Kevin Michael Kay (b. 1995) is inspired by the ways in which our universe manifests sound, and through his art, he explores how sound behaves in our world both physically and naturally. He considers his works to be auditory experiences, in which harmonic languages are established and immerse the listeners in specific contained soundscapes. These harmonic languages tend to be the harmonic series or spectral analysis of various sounds. His music is primarily focused on exploring an evolution of timbre and texture in time, and he is tremendously influenced by spectralism, avant-garde textural music, and all waves of minimalism. Although he has a love for writing purely acoustic works, he is also incredibly interested in the possibilities within electronics and electroacoustic music.

Kevin has had his music performed at New Music on the Point, the Yarn/Wire Institute, the NYC Electroacoustic Music Festival, KLK Music Per Archi, the Charlotte New Music Festival, the National Student Electronic Music Event, the Valencia International Performance Academy and Festival, the Alion Baltic International Music Festival, and the Miami Summer Music Festival. Ensembles that have performed Kevin's music include the Brouwer Trio, the Lemberg Sinfonietta, U of A Percussion, the William and Mary Symphony Orchestra, and the William and Mary Wind Ensemble. Kevin regularly performs his own pieces for clarinet and electronics.

Kevin is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts at The University of Chicago. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from William and Mary in May 2017 with a B.S. in physics and music. At William and Mary, he received High Honors for his honors thesis entitled "A Spectralist Approach to the Vibrations of the Universe." His primary mentors were Sophia Serghi and Brian Hulse.

Works:

  • Senses (2015 - 2017) for solo clarinet and electronics
    Aroma (2015, Revised 2017)
    Sapidity (2016, Revised 2017)
    Warmth (2016)
    Visuality (2017)
  • The World is Sound (2017) for percussion piano quartet
  • Natural Inclinations (2017) for flute, violin, viola, piano
  • Subatomic Vibrations (2017) for septet and live electronics
  • The Universe is Vibrating (2016) for flute, viola, harp
  • Every Angle (2016) for soprano, flute, piano
  • ...(re)imagined (2016) for string quartet
  • Infusing Creation (2016) for flute, violin, viola
  • Suffuse, Resound (2016) for violin, cello, and fixed media
  • Anthrophony (2016) for solo piano
  • Reflections of Energy (2016) for piano trio
  • Luna in Cerulean (2016) for wind ensemble
  • Pulsar (2016, Revised 2017) for large orchestra
  • Masada (2016) for mixed choir
  • Flux (2015) for percussion trio and fixed media
  • Stationary States (2015) for brass quintet
  • Fundamentality (2015, Revised 2017) - for solo double bass
  • Three Miniatures for Eight Musicians - Curl, Diverge, Evolve (2015)
  • Turquoise Ripples (2015) for chamber orchestra
  • Temporal Limits (2015) for wind quintet
  • Amber (2015, Revised 2017) for string orchestra
  • Sustain (2015) for chamber orchestra

Compositions

Natural Inclinations


PDF score

How do we make decisions, decide what we do, and build the path of our lives as we are living it? Is every action a calculated decision, or do we often follow what feels right...what feels natural. I strive to create art organically, in a way that feels natural and authentic, and in it I aim to reflect something about this world that I find interesting. Natural Inclinations explores the idea of following your gut and following a path that you find intuitive. This idea is translated into the piece with how I derived the harmonic language and soundscape. I am tremendously interested in the harmonic series - a mathematical property that dominates how sound, music, nature, and the physical world behave. In this piece, one fundamental pitch is explored, and the strings of the violin and viola are re-tuned to be harmonics of this fundamental pitch. Throughout the piece, I explore the harmonic series of several of the harmonics of the fundamental pitch. For me, working with the harmonic series, or any overtone series, feels natural, as it is often how sound behaves in our world.


The World is Sound


PDF score

This piece is inspired by the idea that everything in our universe is vibrating, has a measurable wavelength and frequency, and is thus producing sound whether we can hear it or not. Our whole macrocosmos is a symphony of sound, producing a beautiful musical landscape from its big bang to its death. What we do as musicians and composers is simply adding a little 'miniature' of sound to this whole fabric of our amazing musical universe.


Warmth


PDF score

Warmth is the third piece of four that Kevin has written as part of a series of pieces about the senses, as explored through a fifth sense, hearing, for solo clarinet and electronics. This piece utilizes two harmonic series a minor third apart from each other, which blend at times into a diatonic scale. The live processing was realized using MaxMSP. WARMTH reflects on the notion of touch, and with it, the feeling of warmth. We spend our lives seeking warmth - warmth on our skin, warmth in our hearts. And with the feeling of warmth, we contrast it with the feeling of coldness...shivers...goosebumps...let us all acquire the warmth we seek.


Reflections of Energy


PDF score

Reflections of Energy is a piece that dives into the physics of vibrating strings that are bound at both ends, because waves carry with them energy and power. Such strings are the makeup for each instrument in the piano trio. It is the imagery I associate with the physics of a sinusoidal wave carrying energy down a string in one direction, hitting the end, inverting, and traveling back upwards, (in the negative direction and with a smaller amplitude), that inspired this piece. The wave equation for a string bound on both ends is the linear combination of the possible solutions of that wave equation, which musically speaking are just the harmonics of the string. I wanted to capture certain specific and unique harmonics inside the piano, which when struck by the hammer, allow waves associated with that note to travel down the string and back. These sounds are transferred into the violin and cello, allowing for the reflections of energy to come to life between the instruments. This idea of energy traveling and transferring on a string appears in the overarching form of the piece, where there are moments of calm traveling followed by brief interruptions of energy reflection.