Gaudeamus nominee Kelley Sheehan: ‘I enjoy an open dialogue with the performers’

Kelley Sheehan

From 4 to 8 September the Gaudeamus Music Week presents state of the art contemporary music, performed by a plethora of ensembles and musicians. Five composers compete for the coveted Gaudeamus Award 2019: Stefan Maier (CA, 1990); Nicholas Morrish (GB, 1989); Scott Rubin (US, 1989); Remy Siu (CA, 1990), and Kelley Sheehan (US, 1989).

The festival will be opened on Wednesday 4 September in TivoliVredenburg, with the world première of W.A.L.L. by Aart Strootman, winner of the Gaudeamus Award 2017. He composed this for his own ensemble Temko and Slagwerk Den Haag.

Prior to the concert I’ll interview the five young contestors about their music and expectations for the festival. Kelley Sheehan already provided some answers.

Sheehan is a composer and computer musician moving between acoustic, electronic, electro-acoustic, and performance art works. In any medium, her work centres on noise, performance, and interaction. Her music has been described as “Full of discovery, collaboration, and unpredictability” (Gaudeamus Foundation), and was lauded for its “woozy electronics” (LA Weekly).

Her music was performed at prestigious venues such as Disney Hall (LA), Experimental Sound Studios (Chicago), and The Banff Center for the Arts (Alberta). She was awarded residencies and fellowships to MISE-EN Place Bushwick, the National Composers Intensive with the LA Phil, Nief Norf, wasteLAnd Summer Academy, and the Banff Center for the Arts.

Sheehan regularly performs with The Plucky Plunkers, an improvisational duo focusing on works for toy piano and multimedia collaborations. Her work and research has led her to study composition with composers of various interest and background such as Sivan Cohen Elias, Marcos Balter, and Fredrick Gifford. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Composition at Harvard University, studying with Chaya Czernowin and Hans Tutsku.

How did you know about the Gaudeamus competition?

A teacher of mine had recommended looking into the festival so I’ve kept tabs on the competition, but this was my first year applying. I wanted to experience the concerts and witness everything the festival and a competition like this has to offer.

What do you expect from the Gaudeamus Music Week?

I’m really looking forward to hearing new exciting music, hearing all the new works that will be premiered, as well as meeting a ton of people with whom I share the love for contemporary music – that’s very exciting for me.

Of course I also look forward to hearing the premiere of my new piece, which I developed in close collabaration with the Nadar Ensemble. Naturally I’m also curious to hear the interpretations of my other works that are being played over the course of the festival.
You are not only a composer but also a performer, how do you see the relationship between the two?

Being an improviser myself, I see the relationship between performer and composer within myself as two sides of the same coin. In regards to working with other performers when I am strictly in the composer role, then I really enjoy having a close relationship that involves a lot of exchange of ideas and an open dialogue. I won’t be performing myself at the Gaudeamus Music Week.
With which pieces of yourself are you most satisfied?

I’m very happy with the three works I submitted for the competition: Talk Circus; Four Sharp Corners, and 3 Movements.I

I interviewed the five nominees on 4 September, prior to the opening concert in TivoliVredenburg. 

On 8 September 2019 the Gaudeamus Music Award 2019 was won by Kelley Sheehan, very much to her own surprise…

About Thea Derks

I am a Dutch music journalist, specializing in contemporary music, and a champion of women composers. In 2014 I wrote the biography of Reinbert de Leeuw (3rd edition in 2020) and in 2018 I published 'Een os op het dak: moderne muziek na 1900 in vogelvlucht'.
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1 Response to Gaudeamus nominee Kelley Sheehan: ‘I enjoy an open dialogue with the performers’

  1. Pingback: Whoever said modern music is humourless and cerebral? Kelley Sheehan wins Gaudeamus Award 2019 | Contemporary Classical – Thea Derks

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