Composers Festival spotlight: Gemma Peacocke

Over the past nine years, the Mizzou International Composers Festival has had portfolios submitted from all over the world, and this year, resident composer Gemma Peacocke became the first New Zealander ever to be part of the MICF.

Now living in the USA and working toward a PhD at Princeton University, Peacocke grew up in Hamilton, New Zealand in a home once occupied by another creative individual – Richard O’Brien, who wrote the book, lyrics. and music for The Rocky Horror Show.

Before attending Princeton, she did undergraduate work at New Zealand School of Music and earned her master’s degree in composition at New York University Steinhardt.

Writing works that use acoustic instruments, voices, and electronics, Peacocke says she enjoys “finding ways to seamlessly combine and move between electronic and acoustic sound worlds.” She has collaborated with directors, filmmakers and choreographers, often addressing social, political or historical themes, and also is co-founder of the composer collective Kinds of Kings.

For the MICF, she has written a new piece called “Skirl,” which will be performed by Alarm Will Sound as part of the grand finale concert on Saturday, July 28 at the Missouri Theatre.

Some of her other recent projects include “Wreak,” a percussion and electronics work for Kaylie Melville; new songs for Fresh Squeezed Opera and Iarla Ó Lionáird; “Disbelief,” a percussion quartet for choreographer Mari Takeda; and a saxophone quartet called “Dwalm” for ~Nois.

In 2017, her song cycle “Waves + Lines,” based on female Afghan folk poems called landays and adapted from Eliza Griswold’s book I Am the Beggar of the World, premiered at Roulette in Brooklyn with the support of a Jerome Foundation commission. It subsequently had its Australian premiere in April 2018 as part of the Metropolis Festival at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

Peacocke’s music also has been performed by The Tudor Consort, JACK Quartet, Third Coast Percussion, Rubiks Ensemble, Schiele Quartet, and more. Her awards and honors include composition fellowships from Eighth Blackbird Lab and Bang On A Can; the Creative New Zealand Edwin Carr Scholarship, and the NYU Steinhardt Prize.

For more about Gemma Peacocke, read the interview with her just published by the Columbia Daily Tribune; her recent conversation with Classical 90.5 FM’s Aaron Hay for the station’s “Mizzou Music” program; and the interview with her published earlier this year on the website of National Sawdust. You can listen to some samples of her music via the embedded players below.

“disbelief,” performed by percussionists Russell Fischer, Tatevik Khoja-Eynatyan, Mari Takeda, and Wanyue Ye. Choreography by Mari Takeda for JHUBalletCompany dancers Erika Belitzky, Natalie Campbell, Georgia LaMacchia, and Isabella Perone

“Koràh,” recorded in 2016 at the JCC Manhattan