Barnes Wins Composer’s Award

by Nadia Smith

His inspiration came from Chinese texts and an Irish city, his travels took him to Ecuador as the country’s composer-in-residence, and for his work during the 2009-10 academic year, professor of music Dr. Larry Barnes received a Standard Composer Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), an international performance-rights organization. Tens of thousands of members’ performance music is surveyed each year. According to the organization’s website, a distinguished board of prominent composers award the composers whose main work is outside broadcast media and has a certain prestige value worthy of compensation.

Dr. Larry Barnes prefers traditional composing tools: piano and paper.

Barnes’ work in the past year included “Songs of the Seasons” which was performed by the Lexington Chamber Chorale. It is based on Chinese texts about the different seasons, though Barnes said the songs are love songs. As was brought out at the recent Orchid Ensemble concert, he said that in traditional Chinese music love is not directly mentioned.

“If she lives in the mountains you talk about the beauty of the waterfall and the mountains and the creek and the grass, the beauty that surrounds her but never mention her name or love itself,” said Barnes.

Other compositions with an eastern influence are his electronic music for Tai Chi meditation. Each change in the music is written to queue the next change of form in the exercise. Barnes described the music as ambient and designed to help the listener focus on the exercise and forget the cares of the day. Barnes recently advanced to second-degree brown belt in Tai Chi and is working on obtaining his first-degree.

His other releases this year included “Dreams of the Anti-City” and the independent CD release of the original motion picture soundtrack for “Euphoria,” as well as the premiere of “Galway Dreams,” performed by Joanna Binford and inspired by the Irish town which Barnes described as “the place where all the musicians would be.”

Barnes is pretty traditional in how he composes his music. He still uses pen, paper and piano but is not opposed to using new technology to help with copying parts or speeding up other processes that could be tedious. While composing the music for the “Euphoria” project, Barnes departed from his usual composing routine, writing the entire score in two weeks and going from composing to editing and recording within 24 hours each day.

Barnes had the opportunity to mentor other young composers as Kentucky-Ecuador Partners’ artist-in-residence in Ecuador during this past August. There he performed his music and taught workshops in five cities. At the end of his stay, after reviewing and critiquing students’ work, there was a performance of the students’ pieces played to such a large crowd that there had to be two performances instead of just one. Barnes plans to return to Ecuador soon.

Performance-rights organizations play an important role in making up for the losses composers and musicians suffer from illegal downloading and the typically low compensation received from publishing companies. Awards like those offered by ASCAP help to compensate and recognize artists.

“They try to compensate composers who don’t get significant royalties … with awards,” said Barnes. “All composers should join ASCAP when they begin to get performances of their music. There is a yearly fee that brings the newsletter and other opportunities.”

Those interested in purchasing or listening to Barnes music can visit


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