Who is 7R?
Caroline Shaw, composer/singer/violinist
Composer of To the Hands, response to TO THE HANDS
We know Caroline Shaw primarily through Steve Spinelli - good friend and artist of The Crossing. Steve has been on the board of Roomful of Teeth for quite some time and so he knows Caroline's work intimately (she's a regular singer with that ground-breaking, astonishingly virtuosic ensemble), especially her Pulitzer-Prize winning Partita, which was written for "Teeth" and won a Grammy. But, the decision to approach Caroline for 7R goes beyond that connection and our excitement about her compositional voice; it stems also from her intimate relationship with Baroque Music. Caroline is an excellent violinist and singer with a great familiarity of how Buxtehude's music is constructed and should sound. We wanted to see how her fantastically creative and original mind would respond to art that is part of her. And, we're not disappointed; her response often quotes Membra Jesu nostri directly, drawing fascinating connections across ages and cultures.
Caroline is widely regarded as one of the most unique and exciting compositional voices working today. An active singer, violinist, and composer based in New York City, Caroline has international careers in all three of her passions.
In 2013, Caroline became the youngest ever recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music for Partita for 8 Voices. As Caroline describes in a program note for the work:
Partita is a simple piece. Born of a love of surface and structure, of the human voice, of dancing and tired ligaments, of music, and of our basic desire to draw a line from one point to another.
The four movements of Partita were premiered at various times between 2009 and 2011 by Roomfull of Teeth. Movement IV. Passacaglia was premiered on the first night Roomfull of Teeth ever performed together. You can watch a video of that occasion below, and hear the full recording of Partita by Roomful of Teeth on Caroline's website.
In total, Caroline has written 7 chamber works, 5 choral, 3 orchestral, and 2 solo. She has taken commissions to create new work for the Carmel Bach Festival, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Guggenheim Museum (FLUX Quartet), The Crossing, the Baltimore Symphony, and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.
As a violinist she performs primarily with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME). Caroline has also performed with the Trinity Wall Street Choir, Alarm Will Sound, the Mark Morris Dance Group Ensemble, the Knights, Victoire, the Yehudim, and many others. (And she has appeared incognito as a backup singer or violinist, on Saturday Night Live with Paul McCartney, on Letterman with The National, on the Tonight Show with the Roots). In 2015, Kanye West featured her murmuring on a remix of "Say You Will." You can here that on Soundcloud.
Caroline studied for fifteen years with Suzuki violin pedagogue Joanne Bath before working with Kathleen Winkler at Rice (B.M. violin) and Syoko Aki (M.M. violin) at Yale, and she is currently a doctoral candidate in composition at Princeton. She has been a Rice Goliard Fellow (busking and fiddling in Sweden) and a Yale Baroque Ensemble fellow, and she was a recipient of the infamous Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, to study historical formal gardens and live out of a backpack for a year.