Composer and pianist Sean Friar grew up in Los Angeles, where his first musical experiences were in rock and blues piano improvisation. While his focus soon shifted toward classical music, his composition has always kept in touch with the energy and communicative directness of those musical roots, now along with an expansive and exploratory classical sensibility.
He thrives on composing for ensembles both within and outside the realm of traditional concert music, and his recent commissions run the gamut from works for orchestra and string quartet to a junk car percussion concerto and music for laptop orchestra. His music has been performed throughout the world by ensembles including the Berlin Philharmonic Scharoun Ensemble, Argento Ensemble, So Percussion, Crash Ensemble, Ensemble Klang, the American Composers Orchestra, New York Youth Symphony, Alter Ego, Orkest de Ereprijs, Psappha, Darmstadt Staatsorchester, Matmos, members of the Bang on a Can All-Stars, and four-time Grammy-winning percussionist Glen Velez.
Friar is the youngest winner of the Rome Prize in over 25 years. His other honors include the Aaron Copland Award, Charles Ives Scholarship, a Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Grant, and four ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards, as well as awards from eighth blackbird, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, SCI/ASCAP, and the Hawaii Institute of Contemporary Music.
Friar is Adjunct Assistant Professor in Composition at the USC Thornton School of Music, and Lecturer in Composition at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. His principal teachers have been Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky, Dmitri Tymoczko, Paul Chihara, and Ian Krouse.
Little Green Pop was composed in 2008 for Ensemble Klang, and it won a 2009 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award. The composer has written the following note:
“As soon as I began writing what would become Little Green Pop, something about the sound-world of Ensemble Klang’s instrumentation screamed ‘Alien Pop Music’ to me. I’m not sure why – I have never heard any of it, nor have I ever had any particular obsession with extra-terrestrials. Perhaps it had to do with the chirpy and elemental opening ideas I had jotted down, and the fact that I’d envisioned them nestled in a thick bed of reverb. Regardless of the reason, I could tell I was not going to be able to shake the imagery of little green men jamming from my head, so I decided to embrace it and see where it would take me.
“Like most vernacular music, the core musical materials of Little Green Pop are quite simple, universal, and accessible. This is particularly true of the pitch material used; like much of our own popular music, it is heavily reliant on scales, modes, and stepwise voice leading. Where the piece becomes more foreign, however, is in its textures, modes of repetition and ‘groove’, and means of development. Along those parameters, it seems to adhere to rules and idioms that are not quite our own.
“Though Stephen Hawking recently warned us that we should avoid attempting to contact aliens for fear they may want to take over earth for its natural resources, this is very good-natured music, and I am not too concerned about the guys responsible for it giving us a hard time.”