Nikola Resanovic, Composer


The music of Nikola Resanovic brings together the rich traditions of his Serbian heritage and the weird, but familiar sounds of the computer age. The squeaks and clicks of our modems and the buzzing of our cell phones, to Resanovic, are a kind of musicpart of the soundtrack of busy 21st-century livesthat is not without its charms and compositional possibilities. For University of Akron professor Resanovic (pronounced Reh-ZAHN-o-vitch), composing is clearly a joyous, deeply human activity that ought to be playful in the best sense of the word.

His 12-minute piece for clarinet and digital audio tape,, has been described as a “wild and fascinating” work (The Clarinet journal, December 2002). Its opening section, subtitled “A Matter of Fax,” invites us to contemplate the otherworldly arias of a computer modem trying, with slithering cadenzas of electronic squawks and urgent beeps, to connect with the Internet. A clarinet enters, lost in a reverie, but is soon caught up in the infectious rhythms of Macedonian and Bulgarian dances until, finally, squealing static and the recorded voice of an overseas operator join in the frenzied hoedown.

Is this, as the composer has impishly suggested, a musical representation of a peasant downloading the latest Nasdaq figures via his cell phone/modem onto his laptop in some remote region of the Balkans, with his cows grazing in the background? The effect, achieved with a dazzling array of digital technologyfrom a Kurzweil K2000s sampling keyboard and synthesizer to a DATAsync sync boxis so droll it has left audiences from Xian, China, to Oulu, Finland, laughing out loud.

The three movements of Resanovic’s Crosstalk for E flat alto saxophone and digital audio tape, written in 1994, are titled “Be-bop,” “Bloop-beep” and “Flashback”; while South Side Fantasy (2002) for solo double bass and CD is described by the composer as “a fantastic journey into a large Serbian hall on the south side of Chicago during the mid-1900s.” It’s late at night and the Popovich Brothers tamburitza orchestra is hopping. The double bass, our interlocutor, both participates in the ethnic Serbian experience and transforms it into a modern American experience, weaving together old and new.

Resanovic, who was born in England in 1955, is also capable of writing much more straightforward music for acoustic instrumentssuch as the lyrical Sonata for Flute and Piano (2001); The Ox and the Lark (2003), a duo for alto saxophone and clarinet (guess which role each instrument takes); or Intermezzo: On the Field of Blackbirds (1999) for solo piano, composed in honor of the Serbian linguist, historian and ethnologist Vuk Karadzich (1787-1864). The Golden Canon (1984), recorded by the Solaris woodwind quintet, was deemed “a radiant series of lyrical and swirling encounters” (Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer) and “a fascinating and beautiful work that develops great complexity while maintaining a basic tonality and theme” (Barry Kilpatrick, The American Record Guide). Dance In A White Bay (1996) is a stirring symphonic ode for orchestra commemorating the crew of the Edmund Fitzgerald, the huge ore freighter lost in a storm on Lake Superior in 1975.

The composer may have been thinking of his own ocean crossing at the age of 11. His first memories of America are of the Statue of Liberty, which he sailed past in 1966 with his parents (who had fled Serbia for England after World War II) on the Queen Elizabeth. Musically precocious, young Nikola would in time be admitted to the University of Akron School of Music, where he studied voice with Rodney Miller, piano with Douglas Hicks and Marion Lott, and theory and composition with David Bernstein (winner of the 2000 Cleveland Arts Prize for Music). After earning a doctorate in composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music in 1982, where he studied composition with Donald Erb, piano with Olga Radosavljevich, and electro-acoustic music technology with David Peele, Resanovic continued to teach at Akron. He joined the school’s fulltime music faculty in 1984 and became director of its electronic music program three years later. In 1999, he was asked to oversee the design and construction of the university’s new state-of-the-art electronic music facility, which opened the following year.

Resanovic has not only drawn on his Balkan background for such pieces as Drones and Nanorhythms, a three-movement work for woodwind quintet composed in 2000, he has also produced several volumes of liturgical music adapting the sacred chant of the Serbian Orthodox Church to the English language. His secular rhapsodies built around the music of the former Yugoslavia have been performed by Serbian choral societies throughout the United States and Canada.

Resanovic’s orchestral and chamber music has also delighted audiences throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as in Britain, Holland, Germany, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Finland, Sweden, China, Israel and Australia. Since 1999, his compositions have been featured in more than 75 separate performances by such groups as the Toledo Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra Trio and Chicago Brass Choir and in such prestigious venues as Tanglewood, Boston-Symphony Hall, Severance Hall, Interlochen and Blossom Music Center.

—Dennis Dooley

Cleveland Arts Prize
P.O. Box 21126 • Cleveland, OH 44121 • 440-523-9889 •