My variation America the Beautiful - “sotto voce” is inspired by America’s tenacious struggle to find elusive unity among its heterogeneous population. In its fragmented form, the tune America the Beautiful builds gradually toward a singular moment in which an arabesque in B major floats above the tune set in B-flat major. Ironically, this bitonal passage marks the most harmonious moment in my variation, imbued with a distinct sense of resolution. It is a metaphor for a complex union in this chromatic nation, where dissonance has become a crucial ingredient.
Juri Seo* (b. 1981) is a Korean-American composer and pianist based in Princeton, New Jersey. She seeks to write music that encompasses extreme contrast through compositions that are unified and fluid, yet complex. She merges many of the fascinating aspects of music from the past century—in particular its expanded timbral palette and unorthodox approach to structure—with a deep love of functional tonality, counterpoint, and classical form. With its fast-changing tempi and dynamics, her music explores the serious and the humorous, the lyrical and the violent, the tranquil and the obsessive. She hopes to create music that loves, that makes a positive change in the world—however small—through the people who are willing to listen.
Her composition honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Koussevitzky Commission from the Library of Congress, a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Kate Neal Kinley Memorial Fellowship, Copland House Residency Award, and the Otto Eckstein Fellowship from Tanglewood. She has received commissions from the Fromm Foundation, the Barlow Endowment, and the Tanglewood Music Center. Her portrait albums "Mostly Piano" and “Respiri” were released by Innova Recordings. She holds a D.M.A. (Dissertation: Jonathan Harvey's String Quartets, 2013) from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where she studied with Reynold Tharp. She has also attended the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (Rome, corsi di perfezionamento with Ivan Fedele) and Yonsei University (Seoul, B.M.). She has been a composition fellow at the Tanglewood, Bang on a Can, and SoundSCAPE festivals, the Wellesley Composers Conference, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. She is Associate Professor of Music at Princeton University.
Juri lives in Lawrenceville, just outside of Princeton, with her husband, percussionist Mark Eichenberger and a little mutt named Roman.
*Note on pronunciation: In North America, my name is pronounced [Jurie Suh]. I welcome variants, however. In Europe, people frequently call me Yuri. The original Korean name 서주리 has a sound between r and l that does not exist in English language.
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