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11 Emerging Composers Respond To The Pandemic In Requiem-20

Courtesy of Daniel Matsukawa
An image from the video, Requiem-20

A new video features 11 original musical works by young composers spanning a range of styles and visuals—reflections from the year of the pandemic, including loss, grief, love, and hope for renewal. Created by Philadelphia Orchestra Principal Bassoonist Daniel Matsukawa in association with Musical Mentors Collaborative (MMC), the project also invites new submissions; it’s all part of an effort to help us connect and find our way through times of turmoil.

The pieces are written in different styles—classical, folk, hip hop among them—or different instruments, including violin, trumpet, bassoon, drums, piano, guitar, chamber group, and electronics. Abstract images swirl, raindrops fall, a camera moves us through empty rooms in an empty house. Each composer’s response is a personal, intimate offering to us all.

Matsukawa is part of a group of professional musicians who act as mentors to the Musical Mentor Collaborative, an organization that provides free music lessons to children from under-resourced communities. With chapters at Columbia University and NYU, it places university music students in three elementary schools in New York City to provide music instruction.

He met with me on Zoom to talk about how and why Requiem-20 was created, and how this music has moved him.

How Requiem-20 Evolved

In Zoom meetings of the MMC mentors during the summer of 2020, the idea for the video arose from the desire to respond to what was happening in the world.

After tossing around different possibilities, they settled on a plan to find around 10 young composers (in their 20s or thereabouts) to create two- to three-minute compositions reflecting their feelings about the pandemic. “It could be about grief," Matsukawa told the composers. "It could also just be a response to the pandemic, what it means to you.” 

Wanting to resonate with as many people as possible, they sought compositions of different genres: classical, jazz, hip hop and rock. They selected 11 composers; some created their own video works with performers they knew, others delivered music to be performed and videotaped by MMC teaching artists and mentors.

Matsukawa himself plays in two of the works, including this Tableaux No. IV for solo bassoon by Tyson Davis.  "The way it begins is so soulful and stirring, and then there are moments where it lets loose," he says, recalling how it moved him as he played. And there are moments when it eases up and I saw those as little glimmers of hope and light." 

The final product with all the works assembled is 28 minutes of expressions and reflections on loss, love, grief, hope and healing. Like the music Matsukawa plays in his role in The Philadelphia Orchestra, the music and images touch each of us—performers and listeners—in ways that are relevant to our individual lives. “That’s the beauty of it,” he says. "Take from this what you need.”

And the project is ongoing, inviting other musicians and composers to contribute to a new website dedicated to Requiem-20. “It doesn’t even have to be a brand new work,” says Matsukawa. If you’re a musician and you want to play a little bit of Bach and it's a reflection of what this time means for you, by all means feel free to share that on our platform.”

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.