Amelia S. Kaplan, Composer

Amelia Kaplan, a composer whose music has been described as “riveting” by Anthony Aibel, reflects her diverse interests in historical music, Jewish music, Indian Classical Music, and physics. Currently Associate Professor of Composition at Ball State University, she has taught at Oberlin Conservatory, the University of Iowa, Roosevelt University, Columbia College, and the University of Chicago. She has guest lectured at Boston University, the University of Western Ontario,The University of Northern Colorado, The University of Northern Iowa, and the Conservatoire Angouleme, in Angouleme, France.

Her music has been performed at contemporary music festivals around the U.S. and in Europe, including the Society for Composers, Inc., the Composers’ Conference (at Wellesley), SICPP, Arcosanti, Gaudeamus, Darmstadt, Logos-Blad, Festival at Sandpoint, June in Buffalo, and others. Ensembles and musicians who have performed her work include Bent Frequency, The California EAR Unit, The Meridian Trio, The Purchase Percussion Ensemble, DoublePlay Percussion Duo, The Contemporary Chamber Players, The Nez/Wolfe Duo, The Pacifica Quartet, Roy Poper, James DeSano, Benjamin Coelho, Annette-Barbara Vogel, and others. Recordings are available on Albany Records and PARMA's Navona label, with more upcoming on Centaur Records.

Ms. Kaplan has been supported with residencies by the MacDowell Colony, Ucross Foundation, Atlantic Center for the Arts, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She has received grants from The Indiana Arts Commission, Ball State University, Oberlin Conservatory, the University of Chicago, and ASCAP, and has been nominated three times for the American Society of Arts and Letters.

Amelia Kaplan completed her Ph.D. in Music Composition at the University of Chicago as a Century Fellow, where her primary teachers were Shulamit Ran, Marta Ptaszynska, and Ralph Shapey. She worked with Azio Corghi at the Milan Conservatory on a Whiting Dissertation Fellowship, and also received a Diploma of Merit from the Accademia Musicale Chigiana while studying with Franco Donatoni, and a Diploma from the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau.


Insolence, for violin & piano
Performed and commissioned by Ketty Nez, piano & Katie Wolfe, violin for midwest tour of the Nez/Wolfe Duo. January 26, 2008. Kulas Recital Hall, Oberlin, OH.
NOTES: INSOLENCE, for violin and piano, is a short work that explores ways of uniting the two instruments in gestural sympathy. I’ve always found it difficult to write for piano and a traditional solo instrument – the piano simultaneously threatens to overwhelm and to take a secondary role. Insolence is an attempt to find a common meeting ground.
Insidious, for fl, cl, vn, vc, pno and perc
Written for and recorded by the California E.A.R. Unit. August 9, 2007. Arcosanti, AZ.
NOTES: INSIDIOUS, for Pierrot ensemble, started life with an explicit extramusical program. It was begun in 2006, under enormous time pressure and at a time when I was the recipient of some heinous behavior. In order to channel my frustrations I decided that the piece would be based on a small tune that kept bubbling up after attempts by other musical figures to drown it out. The concert it was originally planned for was cancelled after I had only completed about two minutes, so I put the piece away, unsure if it would ever have a performance, and worked on another piece. After learning of my residency with the California Ear Unit, I decided to resurrect the piece: I greatly shortened the original two-minute beginning, which now appears about 30 seconds into the piece, and it took off in an entirely new direction, with a more positive outlook. The original title may no longer be relevant, but I liked the sound of it, so I decided not to change it – I may at some point. The piece is now more about compromise – drastically different types of musical gestures coexisting, breaking off and reappearing to take up lost threads later on, noise and jagged lines combined with romantic loopy lines, and allusions to real and remembered sounds.
Beat It With a Stick, for 2 percussionists
Commissioned and performed by DoublePlay: Steven Paysen and Dominic Donato, percussion. October 14, 2006. New York, NY.
NOTES: BEAT IT WITH A STICK was written for Dominic Donato and Stephen Paysen in the spring of 2006. I have always loved writing for percussion as part of an ensemble, and for years have wanted to write an all un-pitched percussion work, but only this past year has the opportunity arisen. Although I have anticipated writing such a piece for a long time, when I actually started, I found it to be a much more difficult project that I had expected - my musical language is completely driven by gesture, but my ideas always begin with pitch. Additionally, I tend to use motives and exploit contour, which also made figuring out how to begin a difficult task. After about 3 months, however, I finally found a way into the sound world, and then everything fell into place. The piece is built out of several motives which get developed to some degree, passed among the instruments, and get used to create larger building blocks which drive the form. The larger building blocks consist of two types: static directionless statements, and multifaceted purpose driven statements. The two types are played off of each other over the course of the work, beginning with short motivic gestures and statements by the two percussionists playing in tandem, and increasing in density and energy to the end of work where two players ultimately part ways, one taking the static road, the other the more dynamic road.
Game Plan, for small chamber orchestra
Commissioned and performed by the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, Tim Weiss, conductor March 11, 2005. Finney Hall, Oberlin, OH.
NOTES: One night in June of 2004, as I was drifting of to sleep, I had a sonic “vision” of many instruments playing a specific descending figure, in different tempi, n a continuous cascade over an ostinato, resulting in a thick sound mass. This chunk of music occurs about three fourths through Game Plan – the rest of the piece was composed forwards and backwards from that segment. Although I did not set out to write a funny piece, the materials themselves, fairly banal and comical in isolation, inevitably led me to do so. The idea of juxtaposing musical figures in different speeds is presented at the very beginning and then continues in a unison line in which each beat is divided into a different number of subbeats (essentially different speeds) which leads eventually to entire bars and even longer spans proceeding at different tempi. The motive, which takes turns as a tune and as an accompaniment, turns into an ostinato which repeats ad naseaum. (A simple object can turn into something very different simply by repeating, in essence focusing a lens on its makeup – think of Satie, for example.) The ostinato then culminates in the parent tune piling up on itself, i.e. in the musical vision which precipitated the piece in the first place. Tim Weiss suggested that my original segment sounded like “a game,” thus giving me the idea for the title. Indeed the piece is about playing with time. The result is my “Game Plan.”