Lee Hyla

  • Lee (Leon Joseph) Hyla was an award-winning American composer from Niagara Falls, New York. He was born there 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. He passed away at the age of 61 on June 6, 2014 in Chicago.

    Lee Hyla wrote 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 received commissions from the Koussevitsky, Fromm, Barlow and Naumburg Foundations, Mary Flagler Charitable Trust, Concert Artist’s Guild, and was the recipient of two Meet the Composer/Reader’s Consortium Commissions. He was also 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 is available on the Nonesuch, New World, Avant, CRI, Tzadik and BMOP Sound labels.

    The music of Lee Hyla sought 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 integrated 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, which was both complex and immediately compelling, substantial yet visceral, almost elemental in character – always rich in content and eminently direct in expression.

    He was known to be an inspirational pedagogue as well as an incisive and expressive composer, and is sorely missed by students, colleagues, and friends alike.

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    PL126 Basic Training
    For Piano
    12:00 Piano
    W2645 Mythic Birds Of Saugerties
    For Solo Bass Clarinet In Bb
    4:00 Bass Clarinet
    CY3302 Pre-Amnesia
    1:30 Alto Saxophone in Eb
    CY3304 Revisible Light
    PL121 Riff and Transfiguration
    Suite for Piano Solo
    18:00 Piano
    PL136 Third Party
    (Piccola majerka)
    4:40 Piano
    CY3314 Winter/Fall
    1:30 Cello
    Chamber Ensemble
    MXE13 Amnesia Redux
    For Piano Trio
    11:00 Piano Trio
    CY3291 Amnesia Variance
    9:00 Mixed Ensemble
    20711 Anhinga
    7:00 fl., ob., cl., bsn.; hn.; vln.(2), vla., vcl.
    MXE10 Ciao Manhattan
    For Alto Flute (doubling Flute), Viola, Cello, and Piano
    7:00 Chamber Ensemble
    MXE30 The Dream of Innocent III
    For Amplified Cello, Piano and Percussion
    16:00 Mixed Trio
    CY3298 In Double Light
    For Viola, Bass Clarinet, Piano, and Percussion
    7:00 Mixed Ensemble
    CY3429 Field Guide
    For Chamber Ensemble
    9:00 Chamber Ensemble
    CY2527 How Was Your Weekend?
    For Viola and Cello
    1:30 String Duet
    BE4 Howl
    For Narrator and String Quartet
    26:00 String Quartet
    MXE111 Mother Popcorn Revisited
    Violin, Cello, Piano
    MXE31M My Life On The Plains
    25:00 Chamber Ensemble
    WE15 Paradigm Lost
    for Saxophone Quartet
    Mixed Saxophone Quartet
    CY3430 Polish Folk Songs
    13:00 Mixed Ensemble
    20718 Pre-Pulse Suspended
    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
    16:00 String Quartet
    CY3307 String Quartet No. 3
    13:00 String Quartet
    CY3470 Warble (for Fenwick Smith)
    For Flute and Piano
    6:00 Flute, Piano
    W2564 We Speak Etruscan
    For Bass Clarinet and Baritone Saxophone
    9:00 Woodwind Duet
    CY3293 At North Farm
    For Mezzo-Soprano and Bass Clarinet
    5:00 Voice and Instrument
    20716 Lives of the Saints (Part I)
    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)
    22:00 Mezzo-soprano; fl.(alto fl., bass fl.), cl.(bass. cl.); perc., pno., vln., vla., vcl.
    MXE81 Quarry
    For Baritone Voice and Viola
    4:00 Baritone, Viola
    CY3313 Wilson’s Ivory Bill
    For Baritone Voice, Piano and Field Recording
    11:30 Voice and Instrument
    20719 Trans
    17:00 1(dbl. A.Fl.) 2(dbl.E.H.) 2(dbl.E-flat Cl.) 2 – 2 0 0 0; Str.(
    20720 Triadic Coast
    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)
    20713 Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra
    10:00 Solo bass clarinet; fl., cl., bsn.; hn., trp; Hp. Str.
    20714 Concerto for Piano and Chamber Orchestra, No. 2
    19:00 Solo piano; fl.(a. fl.), cl., b.cl., bsn.(cbn.); hn., tbn.; perc., hammered dulcimer; vln.(2), vla., vcl., cb.
    20722 Violin Concerto
    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