Friday, February 20, 2015

CCC 124 - Gary Kulesha

This weeks' entry in the Consonant Composer's Challenge is Canadian composer Gary Kulesha. Kulesha studied with John Corigliano, and like Corigliano, seems comfortable writing in a wide variety of styles -- including tonally-centered music. For Kulesha, I think the primary consideration is what best serves the music. His electronic compositions, for example, seem free from the constraints of the musical staff, and use clusters of sounds rather than notes for their building blocks.

Kulesha's tonal compositions don't sound hemmed in by the use of a key center, either. He makes full use of chromatic inflection and dissonances (both resolved and unresolved) to stirr the listener's emotions. While the music may have a solid tonal reference point, Kulesha takes the audience on an imaginative voyage of discovery.

The Sonata for Bassoon and Piano is highly chromatic, yet still with a clear tonal center. The first movement ends on an unresolved dissonance, which -- because the tonal center is established -- gives the work some momentum going into the second movement.

Attitudes for Clarinet and Piano is another good example of Kulesha's more tonal output. Kulesha is a clarinetist as well as a composer, so as you can imagine, this work lays well on the instrument. Kulesha opts for somewhat straight-forward melodies in this work, making it easy for the listener to follow along (or even hum along).

The Sonata for Horn, Tuba, and Piano is a good-natured work, full of catchy motifs. Kulesha seems to easily overcome the difficulties of writing for such a limited sonic palette, bringing out the full potential of the tuba as an expressive solo instrument and creating music of real substance


Trio No. 2 for violin, cello and piano is chamber work in three movements. The first and third movements sound a little jazzy, with some extended tonality/atonal sections.

Not all of Gary Kulesha's music falls into the category of "tonal," but that's OK. All of it (at least all the works I've been able to audition), are authentic musical expressions by a true artist -- not dry, academic constructions. I wish that some recordings of his music for larger forces were available. I'd love to hear some of his choral compositions, his orchestral works, and at least some extracts from his two operas.

Recommended recordings

Ryan, J.: Quantum Mechanics

Crossroads Canadian Premieres

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