American composer Kristen Kuster is the subject of this week's Consonant Classical Challenge. Kuster is a fairly young composer, and her style incorporates many aspects of both current contemporary and popular music. Kuster's inspired (in part) by architectural space, and it's easy to follow the structural outlines of her works.
Although her works might be classified as tonal, they're anything but simple in their harmonic structure. Kristen builds her chords up by consonant intervals, avoiding simple triads and trite harmonic motion. Her imaginative orchestrations, combined with her strong sense of rhythm and scalar melodies make her music (in my opinion) both accessible and engaging.
Two Jades -- as the title suggests, this work for solo violin and symphonic band has an Oriental theme. The work stays mostly diatonic, with syncopated rhythms that keep the music moving forward under the soaring solo violin.
Perpetual Afternoon for flute and piano, by requiring only two instruments, pares Kuster's music down to its essence. Kuster's gift for melody is apparent in this work. The flute floats and glides, with memorable motifs that are easy for the listener to recognize and follow.
Redness is an acapella work for mixed choir. Kuster uses rich harmonies -- primarily built on seconds and thirds -- to provide subtle shading to the melody and enhance the emotions of the text.
Kristen Kuster has a well-rounded catalog of works for chamber, vocal, and orchestral forces. In my opinion, her music sounds fresh and contemporary, while still maintaining a connection with classical music traditions. It's music that should be enjoyable to both new listeners, and concert-hall veterans. I'm hopeful that more organizations will program her music as time goes on.