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Interdisciplinary Studies

Professor Rodney Waschka’s New Composition Premieres

“Suite for Piano,” a new original work by Arts Studies Professor and composer Rodney Waschka premiered on Feb. 1 at the NYC Contemporary Music Symposium’s 2023 Columbia University concert. The concert took place at Columbia’s St. Paul’s chapel as part of the Music at St. Paul’s concert series.

His piece was selected from 300 works submitted by artists from around the world and one of nine to be featured in the Feb. 1 program. Contemporary pianist Yifei Xu will perform the pieces. 

Of being selected, Waschka said: “I am thrilled because I know that Yifei Xu is a wonderful pianist and a player of excellent judgment. I am very excited to have the first performance in such brilliant hands. For such opportunities – presentations of new work by exceptional performers – there are always very, very large numbers of submissions.”

Waschka creates musical compositions using algorithms and computer programs. His works are regularly performed throughout North America and Europe and in Asia, South America, Africa and Australia. He also performs as a narrator, vocalist and actor — often with electronic music.

At NC State, he teaches composition, computer music composition and other courses. He is also the director of the Arts NOW Series, which presents concerts, lectures and other performing arts events for the university community and the general public.

We caught up with Waschka to find out more about his inspiration for “Suite for Piano,” his creative process and its influence on his classwork, his future plans and more.

What do you want listeners to take away from your piece?

RW: I try not to put expectations on the listeners. I hope some listeners sense a clarity of structure and perhaps some pleasant surprises.

What are you most looking forward to in having the piece performed?

RW: I am looking forward to hearing Yifei Xu’s interpretation. In my experience, great players typically bring to a piece insights I did not imagine.

Rodney Waschka with Zoë Wenstrand.

How do your creative endeavors influence your classwork?

RW: Each piece I compose teaches me something about the compositional process, whether I am working with computer music or more traditional means of composition. I can directly relate that experience to my students. This piece can serve as an example in my computer music composition class.

What is next for you in terms of new compositions and performances?

RW: I will compose an acousmatic (fixed electronic computer music) piece called “A Portrait of David B. Greene” as part of my series of pieces called “Portraits.” Dr. Greene is NC State professor emeritus of arts studies and the founding director of the Arts Studies program, as well as a longtime friend.

Eventually, the entire collection of “Portraits,” which includes portraits of NC State faculty members and emeritus faculty members Stephanie Spencer, Jonathan Kramer and J. Mark Scearce will be released as an album.

My piece, “A Note for Joe,” for flute and tuba, will be performed in May and recorded for release on the Phasma-Music record label.

The electronic music group, Just the TRS! at the University of North Texas, plans to make a video recording of my piece, “A Sound Image for David Dorn,” which is for an unspecified sextet. However, I do not know when that will happen or be released.