A concert in collaboration with the Arcana New Music Ensemble

The Wildflower Composers Festival and the future of contemporary music

3 minute read
A group of young students studying in a classroom, sitting at desks, their attention at open books
Wildflower Composers looks to make space for marginalized aspiring composers. (Photo by Alexey Alexandrov.)

Wildflower Composers Festival, now in its fifth year, presents a live, in-person concert of works by this year’s composition faculty. The performers are members of the West Philadelphia-based Arcana New Music Ensemble. Founded in 2018 at Temple University as the Young Women Composers Camp, the annual summer program aims “to amplify the voices of women and gender-marginalized composers and work toward a more equitable future for contemporary music.” Participants are composers between the ages of 13 and 19 who have not yet started college. This summer’s program runs from July 11 to July 22 on Temple University’s main campus.

Room to grow

The organization recently rebranded with the name “Wildflower Composers” to reflect more fully the diversity of its participants—composers who identify as part of gender-marginalized communities, including cis women, trans women, trans men, and those who are nonbinary or gender-nonconforming. As explained by the organization: “Wildflowers are not constrained by specifics. They are a mix of colors, of sizes, of scents. They can (and do) grow anywhere, without restraint.”

The Arcana New Music Ensemble is an ascendant new music group, having already garnered praise from the New York Times for its “whooshing evocations of wind and waves of babble” in Julius Eastman’s Thruway, presented as part of the 2018 project Julius Eastman: That Which Is Fundamental.

The Wildflower Festival four-composer program includes mostly solo performer works. One exception is inti figgis-vizueta’s percussion trio, to give you form and breath, performed by Andy Thierauf, Emily Roane, and Travis Goffredo. As figgis-vizueta has written, this piece “centers the nature of creation stories in relation to Indigenous identity,” and with an almost hypnotic effect, manipulates rhythm as a manipulation of time.

Figgis-vizueta’s solo cello work, INBHIR (many waters), will be performed by the seemingly ubiquitous Thomas Kraines. “Inbhir” is Gaelic for the confluence of waters, and the piece requires the cellist to retune the instrument while playing, evoking the changing aquatic light, color, and movement.

Consilience, by Rajna Swaminathan, will be performed by the composer; this composition (yes, the title references the work of E.O. Wilson) weaves together piano, voice, and mridangam (a pitched percussion instrument originating in the Carnatic tradition) with remarkable effect—Swaminathan is an acclaimed mridangam performer.

Two works are by Flannery Cunningham: We are the same as we have always been, featuring solo clarinet by Sean Bailey, with live electronics, and Songs of myself//songs for myself, performed by soprano Alize Rozsnyai. Cunningham, who is completing her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, is also a musicologist, and explains that for her, “13th-15th-century music is a long-standing source of ideas about notation and the compositional process.”

The program also includes the first performance by violinist Carlos Santiago of refract by festival founder and executive director, Erin Busch. This playful and brief solo work is intended to evoke images of refracted light through the use of quick bow strokes, natural harmonics, and an exploration of the extreme upper register of the violin.

The festival will conclude with a free, public concert of new works by 2022 festival participants on July 22.

What, When, Where

Wildflower Composers Festival. Pay-what-you-can, $0-$20. Thursday, July 14, 2022, 7pm, at University Lutheran Church, 3637 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia. wildflowercomposers.org.

All audience members, staff, and performers are required to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination status and wear a mask while inside the venue.


University Lutheran Church is an ADA accessible facility.

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