Kenneth Frazelle is a composer whose music, according to The San Francisco Examiner, "came straight from-and went straight to-the heart, an organ too seldom addressed by contemporary composers." Frazelle's distinctive voice blends structural and tonal sophistication with a lyrical clarity; he has been influenced not only by his study with the great modernist Roger Sessions, but also by the folk songs and fiddle tunes of his native North Carolina. His heartfelt compositions have included commissions from such renowned performers as Yo-Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw and Paula Robison. Frazelle first received international acclaim with his score for Still/Here, a multimedia dance theater work for the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co. Originally written for the folksinger Odetta, Frazelle's score has recently been reworked for jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson to accompany an updated version of Still/Here, renamed The Phantom Project: Still/Here Looking On.
As part of the twentieth-anniversary repertory of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co., The Phantom Project: Still/Here Looking On is receiving numerous performances throughout the country and abroad. Still/Here premiered in Lyon, France in September 1994 and toured throughout the world the following two years to rave reviews. The New York Times praised Frazelle's score: "part Schubert, part Kurt Weill, Mr. Frazelle's songs have their own lyric beauty." The Washington Post wrote, "Kenneth Frazelle's music for 'Still' makes one think of late Beethoven string quartets and their otherworldly perfection." The film version of Still/Here was viewed by millions on U.S. public television in addition to numerous international broadcasts. Frazelle was the winner of the 2001 Barlow Prize, the international competition administered through Brigham Young University. The award was a commission for a new sacred song cycle and resulted in From the Song of Songs for soprano Erie Mills, which premiered in February 2003. Other recent projects include Concerto for Chamber Orchestra, co-commissioned by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Nashville Chamber Orchestra and Boston Modern Orchestra Project. The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra premiered the piece in May 2002, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project performed it in March 2003. The 2000-2001 season saw the premieres of five new works. The Phoenix Symphony commissioned and performed The Four Winds, a concerto for wind quartet; From the Air, a work for orchestra, was commissioned by the Santa Rosa Symphony. Paula Robison premiered Blue Ridge Airs II for flute and piano, a reworking of the concerto Frazelle wrote for her in 1991. A new piano work, Appearances, was written for the 2000 Piano Focus of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a setting of Shakespeare's Sonnet 15 was commissioned for Paul Sperry's Joy in Singing project. In 2000 Frazelle was awarded a Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an award given to young composers of exceptional gifts. He was artist-in-residence with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Santa Rosa Symphony from 1997 to 2001, and in 1998 was artist-in-residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In 1997 Frazelle was a recipient of the American Academy in Rome's Regional Visiting Artist Fellowship.Highlights of recent seasons include the 1998-99 tour of Yo-Yo Ma and Emmanuel Ax performing the New Goldberg Variations, variations on Bach's theme commissioned from a group of six composers including Frazelle, John Corigliano and Peter Schickele. Frazelle's full-evening work, The Motion of Stone, based on A.R. Ammons' poem, "Tombstones," premiered in 1998 at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, with Ann Howard Jones conducting the Boston University Chorus and the Gardner Chamber Orchestra. Also that year the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra commissioned and performed Frazelle's Laconic Variations, and the Santa Rosa Symphony gave the West Coast premiere of Shivaree, which it co-commissioned with the Winston-Salem Symphony. In 1997 soprano Dawn Upshaw performed Frazelle's Sunday at McDonald's at her Carnegie Hall debut, accompanied by pianist Gilbert Kalish. In 1996, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center presented the composer's Quintet for Flute, Guitar and String Trio, featuring Ransom Wilson and Manuel Barrueco. The nationally broadcast radio program Saint Paul Sunday commissioned Sonata for Harpsichord in 1995; it was prompted by the success of his Fiddler's Galaxy, which has aired on the show many times. Yo-Yo Ma and Jeffrey Kahane have performed Frazelle's Sonata for Cello and Piano throughout the country, and the piece has also been performed on several national tours by cellist Carter Brey and pianist Christopher O'Riley. Kahane has performed the composer's Blue Ridge Airs I for piano at the Spoleto Festival U.S.A., the Kennedy Center and the Montreal International Music Festival. Other works by Kenneth Frazelle have been performed by pianist Gilbert Kalish and mezzo-soprano Jan deGaetani, the Israel Chamber Orchestra, the Buffalo Philharmonic, the Colorado Symphony, the Kansas City Symphony, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Louisville Orchestra.
Kenneth Frazelle was born in Jacksonville, N.C. in 1955. He was a student of Roger Sessions at the Juilliard School, and attended high school at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where he now teaches.