Lee Hyla

  • Lee (Leon Joseph) Hyla was born in Niagara Falls, New York (August 31, 1952), and grew up in Greencastle, Indiana. After graduating from the New England Conservatory of Music (B. Mus., 1975), he studied at SUNY – Stony Brook (M.A, 1978), and then lived in New York City for over ten years. In 1992 he returned to Boston to teach at the New England Conservatory, where he eventually became co-chairman of the composition department. In September, 2007 he assumed the Harry N. and Ruth F. Wyatt Chair of Music Composition at Northwestern University.

    Lee Hyla has written for numerous well-known performers including Tim Smith, Tim Berne, Rhonda Rider, Stephen Drury, Mia Chung, Judith Gordon, Laura Frautschi, Midori, Vadim Repin and Mary Nessinger, as well as celebrated ensembles such as the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Kronos Quartet (with Allen Ginsberg), Speculum Musicae, Lydian String Quartet, Boston Musica Viva, Firebird Ensemble, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. He has received commissions from the Koussevitsky, Fromm, Barlow and Naumburg Foundations, Mary Flagler Charitable Trust, Concert Artist’s Guild, and is the recipient of two Meet the Composer/Reader’s Consortium Commissions. He has also been the recipient of the Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships, the Goddard Lieberson Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the Rome Prize. His music has been recorded on the Nonesuch, New World, Avant, CRI, Tzadik and BMOP Sound labels. The latest recording, by members of the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, on their own label, BMOP Sound contains Lives of the Saints (2000) and At Suma Beach (2003).

    The music of Lee Hyla seeks to find a common ground between the tradition of postwar American Expressionism represented by composers such as Stephan Wolpe and Elliott Carter and the gritty urban style of avant-garde Jazz musicians like Cecil Taylor. Hyla also integrates aspects of the rougher styles of Rock, especially Punk, into the unique mix of his music. Despite its high energy and raw surface, the music is fully notated, with nothing improvised, nor is there anything haphazard about Hyla’s sense of pitch, or dramatic structure, both of which are meticulous in a way that allows raucousness to achieve elegance. Among Hyla’s works, the 1984 Pre-Pulse Suspended for chamber orchestra marks the first thorough integration of all the elements of his musical technique. In this pivotal work, the motivic treatment of short-breathed riffs has a Beethovenian intensity and variety of phrase structure. The rhythmic force of this surface allows Hyla to juxtapose musics in contrasting tempos and affect, in an original and personal extension of methods derived from Carter. At the same time, a powerful sense of drama extends over each movement through the adroit manipulation of pedal points, which are presented either as non-transposing chords or as extended repeated notes. Hyla continued to develop these techniques in the Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orchestra No. 2 (1991), the stunning and justly celebrated Howl, written for the Kronos Quartet and Allen Ginsberg’s recitation of his famous poem, and most ambitiously in the 1996 Trans, for chamber orchestra. Hyla’s chamber music also exemplifies his unique and engaging approach to composition. It is both complex and immediately compelling, substantial yet visceral, almost elemental in character – always rich in content and eminently direct in expression.

    Recently, Hyla has also been extending his compositional reach to writing works for orchestra, including a Violin Concerto (2001) for Laura Frautschi, Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, The Triadic Coast (2005), written for the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, and Riff and Consequences (2008), composed for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.


  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
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    Solo
    PL126 Basic Training for Piano PL126 Piano
    CY3304 Revisible Light CY3304 Piano
    PL121 Riff and Transfiguration PL121 18:00 Piano
    PL136 Third Party
    (Piccola majerka)
    PL136 4:40:00 Piano
    CY3314 Winter/Fall CY3314 Cello
    Chamber Ensemble
    MXE13 Amnesia Redux MXE13
    CY3291 Amnesia Variance CY3291 cl. (b.cl.), vln, vla, vlc, hammered dulcimer, pno.
    20710 Amnesia Variance 20710 9:00 cl.(b.cl.); vln., vla., vcl.; hammered dulcimer, pno.
    20711 Anhinga 20711 7:00 fl., ob., cl., bsn.; hn.; vln.(2), vla., vcl.
    MXE10 Ciao Manhattan MXE10 Chamber Ensemble
    CY3298 In Double Light CY3298
    MXE30 The Dream of Innocent III
    for Amplified Cello, Piano and Percussion
    MXE30 Mixed Trio
    CY3429 Field Guide CY3429
    CY2527 How Was Your Weekend? CY2527 full score, vln., vlc.
    BE4 Howl BE4 String Quartet
    MXE31M My Life On The Plains MXE31M 25:00 Bb Clarinet, Bass Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello, Piano, Percussion (congas, bongos, pedal bass drum, high hat, ride and crash cymbals, marimba, hamm. dulcimer, crotales)
    W2645 Mythic Birds Of Saugerties
    For Solo Bass Clarinet In Bb
    W2645 Bass Clarinet
    WE15 Paradigm Lost
    for Saxophone Quartet
    WE15 12:00 Mixed Saxophone Quartet
    CY3430 Polish Folk Songs CY3430
    CY3302 Pre-Amnesia CY3302 1:30 alto saxophone in Eb solo
    20718 Pre-Pulse Suspended 20718 13:00 1(dbl. A.Fl.) 0 2(B.Cl.) 1 – 1 0 1 0; Pno. 2Vln, Vla. Vcl. Cb.
    CY3306 String Quartet No.2 CY3306 String Quartet
    CY3307 String Quartet No.3 CY3307 String Quartet
    CY3470 Warble (for Fenwick Smith)
    For Flute and Piano
    CY3470
    W2564 We Speak Etruscan W2564 Woodwind Duet
    Voice
    CY3293 At North Farm – 1 Score
    For Mezzo Soprano and Bass Clarinet
    CY3293
    20716 Lives of the Saints (Part I) 20716 20:00 Solo mezzo-soprano voice; fl.(a. fl., b. fl.), cl.(b.cl.); vln., vla., vcl.; pno., perc., hammered dulcimer
    20717 Lives of the Saints (Part II) 20717 22:00 Mezzo-soprano; fl.(alto fl., bass fl.), cl.(bass. cl.); perc., pno., vln., vla., vcl.
    MXE81 Quarry MXE81 :00:00 Baritone, Viola
    CY3313 Wilson’s Ivory Bill
    For Baritone Voice,Piano and Field Recording
    CY3313 baritone voice, Piano, field recording on CD
    Orchestra with Soloist(s)
    20713 Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra 20713 10:00 Solo bass clarinet; fl., cl., bsn.; hn., trp; Hp. Str.
    20714 Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orchestra, No. 2 20714 19:00 Solo piano; fl.(a. fl.), cl., b.cl., bsn.(cbn.); hn., tbn.; perc., hammered dulcimer; vln.(2), vla., vcl., cb.
    SC54 Violin Concerto SC54 21:00 Flute I, Flute II, Trumpet I, Oboe I, Oboe II, Clarinet I, Bass Clarinet, Bassoon I, Clarinet II, Contra Bassoon, Horn II, Horn I, Violin II, Bassoon II, Piano, Piccolo, Percussion I, Percussion II, Harp, Cello, Violin I, Viola, Trumpet II, ContraBass, Vi
    20722 Violin Concerto 20722 21:00 Solo Vln.; 2(dbl. Picc) 2(dbl.E.H.) 2(dbl.B.Cl.) 2(dbl.Cbsn.) – 2 2 1 0; 2Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    20721 Violin Concerto 20721 21:00 Solo Vln.; 2(picc.) 2 2(dbl. B.Cl.) 2(dbl.Cbsn.) – 2 2 1 0; 2Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.
    20719 Trans 20719 17:00 1(dbl. A.Fl.) 2(dbl.E.H.) 2(dbl.E-flat Cl.) 2 – 2 0 0 0; Str.(5.4.3.3.1)
    20720 Triadic Coast 20720 11:30 3(Picc.) 3 3(Cl.2 dbl. Eb Cl. / Cl.3 dbl.B.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3 3 1; Timp. 3Perc. Pno. Hp. Str.

  • BASIC TRAINING
    …a dizzying range of textures, dynamics…
    –Michael Cameron, Chicago Classical Review

    The music starts aggressively, alternating single notes and spread-out, dissonant chords. Hyla worked with tonality and dissonance, and crafted complex, through-composed music made firmer and weightier by allowing plenty of internal space and silence.
    –George Grella, New York Classical Review

    PRE-AMNESIA
    …a concentrated avalanche of spiky, angry leaps over the full range of the instrument.
    –Michael Cameron, Chicago Classical Review

    STRING QUARTET NO. 4
    …an engaging work…
    –Michael Cameron, Chicago Classical Review

    TRIPTYCH
    The first movement’s sinuous shimmer led to a brawny marimba-cello call-and-response in the second; the third movement’s opening bongo-and-pizzicato cool collapsed into dissonant, funky angles.
    –Matthew Guerrieri, Boston Globe

    …always changing and backing away from glimmers of beauty.
    –Benjamin Pesetsky, Boston Music Intelligencer

    WAVE
    …an eclectic mix of medernisms including jazz riffs and emphatic classical instrumentation … It all adds up to a broad yet sensitive piece…
    –Gerald Fisher, Chicago Classical Review

    WE SPEAK ETRUSCAN
    The reference in the title to a dead language is a wry take on the quandry of contemporary music, a challenge Hyla takes on with explicit, if oblique sourcing of jazz from bebop forward … Just as Wagner withheld tonic resolutions until the listener can barely tolerate the suspense, Hyla’s “rhythmic resolutions” pack a fierce wallop.
    –Michael Cameron, Chicago Classical Review

    WINTER/FALL
    …ruminative and texture driven…
    –Michael Cameron, Chicago Classical Review

  • Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra
    Field Guide
    for Mixed Ensemble
    Lives of Saints (Part I)
    for Mezzo-Soprano and Chamber Ensemble
    Lives of Saints (Part II)
    for Mezzo-Soprano and Chamber Ensemble
    Pre-pulse Suspended
    for Mixed Ensemble
    Trans
    for Chamber Orchestra