Art is in the ear of the beholder

The Boston Sunday Globe

by Judith Montminy

Two years ago,   Brockton composer Beth Denisch saw a painting that reverberated for her the way visual experiences tendto do: as music. The haunting scene of several sheep, painted by Illinois artist Mark Forth, inspired Denisch to write a piano “miniature” based on the work.

Eventually she completed a series of piano miniatures based on Forth’s paintings. That series, called “The Forth Project,” will be performed with a slide show of the paintings next Sunday when Composers in Red Sneakers gives its spring concert at the Ellison Center for the Arts in Duxbury. It is the first time the Cambridge-based composers group, known for its playful take on contemporary music, appears in the south suburbs.

As head of the American Composers Forum Boston Area Chapter, which is underwriting the concert with the South Shore Conservatory, Denisch hopes area residents will take a chance and come to hear the unfamiliar new music created by contemporary composers. “I became interested in the American Composers Forum because they looked to put composers and performers in a different relationship with the community around them,” Denisch said. “Contemporary music covers a broad range. Contemporary classical is not a genre definition. It really means music by living composers.”

Recently Denisch became a board member of the Brockton Symphony Orchestra to help expand its musical reach. The orchestra and the American Composers Forum has commissioned her to compose a fanfare for its 50th anniversary season next year, and Denisch is working with conductor Jonathan Cohler to tailor the new composition to the skills of the group’s musicians. She has enjoyed getting to know the members of the community orchestra, Denisch said.

Denisch, 33, who has a doctorate in music composition from Boston University and works as a music therapist for Brockton Area Multi-Services Inc., started playing the piano when she was 4. She started composing music when she was 8.

“I’ve always had a very strong, individual voice, which made it difficult for my teachers. I liked to do things my way,” she said. “My voice was more avant garde when I was younger and rebellious. I used to be more dissonant than I am now. Now I’m comfortable with extended tonality… I have a lot of energy in my music, I like loud and big.

“The ability to express without words has always been compelling,” Denisch said. “I’ve always said, ‘If I can see it, I can hear it.’”