Described by the Toronto Star as "an eclectic with wide open ears" and by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as "one of America's finest young composers", composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel has been widely hailed for his creativity, theatricality, and virtuosity. Bermel's works draw from a rich variety of musical genres, including classical, jazz, pop, rock, blues, folk, and gospel. Hands-on experience with music of cultures around the world has become part of the fabric and force of his compositional language.
Currently serving as 2006-09 Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall, Bermel has received commissions from the Pittsburgh, National, Saint Louis, New Jersey, and Pacific Symphonies, Los Angeles and Westchester Philharmonics, the New York Youth Symphony, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, WNYC Radio, eighth blackbird, the Guarneri String Quartet, Music from China, De Ereprijs (Netherlands), Jazz Xchange (U.K.), Figura (Denmark), violinist Midori, electric guitarist Wiek Hijmans, cellist Fred Sherry, and pianists Christopher Taylor and Andy Russo, among others. His many awards include the Alpert Award in the Arts, the Rome Prize, Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, the Trailblazer Award from the American Music Center, the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Paul Boylan Award from the University of Michigan, the Quinto Maganini Award, the Harvey Gaul Prize, the Lily Boulanger Award, the Brian Israel Prize, commissions from the Koussevitzky and Fromm Foundations, Meet the Composer, and the Cary Trust, and residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Copland House, Sacatar, and Civitella Ranieri.
Last season Bermel performed as soloist alongside Wynton Marsalis in his Migration Series, a work commissioned by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra and ACO. He also appeared as clarinet soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in conductor/composer John Adams' Gnarly Buttons, and as soloist in his own concerto Voices at the Beijing Modern Music Festival. The Philharmonia Orchestra in also produced an all-Bermel concert as part of its Music of Today series at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Highlights during this season include the Pittsburgh Symphony's premiere of The Good Life for chorus and orchestra, Golden Motors, a music-theatre collaboration with librettist/lyricist Wendy S. Walters, and a return to Carnegie Hall for two premieres: a Koussevitzky Commission for ACO conducted by Maestro Dennis Russell Davies, and as soloist in the world premiere of Fang Man's clarinet concerto. Beginning in 2009 Bermel will serve as composer-in-residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and two CDs of his orchestral and large ensemble works will be released by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Alarm Will Sound.
Bermel has collaborated with artists in a wide variety of genres, including playwright Will Eno, filmmaker Kevin Jerome Everson, installation artist Shimon Attie, landscape architect Andy Cao, choreographer Sheron Wray, performance artist Kim Jones, composer/sound designer David Reid, poets Wendy S. Walters, Mark Halliday and Naomi Shihab Nye, and Albert Bermel. As an educator, he founded the groundbreaking Making Score program for young composers at the New York Youth Symphony, and regularly leads masterclasses at universities, conservatories, and concert
Bermel holds B.A. and D.M.A. degrees from Yale University and the University of Michigan. His main composition teachers were William Albright, Louis Andriessen, William Bolcom, Henri Dutilleux, Andre Hajdu, and Michael Tenzer, and he studied clarinet with Ben Armato and Keith Wilson. He also studied ethnomusicology and orchestration in Jerusalem with Andre Hajdu, later traveling to Bulgaria to study Thracian folk style with Nikola Iliev, to Brazil to learn caxixi with Julio Gaes, and to Ghana to study Lobi xylophone with Ngmen Baaru. His music is published by Peermusic (North/South America & Asia) and Faber Music (Europe & Australia).
BMOP/sound, the nation's foremost label launched by an orchestra and devoted exclusively to new music recordings, today announced the release of Derek Bermel: Voices, the first of nine BMOP/sound albums to be released in 2009. From the melodic roots of West Africa to the infectious grooves of Bulgarian folk music, the CD's four orchestral works meld Bermel's love for orchestral and jazz music with a myriad of unlikely global traditions and influences.
8 New ON this week / 43 Total
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With talents ranging from a pop singer to a West African xylophone player, it's hard to give just one title to Derek Bermel. Through his many releases, including his most recent 'Canzonas Americanas,' the composer is able to effortlessly float between genres, including funk, classical, jazz, zydeco, and everything in between. His musical prowess stretches to all forms of musicianship, notably his vocal talents and his artistry on the clarinet.
A man of many talents, and no stranger to writing pop music, Bermel still thinks they should be kept separate. "For me, they're two separate things," he says. "Each is a different model of creativity. Pop music is about icons and identification. Classical music is about communicating an experience that can be reflected on. How do they intersect? I don't really know-I don't feel they do intersect."
Regardless of feeling that way, Derek Bermel is still a master at both. His pieces are thoughtful and intricate, without being excessive.
In usual form, Derek Bermel's latest release: 'Canzonas Americanas' is anything but predictable. The disc is quite varied instrumentally and stylistically, with boss nova grooves and arrangements for violin and banjo, and that's just the first piece. At the request of Gustavo Dudamel, Bermel on 'Canzonas Americanas' highlighted the relationship between North and South American and spent a month in Brazil playing local saloons. On 'Montuno Blue' Bermel creates this relationship drawing influences of Eddie Palmieri and Theolonius Monk.
Check out the clip with DB discussing new music and their audiences.