Thursday, April 14, 2016

MTNA awards David von Kampen's musical world

David von Kampen is the winner
of the MTNA 2015 Distinguished
Composer of the Year
David von Kampen has an impressive About page at his website and is currently lecturer of theory and literature at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln among other positions and accomplishments—but you don’t need to know all that to become a fan. 

Just take a listen to his music.

The judges for the Music Teachers National Association (MTNA) 2015 convention must have thought the same thing: out of 32 entries, von Kampen’s song cycle, “Under the Silver and Home Again: Five Walter de la Mare Lyrics for Baritone and Piano” was selected as the winner for 2015 Distinguished Composer of the Year.

von Kampen recently spoke with LincolnCMN about this piece and the award. The piece was commissioned by the Nebraska Music Teachers Association (NMTA), and von Kampen had no trouble choosing to compose for baritone and piano; “I wanted to write something for Nathan Sullivan to perform, and I knew piano/vocal would be easily transportable. I decided it would be a song cycle, then went poem-hunting.”

von Kampen settled on five poems by Walter de la Mare, “The Old Stone House,” “The Buckle,” “The Ride-by-Nights,” “Bunches of Grapes” and “Mistletoe.” When asked to give listening advice for this work, von Kampen said, “in a piece like this, I'm trying to establish contrasting musical characters between the movements. If you listen through the whole thing, hopefully there is a really nice sense of flow from one to the next - where nothing sounds the same, but it all feels like it belongs to the same world.”

Fortunately, you can listen to each movement of “Under the Silver and Home Again” here and get a sense for this “world” that von Kampen has created with this work. Many of von Kampen’s compositions can be heard on soundcloud, and listeners will enjoy the jazz influence in many of his pieces: “When I'm not writing for actual jazz ensembles (instrumental or vocal),” von Kampen shared, “I think my jazz background still comes through the music a little bit. Generally this is more about the harmony than rhythm or style. Jazz harmony is both complex and beautiful, which I think is an appealing combination.” He went on to state, “I like all sorts of different things.” 

As von Kampen enjoys “great songwriters, all sorts of popular and folk music. Choral, chamber music, musical theater,” he says that his career as a musician and composer was thanks to “very supportive parents and teachers” and the fact that “the more I did composed, the more natural it became.”

His advice to aspiring professional musicians and composers is to “Become a decent pianist, learn how to play by ear. Be able to sing (even if you aren't a singer), and be able to sight-read. Get practical experience however you can - composing, performing. Collaborate with friends. Listen to lots of music.”

As a modern composer in today’s world where many still think of classical music as “dead” or at least “boring,” von Kampen brings a sound that is very alive—blending many wonderful styles of music in his own unique style. 
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