I want my music always to be telling a cohesive story of some kind. My melodies and rhythms often tend toward sensations of speech patterns or bodily motions. I use many tiny rhythmic details and also a microtonal language of twelfth-tones, sixth-tones and quarter-tones. I have always been compelled by the possibility that these interval combinations can have their own distinct musical identities—for example this ex1 or this ex2 or this ex3. I am excited by the expressive power such intervals can have in melody and harmony, and by their ability to form melodic contours that feel natural and nuanced.
In May 2023 New Focus Recordings released a CD of my music, Someone Who Loves You Throws Me At You. Jon Sobel of Blogcritics wrote about it: “Julia Werntz opens up a microtonal universe…she shows us that we’re part of a wider natural world than the one we usually inhabit when we listen to music,” and Jeremy Shatan of Anearful included it in his “Best of 2023” list.
Have a listen to these amazing performances by Stephanie Lamprea, Rose Hegele, Katherine Growdon, Gabriela Diaz, David Russell, John McDonald, Kevin Price, Anna Griffis, and Ludovico Ensemble with Jeffrey Means conducting. Two vocal pieces on the CD feature beautiful poetry by Dana Dalton, and fragments and epigrams by Sappho and Plato. If you get the physical CD you’ll see the gorgeous booklet and cover artwork by Monte Antrim (though Bandcamp also provides pdfs of the booklet and cover). Joel Gordon did the mastering and a lot of the recording, and composer Kyle Bartlett wrote very sensitive and thoughtful notes. Digital downloads available at Bandcamp, AppleMusic or PrestoMusic. Physical copies available on Amazon.
In June 2022 my opera The Strange Child was premiered at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater’s Alloy Studios in Pittsburgh. The artists produced a stunning, inspired performance—all the more amazing because of the major hurdles created by the January 2022 Covid surge and other world events. Many thanks to Kamratōn Ensemble (who commissioned the opera), and Quince Ensemble, Eugene Perry, Robert Frankenberry, and other exceptionally talented guests. Shana Simmons was director and choreographer and Daniel Curtis was music director, and their interpretations were brilliant!
The opera is the fruit of a three-year collaboration with writer Kim Adrian, who chose the story—E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “Das fremde Kind”—and wrote a beautiful, truly enchanted libretto. The Strange Child is a fantastical tale of magic and loss, featuring a mysterious sprite who befriends two siblings in the forest and a cruel tutor (part housefly), who is pursuing the sprite—his archenemy—and who threatens to turn the siblings’ world upside-down.
Below is a short video with highlights from the performance. (A new, edited video of the full opera, with subtitles, is also available upon email request.)
Below is another video with an interview about the opera with composer John Aylward.