Katherine Young’s debut bassoon record, Further Secret Origins (Porter Records, 2009) garnered praise in The Wire (“Bassoon colossus”), Downbeat ("seriously bold leaps for the bassoon"), and elsewhere. Since that acoustic recording, Katherine has gone on to develop an electro-acoustic approach to her instrument, using amplification and pedals to enhance the acoustic power of the bassoon, bring out interior resonances, and create monolithic soundscapes.
a monodrama for soprano, 9 players, lost objects, and electronics
a cycle of concert works:
where the moss glows for octet (2016), commissioned and premiered by the Chicago Symphony’s MusicNOW
Amelia Earhart and the Queen of Spades (2016), commissioned by Darmstädter Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, developed with Nico Couck and Jesse Langan
just water, no lemon (2016), commissioned and premiered by Third Coast Percussion —> video of premiere performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7ML91sRr4s
These concert works become source material for a monodrama, When stranger things happen, commissioned by Ensemble Dal Niente featuring soprano Amanda DeBoer Bartlett, which premiered in October 2017, at the Edge Theater, Chicago. (Read this blog post for more!)
When stranger things happen (2017) - Katherine Young
monodrama for ten players, lost objects, electronics, and amplification
produced by Ensemble Dal Niente, as part of the production Piece Her Together
Overture: Before / The Initial Descent
Scene I: Immediately After
Scene II: Alone, Untethered (Recitative)
Scene III: On the Case (Aria)
Scene IV: The Second Descent (Recitative-Aria-Reciative)
Scene V: Dancing
Scene VI: Reassembling (Recitative-Aria)
When stranger things happen is about mysteries: of things we've lost, things we make, and who we become along the way.
This project is also about collaboration. It's an attempt to embed a collaborative practice—one that involves sharing stories with each other—into the music itself.
This undertaking was inspired by Kelly Link’s short story “The Girl Detective,” which I read as a creative coming of age story. It’s also a noir meditation on loss, myths of femininity, and the power of the imagination. The girl detective’s investigations take her up trees; into dreams—hers and other people’s; and down into an underworld where lost things accumulate and stranger things happen.
Link’s story contains many lists...of misplaced, lost, found, and untethered objects. Compiling these, I began thinking about things that I’ve lost—specific objects with or without sentimental value. Recalling relationships, people, qualities, and perspectives that have slipped away, I added objects representing these to my list. Expanding further, I asked my musical collaborators, “What’s something you’ve lost?” I added all these to Link’s tallies, and the important and unimportant lost things lost became potential tools for making sound.
Here’s a short list, compiled with Amanda, Jesse, Nico, Dave, Sean, Rob, Michael, Greg, and Eliza, some of which made it into our piece: underwear, one shoe (left), socks, retainers, Amelia Earhart, glasses (prescription), my breath, Grandpa Burt, bobby pins, a small Japanese bell, a 2011 Honda CRV, a tea set, my umbrella, small vintage Jell-O molds, all my CDs, keys, the Queen of Spades from a deck of cards, cell phones (multiple), pins (jewelry), wedding rings, 7th grade HW, a $.50 coin, her Mother, a gold chain, my wallet.
The mystery of the objects (Why they are significant? How were they lost? What strange things happen when they are found? What music can they make together) becomes one of the three layers of the narrative of When stranger thing happens. The first is Link's story, with its noir atmosphere, mysteries embedded within mysteries, and coming of age story. This creative, feminist coming-of-age story was a personal narrative that Amanda De Boer Bartlett, Emmi Hilger, and I could deeply relate to from our own experiences. Thus, the third layer becomes about the performers ourselves.
For scores or more information, please contact me.
BIOMES is platform for collective composition and an ongoing project for improvising performers using electroacoustic sound, light, video, movement, set design, or other means.
An in-progress taxonomy and a still-accruing assemblage, BIOMES collects photographs, texts, musical notation, sound files, videos, drawings, code, links, maps, statistics, field notes, and other materials relating to magical(ly) (sur)real biomes.
A biome /ˈbaɪoʊm/ is a community of plants and animals that have common characteristics due to the environment in which they exist.
Developed in collaboration with violinist Austin Wulliman, Diligence Is to Magic as Progress Is to Flight is an installation-performance work comprising six pieces for prepared instruments, electronics, and chamber orchestra. These compositions are performed amidst an eight-channel installation. Sound sculptures, listening stations, visual installations, and projections further animate the performance space.
Read New Music Box's review.
For scores or more information, please contact me.
Working in close collaboration with violinist Linda Jankowska of Distractfold, we are creating an evening-length electro-acoustic performance piece.
Five pieces of music - a solo for violin & electronics; a solo for bassoon & electronics; a trio for violin, viola, cello & electronics; and two duos for violin, bassoon & sounding objects - will be presented in an interactive performance environment.
In addition to using the violin and the bassoon, we will interact with sound-producing objects that have been installed throughout the performance space. We’ve chosen objects for their association with significant spaces from our memories: For Linda, it is a cottage in rural Poland where she spent several formative childhood years with her family. For me, it is the yard and immediate neighborhood surrounding my Mississippi childhood home.
The chosen objects make beautiful sounds. We will also hack other objects, embedding and affixing pressure and motion sensors to trigger sounds and synthesis.
The first completed work in the cycle is a string trio, entitled “bow breath crow.” The players have sensors in their shoes that allow them to trigger and spatialize electronics in four channels during performance.
Sawing, sputtering, gurgling and wailing, Architeuthis Walks on Land is every bit the displaced and terrifying cephalopod that the name suggests. Violist Amy Cimini and bassoonist Katherine Young have been performing together as Architeuthis Walks on Land since 2003. Their three albums evidence the duo’s particular ways of crafting their improvised materials into sophisticated structures to capture the compositional, timbral and expressive breadth of this uncommon coupling. Cimini and Young lunge and flutter through their materials with the intuition and energy of constant discovery.
The four-piece Pretty Monsters drifts and lurches between doomy songs, noisy improv, and eerie experimental chamber music. Katherine Young composes specifically for the group. which features Erica Dicker on violin, Owen Stewart-Robertson on electric guitar, Mike Pride on drums and percussion, and KAY on bassoon+electronics. Public Eyesore released Pretty Monsters's debut full-length in 2012.
You can listen at katherineyoung.bandcamp.com or publiceyesore.com.
Photo by Peter Gannushkin, downtownmusic.net.
for trombone and electronics
Slide hits, trigger smacks, gasping inhales, thuds, and pops...puddles and crumbs wires up the trombone in a loving embrace of the byproducts, side effects, and detritus of instrumental performance. This piece was developed in close collaboration with and is dedicated to Weston Olencki.
I have recorded and toured with Anthony Braxton, performing in Moscow and Italy with the Diamond Curtain Wall Quartet, Poland and Philadelphia with the Falling River Quartet, as well as recording in quartets and duos and with the Tri-Centric Orchestra.
My dissertation for my DMA at Northwestern University - Nothing Is As It Appears: Anthony Braxton’s Trillium J - provides an analysis, interpretation, and contextualization of Braxton’s operatic project. Please email me if you are interested. The document is available via ProQuest and here: https://arch.library.northwestern.edu/
Anthony Braxton’s Trillium J, part of an ambitious planned “complex” of 36 one-act operas, premiered in 2014. Very little writing—anecdotal, journalistic, nor scholarly—exists on these works, so this research provides a critical introduction, contextualizing the operas within Braxton’s oeuvre and discussing the works’ fundamental musical materials and organization. Examples from Trillium J illuminate general characteristics of the composer’s approach to operatic form. This document analyzes the composer’s approach to narrative time and place, characterization, and the relationship between the libretti and Braxton’s 1985 philosophical treatise. This research also offers a reading of how Braxton’s operas may be understood as “ritual music,” the designation he gives them. This analysis draws on religious studies and anthropological theories of ritualization, as well as studies of innovations in modernist theater. 
I suggest that Trillium’s potential for ritualization exists, in part, because of the nuanced way the Western operatic, the American experimental, and improvised music traditions intersect and inform Braxton’s work. Also important are the frustrated attempts at community formation in the operas’ stories and the significance of self-realization for the participants that motivates Braxton’s compositional approach. Ultimately, this document proposes that the collaborative practices of realizing these music-theater works is central to these processes of ritualization. Therefore, in addition to studies of the libretto and score, this research draws upon the author’s first-hand experience of performing in the opera’s orchestra and interviews with the composer, significant collaborators, and experienced performers.
 Braxton, Tri-Axium Writings
 Specifically the works of Catherine Bell, Richard Schechner, and Victor Turner.
 Specifically the work of Anthony Sheppard.
Till by Turning is the collective effort of Amy Cimini (viola), Erica Dicker (violin), Emily Manzo (piano) and Katherine Young. Working as performers, educators, improvisers, scholars, composers, and song-writers, Till by Turning performs original works and new chamber music by established and emerging artists.
for prepared violin, soprano, alto sax, horn, harp & piano with amplification
for ensemble dal niente
Using a lot of care and a very slow bowing technique on the detuned lowest string of a prepared violin, a quiet popping sound can be produced. The attack and body of the sound is noisy, but there is a little halo of pitch surrounding it. This sound recalled to me an optical effect with a very poetic name: A "glory" is similar to the optical effect known as a "halo," but involves ice particles instead of water in the air. When white light gets split up and redirected by the ice in the air, it changes direction, moving back toward the observer and creating the effect of a halo around the shadow of the observer's head due to resonant effects. Throughout this sextet white noise textures get thrown into contact with energetic crystallized gestures that redirect the sound into different pitch and timbral profiles.
For the score or more information, please contact me.
Studio recording by Wet Ink available on Carrier Records: https://carrierrecords.com/track/like-a-halo
for two sopranos, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone cassette players & electronics
Master of Disguises utilizes a short piece of text excerpted from Kelly Link’s short story “The Girl Detective” as source material. This story explores, among other things, the inner, imagined life of a girl whose mother has disappeared or possibly died. Master of Disguises is about searching for something you cannot find, for a sound which is unstable or elusive. Commissioned by Fonema Consort, Master of Disguises asks the soprano vocalists to perform percussive gestures on small portable cassette players: stopping, ejecting, rewinding, fast forwarding, and sometimes playing a cassette tape. (2014)
For the score or more information, please contact me.
for two winds, string trio, electronics & video projections
For about a year work took place to transform what was essentially an empty parking lot adjacent to my building into a grocery store and shopping complex. During and after this my home environment completely changed – where I once had an east-facing view of the sky and some train tracks, I now see a grey concrete wall; and my daily sound environment consisted of insistent back-up beeps, motor noises, echoing bangs and occasionally floor-shaking clangs. Sometimes these sounds were maddening, sometimes they receded into a background I hardly notice, and sometimes they were fascinating in their polyrhythmic cacophony. Before the wall blocked my view, I actually derived great pleasure from watching the construction site, as well. For the first few months, it seemed like the brightly colored trucks and cranes simply pushed around dirt: gravel over here, sand over there, excavated dirt here.
In many ways, graveled crumbled strewn is a response to this aural-visual environment. It is also an investigation of apparent causality, flawed logics, and correlations betweens visual and aural stimuli. (2013, rev. 2014)
The score and performance documentation is available via The Experimental Music Yearbook.
for amplified string quartet and electronics
A few years ago, I became enthralled with the opening scene of an epic movie. In this scene there is virtually no dialog, and a complex soundscape defers the musical soundtrack more than 11 minutes. The microphonic sound design and use of silence enhance the scene's suspense while simultaneously encouraging close listening. And the patient pacing - and the ultimate slippage between diagetic and non-diagetic sounds - underscore the scene's scene fundamental musicality. Somehow this scene was doing something I wanted to be doing in my music, and so I had to investigate.
Using a process of transcription that freely moved between the literal and metaphoric, followed by layers of revisions, erasures and additions, I took the scene’s timing for a first structural layer of my piece, before allowing purely musical and instrumental decisions to take over. slam creak bzzz also uses sound samples from the actual film at strategic moments, in conjunction with extra-instrumental noises from the quartet and amplification. As the physicality of the performers and the sonic presence of the acoustic and amplified sounds confront the samples from the film, slam creak bzzz proposes a sound world charged with anticipation and captivated by sonic materiality, as hints of a narrative and violence slip in and out of abstraction. This piece is dedicated to the memory of Lee Hyla. (2012, revised 2015)
for tuba and wurlitzer
for Dan Peck and Emily Manzo
Underworld (Dancing) explores the timbral depths of an unusual, but decidedly compatible instrumentation: tuba and Wurlitzer. As they descend deeper and deeper, the instruments uncover fragments and resonances of a swirling dance. The piece is dedicated to and was premiered by tubist Dan Peck and pianist Emily Manzo.
Photos by Peter Gannushkin, downtownmusic.net.