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Likeness to Lily | Susan Oetgen

Susan Oetgen


Susan Oetgen
My work as a composer and performer brings together my sensibility and respect for the communicative power of modern popular music with my background and training in opera, and love for the form of musical drama. An essential ingredient in my work is my singing style, which is musically informed as appropriate to my classical training, but adapted for the age of amplification through microphones and the vocal intimacy that recorded media brought about. With my band Likeness to Lily, which I formed in 2003, I write music that appeals to an audience’s musical and lyrical intelligence without sacrificing the simple soul of a shared musical experience. As an ensemble, Likeness to Lily performs regularly in popular downtown music clubs, where audiences take in our music in the context of a social night out. Likeness to Lily has also played on traditional concert stages, in a context where an audience comes to hear music in an environment of quiet concentration. Both venues provide rich, and very different, opportunities to connect with an audience through music. At a club, my music becomes part of the larger world the audience is experiencing, and adds to the mood and the making of personal memories. In a concert hall, my music becomes a whole world in itself that an audience may enter fully and explore in the shared space of our imagination. I believe that to successfully frame and anchor a common mood, or to construct the very architecture of the imagination, music must be based on solid principals of compositional technique and, in the case of songs or opera, mastery of lyrical forms. In either context – club or concert hall – my music dramatizes singular moments in time, paints portraits of strangers who seem as familiar as one’s self, and invites listeners to explore undiscovered territory in a private, but universal, emotional landscape.


Susan Oetgen is a composer and performer of contemporary music and multi-disciplinary music/theater projects. At the center of her artistic mission is indie/pop quartet Likeness to Lily, which she formed in 2003, and with whom she has produced two full-length studio recordings, Solitude’s Dollhouse (2005) and Farewell, Recruit (2008). As a participant in the 2007-2008 Brooklyn Philharmonic’s Composer Mentorship Program, Susan premiered her multimedia song cycle Bazm-o-Razm, written for Likeness to Lily and members of the orchestra, in collaboration with artist Justin Waldstein, photographer Alan Chin and choreographer Sahar Javedani, on the Brooklyn Phil’s Music off the Walls series at the Brooklyn Museum. Susan’s music has also been performed on the Music with a View series at The Flea Theater, the Live Arts Collaboration Salon Series at The Performance Project @ University Settlement, and the Vermont Arts Exchange’s Basement Music Series. For the inaugural Capital Fringe Festival in 2006, Susan wrote and performed a solo music/theater piece called I.E.D.: Improvised Experimental Diva, reviewed by The Washington Post as “a perfect fringe experience…Oetgen hits her target; her a cappella ending is dynamite.”

Susan has collaborated with other notable Brooklyn composer/performers, including touring nationally and internationally in Cynthia Hopkins’ modern operettaMust Don’t Whip ‘Um, and performing the role of Tamsun Donner in Howard Fishman’s jazz oratorio we are destroyed. She has also appeared in and composed for choreographer Daniel Burkholder’s Horizon Light, and premiered the role of Mimi in Bob Massey’s 2003 multimedia indie-rock opera The Nitrate Hymnal, produced jointly by Washington Performing Arts Society and Anti-Social Music, Inc. She recently premiered a new solo piece called Ugly, Pretty, Hot, Bad as part of Dixie Fun Dance Theater’s The Lonely, Post-Modern, Artsy-Fartsy Peep Show at Tribeca Cinemas in June 2009.

Susan earned a Master of Music in Vocal Performance, with a concentration in Latin American vocal repertoire, from the Catholic University of America in 1999, received a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant in 2007 for her research on the voice training for Marine Corps drill instructors at Parris Island, and was an Associate Artist under the mentorship of composer David Lang during an Atlantic Center for the Arts composition residency in April 2008. She is currently an Artist-in-Residence at Tribeca Performing Arts Center along with Likeness to Lily and collaborators Justin Waldstein, Tony Melone and Alison Fleminger.

She lives in a tiny, but cozy, studio apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn with a quite a lot of plants and a view of the Williamsburg Savings Bank clock tower. She’s slowly learning to play the guitar.

For more information, visit Susan’s blog.

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