Interview with Composer Josiah Garza

Vega Shah

A photograph of Josiah Garza; He looks at the camera, wears a floral tie, and holds musical instruments

Interview with Sound in Sculpture Composer Josiah Garza

Landmarks recently announced the return of Sound in Sculpture, our annual collaboration with the Butler School of Music and Texas Performing Arts. Launched in 2015, the event features musical compositions by student composers, all created in response to works from Landmarks’ collection. This year, composers Kevin Charoensri, Maxwell Franko, Josiah Garza, and Jingchao (Ginny) Wang will respond to Simone Leigh's Sentinel IV and Jennifer Steinkamp's EON.

In advance of the program, Landmarks’ communications intern, Vega Shah, sat down with Josiah Garza to discuss his process for composing a piece for the program. A fourth year undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Biology and Bachelor of Arts in Music Composition, Garza wrote a work entitled Sentinels, inspired by Simone Leigh’s Sentinel IV. Premiering at Sound in Sculpture on April 21, the composition will feature five vocalists singing an arrangement of songs around the sculpture.


How did you approach composing a work for Sound in Sculpture?

I began by interviewing each of the vocalists within my project to learn of their upbringing and cultural history. I worked with these performers closely to offer them the space to share their identity and talents. A major part of my composing process was informed by these collaborative discussions. 

Do you have a favorite work in the Landmarks collection?

My favorite work would have to be Hans Hokanson’s Source. There is something raw and captivating about this sculpture that provokes us to consider the way texture enhances our experiences - on how variety culminates in novelty. 

How does visual art influence your work?

My work is often created around a narrative and this opportunity to write in response to a significant work of art, like Simone Leigh’s Sentinel IV, piqued my interest immediately. I often spend weeks toiling over the story behind a piece and I find inspiration in social justice, major historical events, and fairytales. 

Has Sound in Sculpture changed your view of Landmarks Collection?

I now have a greater appreciation for public art as a whole. Now when I travel, I see every city I’m in as an opportunity to hunt for great works of art. I love to share with my peers the stories behind the works in the Landmarks collection and I often take walks on campus to spend some time appreciating the art all around. 

What are your future plans with music composition?

I plan to continue writing works that hold true to the stories I aim to portray. I don’t want to give too much away on the slew of projects on my agenda, but I’ve definitely got my eye on Mark di Suvero’s Clock Knot.


Join us April 21 at 7:30 PM CST to hear Garza and other composers works during Sound in Sculpture.