Tag Archives: James Matheson

Three Composers Awarded 2016 Fromm Commissions

Congratulations to JAMES MATHESON, MELINDA WAGNER, and JAMES PRIMOSCH! All three composers were recently awarded 2016 Fromm Music Foundation commissions. As the foundation’s website notes, “These commissions represent one of the principal ways that the Fromm Music Foundation seeks to strengthen composition and to bring contemporary concert music closer to the public. In addition to the commissioning award, a subsidy is available for the ensemble performing the premiere of the commissioned work.”

For Orchestra
3(2nd dbl. A.Fl.; 3rd dbl. Picc.) 3(dbl. E.H.) 3(2nd dbl. Eb Cl.) 3(3=CBsn) – 4 3 3(B.Tbn.) 1;
Timp. 3Perc. Pno.(dbl. Cel.) Hp. Str.
Duration: 11′-12′
Commission: Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Gustavo Dudamel, Music Director.
Premiere: February 24, 25, and 26, 2017. Los Angeles Philharmonic, James Gaffigan, conductor; Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, CA.

World Premiere of James Matheson’s “The Age of Air” Concerto for Two Shakuhachi

A commission from the NYC-based organization Kyo-Shin-An Arts, co-commissioned by Houston’s River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, James Matheson’s concerto for two shakuhachi, The Age of Air, receives its world premieres on Saturday, November 14 in Houston, TX. Shakuhachi soloists James Nyoraku Schlefer and Akihito Obama plus Maestro Edwin Outwater join River Oaks Chamber Orchestra at 5pm after a composer talk at 4pm.


The shakuhachi is the traditional Japanese flute often used in Zen meditation, as well as in classical and contemporary Japanese chamber music.



The Age of Air is a 15-minute work in one movement featuring two shakuhachi soloists and an orchestration of double winds, French horns, trumpet, trombone, pitched percussion and strings. Its title derives meaning from the air we need and breathe, the fragility of the air that sustains and betrays us, the musical composition Air, and the current “Age” in which we live. The work showcases Matheson’s signature mix of energy, excitement and craft that releases the restlessly whirring energy of the orchestra.


Japanese and Western music traditions are profoundly different, yet compatible, with both requiring decades of training in the pursuit of technique, exactitude and elusive perfection. While Western music uses harmony, traditional Japanese music doesn’t. Scale patterns are diatonic vs. pentatonic. Tone color, dynamics, and pitch range diverge. But, when an accomplished composer breaks new boundaries, the resulting music brings a captivating concept to the classical canon and builds repertoire for the virtuoso performers of tomorrow. Among Mr. Matheson’s reasons for writing a double shakuhachi concerto – “I came to understand that Kyo-Shin-An Arts was not requesting a work that would need to replicate, or even explicitly acknowledge, traditional use of the instruments in Japanese music. Their request was for a commission that would contextualize Japanese instruments within a Western musical paradigm and aesthetic. Western music – my music – for Japanese instruments and orchestra.”