BGSU composer receives 2005 Barlow Endowment Commission

Dr. Burton Beerman, director of the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music, has been awarded a 2005 Barlow Endowment Commission for Music Composition.

Burton Beerman

Established by Milton A. and Gloria Barlow in 1983 at Brigham Young University, the purpose of the commission is to encourage, financially support and promote excellence in music composition. The endowment, which supports four programs—the Barlow Prize, Barlow General Commissions, Barlow LDS Composers Commissions and Barlow Education Grants—awarded $70,000 to 15 composers this year. It is considered one of the most competitive commissions awarded to composers.

Beerman, music composition, received a general commission for
"A Still Small Voice," a work for cello and dance. It will premiere in New York City during the 2006-07 concert season.

Composed for New York cellist Madeleine Shapiro and dancer/choreographer Celesta Haraszti, the work will utilize the BodySynth Sensor Suit, which allows both performers to interactively control sound in real time. The performance will mark the first time an instrumentalist has used the suit, which consists of sensors that work like an electrocardiogram machine to translate gestures and other movements into sonic textures.

Shapiro has participated in the premieres of numerous works by eminent composers, including Milton Babbitt, John Cage, Charles Wuorinen and Mario Davidovsky. From 1974-96, she was the cellist and co-director of the New Music Consort, a touring ensemble specializing in the performance of 20th-century music. Currently, she is the director of the chamber ensemble MODERNWORKS!, which has appeared at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago as well as the Museum of Modern Art and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has described Haraszti, who is also Beerman's wife, as a "virtuoso performer." Originally from Budapest, Hungary, Haraszti has performed in and created more than 40 works. Since 1982 she has toured with Beerman as the Electric Arts Duo, performing throughout the United States, Canada and Europe.

A composer, clarinetist, video artist and computer programmer, Beerman seamlessly integrates technology with other media. He has presented more than 100 concerts and master classes with Haraszti across the United States and Canada over the last four years.

The duo has performed at venues such as the International Summer Meeting of Electroacoustic Music in Hungary, LOGOS in Belgium, Piccolo Spoleto, ClariNet InterNational, Inc., Electronic Music Plus, the American Cultural Centre in Paris, the University of Japan, Town Hall in Brussels and Chopin Hall in Mexico City.

In 1980, Beerman founded the University's annual New Music and Art Festival, which attracts some 1,200 submissions annually from around the world. He received BGSU's Olscamp Research Award in 1999.

His composition awards include first prize from the International Society of Bassists for "Voices," written for soprano voice and string bass, the Martha K. Cooper Orchestra Prize for "Moments" and a D. Lipscomb Prize for "Romance for Piano and Tape." He has recordings on the Advance, Access, Orion and Capstone labels.

The Village Voice wrote of his work, "There is a remarkable clarity in the way Burton Beerman carries out the logic of his materials, and he has an excellent ear for sound color. … The composer displays an acute sensitivity to the differences between live sound and electronic sound, and the music contains extraordinary moments when the sound seems to belong to both worlds."

Beerman's most recent composition, "Tikvah: A Concert of Hope and Remembrance," was part of the University's Holocaust Conference last April. It blended live instrumentals, voice, narration, song and dance with video and special lighting design. The piece also has been performed at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Mich., and at the Marcus Jewish Community Center in Atlanta.

October 17, 2005