Orchestra plays new work by alumnus on April 20
When Lars Clutterham ’70 received a request from his alma mater to perform his latest composition, he found it “kind of flattering and kind of charming.” But mostly, he says, he was surprised.
“Rhythmically it’s pretty challenging because of the mixed meter, and I didn’t think it would be of interest to a college orchestra,” he says.
Cornell College Professor of Music Martin Hearne, however, was drawn to that very aspect of the piece. And so, Clutterham’s “New Horizons” will receive its Iowa premiere by Cornell’s Symphony Orchestra at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 20, in King Chapel. Completing the program will be Mozart’s “Overture to Don Giovanni” and Bizet’s Symphony in C Major. Admission is free and open to the public.
“The work is multi-metered, including ⅞ time, and our students are used to playing mixed meter,” Hearne says. In 2014, for example, the orchestra performed Michael Gandolfi’s ambitious, multi-meter work “QED: Engaging Richard Feynman.”
“I was looking for something accessible to the students and the audience,” Hearne recalls. “This piece has a lilt to it. There is a catchy melody, a lyrical middle section, and the basic theme permeates the piece. Immediately after reading the score I knew I wanted to perform it.”
Clutterham will return to Mount Vernon to attend the concert and speak with music students about his career.
The composer, who holds a bachelor of music in piano performance from Cornell and a master’s degree in piano performance from Temple University, wrote the work for the Downey (California) Symphony Orchestra, where it premiered in January.
“The goal of the piece was to express the energy and optimism of ‘New Horizons’ and new opportunities, in a musical voice evoking the 21st century,” he says.
To accomplish this, the opening fanfare evolves into a high-energy, mixed-meter theme that gradually builds throughout the entire orchestra. The underlying harmonies for the theme are borrowed from rock ’n’ roll and layered with notes and chords from jazz. Clutterham says the other singular component of the piece is its use of percussion to convey energy and a universal kinship through the international contributions of percussion instruments from around the world.
Lars Clutterham ’70
Lars Clutterham ’70 planned more or less from childhood to be a professional musician—and to go to Cornell College—as both his parents were alumni. He began piano lessons at the age of 8 and had the good fortune to solo with the Florida Symphony as a 12-year-old, playing the third movement of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C.
As a freshman “walk-on” at Cornell, he auditioned before the piano faculty and felt honored to be invited to study with legendary Cornell piano professor Julian Bern. He enjoyed independent study in composition (mostly twelve-tone) during his senior year with Music Professor Alf Houkom. During his junior year Clutterham joined the Cornell Oratorio Chorus on piano for the Iowa premiere of Dave Brubeck’s oratorio “The Light in the Wilderness.” Jesse Evans, longtime Music Department chair and Clutterham’s advisor, was the conductor.
After receiving a master’s degree in piano performance from Temple University, Clutterham’s music career until the mid-’90s was a combination of teaching, composing (including almost 20 years in the “jingle” business, writing, arranging, and producing music for broadcast advertising), conducting (mostly church choirs), and piano performance. In 1990 he landed in Los Angeles, where he transitioned into “music preparation” for the film music industry.