Frank J. Oteri


Photo by Jeffrey Herman

Frank J. Oteri's voracious musical appetite finds many avenues of expression, but ultimately all lead back to his musical compositions which range from full-evening stage works to chamber and solo compositions. In all of these works, some of which employ alternative tuning systems, Oteri (b. 1964) combines emotional directness with an obsession for formal processes incorporating techniques from styles of music as seemingly-unrelated as minimalism, serialism, Broadway show music, and bluegrass.

His music has been performed in venues ranging from Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall and the Knitting Factory in New York City to the Theatre Royal in Bath, England, PONCHO Concert Hall in Seattle (where John Cage first prepared a piano), and a Baptist church in the middle of Emanuel County, Georgia. MACHUNAS, a "performance oratorio in four colors" inspired by the life of Fluxus-founder George Maciunas which Oteri created in collaboration with the Italian painter/performance artist Lucio Pozzi, received its world premiere in August 2005 at the Contemporary Arts Center in Vilnius, Lithuania, as part of the International Christopher Summer Festival conducted by Donatas Katkus.

Among Oteri's other compositions are: In Watermelon Sugar (a Richard Brautigan opera in 31-tone equal temperament); The Return of the Rivers (a Brautigan cycle for solo voice and keyboards); Two Transfers (a Brautigan cycle for tenor and string quartet); Pity The Morning Light That Refuses to Wait for Dawn (a Brautigan requiem for soloists, chorus and orchestra); if by yes (an e.e. cummings cycle for tenor and harpsichord), Take Me (a piano sonata); Brinson's Race (for trumpet and string quartet); Walking Naked (a Yeats cycle for baritone, alto recorder, mandola, eight cellos and double-bass); The Impatient Explorer (a Kenneth Patchen cycle for countertenor, theremin, clarinet, kalimba, banjo and trombone); is 5 (for solo harpsichord); the nurturing river (14 sonnets by James R. Murphy for wide-ranged male voice and piano, selections from which were performed at Symphony Space's 2011 marathon The Music of Now and can be streamed from their website); and The Other Side of the Window (a Margaret Atwood cycle for female voice, two flutes, toy piano, guitar and cello) which has been performed at La Mama La Galleria in New York City, the Cornish School of the Arts in Seattle WA, and at Bennington College in Vermont.

His most recent composition is the ASCAP Foundation Charles Kingsford Fund commissioned song cycle Versions of the Truth (2012), for dual-voiced male singer and pianist based on twelve poems by Stephen Crane, which Phillip Cheah and Trudy Chan will premiere at the Tenri Cultural Institute in New York City on February 23, 2013. Other notable compositions from the past decade include: Imagined Overtures for rock band in 1/6th tones which has been performed in Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City and is the title track of the latest CD of the Los Angeles Electric 8; circles mostly in wood (a 1/4 tone wind quintet); as long as forever is (for two singers, two recorders, crumhorn, viola da gamba, and handbells, based on the poetry of Dylan Thomas and commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death) premiered by Robert Frankenberry, Gilda Lyons and an ensemble conducted by Daron Hagen; six of one, half a dozen of another (for two harpsichords), premiered by Rebecca Pechefsky and Robert Heath at the Miami Bach Society in January 2004 and at the Morris-Jumel Mansion in October 2005; Manipulacao (for solo guitar) which was premiered by David Starobin and was published in the Summer 2004 issue of Guitar Review magazine; and Fair and Balanced? for saxophone quartet in 1/4-tones which the Prism Quartet has recently recorded for innova. Pianist Guy Livingston has toured around the world playing Oteri's Last Minute Tango and he has recorded it for the DVD One Minute More in which it is presented along with a accompanying video by Dutch filmmaker Thijs Schreuder. (This recording can be streamed from NPR.)

Other musicians who have performed Oteri's works include: singers Cybele Paschke. Anne-Marie Taylor, Kathryn Weld; pianists by Sarah Cahill, Jenny Lin, and Marvin Rosen; guitarist Dominic Frasca; saxophonist Brian Sacawa; Capital M; Pentasonic Winds; Sylvan Winds; the Roebling String Quartet; and the Magellan String Quartet. His Just Salsa, for microtonal salsa band in 11-limit just intonation premiered at the American Festival of Microtonal Music, has been issued on the World CD on the AFMM's PITCH label.

In addition to his activities as a composer, Oteri is a frequently published music journalist, a pre-concert lecturer at venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Columbia University's Miller Theatre, and the Composer Advocate at New Music USA where he also serves as the Senior Editor of the award-winning web magazine NewMusicBox. Described as "passionate and knowledgeable" in the San Francisco Chronicle, Oteri is an outspoken crusader for new music who has given presentations about the importance of contemporary music and the breaking down of musical barriers on television and radio talk shows as well as in conferences of musical organizations around the world. His musical articles have appeared in BBC Music, Chamber Music, Ear Magazine, Stagebill/Playbill, Symphony, Time Out New York and the Revised New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and his comments about music have been quoted in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, U.S. News and World Report, Billboard, the Guardian (U.K.) and Jazz Times, among other publications. He has served as the Master of Ceremonies for ASCAP's Thru The Walls showcase in New York City and Meet The Composer's "The Works" in Minneapolis. Oteri holds a B.A. and a M.A. (in Ethnomusicology) from Columbia University where he served as Classical Music Director and World Music Director for WKCR-FM.

Frank J. Oteri's music is available through Transformal Music (ASCAP).