Assistant Professor of Composition and Pendulum New Music Director Annika Socolofsky is the most recent recipient of the prestigious Gaudeamus Award. Specifically, the 31-year-old was awarded a 5,000 euro commission and an instrument/sculpture named Inner Voice Amplifier, designed by visual artist Nuni Weisz.
“I was supposed to compete for the award in 2020, but the competition was postponed a year due to COVID,” recalls Socolofsky. “I had a fabulous experience in The Netherlands last fall, working with a number of contemporary European ensembles.”
“While I was there in September, I had a new work premiered by the Zöllner-Roche Duo, I performed a feminist rager-lullaby of mine with the New European Ensemble and I had another piece of mine performed by Asko|Schönberg.”
She adds, “Gaudeamus brings in a new roster of guest ensembles every year and I will get to write for one of those guests in the coming years.”
Composer + performer
A venturesome composer and avant-folk vocalist, Socolofsky re-imagines traditional children’s lullabies in a new light through her feminist rager lullabies for a new queer era. She challenges societal norms and traditional ways of thinking—especially those that promote restrictive gender roles.
Among the three works that Socolofsky prepared for the international competition were “Who am I to say?” and “The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows: Silience.” According to Socolofsky, the text of the former is derived from an English nursery rhyme that encourages young girls to fantasize about who their future husbands may be. Socolofsky challenges the idea that worth is based upon a future husband, which ingrains heteronormativity within our culture.
“The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows: Silience”—commissioned by Gaudeamus for the Zöllner-Roche Duo for Gaudeamus Muziekweek 2021—is especially close to Socolofsky’s heart, composed just after the tragic mass shooting in Boulder last spring and serving as a means for grieving and processing loss.
“As a composer, there is only one thing that I can do better than anyone else on the planet, and that’s to be fully me,” says Socolofsky. “It’s my job as a composer to be genuinely and transparently myself in my music and that means embracing my love of other types of music, art and so on. To deny that would be to deny a part of myself.”
As an educator, Socolofsky is a strong proponent of the expansion of knowledge, simultaneously advocating for un-becoming—that is, unlearning societal expectations and conditioning to rediscover who we are and who we can become.
“My job is to help students find themselves and communicate themselves through their music by supporting them in composing the most powerful and intentional music they can,” says Socolofsky. “My goal is to provide a space that recognizes and encompasses the loves and musicianship of each individual student.”
Socolofsky emphasizes the importance of exposing students to various types of music and genres outside of the contemporary classical music sphere. Indeed, the College of Music’s composition faculty recently hosted Vietnamese American composer Viet Cuong and Castle of Our Skins Founder Ashleigh Gordon while working to rebrand the college’s new music series (Pendulum) to be more inclusive of genre, aesthetic and style.
For Socolofsky, overhauling syllabi and class structure to “make my classroom as inclusive as possible” is also a top priority. “This includes using compositional examples written by women, trans, gender non-conforming, two spirit, BIPOC, non-European composers … and the many intersections of those identities,” she says. “It also means reaching outside of the classical genre entirely for musical study and compositional examples relevant to course material.”
Photo by Co Broerse: Annika Socolofsky performs “Don’t say a word” with the New European Ensemble at Gaudeamus Muziekweek in Utrecht, The Netherlands, 2021.