St. Olaf College | News

St. Olaf student wins award for chamber orchestra piece

Jack Langdon’s composition has won the Minnesota Sinfonia New Works Program.

St. Olaf College student Jack Langdon ‘17 has won the Minnesota Sinfonia New Works Program, an award given to Minnesota-based composers for new chamber orchestra pieces.

Langdon’s composition, titled angular planes of light, was written in early summer 2016. “I woke up every day around 9, made myself a strong pot of coffee, and spent the day writing,” Langdon says.

angular planes of light began as a piece that Langdon wanted to dedicate to a loved one. He explains that “this person’s favorite visual artist is the modernist painter Lyonel Feininger, so when I came across his Fugue in E-Flat Minor, I utilized the subject from that work as the main melodic material in my piece.”

Langdon adds that “Feininger’s paintings are known for their play of light, and this work is essentially an exploration of how light can be portrayed through orchestration, formal development, and harmony.”

As a winner of the New Works Program, which is sponsored by the McKnight Foundation, angular planes of light will be performed by the Minnesota Sinfonia during the ensemble’s winter season.

Jack Langdon wrote ‘angular planes of light’ this summer in dedication to a loved one.

As a music theory/composition major at St. Olaf, Langdon finds that his classes have “given me a strong foundation of classical music education as well as the theoretical tools to critique musical traditions,” he says.

The classes that Langdon has taken outside of his major “have given me the interdisciplinary capabilities that are becoming more and more pivotal to being innovative and culturally relevant in today’s society,” he adds.

Langdon is involved in various musical ensembles at St. Olaf, including the St. Olaf Band as well as Musika Nova, a student organization dedicated to creating and sharing experimental music. Langdon is now vice-president of Musika Nova, and he has watched the organization grow “from a very small group of composers to a lively community of progressive music-makers over the four years that I’ve been a part of it.”

Langdon says that in providing “an outlet for experimentalism and forward-looking aesthetics, Musika Nova has been pivotal to my education at St. Olaf.”

Outside of St. Olaf, Langdon has participated in the Walden School’s Creative Music Retreat in Dublin, New Hampshire. There, he studied with several prominent composers and had his string quartet “interiority” premiered by the renowned new music string-quartet Mivos Quartet.

Langdon plans to take a gap year after graduating from St. Olaf this spring to “intern in arts management positions in the Twin Cities, travel, and to keep writing music for my friends in Minnesota,” he says. Next fall, he will begin applying for master’s degree programs in music composition and continuing his educational track as a composer.

The Minnesota Sinfonia is a professional, nonprofit chamber orchestra that offers free-admission concerts and educational programs.