Will Healy: Machine Learning (2020, Copland House CULTIVATE commission)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 at 5pm EDT

Performed by Music from Copland House
(Moran Katz, clarinet; Pala Garcia, violin; Alexis Pia Gerlach, cello; Margaret Kampmeier, piano)


Notes from the composer

“Machine Learning” is the ability of a computer algorithm to improve on its own, taking a data set and extrapolating from it to make predictions and decisions without any additional programming. In recent months, I’ve become entirely reliant on computers for human connection, art, business, and communication, more so than at any other time in my life. The ability of computers and algorithms to mimic the natural world, provide the feeling of genuine human connection, and predict and understand our emotions and desires has been a saving grace during the COVID shut downs, and it’s hard to imagine what life was like during the 1918 pandemic without any of these technologies.

As someone who loves playing Bach (and other Baroque music), I love his ability to spin an entire piece out of a small motive, using techniques of counterpoint and form that are not unlike an algorithm. As I went back and forth between piano and computer over the past few months, I’ve felt surrounded by algorithms of different sorts, curating my newsfeed, music choices, and social connections in ways that are simultaneously wonderful and worrisome. Machine Learning begins with an intricate, searching texture, which ultimately settles on a quiet, syncopated motive in the piano. I structured the rest of the piece on this motive, this small data point, which then could be extrapolated to form each section of the piece. Much like our experience of the computer-curated world we’ve inhabited over the past few months and years, I aimed to write music that was simultaneously beautiful, exhilarating, overwhelming, and exhausting!


About Will Healy

New York-based composer-pianist WILL HEALY‘s work has been heard at the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, (le) Poisson Rouge, Apollo Theater, and New York Philharmonic Biennial, and on WNYC Radio’s New Sounds, and his 40-minute song cycle for rappers, soloists, and chamber orchestra, Cityscapes, was released on New Amsterdam Records. One of Copland House’s What’s the Score? Fellows (for an in-school commission), he has received a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, two ASCAP Morton Gould Awards, a W.K. Rose Fellowship, and a J-Fund commission. He is the artistic director of ShoutHouse, a collective of artists from diverse genres, and a pianist with a passion for both new and old music. He lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where he has been exploring Chinatown and trying tons of new types of food.


About Music from Copland House

Hailed by The New Yorker as “bold,” “adventurous,” and “superb,” MUSIC FROM COPLAND HOUSE offers ear-opening, mind-expanding experiences gathered from its journeys across 150 years of America’s vast musical landscape. Whether celebrating classic or forgotten voices from the nation’s past, or reveling in established or rising artists from the present, this wide-ranging American repertory ensemble creates memorable and richly diverse narratives in sound, linking music to the wider worlds from which these works emerged. “Illuminating essential truths about the music” (The New York Times), MCH has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, NPR, Euro-Radio, and other major media; and engaged by Tanglewood, the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art, Library of Congress, University of Chicago, Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles, and the Caramoor, Bard, Ecstatic, Bowdoin, and SONiC Festivals. It also records for the Arabesque, Koch International, and COPLAND HOUSE BLEND labels. Called “one of the leading champions of contemporary music” (Louisville Weekly), the ensemble presents two mainstage concert series in Westchester County, NY (now in its 12th season), and at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York (in its 2nd season). Inspired by Copland’s peerless, lifelong advocacy of American composers, MCH presents a wide variety of educational and community outreach activities. Launched in 1999 by flutist Paul Lustig Dunkel, clarinetist Derek Bermel, violinist Nicholas Kitchen, cellist Wilhelmina Smith, and pianist Michael Boriskin, MCH boasts a stellar roster of Founding, Principal, and Guest Artists, of whom, The Chicago Tribune raved, “Copland would have been proud of all of them.”


About Cultivate

CULTIVATE, now in its 10th season, is Copland House’s flagship annual emerging composers institute, directed by Grammy-nominated composer-clarinetist Derek Bermel. Embracing exploration, process, and community, this weeklong, all-scholarship creative workshop and mentoring program is an important destination on the early-career paths of gifted young composers of all artistic and personal backgrounds and identities. Linking creation, performance, and education, Copland House commissions six CULTIVATE Fellows to compose a short new chamber piece that is the heart of their work during an intensive week of rehearsals, workshops, discussions, and other individual and collective sessions with Bermel, the Music from Copland House ensemble, and prominent, visionary arts leaders. The institute concludes with public concerts where all the new works are premiered and filmed for delayed telecast. CULTIVATE is also a portal for additional performance, recording, commissioning, and other career-development opportunities.

Support for CULTIVATE 2020 and Cultivated Spaces comes the ASCAP and BMI Foundations, Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, Friends of Copland House, Jandon Foundation, and NewMusicUSA.  Additional program support comes from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Amphion Foundation, ArtsWestchester, the National Endowment for the Arts, and New York State Council on the Arts. Donate to CULTIVATE.


Will Healy – Copland House Cultivated Spaces [3.23.2021]