Monday, November 12, 2018

Sotto Voce Concert

Local ensemble Sotto Voce Vocal Collective will offer a concert on Saturday, November 17th at 5 PM at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo, located on 655 Elmwood Avenue. The ensemble, which has a strong connection with the UB Music Department, aims to promote awareness of both the capabilities of the human voice and the diversity of composers living today. Since their founding in Summer 2016, the group has premiered works by group members—and UB composition students—Jessie Downs and Brien Henderson, and presented works by other up-and-coming composers such as Porter James (Boston) and Sylvia Lim (London). They have also collaborated with inspirational established composers such as James Weeks, Chaya Czernowin, Reiko Füting, Osnat Netzer, Antoine Beuger, Eve Beglarian, and Lauren Redhead. It is therefore not surprising that all the compositions they will perform in their upcoming presentation have been written after 2010.

Their concert, titled “Science and Spirit,” will offer a program that grapples with questions about the nature of existence. The pieces on the program explore ideas from science, religion, and the spaces in between, reflecting a diverse group of living composers’ experiences of the world. Four world premieres will be featured, including 2 new pieces commissioned by Sotto Voce: @quantumloop_#love by Elizabeth A. Baker and Ave virgo virginum by UB fourth year composition PhD student Igor Coelho A.S. Marques. The commissioned composers will both be active participants in the show: Elizabeth A. Baker will showcase her far-ranging musicianship by performing on piano, toy piano, and electronics on three different pieces, and Igor Coelho A.S. Marques will both conduct his new work and play piano in the concert’s finale. Sotto Voce’s vocalists will perform works by these and other composers in duo through septet formations.

(Sotto Voce)

All the musical selections will feature melodies, rhythms, and textures inspired by a hybrid of electronic and classical musics, and physical choreography and projections will help elucidate the composers’ inspirations. The show is bound to be an accessible introduction to the exciting work being created by living composers around the world.

This is the program:
  • Janet Oates - Atomic Choruses (2014, rev. 2017)
  • Gabrielle Cerberville - Phases (2016)
  •  Elizabeth Baker - @quantumloop_#love (2018 - WP)*
  • Amanda Feery - Squarepushers (2012)
  • Gabrielle Cerberville - Particle (for solo piano, 2018)*
  • Eva Maria Houben - Psalm 117 (2008 - WP)
  • Igor Coehlo Arantes Santana Marques - Ave Virgo (2018 - WP)
  • Elizabeth A. Baker - repetition_deviation@hesitation.reality05812 (for toy piano + piano, 2018)
  • Gabrielle Cerberville - Ubi Caritas (2014)
Tickets for the concert can be purchased here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

HANATSU Miroir: creating interdisciplinary connections

 Invited by the Center for 21st Century Music and as part of a tour that will take them to Spain, Canada and the United States, France-based artistic collective HANATSU Miroir will hold a residency at the University of Buffalo, where they will give a concert and workshop pieces written for them by some of the Composition PhD students.

Formed in 2010, HANATSU Miroir is characterized by what they describe as an “intentionally multidisciplinary approach”, which relies on collaborations between artists from different disciplines, such as dance, visual arts and theater, to put together multimedia musical events. Their aim is to make the new music repertoire, which can at times be perceived as esoteric, more accessible by virtue of its interaction with other arts. Additionally, the ensemble does extensive community outreach, aiming to create new audiences by engaging in pedagogical activities, performing concerts specifically designed to introduce children—but also other groups of people—to new music.

(HANATSU Miroir)

However, interest in pedagogy is not restricted to the activity of the ensemble. Some of their members apply this ethos individually as well. Samuel Andreyev—the oboist of the ensemble, and one of the composers whose work HANATSU will perform—has a very active online presence, with a youtube channel including videoscores of his music, but also Q&A sessions about contemporary music and practical aspects of musical composition, interviews with other artists, and analysis of masterpieces of the 20th Century.

Their concert, which is free and open to the public, will take place at 7:30 PM on November 7th at Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall. It will include three works by Samuel AndreyevStrasbourg Quartet, for flute, clarinet, percussion and cello, Five pieces, for flute and percussion, and the oboe solo Locus Solus—and two by Kenji Sakai: Howling/Whirling for flute, clarinet and percussion, and Monopolyphonie/Defiguration, for solo cello.

Sakai was born in Osaka (Japan), and studied at the Kyoto University of Fine Arts and Music, after which he traveled to France to continue his education in composition, piano, electronics and analysis at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris, and then Haute Ecole de Musique de Genève in Switzerland, and at IRCAM. He has been a member of the French Academy in Madrid for 2012-2013 and a fellow of the French Academy in Rome at the Villa Médicis for 2015-2016.
Andreyev is active as is a composer, oboist, poet and teacher. He studied composition with Allain Gaussin in Paris, then at the Conservatoire de Paris, where he obtained a masters degree in composition under Frédéric Durieux, and a prix d’analyse under Claude Ledoux. He also studied electroacoustics at IRCAM from 2011-12. His composition Night Division was awarded the grand prix of the Concours Henri Dutilleux in 2012. In the same year, he was awarded a one-year residency at the Casa de Velázquez in Madrid.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Welcoming new students

The UB Composition doctoral program is delighted to welcome three very talented composers, with unique aesthetic backgrounds and diverse geographical origins. We’ll take this opportunity to get to know them and their work, as we look forward to the music they will create in the coming years.

Although originally from New Jersey, Edgar Girtain comes to Buffalo from Chile, where he has been living with his wife for the last few years. Edgar writes music for orchestra, voice, and chamber ensembles. When the opportunity permits, his art is meditative and often has an explicit philosophical message. His motivation to create comes from a dual desire to lead both himself and his audience to truth and enlightenment. His influences include the minimalism of Steve Reich, modernism's use of color and texture, the philosophical/spiritual discourse of Brahms and the expression of carnal pleasure from contemporary popular music.

Strongly interested in music's potential as a source of social improvement and community building, Girtain has been active as a performer, music teacher and choir conductor. When asked about a musical experience that was important for him, Edgar mentions choral singing: "Singing with the Russian Chamber Chorus of New York completely changed my approach to music. Nikolai Kachanov, the director, is an amazing musician--a man of vision, talent, passion--who opened my eyes to a way of making music that I had never encountered before. The past few years for me have been completely shaped by processing, working through, and fleshing out the many, many fascinating ideas I encountered singing there."

(Edgar Girtain)

With respect to his work as a composer, Girtain is resolved: "Though the style of my music varies from piece to piece, I always strive for originality and a clear affect. I tend to write for the moment; I think more about specific performance contexts, and collaborative relationships, than necessarily "achieving" anything with my music. My more frequently performed works lean conservative (go figure). But whenever I get the chance to write for stellar players who are down to try new things, I definitely search for novel sounds and ways of pushing the notation. In general I prefer writing for genres that lack substantive repertoire. (women's choir, brass groups, violin quartets, anything with organ, etc)."
Below is a recording of his 2013 work Trio, for flute, violin and violoncello:

Born in Manchester, England, in 1992, John Aulich is a composer, performer and recording artist. Before coming to Buffalo to study with David Felder, he has studied extensively with Bryn Harrison and Aaron Cassidy at the University of Huddersfield. His work has been performed across England by artists such as Richard Craig and Tom Bell. In addition, he has participated in workshops with Philip Thomas, Peter Veale and Carl Rosman. John’s most recently finished projects include a miniature for the flautist Kathryn Williams and his second record as one half of the improvising avant-garde sort-of-Jazz band Aulich/Wood trio, released on Silent Howl. As a performer, John was heavily involved in the premiere performances of Tim Parkinson’s experimental opera, Time With People, at City University, London Contemporary Music Festival and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival.

(John Aulich)

"My most recent work has mostly been focused around visceral feelings (of empathy, of disgust, of frustration, etc.)" states John, while mentioning 
the physicality of performance and the ontology of musical materials as other areas of interest. "I try to creatively reimagine instruments: the flute is a snorkel, the timpani is a loom. I think of my music as an interacting network of forces constantly weaving a qualitative fabric of sensation: structural, formal, notational, physiological and psychological elements working in tandem to rupture or bind, make ambiguous or clarify, and propel or freeze the experiences of engaging with it either as a listener or performer. I am interested in the social and material relations brought about by various forms of notation and the sounds it gives rise to. For me, the music inscribed in my scores is incomplete without the input of performers and listeners: I try to invite people to become entwined with its interiority rather than gaze upon its surface."
Flesh brittle as I can think it, for two electric guitars, is a recent composition by John.

Matías Homar comes to Buffalo from Argentina. Originally from Salta, in the north of the country, Matías started studying electric guitar at the age of 14. By the age of 17 he went to the School of Fine Arts at the University of La Plata in Buenos Aires. There he began his formal music studies, which he finished with the degree of Professor of Music and Graduate in Composition.
He has presented works for soloists, small ensembles, and electroacoustic music, with particular attention to the saxophone. As a performer, Homar has been active in new music concerts, but he has also been part of several popular music groups, among which were a tango ensemble, a children's music band and the Imaymana duo, where he filled the roles of composer, arranger, guitarist and double-bassist.
As a scholar, Homar was a member of the Tonal Musical Language research group at the University of La Plata, where he worked on the music of folk composer "Cuchi" Leguizamón. He presented his conclusions at the last IASPM-LA Musicology Congress in Cuba, in the summer of 2016.

(Matías Homar)

In Buffalo, Matías has been able to hit the ground running: "This year has begun with great opportunities for me by writing a piece for HANATSU Miroir Ensemble and by collaborating with Mary Sullivan, who is doing her M.F.A in Dance at UB. I’m also very enthusiastic on expanding my boundaries as composer, musician and human being by getting to know and work with very interesting people. As a student I know that I will be pushed and motivated to go further in my education and knowledge by taking courses and lessons with amazing professors and composers. As a TA I am excited about learning new ways to deepen my pedagogical practice and my theoretical knowledge from the professor in charge of the course. And as a musician/composer I am sure that I will be experiencing new ways in which I will have to study harder and prepare myself more thoroughly to be up to the challenge of writing and performing music."

Matías shared with us his Dans av de Nordlige Stjerner (Dance of the Northern Stars), for saxophone duo. The work was written for Anja Nedremo and Morten Norheim, and it was premiered at the Nordic Saxophone Festival earlier this year. This piece is based on the structure of a traditional folkloric dance from the northern region of Argentina, and it involves a symbolic reinterpretation of its melodic, rhythmic, formal and choreographic features. In its origins, this traditional music was a representation of courtship between lovers; the final moment, with both lovers looking into each others' eyes, symbolizes the encounter of their hearts.

Edgar, John and Matías join second year student Tomek Arnold, a Krakow-born musician who has been working and living in the US for several years. Tomek's areas of musical interest include: composition, percussion performance (solo and collaborative), electronic music and improvisation. In his work he tries to develop a language of understanding that can function across a variety of genres and musical expressions. Five times winner of international solo marimba and percussion competitions between 2006 and 2011, Tomek has performed as a soloist and ensemble member in Poland, USA, Germany, Lithuania, Bulgaria, France, Italy, Croatia, Switzerland, Mexico and China. Before coming to UB, Tomek earned an MA in composition from Wesleyan University, an MM in classical percussion from the Manhattan School of Music, and Bachelor of Music degrees in percussion and composition from the Eastman School of Music.

(Tomek Arnold)

Dance and Noise, the work Tomek shared with us, shows multiple sides of his musical personality: composer, performer, improviser, and programmer.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Brad Lubman and Ensemble Signal pay tribute to Oliver Knussen

 Ensemble Signal will offer a tribute to recently deceased British composer and conductor Oliver Knussen on Monday, October 15th at 7.30 P.M. The concert will take place in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall, in the University at Buffalo’s North Campus in Amherst. Conducting the ensemble will be, as usual, longtime friend of the Center Brad Lubman, for whom this will undoubtedly be an important evening, given his strong professional and personal connection to Knussen since he worked as his assistant at Tanglewood between 1989 and 1994.

 Signal will perform four works by the British composer, from different moments of his creative trajectory: Hums and Songs of Winnie the Pooh, for voice and ensemble, and Sonya’s Lullaby, for piano solo, are earlier works. The former was written in 1970 and later revised in 1983, whereas the latter is from 1979. The other two works, Secret Psalm, for violin solo, and Songs without Voices, for ensemble, are from the beginning of the ‘90s, a time in his career when more and more of his time was being devoted to conducting. Also included in the concert will be two pieces by composers much admired by Knussen: Triple Duo, by Elliott Carter, and Rain Tree Sketch II, by Toru Takemitsu.

(Ensemble Signal and Brad Lubman)

 As Buffalo audiences have had many chances to witness, Ensemble Signal’s presentations are synonymous with outstanding performances. The last two times they played at Lippes Hall, they offered memorable versions of Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians and David Felder’s Jeu de Tarot. In this occasion they will lend their talents to a repertoire they are familiar with, since they have performed Knussen’s music before, including a portrait concert in the presence of the composer himself in 2013, at Miller Theater in New York City.

 Oliver Knussen was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1952, and not only was he an admired composer and conductor, but he reached that status at an early age. He was a musical prodigy, who conducted the London Symphony Orchestra—where his father was the principal double bass— when he was 15 years old to premiere one of his works, a later withdrawn Symphony No. 1. He studied with John Lambert from 1963 to 1969, and later with Gunther Schuller at the Tanglewood Music Center in the US, between 1970 and 1973.

(Oliver Knussen)

 As a composer, he worked slowly and deliberately, focusing on the smallest details and revising his work often until he was certain he was satisfied with it. Timbral and textural inventiveness are immediately noticeable characteristics of his music. Also, not strangely for someone who once described himself as an “unwilling grownup”, he had a penchant for working with children’s books. That is the case not just of his two operasWhere the Wild Things are and Higglety Pigglety Pop, both with libretti by their author, Maurice Sendakbut also of one of the works Signal will perform at the concert: Hums and Songs of Winnie the Pooh, based on the famous character created by A.A. Milne. Scored for soprano and five players, the piece begins with the episode where Pooh, assisted by a balloon, raids the Hunny Tree. Two of Pooh’s songs form the second and third movements. In the piece, the soloist shifts from passages of humming and nonsense texts, to elegiac melodic writing, to passages where the voice leaps about in a very high register. 

Another piece to be performed at the concert, the piano solo Sonya’s Lullaby (1979), had for Knussen a more personal kind of connection to childhood. Its title makes reference to the composer’s daughter, mezzo soprano Sonya Knussen. The post-impressionist work makes prominent use of ostinatiespecially an ascending B-F diminished fifthand repeated notes, intercut with arpeggiated figuration. The other solo Knussen piece in the concert, Secret Psalm, for violin, often described as “meditative”, is a short work of decidedly solemn mood. The composer originally wrote it in 1990 to be played at a memorial concert for Michael Vyner, who had been the artistic director of the London Sinfonietta for many years. The piece was revised in 2003.

(Elliott Carter)

The more recent work in the program, Songs without Voices, is a collection of four short pieces for a chamber ensemble of flute, English horn, clarinet, French horn, piano, violin, viola, and violoncello. According to the composer, three of the pieces are songs with poems set to the syllable, except that the melodies are sung by instruments rather than voices. The remaining piece is a melody written after Knussen heard of the death of Andrzej Panufnik, whom he greatly admired.

To learn more about the importance of Oliver Knussen’s work and his example as a conductor, Edge of the Center recently contacted Brad Lubman -- this is what he had to say: “Olly was one of the most selfless conductors there ever was, completely at the service of the music and the performers. With his very clear and very musical technique, his mindbogglingly awesome ears, and very logical and musical rehearsal technique, Olly gave us revelatory performances by some of the great composers of the past and the recent past. Moreover, he tirelessly championed younger and lesser known composers, giving us striking performances and recordings which shall remain a vibrant legacy to some very important music of our time (including his own excellent and inspiring works of jewel-like, crystalline wonder). This sort of thing is a role model for all conductors. He had this incredible knack for being able to say two or three things to an orchestra or ensemble after only playing a few minutes at the first rehearsal, that would then enable the orchestra to understand exactly what would make things sound immediately better. He would make just a few comments and the orchestra would then grasp the style and then proceed to polish and refine things right away. With clear, precise, and musical rehearsal technique and baton technique, Olly would achieve the greatest results. It was a miracle to watch, especially with the fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra; he would get the most amazing results in no time at all. He would look through any score and be able to sum up what the piece was about, where the trickier parts might be, what would need more rehearsal time, what would come together easily… He just seemed to be able to know everything at just a glance.”

(Toru Takemitsu)

Lubman also reflected back on Knussen’s qualities as a mentor: “He was able to objectively guide a young composer to find ways in which said composer could find their voice, or become themselves. He did this with the greatest amount of support and enthusiasm, always maintaining the most positive atmosphere.” The importance of Knussen’s own music was a subject Lubman was also eager to address: “Olly’s compositions all exhibit the highest possible level of craftsmanship, but also (and equally as important) the highest level of imagination, mystery, color, and engagement. His works are all like finely wrought crystalline jewels. He wrote music which is utterly mesmerizing, filled with magic, childlike wonder, and the most amazing colors, the most wondrous things you could imagine. His knowledge of instruments and orchestration was truly formidable, a true master. His sense of harmony (in both tonal and non-tonal realms) was absolutely amazing. He was one of the very few greatest composers of our time.”

With respect to the relation between the Takemitsu and Carter pieces completing the program and their composer’s connection with Knussen, Lubman said: “I think the music of Carter and Takemitsu represented the two sides of Olly’s compositional thought processes and things he admired in general in contemporary music. There’s the allure and provocative nature of Takemitsu’s music, and then the dazzling narrative and sparkling surfaces of Carter’s intricate music. One can see and hear influences of both composers in Olly’s music (and very important influences from the music of Henze) as well as a kind of childlike sense of fantasy.”

For details about tickets, visit Slee Hall’s website.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Case Scaglione joins the Slee Sinfonietta to conduct Berio and Copland

(Case Scaglione)

Acclaimed conductor Case Scaglione is returning to UB on September 12 for the first concert of the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music’s fall season, which will consist of two essential pieces of 20th century repertoire: Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs. The works will be performed by the Slee Sinfonietta, featuring UB’s own soprano Tiffany DuMouchelle in Folk Songs. The concert will take place on Wednesday, September 12th, in the Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus in Amherst. As usual, tickets are available at the Slee Hall box office, (716) 645-2921, and more detailed information is provided at the end of this post.

The Buffalo community has had the opportunity to see Maestro Scaglione perform at UB twice before: first in 2013, when he conducted a concert with music by Maurice Ravel, Edgard Varèse and Pierre Boulez, and more recently in 2016, when Dérive, by Boulez, was followed by two pieces by Arnold Schoenberg: his Opus 4, Verklärte Nacht  (Transfigured Night), for string sextet, and Pierrot Lunaire (Op. 21), for voice and chamber ensemble. Scaglione, who in the past has conducted prominent American and Asian orchestras, such as the New York Philharmonic, the China Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic, spent much of the 2017-18 season in front of the Oulu Symphony Orchestra, the Brussels Philharmonic, the Ulster Orchestra and the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, among other European institutions.

(Tiffany DuMouchelle)

The two works featured in the program Scaglione will conduct during the September 12th concert are audience favorites from last century’s repertoire. However, their popularity is not all that Appalachian Spring and Folk Songs have in common. They are also works that engage with pre-existing music to a significant degree. And in both cases, rather than resort to themes from the classical tradition, Copland and Berio used prior melodies which have their origin in a genre that has become the epitome of folk and popular music in the West: the song. 

Copland’s work, originally a ballet commissioned by Martha Graham, was written between 1942 and 1944, and received the Pulitzer Prize the following year. The composer later condensed the music, scored for a chamber ensemble of thirteen instruments, to create a suite for orchestra at the behest of conductor Artur Rodzinski. This orchestration retained all the essential features of the music, omitting those sections in which the interest was primarily choreographic. The Slee Sinfonietta will perform a version of the condensed suite scored for the original ensemble of thirteen instruments.

(Aaron Copland)

The work is structured in eight sections, originally accompanying a choreographic action focused on different scenes in the life of a young couple in the Pennsylvania hills at the beginning of the 19th century. The seventh section—one of the highlights of the work—consists of five variations on a song known as “Simple gifts”, written by Joseph Brackett, a member of a Shaker community in Maine during the 19th century.  It is perhaps partly for its use of such willfully unassuming material, that Appalachian Springs has become an enduring symbol of Americana.

Berio’s Folk Songs was composed in 1964 on a commission by Mills College. Although the composer would eventually write a version for full orchestra in 1973, the version to be performed during the upcoming concert is the original for chamber ensemble. The work was written for Cathy Berberian, an extremely versatile American soprano with whom the composer had a prolonged professional and personal relationship. They were, in fact, married for 14 years, and their collaboration resulted in some of the most important vocal works of the second half of the 20th century, such as Sequenza III, Recital I (for Cathy), Thema (Omaggio a Joyce), Circles and Epiphanie, in addition to the piece we are discussing.

(Luciano Berio)

As we’ve mentioned above, in Folk Songs—possibly one of Berio’s best known works, together with the voices and orchestra piece Sinfoniathe composer makes use of a characteristic strategy: the recontextualization of pre-existing music. In this case, Berio selected European and American popular melodies from clearly defined musical cultures and built a subtle and imaginative orchestration supporting them. However, contrary to the title of the work, not all the songs Berio used are folkloric in a strict sense: the melodies of the first two—”Black is the colour of my true love’s hair” and “I wonder as I wander”were composed by John Jacob Niles, and Berio himself wrote the sixth and seventh songs—”La donna ideale” and “Ballo”—while he was a student at the Milan conservatory. The seven remaining songs do belong to the folklore of Armenia, France, Sicily, Sardinia and Azerbaijan. 

The event is not to be missed, as it will surely offer exciting performances of these admired works.

General Public: $15 plus $2 fee online at Ticketfly (up to 90 minutes prior to concert time) $15 plus $4 fee by phone at 877-987-6487 (Ticketfly) $19 in person at UB's Center for the Arts (Tue-Fri, 12pm-6pm) $22 in person at the door (one hour before concert time) Seniors/UB fac, staff, alumni/non-UB students: $10 plus $2 fee online at Ticketfly (up to 90 minutes prior to concert time) $10 plus $4 fee by phone at 877-987-6487 (Ticketfly) $14 in person at UB's Center for the Arts (Tue-Fri, 12pm-6pm) $17 in person at the door (one hour before concert time) All UB students with a valid ID will receive one complimentary ticket to all UB Music Department events.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Center for 21st Century Music announces its 2018-2019 Season!

Take a quick look at our 2018-2019 Season, details below!

The Robert & Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music
Calendar of Events

Slee Sinfonietta

September 12, 2018
7:30 pm in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall
Case Scaglione, Conductor
Luciano Berio – Folk Songs
Aaron Copland – Appalachian Spring

October 15, 2018
7:30 pm in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall
The Slee Sinfonietta presents Ensemble Signal
Brad Lubman, Conductor

Oliver Knussen – Sonya’s Lullaby
Oliver Knussen – Hums and Songs of Winnie the Pooh
Elliott Carter – Triple Duo

– Intermission –  

Oliver Knussen – Secret Psalm
Toru Takemitsu – Rain Tree Sketch II
Oliver Knussen – Songs without Voices

Visiting Ensemble Series

November 6, 2018
UB Graduate Composer Workshop

November 7, 2018
7:30 pm in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall
Program to feature the music of Samuel Andreyev, others

April 23, 2019
7:30 pm in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall
Music by Cassidy, Lim, and Barrett

April 24, 2019
ELISION Ensemble
UB Graduate Composer Workshop

May 7/8 TBA, 2019
UB Graduate Composer Workshop

May 9, 2019
7:30 pm in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall
Composer Portrait: David Felder
The Arditti String Quartet performs Third Face, Stuck-stücke, and Netivot
Violin Soloist Irvine Arditti joins Ensemble Signal for David Felder’s Violin Concerto Jeu de Tarot

(ELISION ensemble)

Visiting Composer Series

Olivier Pasquet, composer, music producer, and visual artist
Berlin, Germany
Fall 2018

Aaron Holloway-Nahum, composer, conductor, and sound engineer
London, UK
March 2019

Paris, France
May 3, 2019

(Stefano Gervasoni)

Co-Sponsored Events

A Musical Feast at the Burchfield Penney

Composers’ Workshop Band
February – May 2019
Final concert date TBA

June in Buffalo

June 3 – 9, 2019
David Felder, Artistic Director

Senior Composers:
Other, TBA

Resident Ensembles:

Special Guest:
(Ensemble Dal Niente)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Celebrating 12 Years at the Center

After 12 years of existence, the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music has progressed from strength to strength. The Center is the support system for contemporary music at the University at Buffalo, providing financial, technical, and administrative support for the June in Buffalo Festival, Slee Sinfonietta, visiting composers, visiting contemporary music ensembles, and more.

Edge of the Center recently sat down with the Center’s artistic director, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition David Felder, to reflect on the institution’s history. Founded in 2006, the Center for 21st Century Music was the culmination of two decades of behind the scenes administrative efforts on Felder’s part. Professor Felder took the first step towards the creation of the Center by reviving the then defunct June in Buffalo Festival, upon joining the music department’s faculty in 1985. In doing so, he also significantly transformed the festival’s format through the addition of opportunities for young composers to have their music played by professional performers. Moreover, this model of how to run a music festival would ultimately have a crucial influence on the wider contemporary music world; developed a few years earlier through Felder’s creation of the Summer Composer Institute at California State University-Long Beach, the model would later be replicated by dozens of music festivals worldwide.

Guest ensemble Signal performs David Felder's Tweener
The second step came in 1995, when Felder, as chair of the music department, created the Slee Sinfonietta, a chamber ensemble consisting of music performance faculty, advanced students, and professionals devoted to the performance of neglected and underrepresented repertoire of the present and past. The ensemble’s regular programming, collaborations with guest artists, recordings, and tours have contributed significantly to the department’s local, national, and international visibility. Given the difficulties of funding a chamber ensemble, the Sinfonietta was fortunate Robert and Carol Morris stepped up as donors in 1996 with substantial funds to support the ensemble’s performances.

The Morrises would later go on to become central donors to the Center for 21st Century Music following its creation in 2006. The Center’s creation with support from the College of Arts and Sciences established a robust support system for contemporary music at the university enabling the significant expansion of a guest artist series, inviting leading composers, soloists, and ensembles to share their talent and expertise not only with students and faculty in the music department but also with the general public of Western New York, enriching local culture.

Guest ensemble Signal performs David Felder's concert-length
Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux
Other components of the Center’s programming were also augmented correspondingly. The Slee Sinfonietta was able to present ambitious projects the likes of which are rarely realized outside of large coastal cities, such as the Slee Sinfonietta’s performance of large-scale modern chamber orchestra masterpieces like Pierre Boulez’s Pli selon Pli and Gyorgy Ligeti’s Piano Concerto, as well as regular appearances by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at June in Buffalo, in concerts devoted solely to music by living composers. These programming successes led to notice from national press outlets, such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

The Center’s financial support system also led to less overt but equally consequential improvements in the university’s infrastructure for contemporary art music. Equipment upgrades, for instance to the projection system in Baird Hall, including the addition of high quality surround sound, ultimately benefitted all students and faculty of the music department by improving the presentation of media featured in lectures, concerts, and classes. Purchase of new equipment, such as an eight-channel rig of Meyers speakers, mixing consoles, microphones, and so forth, supported first-rate realizations of cutting edge works involving technology. The Center’s funds also led to the creation of stable professional development funding for advanced students in composition and performance, such as the Enhancement Awards for PhD students, which supported travel to and attendance at prestigious national and international festivals, culminating in the creation of exchange partnerships with the Abbaye de Royaumont’s “Voix Nouvelles” (New Voices) Course for Young Composers in France as well as a partnership in development with the Norwegian Academy of Music. In these activities, the Center functions as catalyst for creativity and connection, providing a support system for innovative creative endeavors while facilitating the dissemination of content locally, nationally, and internationally.

The Center's artistic director, David Felder
As the Center’s outputs involves a broad spectrum of people, its continued support has likewise depended upon the generosity and hard work of numerous individuals. Felder says, “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to past Deans of the College of Arts and Sciences, Uday Sukhatme, Bruce McCombe, Bruce Pitman, to present Dean Robin Schulze, for their support of the Center’s activities. I’d also like to thank President (and previously Provost) Satish K. Tripathi, and Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Charles F. Zukoski, whose support has been crucial to the Center’s thriving. Professor Felder notes that, in addition to university administrators, donors have played a crucial role in establishing and sustaining the Center. “I immensely value the friendship and generosity of Robert and Carol Morris,  and Brian Baird of the Cameron Baird Foundation, for their continuing support, and extend gratitude to long time funders of June in Buffalo such as the Copland Fund, the Ditson Fund, and the Amphion Foundation."

Behind the scenes, numerous music department staff have played important roles in the Center’s logistics, often behind the scenes: Dusti Dean (Assistant to the Chair) has mastered and managed the complex financial requirements inherent in administering the Center’s funds, while Christopher Jacobs (music technology director) has assisted in the realization of numerous works with complex audio technology requirements. Phil Rehard (Slee Hall concert manager) has provided essential assistance with concert production, while Devin Zimmer (piano technician) has brought great expertise and dedication to keyboard instrument maintenance.

J.T. Rinker, the Center’s first managing director, stepped down from this role in summer 2017. A composition PhD graduate of UB, J.T. oversaw the implementation of the Center’s projects, including everything from realizing complex live electronic set-ups, to all of the smallest tasks required to produce literally thousands of events dating back nearly two decades. “It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to J.T., and we wish him the very best,” says Felder.

Robert Phillips succeeds Rinker as managing director. Phillips also holds a composition PhD from UB; since completing his degree in 2012 he has been selected for competitive fellowships and residencies at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stiftung Künstlerdorf Schöppingen, and PACT Zollverein. The Center welcomes Robert on board as it continues to build on its record of substantive programming. When asked about his current activities at the Center, Robert remarked, “Of course there’s lots to do with all of the June in Buffalo applications rolling in, and plans are underway for the 35th anniversary of June in Buffalo in 2020!”