Program Notes/Composer Bios (2.1)

Poem for Emmett Till

This piece is an abstraction of the life of Emmett Till. The performer has these motivations for each section:

  1. Emmett in the womb.
  2. Emmett’s birth. He hits the ground running, so to speak.
  3. The world tells Emmett that life is not a bowl of cherries.
  4. Emmett and his cousins stroll through town.
  5. The conversation in the store.
  6. The beating and the murder. This is total and absolute improvisation. You are on your own. Use all tools at your command, that you feel are appropriate.
  7. Emmett’s ascension.
  8. The cry of our mothers.

Melanin can still get you killed.


WILLIAM ROPER is a multi-disciplinary artist whose primary foci are music composition and performance. He also creates works in theatre, dance and the visual arts as primary creator and as collaborator. Roper studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Cal State University Northridge, Carnegie-Mellon University and independently in New York City. He has received grants from the NEA, CA ArtsCouncil, L. A. Dept. of Cultural Affairs, Brody Arts Fund, ArtMatters Inc., American Composers Forum, Meet the Composer, and others. He has held residencies at Djerassi Artists Residency, Oberfälzer Küntlerhaus, College of the Canyons, and was a 2013 U.S./Japan Friendship Commission Creative Artist Fellow. He has fulfilled commissions for music and dance works. On tuba, he has performed internationally as soloist and in ensembles. Roper has released 12 CDs as a leader or co-leader.


Koch-aine is about the Koch brothers, a pair of billionaire businessmen whocontribute large sums of money towards climate change denial (amongst other causes). Their control of the American political system has made it very hard to pass meaningful climate change legislation.

JONATHAN RUSS composes direct, expressive music with an eye towards social good. He is Composer-In-Residence with the American Chamber Ensemble and the Blueshift Ensemble and is a founding member of the ICEBERG New Music composers’ collective. Jonathan has worked with many of today’s most exciting performers including loadbang, Sō Percussion (through their Summer Institute), Marimolin, ShoutHouse, members of the JACK Quartet and ICE, clarinetist Stanley Drucker (NY Philharmonic), singers Kamala Sankaram and Jennifer Beattie, and pianist Marilyn Lehman. His short opera Bark! (with librettist Lane Dombois) was produced by American Opera Projects and NYU. Upcoming projects include a string quartet for Mivos, a book of piano miniatures, an opera about a hermetic young woman, and a rock EP. A Long Island native and Brooklyn resident, Jonathan holds a master’s in composition from The Boston Conservatory, where he studied with Andy Vores and Curtis Hughes.


He Got Dictators is a piece for soprano, plucked bass, and piano. It was commissioned by Bermuda Triangle (Dora Ohrenstein, Robert Black, and Kathy Supove) as part of their Political Songbook project. The text is from Stevie Smith’s Novel on Yellow Paper.

MARY JANE LEACH is a composer/performer whose work reveals a fascination with the physicality of sound, its acoustic properties and how they interact with space. In many of her works Leach creates an other-worldly sound environment using difference, combination, and interference tones; these are tones not actually sounded by the performers, but acoustic phenomena arising from Leach’s deft manipulation of intonation and timbral qualities. The result is striking music which has a powerful effect on listeners. Critics have commented on her ability to “offer a spiritual recharge without the banalities of the new mysticism” (Detroit Free Press), evoking “a visionary quest for inner peace” (Vice Versa Magazine), and “an irridescent lingering sense of suspended time.” (Musicworks Magazine) Leach’s music  has been performed throughout the world in a variety of settings, from the concert stage to experimental music forums, and in collaboration with dance and theatre artists. Recordings of her work are on the Lovely Music, New World, XI, Wave/Eva, and Aerial compact disc labels


Presidential Address

Like literally everyone I know, “that” election sent me into a tailspin. I got sick; I got blocked; I got unblocked; I got angry; I got radicalized. And like that same group of literally everyone I know, I was of course mortified by the president’s prior remarks about his enthusiasms for assault, and more mortified at the effusive haste with which evangelicals and their destructive ilk felt compelled to excuse—and therefore admit, allow, and encourage—this vileness.

In a fit of rage I set these words, to amplify them, to give them the kind of raw sunlight fabled to kill such vampires. They are for female voice (I imagined a post-facto account; the bulk of my female friends have stories along these lines to tell) so as not to give them any lift, and none of this is funny, not in the slightest.

The piece is in “public domain” which means that I will never personally profit from this, and anyone who desires a score has promised to make a donation (in my daughter Clara’s name) to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, or the charity of their choice. Please feel free and email me directly at if you would like a copy.

—Daniel Felsenfeld

Composer DANIEL FELSENFELD has been commissioned and performed by Trinity Wall Street, Simone Dinnerstein, The Crossing, Two Sense, Metropolis Ensemble, American Opera Projects, Opera on Tap, NANOWorks Opera, Pasadena Opera, Great Noise Ensemble Da Capo Chamber Players, ACME, Transit, REDSHIFT, Blair McMillen, Lara Downes, Secret Opera, Alcyone Ensemble, Stephanie Mortimore, Parhelion Trio, Hypercube, Kayleigh Butcher, Megan Ihnen, Lara Downes, Cabinet of Curiosities, New Gallery Concert Series at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, BAM, Kennedy Center, Trinity Wall Street, Le Poisson Rouge, Bargemusic, City Winery, Galapagos Art Space, The Stone, Jordan Hall, Duke University, Stanford University and Harvard University, and has collaborated with writers like Rick Moody, Robert Coover, Amanda Palmer, Will Eno, Brenda Shaughnessy; has worked with Jay-Z, The Roots, Keren Ann; and is the court composer for John Wesley Harding’s Cabinet of Wonders, the co-founder of the New Music Gathering, and co-director of the Curiosity Cabinet.