Emily Cooley

About the Piece

Instrumentation: Full Orchestra: 2222 4221 timp+2, celesta, strings
Duration: 9 min

Program Note:

In ancient mythology, the Argonauts gradually replaced every part of their ship the Argo over time, resulting in an entirely new
ship, still named Argo. Many have pondered the ramifications of this story; namely, whether the ship remains the same if all its
parts are replaced. I have thought about this as a metaphor for change: in people, in relationships, and in communities.
Musically, the piece is led by the low strings. Their opening melody — two G’s sinking down to an F — pervades the whole piece, appearing in many guises. I’ve been very drawn to this simple musical gesture, and it is the origin of many of the piece’s ideas.

-Emily Cooley, 2016

Special thanks to Jennifer Higdon, TJ Cole, and Landes Blyth for their help in bringing this piece into being.
Maggie Nelson’s beautiful book The Argonauts introduced me to the ancient story of the Argo.

Conductor’s Perspective

The piece starts with a slow section featuring the two flutes and two clarinets repeating high C and D, while intonation could be a challenge. The string part is mostly easy. The faster middle section has a violin solo that goes up high in register, but mostly manageable. Celeste solo at the end.

About the Composer

Emily Cooley is a Philadelphia-based composer of orchestral, chamber, and vocal music whose work has been described as “masterfully written and orchestrated” (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and “a beautiful delicacy” (Vermont Today). Frequently in dialogue with works of contemporary fiction and critical theory, her music questions conventions of narrative, re-imagines emotional expression, and explores the dynamics of power and vulnerability. 

Cooley’s orchestral music has been performed by the Nashville, Cincinnati, Minnesota, Louisville, Milwaukee, Berkeley, Sioux City, and Eastern Connecticut symphony orchestras; the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra; and numerous university and conservatory orchestras. Her work Assemble, for multitrack cello, was recently recorded by Ashley Bathgate and will be released on Bathgate’s forthcoming album, 8 Track

Also active as a concert producer and curator, Cooley is a founding member and the current publicity director for Kettle Corn New Music, which produces a year-round series of new music concerts in New York City, hailed for creating “that ideal listening environment that so many institutions aim for: relaxed, yet allowing for concentration” (New York Times). Cooley is also a frequent collaborator with incarcerated musicians at SCI-Graterford in Pennsylvania, and she held the Community Artist Fellowship at the Curtis Institute of Music in 2017-18.

Born in 1990 in Milwaukee, WI, Cooley holds degrees from Yale University, the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music, and the Curtis Institute of Music. She has been in residence at Yaddo, Copland House, and the Avaloch Farm Music Institute, and a fellow at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival, and the Norfolk New Music Workshop. She is a recipient of the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the ASCAP Morton Gould Award. Her mentors include John K. Boyle, Kathryn Alexander, Andrew Norman, Stephen Hartke, Jennifer Higdon, David Ludwig, and Mary Javian.

Performance Materials

● Score and parts can be obtained through the composer (click for email)


Audio recording on the composer’s Soundcloud: