9.2.16

Hi Friends! Just a quick one to let you know that I finally caved in and have a professional page on Facebook. It’s way easier to stay up to date there, so for the most recent news and information, please visit Reena Esmail | Composer on Facebook!

11.16.2015

Excited to have been the subject of this mini-documentary about using technology to compose for the PC rebranding campaign PC Does What

6.5.2015

Next season is shaping up to be very exciting! Here are some of the highlights:

I will be doing three very different residencies next season:

  • I will be the Composer in Residence for Concerts on the Slope, a Brooklyn-based yearlong concert series. CoTS will be performing 6-7 of my chamber works, some in new configurations and instrumentations, and all by absolutely incredible performers! Stay tuned for specific dates.
  • I will also be working with Street Symphony, a group of Los Angeles musicians led by the inimitable Vijay Gupta. I will be writing a new work specifically to be taken into LA County jails and homeless shelters to create a space for communication and openness between the musicians and the audiences. I am so excited for the opportunity to create music that engages in a meaningful dialogue with these audiences and brings them into the creative and expressive process.
  • And of course I will be continuing as the Composer in Residence with the Pasadena Master Chorale for one more year, and will continue developing their composition program for middle schoolers through an intensive workshop throughout the spring.

In addition, I’m thrilled to announce a few really exciting performances: Next spring, American Composers Orchestra will premier a new orchestra work of mine at Carnegie Hall. This is my Carnegie debut, and I couldn’t be more excited!! Also, my women’s chorus work Tuttarana will be performed at the ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) Conference by the Mount Holyoke Glee Club in February! ACDA is the mecca of all things choral, and I am looking forward to attending for the first time! Also on the calendar are premiers by River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, the Orange County Symphony, Le Train Bleu and Yale Camerata.

5.28.2015

What a spring it’s been! The projects I announced in the last post are almost reaching completion. I’m writing this in the midst of listening to the final cuts of my dance suite for AtticRep’s “From the Mahabharata: The Great Dance-Off” – the music was recorded by the incredible SOLI Chamber Ensemble and Aditya Kalyanpur (tabla). The production will run from June 4-13 in San Antonio, and from what I’ve been seeing, it looks like it will be awesome! To purchase tickets for the production, click here.

I’m also just finishing up the instrumental parts for my 45-minute work for Pasadena Master Chorale called Earth Speaks. Each of the three sections of the piece looks at our earth through a different Pasadena-based lens: Part I sets modern Tongva poetry, (the Native Americans who live in the specific area that is now Pasadena), and explores the issues they face in today’s changing world, both natural and human. Part II uses information and text from the US Geological Survey, based in Pasadena, along with the poetry of California poet Brenda Hillman to depict the seven biggest earthquakes in California history. And Part III (which has already been premiered by PMC) is about Curiosity, the Mars rover created and deployed by JPL, which is based in Pasadena. It uses the map of stops Curiosity has made along its path as well as texts from an online haiku competition on the topic of the Mars rover to depict the human journey to Mars, and our impressions of the red planet. I’m excited for the premier, which will be on June 29th in Pasadena at CalTech!

4.28.2015

In addition to being a composer, I am also a Co-Artistic Director of Shastra, an organization that cultivates the work of musicians who connect Indian and Western musical traditions. Last Sunday, we hosted the first Shastra Festival at (le) poisson rouge in NYC. It was an incredible evening, featuring many talented musicians and ensembles that bring different elements of Indian and Western music into their work to create their own unique blend of these traditions.

Artists included Rez Abbasi (guitar), Rafiq Bhatia (guitar), Michael Harrison (composer and pianist), Kimball Gallagher (pianist), Shirish Korde (composer), Aakash Mittal (saxophone and composer), Payton MacDonald (Dhrupad trance singer and percussionist), Shawn Mativetsky (tabla), Rajna Swaminathan (mridangam), Shankar Tucker (clarinet) and Dan Weiss (drum set). We also collaborated with the incredible musicians of Face the Music, NYC’s premier new music ensemble for teenagers. We commissioned two new works, from Aakash Mittal and Asha Srinivasan which were premiered by the students of FTM at the Festival. The festival also marked the New York premier of my String Quartet (Ragamala) by my incredible colleagues Melanie Clapies, Jessica Oddie, Lucy Caplan and Yan Levionnois.

Two years ago, Payton MacDonald and I started Shastra because we wanted to create a central hub for musicians who write meaningful and engaging Indian/Western crossover music to engage with one another and contextualize each other’s work. After years of hard work, we were so excited to see how much this organization has grown, and we are already deep into planning for the next two years of events!

For more information on Shastra, please visit: htp://www.shastramusic.com

2.13.15

It’s been an exciting 2015 so far! I am working on three pieces premiering this spring:

  • Pasadena Master Chorale has commissioned a large, evening-length work that will premier on June 29th, 2015 at CalTech. Continuing the theme of Pasadena’s rich culture of arts and sciences (which was the inspiration for Curiosity), I will be using texts from the US Geological Survey (based in Pasadena) and the poetry of California poet Brenda Hillman to create a work about California’s largest earthquakes. And I will also be using Tongva (Native Americans who inhabited what is now Pasadena) poetry and exploring the unique ecosystem of Hahamongna Watershed Park, which is currently in imminent danger of being destroyed. The process of writing this piece has led me to so many interesting perspectives on Pasadena, and I am so enjoying the process of creating a work around them.
  • Colin Davin and Annie Rosen will be premiering my new song cycle for voice and guitar छूटी हुई जगह (Chuti Hui Jagah – The Space Between) this April at Tenri Cultural Center in New York. This cycle has been a long time coming for me – though I have sung extensively in Hindi, and even used ancient Hindi bandishes/bhajans in my music, this cycle marks the first time I have set modern Hindi poetry to music. The poet is the incredible Manav Kaul, a brilliant and soulful playwright from Mumbai, whose work I have admired for years. I am so excited to be working with his beautiful words.
  • I am collaborating with SOLI, an awesome San Antonio based chamber ensemble, to create music for a new production of scenes from the Mahabharata. The production will include bharatanatyam dancers as well as modern dancers, choreographed respectively by Kausi Subramaniam and Seme Jatib, working side by side to tell these ancient stories through their respective dance traditions. The production will be directed by Roberto Prestigiacomo, and will run through the first few weeks of June at AtticRep in San Antonio.

Please consult the Calendar for specific premier dates!

12.9.14

Every time the holidays roll around, I always daydream about arranging Christmas carols. This season I finally had the chance to make it happen! Last night, the Pasadena Master Chorale and the PMC Student Singers performed my arrangements of God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen and The Holly and The Ivy as part of their holiday concert “A Dickens Christmas“. And this thursday, I’ll be playing my piano trio arrangement of one of my favorite carols, I Wonder as I Wander with Alira Strings at Dashing Through the Show, the holiday concert of The Singer and The Songwriter!

Looking forward to 2015, I’m excited that I have a few opportunities to do a little more Hindustani singing: On January 30, I will be performing Gul-e-Dodi from Anjuman Songs at the opening event of the Composers Now Festival. And looking much further forward, I am so excited to be singing Hindustani vocals in Shirish Korde‘s opera Phoolan Devi: The Bandit Queen. Both of these events will take place in New York City – please visit the Calendar for more information!

Finally, I wanted to share a spunky little sound clip with you! I was recently commissioned to write music for Indiaspora’s new radio show that profiles prominent Indians and Indian-Americans living in the US. A portion of my theme music appears in the interlude of each show, but I was so proud of the work that the musicians (Benjamin Larsen, cello and Roshni Samlal, tabla) did on this theme that I wanted to share the whole thing with you here:

11.22.14

Last Friday, I was part of a Street Symphony concert for the first time. Street Symphony is an incredible organization, made up of some of Los Angeles’s top musicians, who take music into jails and homeless shelters, and perform for audiences that would otherwise have no access to high-quality live music. On November 21, my String Quartet had its West Coast Premiere for about 300 female inmates at the LA County Jail — the experience of sharing music with these women, speaking to them, and making music with them, was one of the most moving experiences in my career thus far.

Steve Lopez from the Los Angeles times wrote a beautiful article on the concert. This was Street Symphony’s 57th concert in the LA County Jails over the past three years. I was so grateful to be part of it, and I’m hoping for many more to come.

11.8.14

Last week I returned from a whirlwind trip to the east coast — we had three days of recording bansuri, sarangi and tabla for “Radha” (a film by Rupeshi Shah). Then I went up to Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA to work with the Glee Club, a super talented and energetic group of singers led by Lindsay Pope. They are working on my new piece Tuttarana for womens’ choir (which they commissioned this season). After that, I went to Worchester MA to guest lecture at College of the Holy Cross. It was wonderful to be back in time to enjoy the fall colors and to work with so many wonderful musicians!

During the month of October, I was a guest blogger for NewMusicBox Magazine — I wrote four articles about various aspects of Hindustani music and how they tie into Western traditions/conceptions. They are:

10.9.14

Welcome to my newly redesigned site, www.reenaesmail.com! We’re still in the process of finishing it up (though, that is the nature of websites – they are always an ongoing process), but I’m grateful to my designer/coder Elia for all his hard work to make this site look great!

For the month of October, I’m a guest blogger at NewMusicBox — I’m writing an article a week, talking about topics relating to Hindustani music. The first article, called Recitals of Gratitude is out today — I would love to read your comments!

7.23.14

In May, I graduated from my doctoral coursework at Yale, and relocated to Los Angeles. After thirteen years on the east coast, I’m excited to be back in California!

I’m also excited to announce that I will be Pasadena Master Chorale’s Composer-in-Residence for the 2014-15 Season! I will be writing a few new works for PMC (including a large 45-minute work at the end of the season), as well as bringing a composition component to their education program, and finding ways to integrate a variety of new music into the choir’s repertoire.

6.26.14

I’m looking forward to writing original scores for two new films this season:

  • RADHA is a new film by young Indian-American filmmaker, Rupeshi Shah, which tells the classic Radha/Krishna story intercut between ancient Vrindavan and contemporary America.
  • K.I.A. (Killed in Action) explores unsung perspectives on the aftermath of WWII, through a meeting between the wife of a deceased soldier and one of his closest friends from the war. K.I.A. is directed and produced by my dear friend Christine Weatherup.

5.13.14

This spring has been quite eventful!

  • I just got back from Los Angeles where I played piano on The Singer and The Songwriter‘s album release show. (I’m also the pianist on their album!) I’m absolutely in love with their work — check it out here.
  • I’m writing this from Albany, as I work with the Dogs of Desire (Albany Symphony’s chamber orchestra) and bharatanatyam dancer Sisira Gorthala on my new piece Vishwas, based on the story of Mirabai. The program also features incredible collaborative works by Conor Brown, Andreia Pinto-Correia and others, and I am so excited to be a part of it!
  • I’m also excited to announce that I will be writing a new piece for the Mount Holyoke Glee Club next fall. It is the first time I will have the opportunity to work with a women’s chorus since my junior high days at Marlborough!

2.22.14

I’m excited to be working on a few very unique projects this May:

  • a collaboration with violist Matthew Dane – I will be writing a piece for solo viola d’amore. The tuning of the instrument and its sympathetic strings make it almost feel like writing for a western sarangi, and couldn’t be more excited about working with Matt on this music!
  • I will also be writing the music for Kali Juger Kumbh, a new film by Bengali filmmaker Ashish Avikunthak. While I have done some work with film before, I’m really excited to be scoring an Indian-language film for the first time!

12.13.13

My TEDxSkidRow talk from September is live! I talk about singing songs on long Indian train trips, and musical identity. Watch it here!

11.24.13

A wonderful new recording of my String Quartet (Ragamala) is available here. The piece was recently performed and recorded by Melanie Clapies, Jessica Oddie, Ksenia Zhuleva and Chang Pan – they did an absolutely amazing job! On another note, I will be speaking to the World Music seminar at Vassar College next week about collaboration between Hindustani and Western classical musicians. Looking forward to it!

11.9.13

I’m excited to be writing a new work for the Albany Symphony’s chamber orchestra to be performed at the end of this season (May 2014). In addition to the musical element, I will be working with Sisira Gorthala, an incredible bharatanatyam dancer, on this unique collaborative work. More details to come soon!

10.1.13

September was a crazy and wonderful month! I spoke at TEDxSkidRow (will post a link to that talk as soon as it’s available!) and just got back from three wonderful performances of my string orchestra piece Teen Murti (तीन मुर्ति) by the River Oaks Chamber Orchestra in Houston, TX. There’s a wonderful article about the concert and my piece here.

On another note, my doctoral thesis centers around the collaboration between Hindustani musicians and western composers, and I have been discovering wonderful new musicians who work in this genre every day. If you are (or know of) a musician who does this kind of work, pleae do get in touch! I would love to know more about what you do.

8.27.13

Three new videos are out that feature me and/or my music! (both are available on the media page)

  • The CULTIVATE Program (at Copland House) made a short film about their 2012 program in which I am honored to be prominently featured. See the film here.
  • I recently wrote the music for a short video for Indiaspora – the piece is for western flute, Hindustani singer and piano. Check it out here.
  • On a totally different note, Yale School of Music just released their new promotional video “Why Yale?“, and I got to play a little part in it as myself, the composer (at 1:32)!

8.3.13

Thank you to the Flux Quartet who premiered my new String Quartet at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival last week! The piece was performed as part of the first Young Composer’s Program, and I was joined by two other wonderful composers, David Hertzberg and Elizabeth Ogonek. I was flattered to receive an extensive review from James Keller of the Santa Fe New Mexican:

“Midway through the 14-minute span of Reena Esmail’s String Quartet,
the character became a vivacious dance with complicated rhythms —
a South Asian take on John Adams, perhaps.”

To read the full review, go here.

8.5.13

Next season already promises to be exciting! Performaces in Houston and Chicago, and a full concert featuring my music in New York. And I’m also speaking at a TEDx event in Los Angeles! Check the Calendar section for more details.

6.17.13

I’m excited to be writing a new piece for the Pasadena Master Chorale and my dear friend, pianist Crystal Rivette next season! The piece will be performed on PMC’s “The Voice of California” concert, on March 22-23, 2014. I grew up in Los Angeles, and have spent a lot of time in Pasadena over the years, so this commission is especially meaningful to me.

5.26.13

A portion of my new song cycle “Anjuman Songs” is being premiered at a wonderful event at the Ruskin Museum in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday May 29th at 7:30 PM in conjunction with poet/translator Diana Arterian, who translated these works into English. The work commemorates the late Afghan poet Nadia Anjuman, and is simultaneously sung in Dari (an Afghan dialect of Farsi) and narrated in English. This project is so special to me, and I’m so excited to have a group of wonderful musicians performing this piece: Nandani Sinha, soprano; Rachel Garcia, narrator; Aaron Hill, English horn; Aurelien Eulert, piano

4.26.12

I guess when it rains it pours with recordings… in the past week, there have been a number of wonderful recordings of my music:

  • Kimball Gallagher just posted a live recording of my piano piece Rang De Basant that he played in about 20 concerts around India, Singapore and Malaysia (this one is from a concert in Singapore).
  • MuSE (Multicultural Sonic Evolution) posted a recording from the premier of Jhula Jhule at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City, with pianist Kevin Loucks and violinist Irina Krechkovsky.
  • And something that is very dear to my heart, Sur et Veritaal (the Indian a cappella group I started at Yale in 2010) just finished up their third season with a few recordings of some of my arrangements: Ghanana Ghanana / Chaiyya Chaiyya / Hips Don’t Lie (which Sur performed for Shahrukh Khan himself last year!) and Turning Tables / Alvida.

4.5.13

There’s a new recording on the site! Jhula Jhule, my new piece for violin and piano (commissioned by MuSE Ensemble in NYC) was recorded by my friends Alissa Cheung and Paul Kerekes this week! Listen to it here.

11.2.12

I am excited to be writing for the Flux Quartet this summer, as part of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. My residency will be from July 21-27, 2013.

10.26.12

Today is the first day of a very exciting tour of India, Singapore and Malaysia by pianist Kimball Gallagher. He will be performing my new solo piano work Rang de Basant, along with music by Michael Harrison and Franz Liszt’s Piano Sonata. There will be sixteen concerts spanned over ten cities in three weeks. Please check here for specific tour dates!

8.1.12

Two premiers of my work are coming up this weekend: On August 5th, my new work तसवीर (Tasveer), for clarinet, violin, cello and piano will be premiered as part of Music from Copland House’s CULTIVATE Program by Harumi Rhodes (violin), Alexis Pia Gerlach (cello), Carol McGonnell (clarinet), and Michael Boriskin (piano). This is the first year of the program, and I’m very excited to be working with these incredible musicians!

And on August 4th will be the West Coast Premier of Two Tones, by Nandani Sinha (soprano), Nicole Elliott (violin) and Edward Murray (piano) at the wedding of my dear friend Robert Bolyard. Robert has championed my music for years, and I am so honored to be a musical part of this special day.

6.2.12

I am excited to be a part of Copland House‘s new program for emerging composers, CULTIVATE, this August! Read the full press release here.

5.26.12

I am back in the United States after a wonderful year in India! I’m excited to be a part of so many upcoming projects for the next season: a new piece for sarangi, bansuri and tabla for The HUM Ensemble and Sandeep Das, a commission from pianist Kimball Gallagher for a new solo piano piece for his seven-city tour of India in November; a project with poet/translator Diana Arterian to set poems by deceased Afghani poet Nadia Anjuman, both in their English translation, and in the original Farsi; and a commission from MuSE (Multicultural Sonic Evolution) for a violin and piano duo based on Indian folksong, which is part of MuSE’s larger project to set folksongs from around the world for violin and piano; and a few more projects of my own!

3.2.12

This weekend is the west coast premier of my large choral work White Key by the incredible San Francisco-based vocal ensemble, Volti! An article about the piece and Carol Muske-Dukes’s incredible poem can be found here, and more information on the concert is available on Volti’s website.

2.29.12

I am incredibly honored to have been chosen to receive the Walter Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, which will involve an upcoming publication of my work by C.F. Peters! I am so excited, and truly grateful to the AAAL for their acknowledgement of my work.

2.3.12

A short interview I did last year with the Oral History of American Music at Yale University is now available on the media page. Check it out!

10.28.11

I have a number of speaking engagements coming up in the next few months! I’ll be speaking at a INK Salon (the INK conference is affiliated with TED) in Chennai on November 5th. I will be giving a presentation about music to students at The Kings School in Goa shortly thereafter, on November 14th. Then in January, I will be speaking to the students in Delhi University’s English Department on the topic of text setting in western music.

On another note, back in the US, Sur et Veritaal is doing a concert of my bollywood arrangements at Yale’s AfAm House on October 29th!

9.8.11

Moved into my new place in New Delhi for the year, have started studying Hindustani vocal music with Gaurav Mazumdar, and played tanpura in his concert on August 31. The year is off to a great start! If you’re interested in following my blog about my Fulbright year, the address is: http://reenainindia.wordpress.com

8.7.11

Heading up to Bennington, VT for a weeklong residency at Chamber Music Conference East, and the incredible Susan Botti! My new work, Silence, for chamber ensemble and voice will be premiered on August 10th.

5.23.11

I now have a MM, Composition from Yale School of Music! Thank you so much to all my incredible teachers and colleagues — it has been a joy to work with you.

5.1.11

Aria, my piece for Hindustani vocalist and orchestra received Yale School of Music’s 2011 Ezra Laderman Prize for the best composition written for voice.

4.11.11

I am excited to announce that I received a Fulbright grant to spend the 2011-2012 year studying Hindustani Classical music in India. More details to come, but I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity!

3.17.11

Some exciting performances are coming up in the next month! I will be playing the piano in two pieces on the March 24th New Music New Haven concert at Yale: my own piece, Two Tones, and my colleague Omar Surillo’s piece Blanket. Then, on March 26th, oboist Alexandra Detyniecki will be playing a movement from my oboe sonata on her graduation recital. Then on April 1, Sur et Veritaal will be performing in Lumina, a large cultural show at Yale. So a busy month! Check the upcoming performances section for details.

2.8.2011

I am honored to be part of a very exciting project of conductor Tian Hui Ng and the Haverford College Chamber Singers called Recalling Ariadne. Six new works reflecting on the story of Ariadne, which will be presented alongside the Monteverdi Lamento d’Arianna. My new choral work Asterion in the Tropics will be premiered as part of this project — more information can be found here, on the project’s blog.

On a completely different choral note: Sur et Veritaal (Yale’s Hindi a cappella group) have an exciting season coming up: we will be performing at the Asian American Cultural Center’s Arts Festival on February 25th, and there are a few more performances in the works for this semester. Please see upcoming performances for more details.

1.6.11

I was honored to be invited to be a Composition Fellow at the Chamber Music Conference East this summer! Also, the recording of Aria is finally up on the site. To listen, click here.

12.1.10

My new orchestral work Aria for hindustani classical singer Meena Shivaram and the Yale Philharmonia will be premiered on December 9th, at 8PM in Sprague Concert Hall at Yale. The concert will also feature new works by my colleagues Andy Akiho, Adrian Knight, Omar Surillo and Yale composition faculty member Martin Bresnick. An article about the event can be found here.

11.16.10

Yale Daily News printed a story about Roshni, the South Asian Cultural Show, and put in a nice word for the Hindi a capella group I conducted and arranged for. Read the article here.

10.15.10

The new recording of my Piano Quintet from New Music New Haven is up! Listen here (it’s the second recording, all the way at the bottom of the page)

5.5.10

audio and video for the Indeterminacy and Improvisation concert is now up on the MUSI347 site — check out Answering, my piece for dancers and contact mics (with Nazima Ahmad) and my realization of John Cage’s Variations II.

4.24.10

Reena received the Harriet Gibbs Fox Memorial prize from the Yale School of Music.

1.15.10

Reena has been commissioned by Norfolk Chamber Music Festival to write a new work for piano quintet.