In the Summer of 2008, my friend Chester Biscardi gave me a copy of André Aciman’s novel Call Me By Your Name, and I immediately fell in love with the story and characters. I’d only been out for six years at the time, so the memories of that tentativeness, that abandon, that confusion about who I was felt fresh still. And the simple beauty of the title always stuck with me.
So years later, when I was casting about for a title for a new oboe and piano piece I was going to be working on, it only felt right to turn to Aciman’s novel for inspiration. The title evoked the intimacy and beauty of the oboe, and the episodic nature of the novel, with its tenderness and turmoil, seemed perfect for the form I had in mind.
The piece, which alternates between languid, lyrical passages and sections marked by driving motor rhythms, is a subtle dialogue between the two instruments – each adopting elements from the other, and adapting them into their own language, sometimes tenderly, sometimes mockingly. The piece closes with a reprise of the opening material: softer, more gentle, fading into memory.
Dennis Tobenski is a composer of acoustic new music, a vocalist, and a strong advocate for new music and for the interests of living composers.
Dennis’s Only Air, a 20-minute work for high voice and orchestra memorializing the gay teenagers who have taken their own lives in recent years, was commissioned by the Illinois State University Symphony Orchestra, and has been performed in a chamber version by The Secret Opera in New York and members of the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony.
In February 2016, he and pianist Marc Peloquin released their first album together, a disc of art songs by living American composers titled And He’ll Be Mine.
Dennis also hosts the Music Publishing Podcast and The Composer’s Guide to Doing Business: two music business-centered podcasts aimed at helping composers and performers to learn more about the practical aspects of their careers.
Dennis received his B.Mus. in Vocal Performance and Music Theory & Composition from Illinois State University, and his M.A. in Music Composition from The City College of New York.
His principal teachers have included David Del Tredici, Chester Biscardi, and David Feurzeig. He is a member of the Board of Advisors for Composers Now, and the Board of Directors of the KeyedUp MusicProject. Dennis lives in New York City with his husband Darien Scott Shulman and their cat Pistachio.
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