Singleton’s complete Argoru series will be performed by Ensemble 20/21 on March 6
Award-winning composer, Fulbright scholar, and Guggenheim fellow Alvin Singleton is working with Curtis students throughout the 2020–21 season as composer in residence. Notably, he will provide individual coachings to members of Ensemble 20/21, Curtis’s contemporary music ensemble, as they prepare his complete Argoru series for solo instruments for Portrait of Alvin Singleton on March 6.
Argoru—meaning “to play” in the Twi language of Ghana—comprises eight stand-alone solo works for strings, woodwinds, and percussion instruments. Astoundingly, even for the composer himself, the series was composed between 1968 and 2002, and represents the progression of his skills and aesthetics as an artist. Each piece brings its own unique character from “playfulness and spontaneity”i to “deafening silences,”ii though technical virtuosity, extreme contrasts, and an improvisatory feel are hallmarks of the series. Mr. Singleton will soon add a ninth Argoru installment for solo violin, commissioned by the Curtis Institute of Music with the support of the Allen R & Judy Brick Freedman Venture Fund for Music.
David Serkin Ludwig, artistic director of Ensemble 20/21, recently spoke to Mr. Singleton from his home in Atlanta. In this short video, he shares memories of what drew him to composition and some adventures while living in Europe, thoughts on his musical voice, and disbelief in how three decades can fly by!
About the composer
Alvin Singleton was born in Brooklyn, New York and completed his studies at New York University and Yale University. As a Fulbright scholar, he studied with Goffredo Petrassi at Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. After living and working in Europe for 14 years, Mr. Singleton returned to the United States to become composer in residence with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, a post he held from 1985 to 1988. He subsequently served as the Unisys composer in residence with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra from 1996 to 1997, composer in residence with the Ritz Chamber Players from 2002 to 2003, and composer in residence in Tirana, Albania. In Spring 2004 Mr. Singleton joined the American Composers Orchestra as the “Music Alive” composer in residence and artistic advisor for the Improvise! Festival. He has also served as visiting professor of composition at the Yale University School of Music.
Mr. Singleton’s music is notable for combination of influences and moments of theatricality and surprise. He has worked extensively with major orchestras worldwide and has written significant works for chamber and vocal ensembles, as well as works for the theater. His works have been premiered by such renowned ensembles as VocalEssence, Imani Winds, the Momenta Quartet, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Astral Artists, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and May Festival Chamber Choir, and the American Composers Orchestra with Ursula Oppens at Carnegie Hall, and the Youth Symphonic Orchestra of Russia. Notable commissions include those from the ASCAP Foundation and Spivey Hall, the Orchestra of the League of Composers, the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation, and the American Composers Orchestra.
Mr. Singleton is the recipient of a 2003 Guggenheim Fellowship. Other awards include the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis from the city of Darmstadt, Germany; the Musikprotokoll Kompositionspreis from Austrian Radio, which he received twice; the Mayor’s Fellowship in the Arts award from the city of Atlanta; and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2014, Singleton was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
iWritten by Laura Gordy in 2009 for the Schott edition of Argoru I for piano
iiWritten by Carman Moore in 2009 for the Schott edition of Argoru VIII for snare drum