My fascination with composers’ eating habits began innocently enough in my undergraduate years… now that I’m no longer a student and can study anything I choose, I’ve decided to dust off that quest and go off in search of my favorite composers’ favorite breakfasts!
While composers throughout history could often seek out the patronage of wealthy nobility, giant churches, or prominent artistic organizations to propel their careers and their musical growth forward, composers of today face a completely different reality. In our modern era, a composer is just one voice in an endless sea of voices — all struggling to hone their skills, express their ideas, and (above all else) have their music performed. With orchestras and other large ensembles across the globe struggling to keep seats filled and finances in check, there is precious little room for new names on concert programs.
Jenni Brandon (b. 1977) knows that struggle first-hand. Through hard work, dedication, and (admittedly) a little luck, her compositions have already been performed all over the world — invaluable exposure that has garnered commissions from a variety of ensembles and chamber groups. She’s amassed an impressive and ever-expanding catalog of unique, original pieces for various types of ensembles. One might say she deftly navigates the “sea of voices” while maintaining a voice all her own.
With evocative titles and colorful, motivic writing, she paints landscapes using the human voice, musical instruments, and harmonic textures as her paints and canvas. In the same way a writer may go people-watching, probing the expressions and mannerisms of strangers while forming characters for their next plotline; Jenni often finds inspiration by immersing herself in nature and in the practice of Yoga.
“I do love my work and I feel blessed and content to have such joy in my life: writing music is part of my fabric, and teaching yoga has become a joyful way to serve others. I believe these are part of my path,… We might stray from our path, we might seek contentment and balance outside of us, but it is that inner voice, that True Self, that whispers to us and draws us back to where we need to be.” — Jenni Brandon
While we can’t rattle off an e-mail to Mozart to ask his advice about a particular passage or pick the brain of Beethoven by leaving a comment on his Facebook wall, today’s musicians and composers have exciting, unique opportunities to collaborate — taking new music to new audiences in new ways.
Manitou Winds is presently studying two of Jenni Brandon’s works: On Holt Avenue (2006), for solo oboe and piano; and Found Objects: On the Beach (2013), for oboe, clarinet, and bassoon. Our goal is to feature these two works on a program in 2016 along with music from other new composers written within the last 20 years.
Recently, I e-mailed Jenni to congratulate her on creating these two beautiful pieces… and, of course, to ask her about her favorite breakfast. Imagine my delight when she responded! She said she was happy to take part in our series — and especially to be our vegetarian/vegan composer.
Jenni’s a big fan of getting breakfast from her juicer, but she’s also a sucker for a good sit-down breakfast like this Tofu Scramble. If you’re new to tofu scrambles, you’re sure to be hooked. They allow plenty of room for improvisation — add or take away any vegetables you’d like — and they’re easy to throw together for breakfast or even a quick dinner.
4 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups chopped broccoli florets
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium carrot, shredded
4 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 chili peppers, chopped* (jalapeños or a mix of varieties)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
14 ounces extra-firm tofu, crumbled
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Corn or Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
Pepper Jack, Sharp Cheddar, or Vegan Cheese (optional)
Heat two teaspoons of the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook until translucent and golden. Stir in the broccoli, bell pepper, and carrot; cook until crisp-tender (3-4 minutes). Transfer the vegetables to a plate; keep warm.
To the now empty skillet add remaining oil, garlic, chili peppers, chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Sauté for about 30 seconds to release the flavors. Stir in turmeric and crumbled tofu; cook 2-3 minutes or until tofu has dried slightly and begun to lightly brown. Return the sautéed vegetables to the skillet; stir and cook until heated through. Serve on warmed tortillas and top with cheese and salsa if desired. Leftover scramble is delicious and easily reheated.
*If you want a milder scramble, remove the seeds and membranes from the chiles. Jenni prefers it spicy, though… and so do I!
For the perfect Jenni Brandon soundtrack to accompany your serene scramble, here’s the fourth movement, entitled “Daisies”, from On Holt Avenue:
Looking for more recipes? Check out the other recent Woodwind Gourmet series:
Series I: Oboes, Oranges & Almonds
Series III: Notable Breakfasts