I find Leanna’s music to be rooted in technical excellence, while also helping to define the future of compositional exploration. Her works are energizing for the musicians to learn and refine, resonate with the widest of audiences, and still manage to be boundary-pushing— a difficult balance that she is one of only a few to truly achieve. It has been a joy to discover her works and to have had the honor of giving the premiere of Gaudete. Throughout the process, Leanna was communicative with regard to all musical items, willing to engage in discussions between me and our audience online, and helpful in promoting the concert to her wide network. She is an artist with whom I will look forward to collaborating again and again.
1001 for Orchestra and Prerecorded Electronics is a 9-minute retelling of Scheherazade, but through her eyes. With references to Rimsky-Korsakov, Leanna’s composition concerns itself with time: Time as it relates to Scheherazade’s storytelling to save her life, time as it relates to how the music unfolds, and time as it relates to the stories we tell ourselves now.
Fascinated by the story, Leanna wondered what Scheherazade’s life was like—her existence dependent on the quality of her narratives. Finishing one story only to start the next in a seamless flow to prolong her life. Scheherazade lived in fear of the man she shares a bed with. It’s a story especially resonant in today’s climate, and one of the reasons Leanna felt compelled to write it.
To illustrate Scheherazade's experience, Leanna uses electronics to explore the heroine’s vacillating emotions. The piece asks us to consider what stories Scheherazade told herself in order to survive? And what stories do we tell ourselves in our own moments of uncertainty?
As is typical of her current work, Leanna creates the overarching musical structure using the concept of the Golden Ratio (f). Using this idea of ‘divine proportion’ — found in patterns of nature — Leanna balances the sections and climax of the work according to time itself, rather than on the number of notes or measures. Much like Scheherezade’s existence, measured in days and hours.
The work's title itself 1001 is a palindrome (the same forward and backward). Leanna uses this idea as a way to experience time within the Golden Ratio structure: the piece is a musical palindrome. After the climax at the Golden Ratio, Leanna "recapitulates” the opening in reverse and in a compressed retelling. In this way, Leanna offers listeners the experience of the music as a transformed echo, as the music curves back on itself, folded between memory and insight.
Gaudete for Orchestra is a 7-minute extravaganza celebrating the holiday season. The work is based on the oldest of Christmas carols, Gaudete et exsultate (Rejoice and Be Glad), believed to have been composed in the 16th century. Gaudete for Orchestra also weaves several traditional holiday melodies throughout the work including Joy to the World, Carol of the Bells and We Three Kings. In addition to the familiar carols, audiences will be tickled to hear the embedded Morse Code message in the brass:
W E A R A M A S K.
Gaudete for Orchestra is framed on the scaffold of time, both at the micro and macro levels. Leanna Primiani creates an overarching musical structure using the concept of the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio (f). This idea of ‘divine proportion’ found in patterns of nature balances sections and the climax of the work according to time itself, rather than on the number of notes or measures.
My creative process stems from my background as a conductor, as I am obsessed with how time unfolds for the listener. To affect the audience’s perception of my music through the lens of time, my compositional process always begins with form. I frame my compositions on the scaffold of time creating an overarching musical structure using the concept of the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Ratio (f). Using this idea of ‘divine proportion’ — found in patterns of nature — I balance sections and the climax of the work according to time itself, rather than on the number of notes or measures. This form is applied to the overall structure of my work at both the macro and micro levels. Recently, I have started to create electronics soundscapes alongside traditional instrumentation. I believe this allows the music to blur sound worlds, thus affecting the way the listener perceives the music through time.
Leanna Primiani wins the prestigious Toulmin Commission through the League of American Orchestras and American Composers Orchestra.
Says Artistic Director Alecia Lawyer: "What a gift to have a commission underwritten by the League, ACO and Toulmin Foundation, and to be able to choose from an already highly curated list of talented women composers. When I saw Leanna’s name on the list, I knew I wanted to work with her on an impactful and innovative piece. Her work in film music tells its own story and she crafts her music in deep collaboration with the subject matter and the group premiering it. ROCO will be able to continue our commitment to access and innovation while giving voice to a community that desperately needs a megaphone."
From the American Prize committee: "Important idea- updating the story of Scheherazade to consider violence against women in our modern age... Both musically and intellectually compelling... A very effective musical and emotional arc, elegantly laid forth. Worthy of many performances. Special"
As the truth unfolds, the BMI composer’s brilliant 25-piece orchestra (strings, horns and clarinets conducted by Primiani herself) is capped with an out-of-tune piano with this as explanation, “Every little girl plays the piano, but there is something so off about her, that the piano had to be off, too,” she says. Then by adding synthesizers and some electronically processed music, the surrealness of the little girl’s immersion into madness becomes completely inescapable, yet note by note grows increasingly more haunting.
This psychological prodding, however, is nothing new for Primiani whose orchestral “comment piece,” 1001 for Orchestra and Prerecorded Electronics, based on Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade, garnered this review from Dave Beck, Midday Host, Classical KING FM 98.1, Seattle: “Along with her gift for evocative atmospherics, the composer creates thrilling moments of visceral rhythmic drive and energy. 1001 is a piece that kept me on the edge of my seat through every new chapter of this old story—-one that is in desperate need of retelling.”
Needless to say, BMI’s Anne Cecere was completely taken with Primiani’s music to The Bad Seed at the Society of Composers & Lyricist’s recent screening and with the Q&A featuring the composer which followed, and with good reason:. Primiani is in good company having studied with such noted composers and conductors as Leonard Slatkin, Peter Eötvös, Christopher Rouse, and Howard Shore, and has obviously mastered her own unique voice.
"One of the most remarkable TV-movie scores of the past season was in Lifetime’s remake of the classic The Bad Seed. The composer was Leanna Primiani, who has many concert-hall credits but is a relatively new voice on the film-music scene. I was so impressed with her music — and, in fact, with actor-director Rob Lowe’s work on the film, which matched the original in scares and suspense — that I agreed to do the Q&A after a Society of Composers & Lyricists screening of the film during Emmy season. It was great fun, and I look forward to more work by this talented composer."
- Variety's Jon Burlingame
Leanna Primiani wins the audience favorite prize at the Rapido Natioanl Composition Competition!
Anna Edwards continues her reflections on Sirens. "From my perspective, Sirens feels like a 3D soundscape – the listener can almost feel and see the sound textures as they pass. Some of the musicians' comments about it include ideas like 'very sensory' and 'entrancing.' It is challenging, but, extremely interesting [and] I love how the piccolo is The Siren! Leanna has written a terrific pictorial composition with driving rhythmic and cinematic flare."
"Leanna Primiani is one of the most talented composers of her generation.
Ms. Primiani, who has a vivid musical imagination and amazing compositional abilities, can compose in any style with the greatest of ease and at the highest level of musicality. She is easy to work with, very professional and incredibly organized... and she also does a great Ethel Merman!"
This psychological prodding, however, is nothing new for Primiani whose orchestral “comment piece,” 1001 for Orchestra and Prerecorded Electronics, based on Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade, garnered this review from Dave Beck, Midday Host, Classical KING FM 98.1, Seattle: “Along with her gift for evocative atmospherics, the composer creates thrilling moments of visceral rhythmic drive and energy. 1001 is a piece that kept me on the edge of my seat through every new chapter of this old story—-one that is in desperate need of retelling.” (Read the full article on BMI.com)
Leanna Primiani’s brilliant use of the instruments of the symphony orchestra, skillfully and imaginatively blended with electronic sounds, is one of many effective touches in her compelling update of the Scheherazade tales called “1001.” Along with her gift for evocative atmospherics, the composer creates thrilling moments of visceral rhythmic drive and energy. “1001” is a piece that kept me on the edge of my seat through every new chapter of this old story---one that is in desperate need of retelling.
Midday Host, Classical KING FM 98.1, Seattle
Huffington Post Visionaries Concert article by Jack Meyer 8/11/13
Leanna Primiani's "Thursdays, Saturdays, and Twice on the Sabbath," a nod to Shaker prayer sessions, included stomping and shuffling of feet alongside several wind instruments -- a composition reminiscent of the work of John Adams. I thoroughly enjoyed [it] from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed [the] performance from start to finish. I found the introductions - including the inspirations for the pieces -- particularly charming.
San Francisco Examiner, Oct. 2, 2012. Reviewed by Stephen Smollar
.... Only Leanna Primiani’s “Shaker Dances” seemed to honor the spirit of the rules of the game; and, with its episodic structure, hers was the only piece that seemed to fit comfortably into its allotted extent of clock time. It was no surprise that she was selected to compete against the other regional finalists at the National Finals Concert in Atlanta.
National Symphony flutist Aaron Goldman, August, 2012
Leanna Primiani has written a wonderfully evocative new piece for the NFA High School Competition. The Black Swan stretches the flute to its extreme registers and dynamics to vividly depict various bird calls. It is reminiscent of Messiaen’s “Le Merle Noir” in its artistic use of the flute to sound like birds. This is a wonderful new addition to our repertoire. – Aaron Goldman, flute soloist
Review of SIRENS
February 6, 2009
REVIEW: Slatkin, Ax and orchestra present embarrassment of riches
By Jonathan Neufeld
For The Tennessean
…It served quite well as a sort of light melodic and tonal palate cleanser after the excellent new work of Leanna Primiani.
Primiani’s Sirens opened the night. The piece tells Homer’s story of the Sirens (Odyssey Book XII). “Tell” is not quite the right word. Musically, (and mathematically, Primiani utilizes a Fibonacci series to organize elements of the story according to the Golden Mean) the story unfurls like a ribbon.
Slatkin and the orchestra handled the rhythmic complexities of the piece well. Famously, the sirens’ song is so beautiful and seductive that it lures sailors to shipwreck. Odysseus wants to listen and so has himself bound to the mast of his ship while all of the other sailors put wax in their ears. As he struggles, Odysseus is only bound more tightly to the mast. After building to a climax, an intensely longing solo piccolo calls after Odysseus who can do nothing but strain against his bonds: trumpets lead the orchestra in a static fanfare — unison rhythm on unchanging notes. Primiani’s piece is a model of expressivity within a rigorous form.
Leanna Primiani is represented by Black Tea Music.
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