"Vestibule III" (2013) by Curtis Hughes performed by Transient Canvas at Aeronaut Brewery in Somerville, MA on Feb. 11, 2015. Part of the Original Gravity Concert Series pairing local beer with local composers.

 

Vestibule III composed in late 2013, is one of a series of short, related duos that seem to exist in a state of perpetual transition between contrasting textural and stylistic worlds. In each case, the two instruments take a decidedly non-linear tour of a set of interrelated ideas, acting sometimes in tandem and sometimes in opposition to one another. The title refers to the fact that this series of compositions explores musical ideas that are self-contained, but are also thematically connected to a much larger project (for chamber orchestra) which is currently in progress, and they are thus “entryways” into what will soon be a much larger musical “chamber.” In each case, there is at times an almost claustrophobic sense of obsessive repetition and inhibition, exemplified here by the driving material that frames the piece. However there are also glimpses and hints of a kind of ecstatic and sensuous larger musical construction, which inspires sentiments that verge on lyrical tenderness. The music is dedicated to the duo Transient Canvas, whose remarkable virtuosity, sensitivity and versatility were extremely inspirational.

 

The music of Curtis K. Hughes (b. 1974) is characterized by its rhythmic restlessness, its harmonic adventurousness and its often volatile mix of diverse stylistic elements and political subtexts. It has been described as "fiery" in the New York Times, "well crafted" in the Phoenix, and "colorfully scored" in the Boston Globe. A professor of composition at the Boston Conservatory since 2008, Curtis was a student of composers Lee Hyla and Evan Ziporyn, and is a graduate of Oberlin College and Conservatory, and of the New England Conservatory (NEC), which honored him in 2010 with its Oustanding Alumni Award.

Curtis's most recent endeavors have included new commissions for the New Gallery Concert Series, for Transient Canvas and for Boston Musica Viva, as well as "RareBit," a surreal chamber opera for Guerilla Opera, in a production that was rated the "moxt exhilarating premiere" of 2014 by the Boston Classical Review. This was Hughes' second collaboration with Guerilla Opera, who also premiered "Say it Ain't So, Joe," his 2009 opera about the 2008 Vice Presidential Debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden (now available on CD).

 

Curtis's music has been performed across the US and internationally, from Los Angeles to Berlin, from Vermont's Yellow Barn to Bulgaria's Here/Now New Music Festival. He was a 2005 fellow at Tanglewood, and has served as composer-in-residence for Collage New Music and the Radius Ensemble. Recordings of his music for the Albany, GM, and Cauchemar labels are available at all major online music retailers.