Sometimes, the most fertile ground for young classical composers is not concert halls, but rock clubs.
Missy Mazzoli, the composer, keyboardist, bandleader and curator from Brooklyn, N.Y., is at the center of a group of emergent musicians who are classically trained, but who've also had experience working in rock bands. Mazzoli plays keyboards (note that I didn't say "piano" — her keyboards tend to be electronic) and leads an all-female quintet called Victoire. Violin, clarinet, bass and two electronic keyboards add up to a sound that exists somewhere between chamber music and the vaguely defined, mostly instrumental "post-rock" scene. Some of her works include taped sounds of voices, machinery and the like, and her approach to tonality is refreshingly strange.
Mazzoli directs the annual MATA Festival in New York, devoted to composers even younger than she is. She also claims to possess some softball skills, though whenever I've asked her to play with the WNYC co-ed team, she always seems to have a lame excuse like, "I can't, I'm in Fiji."
Mazzoli does play out a fair bit with the band, but also finds time to write orchestral works — one of her compositions, These Worlds in Us, was just performed by the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. The self-described "delinquent tap dancer and insomniac composer" recently brought her group Victoire to our New York studio for this live performance.