Music Student Wins ASCAP Young Composer Award

Lev Marquis turned a nightmare into a wonderful dream.

The 20-year-old former Santa Monica College student, now at the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, is one of 30 winners of the 2011 ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Awards. Marquis – who composed a score based on a childhood nightmare – was at SMC when he won the award, which is given to composers under the age of 30.

More than 750 scores from young composers ages 10 to 29 were received for the competition, according to officials at The American Society of C​omposers, Authors & Publishers (ASCAP).

Marquis’ piece, “Murder in a Vast Expanse,” was composed for two prepared bowed guitars, wineglasses, contrabass clarinet, percussion and electronics. 

“’Murder in a Vast Expanse’ is a musical interpretation of a raw feeling I was exposed to in a childhood nightmare,” Marquis said. “Death is approaching and nothing you can do to stop it. You can fight back but it is utterly futile; soon you will succumb and fade into nothingness – even if you do manage to go out with a bang.”

Marquis designed and conceived all of the stage effects, unusual playing techniques and special sound effects in the eerie composition.

“When I was composing the piece, I tried to avoid thinking in the world of western tonality and instead focused on a pure relationship of sound to emotional thought and imagery,” he said. “I sat down with instruments and meditated on and experimented with various ideas and concepts: What does death sound like? What is it like to have death devouring everything? What does a world without music sound like? Why is it that we passionately fear the unknown?”

Raised in Los Angeles, he began studying piano at age 12, began composing at age 16, and has also studied violin and guitar. His music was recently featured in a performance of "King Saul" in New York with choreography and dance by Mussie Rothschild for an audience of nearly 400. 

He has worked for Emmy- and Grammy-nominated film scorer Peter Himmelman as Associate Producer of his internet-television show "The Furious World" and has studied composition with USC Doctoral student Eric Guinivan. He is currently working on concert music as well as music for film and video games. 

Samples of his work are available on YouTube

Established in 1979, with funding from the Jack and Amy Norworth Memorial Fund, The ASCAP Foundation Young Composer Awards program grants cash prizes to concert music composers up to 30 years of age whose works are selected through a juried national competition. 

These composers may be American citizens, permanent residents, or students possessing U.S. student visas.

Morton Gould, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, served as President of ASCAP and The ASCAP Foundation from 1986 to1994. Gould, an eminent and versatile American composer, was a child prodigy whose first composition was published by G. Schirmer when he was only six years of age. To honor Gould’s lifelong commitment to encouraging young creators, the annual ASCAP Foundation Young Composer program was dedicated to his memory, following his death in 1996. 

The award-winning composers share prizes of approximately $45,000, including the Leo Kaplan Award, in memory of the distinguished attorney who served as ASCAP Special Distribution Advisor; the Charlotte V. Bergen Scholarship for a composer 18 years of age or younger; and grants from The ASCAP Foundation Jack and Amy Norworth Fund. Jack Norworth wrote such standards as "Shine On Harvest Moon" and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."  Award recipients receive complimentary copies of Sibelius software, generously donated by Avid.

Founded in 1975, The ASCAP Foundation is a charitable organization dedicated to supporting American music creators and encouraging their development through music education and talent development programs.