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The Music of Katherine Balch Now on PNSY

PSNY is thrilled to announce the publication of seven works by Katherine Balch, whose music has been described as "a shimmering sonic blanket quilted from microswaths of richly colored acoustic fabrics." Balch has emerged as a powerful voice in new music, earning commissions from the Tokyo, Minnesota, Oregon, Albany and California Symphony Orchestras, Orchestra philharmonique de Radio France, Ensemble Intercontemporain, International Contemporary Ensemble, and the Argus, Aizuri and JACK quartets, and many more. Balch earned an MM at the Yale School of Music and is currently a Dean's Fellow at Columbia University, where she is pursuing a DMA, studying with Geroge Lewis, Georg Friedrich Haas, Fred Lerdahl and Marcos Balter. She is currently 2017-2020 composer-in-residence for the California Symphony, and also serves on the faculty of the Walden School in New Hampshire. 

Ranging from solo violin to thirteen players, Balch's works on PSNY exemplify her unique exploration of texture and timbre at a granular level, which is also reflected in her works' larger-scale trajectories.

In 2015's New Geometry, for example, Balch inverts a trope from Tom Stoppard's Arcadia—the discovery of micro-level details in plant life—and instead "[amplifies] compact gestures through the harmonic trajectory of the piece, which passes from microtonal to chromatic to diatonic landscapes." Balch's organicism permeates her music, creating textures and timbres that are both highly crafted and also seemingly natural. This simultaneity of craft and nature is also evident in her 2015 string quartet, With Each Breathing, which the composer says "appropriates, reinterprets, and obfuscates" the voices of the inner movements of Beethoven's late string quartets. In her quartet, Balch expresses the ways in which music is created through breath, and vice versa. 

Balch's 2017 solo violin work, Responding to the Waves, continues her investigation into the nexus of humans, nature, and technology, reflecting on a passage from Virginia Woolf's novel of the same name. In an interview in VAN Magazine, Balch discusses this piece in relation to her larger interests in materialism, human and non-human life, gestures, and structural form. 

Balch's interests in gesture, organicism, and texture are also present in her vocal music. 2017's Phrases, for soprano and double bass, sets excerpts from Rimbaud's aphoristic and mysterious Phrases, pulled from his larger prose-poetry collection Les Illuminations. Balch describes the composition of these works during a time of restless energy, "like the tight-knit jittering of molecules in a solid," and thinks of them as both an expression of that feeling and as their simultaneous antidote.

PSNY will also be publishing Balch's Prelude for cello and piano—which is able to be performed as an attaca introduction to Brahms's E Minor cello sonata—and Una Corda for prepared piano and ensemble, which begins with a single tetrachord for the piano and spins out into the ensemble, with microtonal variations.