time is a theme that has captured the attention of many leading composers and artists in the postmodern era, though perhaps the imaginative and performance art aspects of the work of Hussein Chalayan, Matthew Barney, Ben Rubin, and Gyorgi Ligeti have become the focal point for my investigation of this theory in practice.

Cross-disciplinary collaboration also inspires me, as indicated by my multiyear partnership, Neptune’s Broiler with guitarist/sound artist Robert Hawes and my recent exploration of sound installation and performance art with the San Francisco-based ADORNO ensemble.”

SY: What are you working on in addition to your contest submission?

EL: “I’m starting to dig into my doctoral dissertation, a piece for large mixed ensemble and electronics, which I expect will receive its premiere by the Indiana University New Music Ensemble in their 2012-13 season.

I’m also in the early stages of collaboration with choreographer Selene Carter on an improvisatory piece for multiple dancers. Embedded their costumes and props are microcomputers that allow us to track their movements and reinterpret them in sound controlled from my laptop. We’re calling it an interactive feedback system within a dance performance environment. I premiered a piece in 2010 using that technology and the results were awesome.

Also, one of my good friends is part of The Academy (Carnegie Hall’s program), so I’m working with him and his quartet, DZ4, this summer on a few grant applications for early next year.”

I’d like to thank Eric for his time and wish him the best with the competition and beyond!

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