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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    Basic Training
    For Piano
    PL126 12:00 Piano
    Mythic Birds Of Saugerties
    For Solo Bass Clarinet In Bb
    W2645 4:00 Bass Clarinet
    Pre-Amnesia CY3302 1:30 Alto Saxophone in Eb
    Revisible Light CY3304 Piano
    Riff and Transfiguration
    Suite for Piano Solo
    PL121 18:00 Piano
    Third Party
    (Piccola majerka)
    PL136 4:40 Piano
    Winter/Fall CY3314 1:30 Cello
    Chamber Ensemble
    Amnesia Breaks CY3289F 8:30 Woodwind Quintet
    Amnesia Redux
    For Piano Trio
    MXE13 11:00 Piano Trio
    Amnesia Variance CY3291 9:00 Mixed Ensemble
    Anhinga 20711 7:00 fl., ob., cl., bsn.; hn.; vln.(2), vla., vcl.
    Ciao Manhattan
    For Alto Flute (doubling Flute), Viola, Cello, and Piano
    MXE10 7:00 Chamber Ensemble
    The Dream of Innocent III
    For Amplified Cello, Piano and Percussion
    MXE30 16:00 Mixed Trio
    In Double Light
    For Viola, Bass Clarinet, Piano, and Percussion
    CY3298 7:00 Mixed Ensemble
    Field Guide
    For Chamber Ensemble
    CY3429 9:00 Chamber Ensemble
    How Was Your Weekend?
    For Viola and Cello
    CY2527 1:30 String Duet
    For Narrator and String Quartet
    BE4 26:00 String Quartet
    My Life On The Plains MXE31F 25:00 Chamber Ensemble
    Paradigm Lost
    for Saxophone Quartet
    WE15 12:00 Mixed Saxophone Quartet
    Polish Folk Songs CY3430 13:00 Mixed Ensemble
    Pre-Pulse Suspended 20718 13:00 1(dbl. A.Fl.) 0 2(B.Cl.) 1 – 1 0 1 0; Pno. 2Vln, Vla. Vcl. Cb.
    String Quartet No. 2 CY3306 16:00 String Quartet
    String Quartet No. 3 CY3307 13:00 String Quartet
    String Quartet No. 4 BE6F 14:00 String Quartet
    Warble (for Fenwick Smith)
    For Flute and Piano
    CY3470 6:00 Flute, Piano
    We Speak Etruscan
    For Bass Clarinet and Baritone Saxophone
    W2564 9:00 Woodwind Duet
    At North Farm
    For Mezzo-Soprano and Bass Clarinet
    CY3293 5:00 Voice and Instrument
    The House of Flowers
    For Mezzo-Soprano, Bass Clarinet, Piano, and Contrabass
    CY3509F 5:00 Voice and Instrument
    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
    Lives of the Saints (Part II) 20717 22:00 Mezzo-soprano; fl.(alto fl., bass fl.), cl.(bass. cl.); perc., pno., vln., vla., vcl.
    For Baritone Voice and Viola
    MXE81 4:00 Baritone, Viola
    Wilson’s Ivory Bill
    For Baritone Voice, Piano and Field Recording
    CY3313 11:30 Voice and Instrument
    Trans 20719 17:00 1(dbl. A.Fl.) 2(dbl.E.H.) 2(dbl.E-flat Cl.) 2 – 2 0 0 0; Str.(
    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.
    Orchestra with Soloist(s)
    Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra 20713 10:00 Solo bass clarinet; fl., cl., bsn.; hn., trp; Hp. Str.
    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.
    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.

    …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

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

    …an engaging work…
    –Michael Cameron, Chicago Classical Review

    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

    …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

    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

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

  • Paradigm Lost PARADIGM LOST
    XAS Records (XAS 103); September 22, 2017
    Performer(s): Prism Quartet
    Work(s): Paradigm Lost
    Lives of the Saints LIVES OF THE SAINTS
    BMOP/sound (1003); May 1, 2008
    Performer(s): Mary Nessinger, mezzo-soprano; Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose, conductor
    Work(s): At Suma Beach
    Lives of the Saints (Part I)
    Lives of the Saints (Part II)
    American Voices AMERICAN VOICES
    Innova Records (675); July 17, 2007
    Performer(s): Brian Sacawa, saxophone
    Work(s): Pre-Amnesia
    Trans TRANS
    New World Records (80614); February 1, 2004
    Performer(s): Tim Smith, bass clarinet; Laura Frautschi, violin; Boston Modern Orchestra Project; Gil Rose, conductor
    Work(s): Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra
    Violin Concerto
    Citizens of Nowhere CITIZENS OF NOWHERE
    Albany Records (TROY1439); September 1, 2003
    Performer(s): Jan Berry Baker, saxophones, Kenneth Long, clarinets
    Work(s): We Speak Etruscan
    Riff and Transfiguration RIFF AND TRANSFIGURATION
    Tzadik (7048); August 1, 1999
    Performer(s): Mia Chung , piano; Stephen Drury, piano; Judith Gordon, piano; The Callithumpian Ensemble
    Work(s): Amnesia Variance
    Basic Training
    Riff and Transfiguration
    Third Party
    Quintet of the Americas - Self Portrait QUINTET OF THE AMERICAS – SELF PORTRAIT
    CRI/New World Records (NWCR722); October 29, 1996
    Performer(s): Quintet of the Americas
    Work(s): Amnesia Breaks
    Howl, U.S.A. HOWL, U.S.A.
    Nonesuch Records (79372); June 1, 1996
    Performer(s): Allen Ginsberg, narrator; Kronos Quartet
    Work(s): Howl
    We Speak Etruscan WE SPEAK ETRUSCAN
    New World Records (80491); February 1, 1996
    Performer(s): Speculum Musicae; Lydian String Quartet; Tim Smith-bass clarinet; Tim Berne-baritone saxophone; Aleck Karis-piano
    Work(s): Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orchestra No. 2
    Pre-Pulse Suspended
    String Quartet No. 2
    String Quartet No. 3
    We Speak Etruscan
    Rhonda Rider Cello Recital RHONDA RIDER CELLO RECITAL
    CRI/New World Records (NWCR564); June 10, 1994
    Performer(s): Lee Hyla, piano; Rhonda Rider, cello; James Pugliese, percussion
    Work(s): The Dream of Innocent III

  • 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
    for Chamber Orchestra