Nina C. Young

Composer and Sound Artist

  • Instrumental Music
    • Rising Tide (2015) for seven musicians
      Instrumentation: flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, viola, cello
      Duration: 08:30
      Ensemble: Divertimento Ensemble
      Year composed: 2015
      Recording of the premiere performance by the Divertimento Ensemble.

      “There is a tide in the affairs of men,
      Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
      Omitted, all the voyage of their life
      Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
      On such a full sea are we now afloat.
      And we must take the current when it serves
      Or lose our ventures.”
      -William Shakespeare (Julius Caesar, Act IV Scene III)

      Rising Tide was premiered by the Divertimento Ensemble on September 21, 2015 at the Milano EXPO Gates.
    • Ainsi soit-il (2016) for solo cello
      Instrumentation: cello
      Duration: 06:00
      Musician(s): Anssi Kartunnen (for his Creative Dialogue Suite)
      Year composed: 2016
      Live recording at Columbia’s Reid Hall Global Campus, Paris, FR 02/15/2016
    • À bout de souffle (2016) for piano scordatura
      Instrumentation: piano scordatura (same tuning as Grisey’s Vortex Temporum)
      Duration: 04:15
      Musician(s): Marilyn Nonken (for her Vortex Temporum Revisited project)
      Year composed: 2016
      Live recording from Roulette 05/23/16
      Patricia Franchini: What is your greatest ambition in life?
      Parvulesco: To become immortal… and then die.
      Patricia Franchini: It’s sad to fall asleep. It separates people. Even when you’re sleeping together, you’re all alone.
      "À bout de souffle" (English “out of breath”) takes its title from Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 film (English: Breathless). My piece shares no direct relation to the narrative of the film, but the compositional process drew inspiration from both the (then) innovative use of jump cuts that film critic Andrew Sarris analyzed as representing “the meaninglessness of the time interval between moral decisions”, and the two quotes above.

      Written for the same scordatura tuning as Grisey’s magnus opus Vortex Temporum, it was a great hurdles to compose something new in dialogue with such a monumental and personally influential work. I focused on simultaneously highlighting and obscuring the relationship between the piano’s standard equal temperament and the four quarter-tones available. I play with the idea of Grisey’s structural arc and the Ravel arpeggio by presenting repetitive ostinato gestures nested in sonic, resonant arcs that bloom and decay through processes of dynamics, timbre, and registral expansion – a sort of restless breathing.
    • Fleeting Musings and Restless Pause (2015) a bassoon pocket concerto
      Instrumentation: bassoon, flute, harp, viola, bass
      Duration: 05:30
      Musician(s): Brad Balliett and the Metropolis Ensemble
      Year composed: 2015
      Live recording: premiere 10/11/2015 (le) poisson rouge.
    • Spero Lucem (2015) for piano quartet
      Instrumentation: piano quartet: piano (with e-bow), violin, viola, violoncello
      Duration: 06:00

      Program Note:
      "Post tenebras spero lucem" -- "After darkness I hope for light".

      Spero Lucem was written for the Creative Dialogue VII Symposium. The work was premiered by Yoonhee Lee (violin), Tim Hansson (viola), Oskari Holopainen (violoncello), and Eirik Fosstveit (piano) on February 7, 2015 at the Helsinki Music Center's Organo Hall as part of Musica Nova Helsinki.
    • Agnosco Veteris (2015) for orchestra
      Title: Agnosco Veteris
      Instrumentation: orchestra (2222.4231 timp, 3perc, hp, cel, pno, strings:
      Duration: 15:00
      Year Composed: 2015
      Companion piece to Vestigia Flammae (2014).

      Agnosco Veteris was commissioned by Robert Spano and the Aspen Music Festival and School as part of the Jacob Druckman Prize. The work was premiered on July 15, 2015 with Stephen Mulligan leading the Aspen Philharmonic Orchestra in the Benedict Music Tent.
    • l’heure bleue (2013) for flute and viola
      Instrumentation: flute, viola
      Musicians: Margaret Lancaster, flute; Jocelin Pan, viola
      Duration: 07:30
    • Traced Upon Cinders (2014) for 13 musicians
      Instrumentation: 13 musicians: flute (+picc. + prayer bowl), clarinet (+bs cl.), horn (+prayer bowl), trumpet (+ prayer bowl), bass trombone (+prayer bowl), percussion, piano, electric guitar (8-string), 2 violins, viola, cello, bass
      Ensemble: Either/Or, Richard Carrick - conductor
      Duration: 10:45

      Program Note:

      Traced Upon Cinders is a partner piece to my percussion sextet Etched in Sand. The notes to Etched in Sand read:

      "To etch is to cut, carve, or engrave a text of design onto a surface (traditionally metal, glass, or stone). This process leaves a permanent design on the original surface.

      "I recall going to the shore as a child and spending hours etching designs into the wet, hardened sand at the threshold of beach and sea. With the sun on my back I would revel in the glory of these beautiful and ephemeral pieces of art that I created using the sand as my canvas and a stray seashell as my stylus. As evening encroached, the tide would slowly come in, its regular cycles of crashing waves a whispering reminder of the passing of time. The gently lapping water would inevitably creep towards my etching, and as it neared I waited, in tense anticipation, for the arcs of water blinding reaching up the beach. As the first finger of water washed over my design, the image began its transformation into a subdued echo of itself. For a short time - an eternity - I would solemnly watch my day's work gently fade away into the original blank canvas."

      As an adult, I often look back to the memories of moments from my childhood. I trace these images over and over again in my mind, seeking new meanings and connections. But as time passes their fidelity erodes; they are now cinders of the burning moments they once were, and quickly they do fade.

      Traced Upon Cinders was written for the Either/Or ensemble.
    • Fata Morgana (2014) for symphonic brass ensemble (and version for orchestra)
      Instrumentation: version for symphonic brass ensemble: 4 trumpets, 6 horns, 2 tenor trombones, 1 bass trombone, tuba, 2 percussion
      Duration: 09:15

      Alternate version for orchestra
      Instrumentation: 2222.4221.timp + 3 perc. harp. pno. strings: min. 10 8 6 6 4
      Duration: 10:00
      Recording available upon request

      Program Note:
      (adapted from those by Matthew Mendez)

      A Fata Morgana is a type of distorted maritime mirage seen just above the horizon. Named after the Arthurian sorceress Morgan le Fay, these mirages are associated to the distant fairy castles and sirens that would lure sailors to their death. The idea of these mirages elicits a series of evocative musical effects: the hazy scrim of shimmering vibraphones, menacing trumpet calls conjuring up a sinister version of the first movement of Debussy’s “La Mer”, the labyrinthine structure capturing the sensation of being dangerously off course.

      Avoiding the customary grouping by like instruments, Fata Morgana (version for symphonic brass) calls for an untraditional seating arrangement, which facilities strange echo effects and illusory resonances. With its spare juxtapositions, the music has the flavor of surrealism. Contrast comes in the guise of a fleeting chorale, distant cousin to Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman”, which contains the most celebrated Fata Morgana in music.

      The poetics of the piece create an imaginative world based on man against the elements: the warmth of human presence (the chorale) versus the cold desolation of nature (fanfares). Here, nature gets the upper hand, with one of the piece’s final features summoning the sound of drowning.

      Fata Morgana was commissioned by the Tanglewood Music Center, with the generous support of the Merwin Geffen, M.D. and Norman Solomon, M.D. New Commissions Fund. The work was premiered on June 29th, 2014 in Seiji Ozawa Hall with the 2014 Tanglewood Music Center Fellows performing under the direction of Karina Canellakis.
    • Vestigia Flammae (2014) for 15 musicians
      Instrumentation: 15 musicians: flute (+alto, picc.), oboe (+english horn), clarinet (+e-flat cl.), bass clarinet, bassoon (+contra), horn, trumpet, bass trombone, percussion, piano, 2 violins, viola, cello, bass
      Ensemble: Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Lorraine Vaillancourt - conductor
      Duration: 14:00

      Program Note:

      In book IV of Virgil's Aeneid, Dido – long in grief over her husband's death – is awakened suddenly from emotional slumber by the visiting Trojan hero Aeneas, proclaiming “Agnosco veteris vestigia flammae” (“I recognize the traces of an ancient fire”).

      Vestigia Flammae is not explicitly narrative in nature; like other recent works, it deals with the central concepts of lost memories, vestigial emotions, and melancholy for the passage of time. In contrast to those other works, a strain of optimism characterizes this piece: here, renewal is the driving force – the idea of recollecting, re-experiencing, and rekindling traces of old fires. This piece searches, through ritual and repetition, for remnants of vanished memories, and forgotten music. The mind has difficulty remembering – fragmented fossils are pieced together – much is lost and gained in the process. Ultimately an entirely new experience emerges, fraught with nostalgia, complexity, optimism, and simplicity. It’s a new beginning.

      Vestigia Flammae was written for the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne’s 2014 Forum.
    • Memento Mori (2013) for string quartet
      Ensemble: JACK Quartet
      Duration: 7:33

      Program Note:

      Phase I – "ut cuspis sic vita fluit dum stare videtur" is the first movement of a larger work-in-progress.

      A memento mori (from Latin ‘remember that you will die’) is an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death. The association of sundials with time has inspired their artisans over the centuries to display mottoes as part of their design. Often these mottoes cast the device in the role of memento mori. The subtitle of Phase I, meaning ‘life flies on like an arrow, while it seems to stand still’, is one such motto, inscribed on a sundial in the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

      This work is a meditation on life and the perception of time. In our daily activities, the constant influx of information, sensations, and stimuli saturates our consciousness. By stepping out of time, we can zoom in and out of our perceptual systems, allowing us to focus on their intricacies and beauty.

      The musical material of Memento Mori is drawn from Contrapunctus I, from Bach’s The Art of Fugue. The first movement isolates the first five notes of the D minor subject, stretching them out and zooming into the interstices, analyzing and manipulating in minute detail their interactions over time. The listener is thus invited to find interest in the subtle fluctuations in amplitude, texture, and periodicity in the music.
    • Tethered Within (2013) for 8 musicians
      Instrumentation: octet (alto flute, bass clarinet, percussion, piano, 2 violins, viola, cello
      Duration: 05:45
      Program Note:
      As the title of the piece suggests, in writing this work I was searching for a music that would sonically represent the turmoil that exists when one repeatedly attempts to break past a threshold or a tether that is causing physical or psychological restriction. The piece is filled with small, tense motives (such as the exasperated waving motion in the flute and clarinet that begins the work, or the fast staccato rhythms in the upper strings). The musical lines desire to break away from their restraints, but rather, the music is violently halted by silences and abruptly sprung back to more incessant material. The final attempt to break away occurs towards the end of the piece as the strings transcend into a more lyrical music, but once again this is cut off and eventually only a noise loop remains.

      Tethered Within was written for the 2013 New Fromm Players of the Tanglewood Music Center as part of the "Composer as Conductor" workshop.
    • Void (2013) for soprano, viola, and piano
      Text: Emily Dickinson
      Instrumentation: soprano (light), viola, piano
      Duration: 06:30
      Text: Void (XXXVII. from Time and Eternity) by Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

      Great streets of silence led away
      To neighborhoods of pause;
      Here was no notice, no dissent
      No universe, no laws.

      By clocks ‘t was morning, and for night
      The bells at distance called;
      But epoch had no basis here,
      For period exhaled.
    • Meditation (2013) for violin and cello
      Duration: 05:30
      Program Note:

      Meditation was written for the 2013 New Fromm Players of the Tanglewood Music Center as part of the "Piece-A-Day" workshop.
    • Remnants (2012) for orchestra
      Ensemble: American Composers Orchestra (ACO)
      Instrumentation: orchestra
      Duration: 11:30 [3 minute excerpt] - Full recording available upon request
      The excerpt of "Remnants" below was recorded live at the American Composers Orchestra's 2013 Underwood New Music Readings.

      Please inquire to access a full recording (available only for educational purposes).
      Program Note:
      In writing this work I attempted to create a sonic experience that is somewhat unfamiliar in the context of the well-established orchestral tradition comprised of centuries old instruments. Using concepts from my work in electro-acoustic composition, I sought orchestral equivalents of the sonic environments and morphing of sound more readily found in computer music practice. In experiencing this work, I invite the listener to imagine the orchestra as one giant instrument - a resonating body. As the music unfolds over time, explore the instrumental hybrid, listen to how each musical statement expands and decays over time, how colors and articulations resonate through the ensemble, and how the traces of sounds (the remnants that are left) evolve over time.
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  • Mixed Music (live instruments and electronics)
    • Out of whose womb came the ice (2017) for baritone voice, orchestra, electronics, and optional generative video

      Music: Nina C. Young
      Text: Nina C. Young and David Tinervia
      Generative video: R. Luke DuBois
      Parts 1&2 (of 4):
      Part 1: Into the Weddell Sea
      Part 2: Trapped in Pack Ice
      Duration: 13:50
      Rehearsal recording by the American Composers Orchestra, David Tinervia - solo baritone.
      "Out of whose womb came the ice" creates a sonic and visual glimpse of a segment of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition (1914-17). In August 1914, at the onset of WWI, polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton gathered a crew of 27 men and set sail for the South Atlantic. They were in pursuit of the last unclaimed prize of the Heroic Age of Exploration: to be the first to cross the Antarctic continent by foot. Upon entering the Weddell Sea, they encountered unusually foul weather. Weaving south through the treacherous seas of ice, their ship, the Endurance, became trapped only 85 miles from their destination. After months of waiting for the ice to break, the ship was crushed and sank, leaving the crew stranded upon the ice floes without any means of contacting the outside world. In pursuit of survival, Shackleton and his crew endured 22 months traversing ice floes up the Antarctic Peninsula. The final leg included a deadly 800-mile open boat journey in their lifeboat, the James Caird, in hopes of reaching South Georgia Island. The crew was rescued on 30 August 1916; everyone survived. Though this expedition failed, it remains one of the most miraculous stories of polar exploration and human survival.

      "Out of whose womb came the ice" looks at the expedition from the time they enter the Weddell Sea (December 1914) to the sinking of the Endurance (November 1915). The vocal and orchestra music focuses on the crew’s perception of the Endurance in relationship to their surroundings. She goes from being simply a ship, to a lifeline and memento that connects them to the world they left behind. Once she sinks, they are truly left alone. The visuals and electronics offer narrative elements drawn directly from documents of the journey: journal entries of the crew and images by expedition’s official photographer Frank Hurley.
    • Temenos (2015) for violin, electronics, and dance
      Title: Temenos (2015)
      Duration: 15:00
      Music: Nina C. Young
      Choreography: Miro Magloire (New Chamber Ballet)
      Dancers: Elizabeth Brown, Daniela Gianuzzi
      Violin and electronics: Nina C. Young
      Excerpts from performance on March 3, 2016
      at the Tempietto del Bramante, San Pietro in Montorio, Real Academia de España en Roma
      presented by the American Academy in Rome
      as part of Cinque Mostre - Across of the Board: Parts of a Whole
      curated by Ilaria Gianni
    • Metal Works (2014) for piano and electronics
      Title: Metal Works - Part 1 (2014)
      Performer: Kathleen Supové
      Duration: 12:30 [Total duration ~30 minutes, to be completed 2016]
      Program Note:

      Metal Works is a suite of five pieces for piano and electronics that are tied together with a series of electro-acoustic interludes. Each movement draw inspiration from a concept of metal (be it scientific, poetic, or historic). In preparing this piece I spent time collecting metallic sounds, visiting industrial environments, and deep listening to the percussive and resonant aspects of metallic objects. The piano, with its tightly wound metal strings, becomes a resonant cavity in which I can translate concepts such as luster, torsion, and corrosion into the sonic medium.

      Above you are presented with the first two of five movements and their accompanying interludes. I thank Kathleen Supovè for taking on this piece and would like to give my deep gratitude to the ASCAP/SEAMUS Student Commission for helping make this first installment of Metal Works possible.
    • Sun Propeller (2013) for violin and electronics
      Performer: Emily Westell
      Duration: 10:00

      Program Note:

      The title, Sun Propeller, refers to the propeller-like rays of light that occur when sunbeams pierce through openings in the clouds. Scientifically, these columns of light that radiate from a single point in the sky are known as crepuscular rays. The actual phrase "sun propeller" is a literal translation of the Tuvan word for these sunbeams: Huun-Huur-Tu (also the name of a famous Tuvan folk singing group).

      The ideas for this work came while I was researching the music of Tuva, a culture in southern Siberia. Their music, particularly the practice of throat sining, is a vocal imitation of natural surroundings (the sounds of babbling brooks, wind resonating against mountains, etc.) and is used to pay respects to the spirits of nature. This type of Tuvan music is built upon a low drone-tone with overtones floating above. The music values timbre and vertical intervals over traditional western melodic and harmonic principles. While Sun Propeller does not attempt to imitate Tuvan music in anyway, it borrows the concept of the static drone and timbre preference in the language used to write the violin part and electronics.

      The violin is scordatura (D-D-A-D), with the low G string being tuned down a fourth to D and the high E string down a second to D. The electronics, live processing and pre-recorded sounds, are diffused through four speakers.
    • Kashchei (2010) for 9 musicians and electronics
      Performer: Expanded Musica Practice Group, Live@CIRMMT
      Duration: 19:38

      Program Note:

      Kashchei is a character from Russian folklore - a dark, evil person who menaces young women. Kashchei cannot be killed by conventional means, rather, the essence of his life is hidden outside of his flesh in a needle within an egg. Only by finding this egg and breaking the needle can one overcome Kashchei's powers. The needle is hidden within an egg, within a duck, inside a hare, in a small basket, locked in an iron chest, buried under a great oak tree on the island of Buyan. My piece explores these layers that encapsulate Kashchei's soul and finally lead to his death. The piece is presented in seven continuous movements, each which represents a layer of Kashchei's soul. The main theme, a quotation from the Rimsky-Korsakov opera Kashchei the Deathless, is gradually revealed in its simplest form through a process of simplification and reverse variations. This process can be related to the wood Russian doll, the matryoshka, where a simple, small doll, is concealed within the shells of many larger, more elaborate ones. Similarly, one must unfold many layers to reach the essence of Kashchei's life.
    • Kolokol (2010) for 2 pianos and electronics
      Performer: Yuxi Qin and Wensi Yan
      Duration: 11:09
      Program Note:
      The inspiration for Kolokol comes from a study of traditional Russian Orthodox Church Bells. This piece is based on the seventeen Danilov Bells that hang at Harvard University's Lowell House. The original bells were returned to Russia during the summer of 2008. Today, seventeen new bells (replicas of the original Danilov Bells) hang in the bell tower. I traveled to Harvard in the Fall of 2009 to make field recordings of these bells. These recordings are featured both directly and indirectly in the composition - as basis for the harmonies and a model for the electronics. The piece consists of four movements to be played without pause. These movements are my own take on a "fantasy" approach to traditional Russian Orthodox ringing practice. The core for each movement comes from a common ringing style (after which it is named) and is then developed and embellished to create my one impressionistic take on a journey within the sounds of the bells.
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  • Electronic Music
    • Mark As Unsent (2015) for fixed media
      Instrumentation: 2-channel fixed media playback
      Duration: 04:56
      Program Note:
      A weekend trip to my mother’s led to a box of trinkets and memories. Among these was a set of unsent letters.
    • Bayu-bayu (2011) for fixed media
      Title: Bayu-bayu (2011)
      Instrumentation: 2-channel fixed media playback
      Duration: 05:56
      Program Note:
      Bayu-bayu is a part of my electro-acoustic Nocturnes series. These are a set of acousmatic pieces that explore a variety of night-time sounds, affects, and emotions. Some works embrace the calm and peaceful silence of night while others explore the more twisted and phantasmagoric thoughts associated with these dark hours. The title of Bayu-bayu comes from a popular Russian lullaby Bayu-bayushki-bayu:

      Не ложися на краю.
      Придёт серенький волчок,
      Он ухватит за бочок
      И утащит во лесок
      Под ракитовый кусток.
      English translation:

      Baby, baby, rock-a-bye
      On the edge you mustn't lie
      Or the little grey wolf will come
      And will nip you on the tum,
      Tug you off into the wood
      Underneath the willow-root.

      Ne lozhisya na krayu.
      Pridyot serenkiy volchok,
      On ukhvatit za bochok
      I utashchit vo lesok
      Pod rakitovy kustok.

      As with many lullabies, the song is meant to be soothing and help one sleep, however, the meaning of the text has a darker undercurrent. My work explores the dream-state of restless sleep and includes quotes of the above melody. This piece was influenced by Yuriy Norshteyn's 1979 film Skazka skazok (Tale of Tales).
    • Incubus (2010) for fixed media
      Instrumentation: 2-channel fixed media playback
      Duration: 02:45
      Program Note:
      Incubus is inspired by Henry Fuseli's 1781 oil painting The Nightmare. The painting portrays a woman sleeping and dreaming, perhaps in a position that encourages nightmares, while an incubus rests upon her torso. The work inspired a section of Erasmus Darwin's poem The Loves of the Plants.
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  • Installations / Collaborative Works / Opera
    • Making Tellus: An Opera for the Anthropocene
      Work-in-progress, to be premiered Spring 2019
      Music / Concept / Tech:
      Nina C. Young
      Libretto / Concept: Andrew R. Munn
      Producer: Nouveau Classical Project
      For more information:
      [insert Making Tellus page link]
      Act 1, Scene 1:
      A. Processional
      B. Solis Artificialis

      Recording from August 2017 Workshop at Scholes Street Studio, Brooklyn, New York.

      Ben Grow, conductor
      Andrew Munn, bass; Charlotte Mundy soprano; Sharon Harms, soprano; Kate Maroney, mezzo.
      Ensemble: The Nouveau Classical Project
      Laura Cocks, flute; Mara Meyer, clarinet; Joe Tucker, percussion; Sugar Vendil, piano; Maya Bennardo, violin; Thea Mesirow, cello.

      Act 1, Scene 3:

      Recording of the premiere performance by Andrew R. Munn, bass; Rami Sarieddine, piano; Julian Lamber, contrabass | May 1, 2015.


      Word-tipped arrow and song-made gods,
      Let loose in the multitude of voices,
      Weaving and rending, words forged in the hearth.
      -Andrew R. Munn, 2015

      Genesis 11:6 (King James Bible)
      And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they all have one language: and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

    • Rite of Passage
      Performance Artist: Erin Helfert
      Original Text:
      Erin Helfert
      Music, Interactive Performance, and 8-channel Sound Design: Nina C. Young

      Premiered October 8, 2016 - Federal Hall, New York, NY
      A collaborative performance piece that explores death, liminality, and rebirth as inspired by Erin Helfert’s five-year rape trial in a Moroccan court.
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Nina C. Young - composer