Chaya Czernowin (Hebrew: חיה צ'רנובין, Hebrew pronunciation: [ˌχaja t͡ʃɛʁˈnobin]; born December 7, 1957 in Haifa, Israel) is a composer, and Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music at Harvard University.
She is the lead composer at the Schloß Solitude Sommerakademie, a biannual international academy of composers and resident musicians at the landmark Schloß Solitude, in Stuttgart, Germany. She is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow.
Education and early career
Czernowin was born and raised in Haifa, Israel. She studied composition at the Rubin Academy of Music at Tel-Aviv University with Abel Ehrlich and Izhak Sadai, and at the age of 25 went to study in Berlin on a DAAD Scholarship with Dieter Schnebel. In 1986 she moved to the United States to study at Bard College with Eli Yarden and Joan Tower. She received her PhD at the University of California San Diego studying with Roger Reynolds (dissertation advisor) and Brian Ferneyhough. Upon completing her formal education, Czernowin undertook a period of travel and composition in Japan 1993-5 (Asahi Shimbun Fellowship, NEA Scholarship) and Germany (1996, Akademie Schloß Solitude). Czernowin describes this period of travel as being seminal in the development of her compositional language.
Czernowin considers teaching to be an important aspect of her continued compositional development. She was Professor of Composition at the University of California San Diego from 1997 to 2006, a professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna from 2006 to 2009, and in 2009 was appointed Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music at Harvard University. She has been a guest professor in a number of institutions, and has taught at the International Summer Course for New Music at Darmstadt since 1990. In 2003 Czernowin founded a course for young composers at the Akademie Schloss Solitude near Stuttgart with her husband, composer Steven Kazuo Takasugi, and Jean Baptiste Joly, as well as a course in Israel at the festival Tzlil Meudcan along with Yaron Deutsch.
Czernowin's output includes chamber and orchestral music, with and without electronics. Her works have been regularly played in most of the contemporary music festivals in Europe, as well as in Japan, Korea, Australia, the US and Canada.
Czernowin has composed three large scale works for the stage: Pnima ... ins Innere (2000), Adama (2004-05), and Infinite now (2016–17). All three carry strong political content. A fourth work, Heart Chamber, is set to premiere in late 2019.
Pnima ... ins Innere was commissioned by the Munich Biennale and chosen as best premiere of the year by Opernwelt's annual critic survey. It was also winner of the coveted Bayerischer Theaterpreis. Pnima deals with the transmission of a traumatic experience as a vital part of the present, demanding real and active engagement rather than allowing the trauma to become a self-important, rarefied and frozen memorial.
Adama was commissioned for Mozart's 250th birthday by the Salzburg Festival. With her second opera, Czernowin was asked to respond to Mozart's Zaïde by creating a counterpoint piece. Adama, which is intertwined with Zaïde, deals with the impact that a political situation has on the individual and the limited freedom one has when trying to escape this impact.
Infinite now was commissioned by Vlaamse opera Antwerp and Ghent, Belgium, Mannheim Stadttheater, Germany, and IRCAM Paris. It was directed by Luk Perceval, staged by Phillip Bussmann, and conducted by Titus Engel. IRCAM and Carlo Laurenzi were in collaboration with Czernowin for the electronics. The opera uses two texts, Homecoming by Chinese writer Can Xue, and Front by Luk Perceval (a play based on Erich Maria Remarque's All is Quiet on the Western Front, as well as the letters of soldiers from the first world war). A two-and-a-half hour, 6 act work, Infinite Now moves beyond the topics of Homecoming and Front and into the greater sphere of existence here and now. The nature and destiny of survival, as well as the vitality involved in it, are overarching themes of the opera.
Heart Chamber for Deutsche Oper Berlin — like Infinite Now — features vocalists, instrumental soloists (saxophone, guitar, keyboard, percussion, double bass), orchestra, electronics, and with the addition of a 16-piece choir. The opera follows two protagonists (soprano and baritone), and according to the composer 'zooms in and follows the beginning of love'. The opera is directed by Claus Guth while Czernowin provides the text. Structurally, Heart Chamber presents Czernowin's exploration of a new 'fluid form (fluid identity)'.
Chamber and orchestral works
Similarly to the political rebelliousness of the operas, Czernowin's chamber music enacts an impatience with known and accepted assumptions. Her early chamber pieces from the 1990s explore the possibilities of temporal and formal divergence. In both Afatsim (1996) and String Quartet (1995), a game is made of changing the identity of the instruments by creating “meta instruments” - combining a few instruments into one identity and then separating them. By doing so the ensemble is able to change its identity within the piece. The unfolding of the piece is further fractured by cutting and displacing parts of the continuity into a forest of chaotic utterances. The Wintersongs series uses the same septet material reinterpreted five times, becoming an entirely different musical experience with each iteration.
Maim (2001–07), for a large orchestra and a group of soloists, and other works from the 2000s including the electronic works of the experimental studio, speculate about the physicality and motion of material. They touch on a strange and unfamiliar kind of “physics”, which toys with our expectations.
The exploration of time and form on the one hand, and of material, its nature and physicality on the other, find a new expression in HIDDEN (2013–14) for string quartet and electronics, where a slowed down experience of time is coupled with distorted reflections of material, showing a glimpse into a world of unfamiliarity.
Czernowin has received numerous awards for her compositions, including the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis (1992), Asahi Shimbun Fellowship Prize (1993), the Schloß Solitude Fellowship (1996), the IRCAM Reading Panel (1998), the Composer's Prize by the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation (2003), the Rockefeller Foundation Prize (2004), the Fromm Foundation Award (2008), a nomination of the Berlin Wissenschaftskolleg (2008), the Guggenheim Fellowship Award (2011) and the Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis (2016). She was Artist in Residence with the Salzburg Festival in 2005/06 and with the Lucerne Festival, Switzerland in 2013.
List of works
- Pnima... Inwards for 4 vocal soloists, instrumental soloists and string orchestra (2000)
- Zaïde / Adama (2004-5)
- Infinite now for 6 vocalists, 6 actors, instrumental soloists, orchestra, and electronics (2016-2017)
- Heart Chamber for 5 vocalists, 5 instrumental soloists, choir, orchestra, and electronics (2019)
- Amber for large orchestra
- The Quiet for large orchestra divided into three groups
- Zohar Iver for orchestra
- At the fringe of our gaze for orchestra and concertino group
- Once I blinked nothing was the same for orchestra
- Afatsim for mixed ensemble
- Wintersongs I: Pending light for seven instrumentalists, sampler player and IRCAM electronics
- Excavated Dialogues for mixed ensemble of eastern and western instruments
- Winter Songs II: Stones for seven instrumentalists and three percussionists
- Winter Songs III: Roots for seven instrumentalists, sampler player, three amplified percussionists and IRCAM electronics
- Excavated Dialogues (version 2) for mixed ensemble of modern and renaissance/baroque instruments
- Sheva for mixed ensemble
- Lovesong for mixed ensemble
- Slow Summer Stay I-III for 8 and 16 players
- Winter Songs IV: Wounds/Mistletoe for two septets and three percussionists
- Knights of the Strange for ensemble
- Ayre: Towed through plumes, thicket, asphalt, sawdust and hazardous air I shall not forget the sound of for chamber ensemble
- On the Face of the Deep for ensemble
- Dam Sheon Hachol (The Hourglass Bleeds Still) for string orchestra
Solo instruments with orchestra or ensemble
- Guardian for violoncello and orchestra
- White Wind Waiting for guitar and orchestra
- Liquid Amber for three piccolos solo and large orchestra
- Maim for large orchestra, quintet of soloists (with tubas as pre-recorded main soloist, and electronics
- At the fringe of our gaze for orchestra and concertino group
- fardanceCLOSE for piano solo
- Gradual edge for organ and other instruments
- Die Kreuzung for accordion
- Knights of the Strange duo version for electric guitar and accordion
- For Violin Solo for violin
- For Violin Solo version for viola solo
- For Violin Solo version for violoncello solo
- String Quartet
- Anea Crystal for two string quartets and an octet
- HIDDEN for string quartet and electronics written for the JACK Quartet
- Ina for flute
- While Liquid Amber for three flutes
- The last leaf for oboe
- Duo Leat (Slow Duo) for clarinet
- The last leaf version for sopranino saxophone
- Sahaf for mixed ensemble
- Shu Hai practices javelin
- Adiantum Capillus-Veneris I (Maidenhair fern I) Etude in fragility for voice and breath (ad lib. amplified)
- Adiantum Capillus-Veneris II (Maidenhair fern II) Etude in fragility for voice and breath (ad lib. amplified)
- Adiantum Capillus-Veneris III (Maidenhair fern III) Etude in fragility for voice and breath (ad lib. amplified)
- Algae a monodrama for bass voice and piano
- Manoalchadia for two female voices and bass flute
- Five action sketches for two voices and ensemble
- Miniatures for voice and ensemble
- Shu Hai for voice and orchestra
- Esh (Fire) for voice and ensemble
- Winter Songs Version V: Forgotten Light for two septets and octet with two singers
- Rega echad, sheket bevakasha (Just a moment, silence please) for choir and ensemble
- Pilgerfahrten for speaker, choir and ensemble