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Edgy contemporary choral music (no pretty, please)

Hi All,
I'm looking for new works for mixed chorus, not too much divisi that are edgy and new/different sounding with some fireworks.  What are your favorite pieces that everyone doesn't know yet?
Replies (17): Threaded | Chronological
on April 30, 2014 5:38pm
I think one of the most innovative and exciting composers alive today is Meredith Monk.  She publishes with Boosey & Hawkes and her list of choral works is at
I also hope you’ll check out my collection called “Modern Living” (SMATB).  The music is funny, exciting, and has a lot going on.  You’ll find it available for free at 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 1, 2014 2:15am
Dear Elizabeth,
I have some pieces that may suit you:
Speravi in Te - winner of the New London Singers Composition Prize. For SATB with some divisi, ideally at least 4 people per part as they have to sing independently (same phrase but starting at different times) quite a lot. Definitely not pretty - it's possibly the darkest anthem I've ever heard. Lots of discords and harmonic shifts.
You might also enjoy my setting of the Lord's Prayer - it'll be premiered in Washington DC in June by St Mary's Schola, and they specifically wanted something edgy and different. It's for two SATB choruses, but it could be done with as little as one person per part (ideally it's for SATB solo quartet and a smallish SATB choir).
Everything else I have online could probably be classed as pretty, but those two are definitely edgy and different. Email me if you'd like to order copies - chris(a) .
on May 1, 2014 3:30am
Please check your email for a suggestion. Thanks!
on May 1, 2014 4:15am
"A Jubilant Song" Dello  Joio
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 2, 2014 6:12am
Great piece, indeed, but you need a pianist with SERIOUS chops!
on May 1, 2014 7:00am
Mark Winges in San Francisco writes in the style you are describing.  He has written a few relatively under appreciated / unknown master pieces.  Meredith Monk and Libby Larson are more well known and definitely worth a look at.  ASCAPS adventurous programming winners are groups that would be a good source of names.   For a little older slightly more modernist European composers try Ferenc (Hungarian), Koscar (Hungarian), Tormis (Estonian) and Kostianin (Finland).   These four are still tonal, but can be highly dissonant, polytonal and quite innovative.  In the west coast we have Volti of San Francisco doing the kind of music you describe.  Look for a group in your region that specializes in new music and check out their website.
good luck!
on May 1, 2014 7:13am
Hi Elizabeth,
rather than a list of pieces, I'll recommend to you three resources you can use to find this type of music.
1. See-A-Dot Music Publishing ( has a small collection of excellent new work and they specliaze in what you're talking about, though some of it is pretty too. ;) 
2. Project encore is a collection of curated pieces that have received first and maybe second performances but haven't made it into the mainstream.
3. I would look to some well known new music ensemble ensembles and see what composers they do. Chorus America, for instance, has an award for groups that do adventurous programming. Recent winners with c4: the choral/composer conductor collective and the NY virtuoso singers. Other groups include Volti, the Esoterics, etc. C4, for instance, puts their repertoire lists on their site for others to browse, and other groups share lists of works they've commissioned, etc.
happy hunting!
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 1, 2014 9:52am
"We smote him" by William Copper  The recording available is for orchestra, but also quite effective with piano. 
Totally different, edgy in a completely different way: "Water water everywhere"
on May 2, 2014 7:20am
Most of the new-edgy-not-pretty music I know is full of divisi parts and very difficult, but you might look at David Lang's "Statement to the Court" and/or James MacMillan's "Cantos Sagrados." You might find something of Erik Esenvalds you like too (depending on your definition of "pretty," I suppose!).
Good luck! I'm enjoying this thread!
on May 2, 2014 10:00am
I invite you to take a look at my Songs of War and Peace, a setting of four powerful Israeli poems in translation by outstanding American poets. You can see the full perusal score on my website (listed below), and hear the fourth movement. Nice to see your call! This piece has been performed at the Carter Peace Center in Atlanta, and by choruses including the New Amsterdam Singers and the Minnesota Center Chorale (they commissioned a chamber orchestra version which is also available).
All Best,
Judith Shatin
William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor
Director, Virginia Center for Computer Music
McIntire Department of Music
University of Virginia
on May 2, 2014 11:58am
I have a new piece that was just premiered at the NC ACDA convention by Eastview High School. It's scored for SATB and two percussionists. It's called "This Alien Landscape," with poetry by Stephen Crane. I don't have it online yet (too new!), so let me know if you want me to send you a score and MIDI recording.


Behold, from the land of the farther suns
I returned.
And I was in a reptile-swarming place,
Peopled, otherwise, with grimaces,
Shrouded above in black impenetrableness.
I shrank, loathing,

Sick with it.
And I said to him,
“What is this?”
He made answer slowly,
“Spirit, this is a world;
This was your home.”

- Stephen Crane


Percussion 1 Crotales (mallets, bow) Suspended cymbal (soft mallets, bow)

Percussion 2 Surdo or large floor tom

on May 2, 2014 6:55pm
I have an offbeat work which may fit your bill: var-dev-at-ons (Opening the Cage): 14 Variations on 14 Words of John Cage on a text by Edwin Morgan for SATB a capp (no divisi) or with colla parte instruments or keyboard; written for and premiered by the Gregg Smith Singers in the late 90s. Please contact me privately for a score sampler and a recording. (It may go up on soon!)
Hope this helps,
Robert A.M. Ross
Chair, Music Department
Community College of Philadelphia
robertamross(a) <Robert Ross 11>
on May 10, 2014 7:57pm
Here is var-dev-at-ons posted on
Enjoy! Please let me know if it may be of interest!
Robert A.M. Ross
Chair, Music Department
Community College of Philadelphia
robertamross(a) <Robert Ross 11>
on May 11, 2014 7:43am
I have a peice that I composed, "The Council of the Sages" that has been called ""crunchy" and "ascerbic" by some I have submitted it to.  Some beauriful and moving parts but no "pretty"
Have a look on under "Artwork/Music" (see full score).  Has 14 stand alone parts and can be vroken down if necessary.
Have a look!
Sol Mogerman
on May 11, 2014 7:43am
I'd love to suggest my "Nyon Nyon" which has become quite popular for its use of unique vocal sounds. Watch a performance here:
Scores are available here through JR Music.
Jake Runestad, composer
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 11, 2014 8:16pm
Check out works by Abbie Betinis.
Applauded by an audience of 1
on May 13, 2014 3:56pm

Quaker Peace Testimony

(SATB a cappella) by Jack Curtis Dubowsky. For SATB choir. Choral. Contemporary. Advanced. Octavo. Composed 2005. 8 pages. Duration 3:40. Published by De Stijl Music (D1.SM-05-0001).

George Fox and the Quakers wrote this pacifist manifesto to King Charles II in 1660. Harmonically rich, angular, and complex.
Available as SATB a cappella, SATB + Piano, SATB + Orchestra
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