“If there is any guiding philosophy on how I compose, it is that I want my music to come about organically,” says Assistant Professor of Music Mark Olivieri. “I am an improviser. It is the guiding philosophy of my compositional process. I try to follow my instincts on how to negotiate compositional parameters such as form, shape, and pacing.”
Olivieri recently completed his newly commissioned work, “Tilt,” for piano and percussion, which, he describes as a departure “from the conventional use of percussion in chamber music as a means for coloristic effect.” He wanted the piece instead to “allow the percussionist to both ‘groove’ and play melodically with a small group of auxiliary percussion instruments.”
“Tilt” was commissioned by pianist Dr. Sonia K. Vlahcevic and will premiere in Stockholm, Sweden in the summer of 2015. The American premiere will occur in the fall at the Sonia Vlahcevic Concert Hall, on Virginia Commonwealth University campus in Richmond, Va. Just prior to the premiere of “Tilt” in Sweden, pianist Richard Steinbach will perform one of Olivieri’s original compositions in his Carnegie Hall debut.
“I am really fortunate to have my music performed around the world,” Olivieri says. “I’ve been writing music for over 20 years. Throughout, I have gotten to know many terrific performers who want to play my work. Often times, I will send a piece to a group of performers who I think will enjoy the piece and perform it well. Other times, I hear about musicians playing a work of mine only after it has been performed. Because this piece is a genre (piano/percussion) that does not take a lot of set-up to perform, and that many pianists are looking to perform, I am hopeful that it will receive a modest number of performances every year.”
“Tilt” developed while Olivieri and Vlahcevic were in Buenos Aires, Argentina for the 2013 International College Music Society Conference. “We spoke a lot about new and old music, but really spent most of our time working on our tango technique,” Olivieri says. “After realizing we’ve missed our opportunities for a career as a professional tango duo, we discussed other possibilities of working together in the future. The opportunity to collaborate came in the spring of 2014 when Sonia asked me to write a new work for piano and percussion.”
Olivieri, who completes about one newly commissioned work a year, says, “Composers are always fortunate whenever they have the chance to work with great musicians that not only have the technical facility to execute difficult passages, but also possess the musical intelligence to extract more than what merely appears on the page. Such musicians allow the composer to fully realize the potential of his or her composition. I am privileged to have written ‘Tilt’ for two performers that possess both of these qualities.”
Olivieri joined the HWS faculty in 2010. He holds a Ph.D. from the University at Buffalo, a M.M. from Ithaca College Music Conservatory, and a B.M. from Heidelberg College. Prior to arriving at the Colleges, Olivieri served as Composer-in-Residence in the Department of Dance at The College at Brockport. He has played and composed for luminaries like the Jose Limon, Sean Curran, Doug Varone, and Smith Dance Companies. His ongoing collaborations as both pianist and composer with dance icon Bill Evans have led to numerous performances of new works.
This spring, Olivieri was featured in WXXI’s “Sharp Ears” series. The radio series features a different musician each week, discussing how the music they listen to affects their own compositions or informs their playing. In May, he taught music composition for a week at University EAFIT in Medellin, Colombia, where his commissioned piano trio, D=RxT, premiered with a performance by the Janus Trio.