By Daniel Hathaway
Last Friday morning, Canadian composer Tawnie Olson of the Hartt School of Music faculty in West Hartford, Connecticut — along with her four colleagues in the 2015 Iron Composer Competition at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory — accepted the challenge of writing an “instant” composition for recorders, celesta, and an overturned grand piano, to include this year’s “secret ingredient” of a board game. After five hours of creation and a brief rehearsal, Olson’s piece, called Subbeteo after the 1947 tabletop soccer game invented by Peter Adolph and published by Borras Plana SA, was declared the first prize winner during an evening concert in Gamble Auditorium.
Close behind were four other university faculty composers: Dorothy Hindman of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami, who took second place as well as the vote-by-texting audience prize with her Lost Treasure; Rica Narimoto of Japan’s Kanazawa University with The Stones (third place); Ryan Keebaugh of Eastern Mennonite University with Ardent Shimmer (fourth place); and Kirsten Broberg of the University of North Texas with The Iconography of Nature. The evening’s jury consisted of Oberlin composition chair Stephen Hartke, Ideastream host Dee Perry, and performer-judge Kathryn Montoya, assistant professor of recorder and baroque oboe at Oberlin.
Because many of the ten board games the composers were offered as choices for secret ingredients were terra incognita except to collectors, it must have taken the intrepid composers a bit of time to figure out what they were all about before they could use them as a compositional element.
Broberg went for a 2013 Repos Production game by Alain Rivollet and Gaëtan Beaujannot called Concepts, which uses combinations of icons to allow players “to define a word or phrase.” These served as a springboard for her musical images of clouds, snow, rain, thunder, night, and an evening moon. Read the entire review on ClevelandClassical.com