Kenji Bunch

Variation on 'America the Beautiful'

Kenji Bunch

Variation on 'America the Beautiful'

About the Piece

I wrote this work during the summer of 2020, a moment of grave ambivalence and reckoning in our country. The darkness of this time is preserved and reflected in the somber, haunted nature of the work. Yet in this bleak setting, the seeds of hope are still firmly rooted and beginning to sprout anew, in the form of a simultaneous presentation of the protest hymn We Shall Overcome. And we shall.

About Kenji Bunch

Kenji Bunch is one of America’s most engaging, influential, and prolific composers. Through an expansive blend of classical and vernacular styles, Bunch makes music that’s “clearly modern but deeply respectful of tradition and instantly enjoyable.” (The Washington Post) Deemed “emotional Americana,” (Oregon ArtsWatch) and infused with folk and roots influences, Bunch’s work has inspired a new genre classification: “Call it neo-American: casual on the outside, complex underneath, immediate and accessible to first-time listeners… Bunch’s music is shiningly original.” (The Oregonian) Hailed by The New York Times as “A Composer To Watch” and cited by Alex Ross in his seminal book The Rest Is Noise, Bunch’s wit, lyricism, unpredictability, and exquisite craftsmanship earn acclaim from audiences, performers, and critics alike. His interests in history, philosophy, and intergenerational and cross-cultural sharing of the arts reflect in his work. Varied style references in Bunch's writing mirror the diversity of global influence on American culture and reveal his deft ability to integrate bluegrass, hip hop, jazz, and funk idioms. Rich, tonal harmonies and drawn-out, satisfying builds characterize Bunch’s work and easily lend themselves to dance and film. Over sixty American orchestras have performed Bunch’s music, which “reache(s) into every section of the orchestra to create an intriguing mixture of sonic colors.” (NW Reverb) Recent works include commissions and premieres from the Seattle Symphony, the Oregon Symphony, the Lark Quartet, the Britt Festival, Music From Angel Fire, Chamber Music Northwest, the Eugene Ballet, and the Grant Park Music Festival. His extensive discography includes recordings on Sony/BMG, EMI Classics, Koch, RCA, and Naxos labels among others. Also an outstanding violist, Bunch was the first student ever to receive dual Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in viola and composition from The Juilliard School and was a founding member of the highly acclaimed ensembles Flux Quartet (1996-2002) and Ne(x)tworks (2003-2011). Bunch currently serves as Artistic Director of Fear No Music, and teaches viola, composition, and music theory at Portland State University, Reed College, and for the Portland Youth Philharmonic.

About Discovery Composers

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

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