I wrote Nostalgia Variations for the Boston-based clarinet/marimba duo Transient Canvas. I first worked with the excellent Amy Advocat in the context of my chamber opera, Giver of Light.
Nostalgia Variations engages with the tradition of theme and variation. The title refers to the emotional quality of the opening tema. “Nostalgia” is a wrought-emotion in contemporary art, bordered on one end by saccharin expression, and on the other end of the spectrum by irony and rejection of emotion. The piece is about finding a way to engage with such emotions in, as a Buddhist would say, the middle path.
The piece has eleven short variations, some more obviously based on the Tema, some less. The piece asks the question of how different can a variation be and still connect to a beginning idea?
Adam Roberts’ music has been recently performed by ensembles such as the Arditti Quartet, the JACK Quartet, le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, the Callithumpian Consort, Earplay, fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center, the Boston Conservatory Wind Ensemble, the Association for the Promotion of New Music, violist Garth Knox, Guerilla Opera, and at festivals such as Wien Modern (Vienna), Tanglewood, the Biennale Musique en Scene (Lyons), and the 2009 ISCM World Music Days (Sweden).
Awards for Roberts’ music include the Benjamin H. Danks Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, the Bernard Rogers Prize (Eastman), the New York Bohemians Prize (Harvard), the André Chevillion-Yvonne Bonnaud Prize from the Orléans Piano Competition, the Earplay Donald Aird Award, the Christoph and Stefan Kaske Fellowship from the Wellesley Composers Conference, the Leonard Bernstein Fellowship from the Tanglewood Music Center, the Bldodgett Prize (Harvard) as well as other academic scholarships and awards. Commissions have come from the Callithumpian Consort, the Boston Conservatory Wind Ensemble, pianist Nolan Pearson, the Tanglewood Music Center, Guerilla Opera, and others.
Roberts’ music has been called “a powerful success,” “arresting,” and “amazingly lush,” (theBoston Musical Intelligencer), “an attractive mix of the familiar and exotic,” and “otherworldly” (Boston Classical Review), and “invigorating” with a “persistent melodic urge” (American Academy of Arts and Letters citation).
Roberts obtained a Bachelor’s degree in composition from the Eastman School of Music in 2003 and his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 2010. Roberts also studied at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna from 2007-2008 on a Harvard University Sheldon Traveling Fellowship. Roberts’ primary teachers have included David Liptak, Augusta Read Thomas, Julian Anderson, and Chaya Czernowin, and he has also studied with Steven Stucky, Martin Bresnick, Bernard Rands, Joshua Fineberg, Magnus Lindberg, and Rand Steiger. In addition, Roberts has had lessons and masterclasses with composers such as Brian Ferneyhough, Helmut Lachenmann, John Adams, John Harbison, Lee Hyla, Alvin Lucier, and Jonathan Harvey.
Roberts has taught at Harvard University and Istanbul Technical University’s Center for Advanced Studies in Music. Roberts’ first disc, “Leaf Metal,” was released on Tzadik Records in January, 2014.