Missy Mazzoli : composer for a new dark age

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Missy Mazzoli (born 1980) is an American composer and pianist living in Brooklyn, New York who has received critical acclaim for her chamber, orchestral and operatic work.  One of her recent works, Vespers for a New Dark Age, is a 30-minute suite for singers, chamber ensemble and electronics, which inhabits the sometimes disturbing intersection between technology and humanity. The piece, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the 2014 Ecstatic Music Festival, takes up the bulk of her new album of the same name released in March, 2015.

mazzoli2Vespers reimagines the traditional vespers prayer service, exploring the intersection of our modern technological age with the archaic formality of religious services. Created in collaboration with Mazzoli’s ensemble Victoire, Glenn Kotche, synth producer Lorna Dune and virtuosic vocalists Mellissa Hughes, Martha Cluver and Virginia Warnken.

Constructed as a suite of eight connected pieces,Vespers aims high, questioning our connections to technology, death and God. Instead of sacred texts, Mazzoli turns to contemporary poet Matthew Zapruder for lines like:

“hello lord / sorry I woke you / because my plans / are important to me / and I need things / no one can buy / and don’t even know / what they are / I know I belong / in this new dark age.”

Vestiges of old school vespers remain. Soprano voices, including Martha Cluver and Virginia Warnken Kelsey from Roomful of Teeth, soar to high registers, reaching upward as if beckoning for divine intervention. Mazzoli’s ensemble Victoire, cleverly orchestrated, provides settings both cinematic and intimate at once, while Wilco drummer Glenn Kotche adds evocative scrims of percussion and some thunderous pounding.

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Mazzoli holds degrees from the Yale School of Music, the Royal Conservatory of the Hague and Boston University. Her teachers include David Lang, Louis Andriessen, Aaron Jay Kernis, Martin Bresnick, Martijn Padding, and John Harbison.

In 2006 Mazzoli taught composition in the Music Department of Yale University, and from 2007-2010 was Executive Director of the MATA Festival in New York City, an organization dedicated to promoting the work of young composers.

In 2013, she joined the composition faculty at the Mannes College of Music.

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