...but wait a minute was composed on Independence Day 2020 while President Trump incited racism at Mount Rushmore, and supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement faced off with Trump supporters on the Capitol Mall. And the pandemic raged. The title is from a moment spoken by Ray Charles during his stunning 1999 performances of America. That moment, cited at the end, and Charles' fanciful play against the rhythm of the hymn inspired my variation.
Described as “gripping” by both the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, “poignant”, “richly evocative” (San Francisco Chronicle), “taut, and hauntingly beautiful” (NY Times), Jonathan Berger’s recent works deal with both consciousness and conscience. His chamber operas, Theotokia and The War Reporter explore hallucination and haunting memories, while his monodrama, My Lai portrays the ethical dilemmas of an individual placed in an impossible situation. The Ritual of Breath is the Rite to Resist responds to the murder of Eric Garner and, through his martyrdom, confronts wanton lynching and killing of people of color.
Berger’s “dissonant but supple” (NY Times) compositions are often inspired by science and the human condition, including the adaptation of satellite imaging data to turn the dispersal of an oil spill into music (Jiyeh), spatial representation of brain activations of a schizophrenic hallucination (Theotokia), and sonic expression of the chemical spectroscopy of cancer (Diameters). His symphonic, chamber, vocal, and electroacoustic works are performed throughout the world.
Thrice commissioned by The National Endowment for the Arts, Berger has also received major commissions from The Mellon and Rockefeller Foundations, Chamber Music America, and numerous chamber music societies and ensembles. His most recent commissions include My Lai (commissioned by The National Endowment for the Kronos Quartet), Tango alla Zingarese (commissioned by the 92nd Street Y), Swallow, (commissioned by the St. Lawrence String Quartet), and Rime Sparse, for soprano Julia Bullock and piano trio (co-commissioned by the Lincoln Center Chamber Society and the Harris Theatre).
Berger received the Rome Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship, Berger was composer-in-residence at Spoleto Festival USA. His violin concerto, Jiyeh, paired with that of Benjamin Britten, was recorded for Harmonia Mundi’s Eloquentia label by violinist Livia Sohn, who also recorded Berger’s War Reporter Fantasy for Naxos and solo works on Miracles and Mud, his acclaimed Naxos recording of music for solo violin and string quartet. His monodrama, My Lai will be released in the coming months.
As the artistic director of Center for Musical Excellence, I am always on the look out for new and undiscovered talents. They come to me, sometimes, by my colleagues’ recommendations and other times through young artists’ own research about our organization. Tyson Davis and Andrew Bambridge are currently on our roster of CME Young Artists, whom we mentor. Patricio Molina is a CME alumnus. Theo Chandler, Ji-Young Ko, and Daniel Newman-Lessler applied for our Grant program, and I got to know their work through that process. I decide on young artists when I notice a deep passion and drive within them, plus a certain kind of sparkle in the personality and lots of humility. In addition to musical talents, I believe these are the qualities that will take the young artists far. CME’s motto is "Moving Musicians Forward". I’ve chosen our Discovery Composers based on these qualities, whom we felt we could easily move forward.
- Min Kwon