Chen Yi & Linda Catlin Smith Elected ISCM Honorary Members

June 24, 2024 / Frank J. Oteri
Chen Yi and Linda Catlin Smith

During the first 2024 ISCM General Assembly on 24 June at the Kongshøll in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands, Chen Yi and Linda Catlin Smith were elected Honorary Members of the ISCM by almost unanimous consent. The ISCM has had honorary members since its founding in 1923, when Ferruccio Busoni, Maurice Ravel, Jean Sibelius, and Igor Stravinsky were first elected. Dr. Chen and Ms. Smith are the first new honorary members to be elected since the 2020 election of musicologist Anton Haefeli, author of a 767-page German-language history of the ISCM, Die Internationale Gesellschaft für Neue Musik (IGNM), Ihre Geschichte von 1922 bis zur Gegenwart, published in 1982. There are now a total of 74 ISCM Honorary Members which reads like a who’s who of contemporary music.

Upon learning about her election, Chen Yi wrote: “I have been following the ISCM’s steps over the years and feeling so proud of the organization which has worked so extensively and made such distinguished contribution to the new music of our time around the world. It’s my privilege and honor to be an Honorary Member of the ISCM to work harder in developing and promoting new music, to bring people together from different parts of the world, for the global peace of our future.”

Born in Guangzhou, China in 1953 and based in the United States since 1986, Chen Yi is a prolific composer who blends Chinese and Western traditions, transcending cultural and musical boundaries. Over the course of the past four decades, Dr. Chen has developed an extremely fluid bicultural musical vocabulary that has informed virtually everything she has written, whether it is a composition for solo piano, wind band, or an ensemble comprised of traditional instruments from her native country—all instrumentations for which she has created a substantial output. She has also made significant contributions to the field of music education. Since 1998, she has served as the Lorena Cravens/Millsap/Missouri Distinguished Professor at the Conservatory of Music and Dance in the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Many of her students have been recognized around the world with national and international composition awards and professorships. Chen Yi’s Ballad, Dance and Fantasy for cello and orchestra (2003) was performed by cellist Qin Liwei and the China National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Yongyan Hu during the opening concert of 2018 ISCM World New Music Days in Beijing. During that same festival, her 1999 composition Sparkle was performed by the American contemporary music ensemble Alarm Will Sound in a 2018 arrangement for chamber orchestra by Stefan Freund. Chen Yi also served on the international jury for the 2021 ISCM World New Music Days in Shanghai and Nanning (which was unfortunately cancelled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions). Her earliest connection to the ISCM came very early in her career, back in 1989, when, at the recommendation of her teacher Chou Wen-chung (who was elected an Honorary Member of the ISCM in 1994), she was one of 20 international composers chosen to participate in a film series initiated by the ISCM in collaboration with the ISCM Polish Section called Sound and Silence, co-produced by Polish National Television and Adamov Films (France). In the 30-minute program devoted to Chen Yi, excerpts from three of her chamber music compositions were performed and she was interviewed by ISCM’s then President, Zygmunt Krauze.

“This is such an honour,” wrote Linda Catlin Smith upon being informed of her being elected an ISCM Honorary Member.

Born in New York City in 1957 and based in Toronto, Canada since 1981, Linda Catlin Smith composes music that is informed by a deep appreciation for writers and visual artists, creating work which revels in narrative and harmonic ambiguity. From 1988 to 1993, she was Artistic Director of Arraymusic, one of Toronto’s major contemporary music ensembles. From 1999 to 2020, she taught music composition at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. She has also lectured at many universities throughout Canada and continues to teach privately. She is a member of the performance collective URGE. Ms. Smith’s music has been commissioned, performed, and/or recorded by: the Goeyvaerts Trio, Psallentes, Tafelmusik, Victoria, the Kitchener-Waterloo and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras, Arraymusic, Thin Edge Collective, Continuum, Tapestry New Opera, Via Salzburg, Evergreen Club Gamelan, Exaudi, and the Penderecki and Bozzini string quartets, and she has had performances of her music at the Tectonics Festival in Glasgow (2017), Huddersfield Festival (2017), Principal Sound Festival (London, 2018) and Louth Contemporary Music Festival in Ireland (2019, 2023). Her 2016 composition Orient Point was performed by the Vancouver New Music String Orchestra under the direction of Giorgio Magnanensi during the 2017 ISCM World New Music Days in Vancouver.”This is such an honour,” wrote Linda Catlin Smith

ISCM Honorary Members must be alive at the time of their nomination and agree to be nominated (although an exception was made in 1950 when Dutch composer Willem Pijper (1894-1947) was elected). ISCM Honorary Members can participate in all ISCM events and ISCM members are encouraged to present their music, if they are composers, in concerts they host as well as during ISCM World New Music Days festivals. In addition to Chen, Haefeli, and Smith, the other still-living ISCM Honorary Members are: Michael Finnissy (elected 1998), Vinko Globokar (elected 2003), Sofia Gubaidulina (elected 2011), Anton Haefeli (elected 2020), Zygmunt Krauze (elected 1999), György Kurtág (elected 1994), André Laporte (elected 2006), Per Nørgård (elected 1995), Arvo Pärt (elected 2014), and Joji Yuasa (elected 2010). Some other significant ISCM Honorary Members who are no longer alive include: Louis Andriessen, Milton Babbitt, Béla Bartók, John Cage, Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, Luigi Dallapiccola, Manuel de Falla, Alois Hába, Paul Hindemith, Zoltán Kodály, György Ligeti, Witold Lutosławski, Darius Milhaud, Olivier Messiaen, Conlon Nancarrow, Krzysztof Penderecki, Paul Sacher, Kaija Saariaho, Arnold Schönberg, Hermann Scherchen, Tōru Takemitsu, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Iannis Xenakis, and Isang Yun.

Frank J. Oteri


Frank J. Oteri

New York City-based composer and music journalist Frank J. Oteri is an Assistant Professor of Musicology at the College of Performing Arts at The New School as well as Vice President of the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM). In his own musical compositions, which have been described as “distinctive” in The Grove Dictionary of American Music, Oteri combines emotional directness with an obsession for formal processes. His most recent work, Already Yesterday or Still Tomorrow, received its world premiere performance by the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Delta David Gier in January 2021. MACHUNAS, a performance oratorio created with visual artist Lucio Pozzi and inspired by the life of Fluxus-founder George Maciunas, premiered in Vilnius, Lithuania in 2005. Oteri received the 2007 Victor Herbert Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and the 2018 Composers Now Visionary Award.