The Peabody Project (a work in progress)

Posted on December 21st, 2012 by

The Peabody Project

With Composer Wu Yiming. Peabody Conservatory. Baltimore 13th December 2012

I have just returned from my third visit to the wonderful Peabody Conservatory, America’s oldest Music Academy, in Baltimore. The core of my work at there is my collaboration with the composer Michael Hersch.

Since April, I have been building a working relationship with a group of the young composers there, which is very inspiring for me. I will be going into the studio with the works which they have been writing for me, and which we have been developing together. Gradually, I will post exerpts from the the working process, specific to each composer, below.


The joy of working with a composer. Working sketch by Ben Buchanan. Peabody Conservatory 12 12 12

Faye Chiao

Andrew Austin

Scott Lee

John Belkot

BJ Derganc

Joshua Bornfield

Yiming Wu

Cameron Wentz

Christopher Ciampoli

Christopher writes: ‘The individual time Peter spent with each student at Peabody was uniquely beneficial for a young composer’s development. The personal interaction with a performer of his caliber brought guidance to a number of areas across the spectrum of composing music. Peter provided considerate feedback on how to communicate my music most effectively with performers through notation. The workshop and subsequent seminar also covered a broad palette of technical intricacies and creative suggestions on writing for the violin. His insight even included theoretical discussion on harmony that opened my mind to reevaluate what I can do in writing beyond the violin./Specifically we talked about:-expression markings, how much to give (generally I could provide more).- reevaluting notating the levels of dynamics, quality of sound closer to what I might intend-sequential and symmetrical harmony: sometimes a quarter tone inflection is being called for! Consider more possibilities down that line- maintaining specificity of articulation markings throughout a piece’


Alexa Rinn

Phoon Yu

Ben Buchanan

Ben writes:’I first heard about Peter Sheppard Skaerved this past Spring when my older brother, Douglas Buchanan, curated a concert that he was presenting in Baltimore. Although my brother was very impassioned when he spoke of how amazing of an experience it was to hear him perform, my imagination had not prepared me for how breathtakingly remarkable the week that Peter spent in Baltimore would be./I first met Peter at a small afternoon lunchtime gathering where I was immediately astonished by his ability to speak on a myriad of disparate topics with an incredible loquacious elegance. From this I knew that my expectations for the next few days were going to have to expand in order to keep stride with what he had to offer my education./Sitting down with Peter Sheppard Skaerved to look at a composition for solo violin that I had recently started has been one of the most motivating and satisfying experiences of my compositional career. I have read much about the life of Robert Schumann and I know how grabbed he was upon hearing Niccolò Paganini perform; Franz Liszt reacted similarly as well. The romantic tradition contains an extensive history of collaborations between composers and jaw-dropping violinists such as Ferdinand David and Felix Mendelssohn as well as Johannes Brahms and Joseph Joachim, a past owner of Skaerved’s violin, but never have I experienced such an invigorating moment as when I first heard Peter Sheppard Skaerved place his bow on his violin. It was as if I could smell him pouring bucket after bucket of creative fuel onto the fire that he had ignited in my imagination./Aside from his unquestionably awe-inspiring technical precision what amazed me the most was his ability to seamlessly join in the ideation of the compositional work. While I often like to think that I’m fairly imaginative when it comes to the use of the violin, Peter demonstrated new violinistic terrains that I had never dreamed of and provided extensive historical relevance concerning past use of different techniques, the mechanics involved in executing them, and the differing results achieved depending on the type of violin used. This youthfully exuberant virtuoso seem to have had three lifetimes of experience from which he can offer musical insight./My astonishment did not stop there. During the Peabody Conservatory’s composition department seminar he presented the pieces of the 14 composers with which he had met and I was overawed by the immediacy that he was able to perceive the compositional domain and expressive territory of each piece of music and his ability to offer constructive comments perfectly relevant to the distinct sound world of each work. To then top it all off and find out that he was going to record each piece for us left me thunderstruck.

Hearing the concert that he presented was like nothing else that I had experienced. All of the videos that I had watched of his performances on his website, as well as having already worked with him on my piece, had not prepared me for that phenomenal evening. The program that he put together featuring the music of Georg Philipp Telemann, Hans Werner Henze, and my composition professor at Peabody, Michael Hersch, was perfectly constructed and each piece sparkled marvelously at its spot on the program. His desire to be the purest vessel possible through which the emotive material of a composition can be communicated was unmistakably evident and the music that he made that night at Old St. Paul’s Episcopal church was unbelievable./Peter Sheppard Skaerved cultivates and produces magnificent art with a prodigious abundance of energy and his excitement for art has left my creative faculties invigorated as if I had received a dozen injections of adrenaline. At a time when our thoughts can be so easily distracted by the decline of artistic enterprises the joy with which he champions art in the world around him is incredibly meaningful and encouraging for a young student to be exposed to.

I had not conceived of my ability to imagine someone such as Peter Sheppard Skaerved and I believe that I will look back on meeting him and getting to work with him as a critically important moment in my compositional development. The 21st century is lucky to have an artist like Peter Sheppard Skaerved.’

Zhangyi Chen

Ga Yeong Jeong