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Mary Ellen Childs
April 13, 1957 -
born in Lafayette, IN, composed during the Contemporary period
Based in the twin city Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area, Childs involves herself deeply in the presentation (staging, choreography, etc.) of her works as well as their creation.
For example, her "visual percussion" pieces for her energetic company CRASH are in a bold, kinetic style that integrates music, dance, and theater in new ways. Their performance piece entitled Click is a fast-paced, game-like work for three stick-wielding performers, and the full-evening work Crash requires six crash cymbal players on roller stools and various other means of rolling transportation.
Childs has also produced the multi-monitor video pieces A Chording To, the award winning Still Life, and her electronic Standpoints, a collaboration with lighting designer Jeff Bartlett. Childs also founded the touring group WildFire which has a roster of women performing artists.
Childs also composes purely musical concert works and has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Dale Warland Singers, and has twice been granted Lila Wallace/Meet the Composer commissions.
Childs prefers to work using her intuition and sense of musical balance, rather than employ specific compositional systems to create her lyrical compositions that delight in rhythmic variation and subtlety of mood. Her acoustic concert works include Carte blanche (1990) for flute, clarinet in B flat/soprano saxophone, bassoon, percussion, keyboard, viola, double bass that was commissioned and premiered by the new music ensemble Relache, and Parterre (1988), a bright, work with multiple pulsings and lovely melodic patterns, for accordion, saxes, winds, and vocal. The Capacity of Calm Endurance (1990) for piano is built from a cyclic reiteration of the same body of notes that is played for the most part in an extremely quiet dynamic, but every once in a while the pianist steps forth in either an aggressive flurry of notes or a comparatively florid romantic style. Kilter (1992) is a wonderful study of rhythmic counterpoint for two pianists employing delicately restrained energy and approaches used in the previous two works. Her haunting composition Night (1992) for soprano and piano is a plaintive song, an echo of a wandering soul.
One of her favorite instruments is the accordion, and she has worked closely with the world-renowned accordionist Guy Klucevsek, writing nearly a dozen works for that instrument. Whistling in the Dark (1993) for solo accordion uses a set body of tones that are reiterated in shifting rhythmic cycles, at times almost, but not quite lapsing into dance patterns. Her Four of One of Another (1988) for accordion and string quartet modulates from an initially peaceful state to some energetic propulsions, with occasional sighing passages.
In her works she integrates evocative and engaging polyrhythms, crystalline textures, fluid and lyric writing, wordless vocals, and a "primordial...understanding of humanity" (Elle magazine).
She is currently Program Director of the McKnight Theater Artists Fellowship Program at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. ~ "Blue" Gene Tyranny, Rovi