MTNA Distinguished Composer 2008: William Price

By Witherspoon, Ann Rivers | American Music Teacher, June-July 2009 | Go to article overview

MTNA Distinguished Composer 2008: William Price


Witherspoon, Ann Rivers, American Music Teacher


The music of William Price, MTNA Distinguished Composer 2008, cannot be aurally limited to any geographic region; however, Alabama would like to claim him just the same. Those who attended the Distinguished Composer MTNA Conference Session witnessed the exciting performance of his piece Hardboiled and can attest to the fact that the power of Price's music packs a punch not to be soon forgotten. His music is fresh, compelling, intelligent and bold, yet he never allows it to run wild enough to escape the sonorities he envisions. It even becomes explosive, yet still remains harnessed within his realm of refinement rhythmically, as well as harmonically. He knows what he wants and how to present it so that its effect is stirring and moving.

Hardboiled (Red Harvest) for clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, percussion [3], and piano, was commissioned by the Alabama MTA. The subtitle Red Harvest refers to the 1929 crime fiction novel of the same title by Dashiell Hammett. The piece was inspired by Hammett's crime fiction and the iconic visual imagery associated with 1940s film noir, including the interplay of light and shadow, the use of distorted camera angles and disjunctive narrative techniques such as flashbacks and flash-forwards and the obligatory car chase. Price's current research has focused on the use of temporal disruption and its effect on the progress of the musical narrative. In Hardboiled he explores three concepts usually associated with discursive semantics: the brief, yet violent "interjection," the extended "interruption" and the longer musical "digression." He created an energetic and engaging piece that focuses on the juxtaposition of dissimilar tempi, texture, and timbre without sacrificing continuity and direction.

Price believes that risks should be taken in art and that, "music should not reflect life, but react against it."

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He believes that a composer, or any artist, is only a sum of his or her experiences. He encourages every composer to listen to and study as many different genres, styles and timbral combinations as possible, emphasizing that exploring the unfamiliar is a must. He is often inspired by great art, great literature, great music and especially the collaborative process that allows him to experiment and refine his ideas. …

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