Shawn Brogan Allison, Composer

Composer and saxophonist Shawn Brogan Allison is dedicated to exploring the expressive and communicative possibilities of new concert music in all of its manifestations. His work draws inspiration from anything that seems appropriate and some things that don’t, including multiple musical traditions, the music of composers from a multitude of epochs and musical styles, creatures and objects in the natural world, man-made things, and ideas and fictions both practical and metaphysical. He tries as hard as he can to come to the blank page with open ears and a long memory.

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2015-2016 season

August 17, 2015

There have been some big changes in my life in the last couple years, the biggest of which is that I have relocated (for the foreseeable future) to Southwest Florida. I have just started as an adjunct faculty member at Florida Gulf Coast University’s Bower School of Music and the Arts, and I also teach saxophone lessons privately and on faculty at the First Academy of Music in Bonita Springs. I am continuing to compose (of course) and to perform with my wife Abbey as part of the Allison Duo. I’m excited to be starting a new curatorial project as the artistic director of the nascent Century Ensemble, which focuses on engaging with audiences through performances of chamber music written since 1900 (website is on the way). The Century ensemble’s centerpiece for their inaugural season will be a 70th anniversary performance of Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time in January of 2016.

As for my upcoming composition projects, here they are, in no particular order:

—a wind ensemble piece, commissioned by a consortium of colleges and universities across the country, which I’m calling I Won’t Be Here Long (for more information, see “Current Projects”)

—a piece commissioned by the Cadillac Moon Ensemble satirizing Pierrot Lunaire(!), and inspired by the life and work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, to be premiered in NYC in during the 2015-2016 season, entitled Moonstruck Cadillac

—a piece commissioned by the Assembly Saxophone Quartet, entitled Drones, part of a series of compositions inspired by Trevor Paglen’s exciting work

—three more songs for mezzo-soprano Laura Mercado-Wright and Ryan MacEvoy McCullough, to complete my Mondnacht cycle

—a piano piece commissioned by pianist William McNally inspired by Charles Simic’s poem “Bestiary for the Fingers of My Right Hand” for a multi-city premiere (details forthcoming)

Current Projects

I Won’t Be Here Long, for Wind Ensemble

I’m working on a piece for a consortium of collegiate wind ensembles led by Heidi Miller, who is now on faculty at Gustavus Adolphus College. The consortium includes colleges across the country, from MIT in Cambridge, MA to UC-Berkeley, to the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. This is my first time composing something for more than one ensemble at a time—I’m used to picturing the group I’m writing for, and often listen to recordings of those groups or individuals in order to get my ear into their sound. Well, that’s basically impossible in this scenario, but it’s also an exciting challenge that I’m having a good time with.

I Won’t Be Here Long will be a 6-8 minute piece for a small wind ensemble (ca. 28 players), and will be a meditation on American labor. The title is a line from a work song on a Library of Congress field recording from 1939, about “quitting time,” and was sung at the end of a long work day. I plan to draw heavily on the sound as well as the indelible emotional impact of these field recordings, in addition to big band jazz from the 50s and 60s, and the haunting sonorities of train whistles. It will be premiered in the winter and spring of the 2015-2016 school year at 8 colleges and universities across the country. More details regarding their performances will be posted in the Events section of this site when that information becomes available.

Featured Recordings

Live Performance by eighth blackbird

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for two alto saxophones, mallet percussion, and piano

live performance by Zach Herchen, Philipp Stäudlin, Ryan Packard, and Aaron Likness, June 26th, 2011

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  • No upcoming events