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!”


Sunday, May 27, 2018

Irvine Arditti: Reimagining String Instruments



The Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to welcome star new music violinist Irvine Arditti back to the June in Buffalo festival. It is difficult to overstate Arditti’s importance in the new music world: he has played a leading role as advocate for the creation of new works for string instruments. Between his activities as violin soloist and his role in founding (in 1974) and leading the Arditti Quartet, he is responsible for commissioning, premiering, and recording countless important works.

Numerous important violin solos and concerti have been written for Arditti, who has appeared as soloist with distinguished orchestras and ensembles such as the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, BBC Symphony, Berlin Radio Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw, Munich Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Paris, Philharmonia Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, Asko Ensemble, London Sinfonietta, and the Nieuw Ensemble. As leader of the Arditti Quartet, he has received additional accolades. The quartet’s recordings (over 200 albums to date) have received multiple Gramophone (“Grammy”) Awards and Deutsche Schallplattenpreisen, and a Coup de Coeur Prize and Grand Prix from the Academie Charles Cros in 2004; the group has played at most major new music festivals worldwide, and is the only ensemble to receive the Ernst von Siemens Prize for lifetime achievement.

Irvine Arditti at June in Buffalo 2015
Arditti has played a crucial role in reviving composers’ interest in string instruments. In the decades after WWII, interest in strings and in particular the string quartet waned, due in part because of their (negatively perceived) associations with “high” Western culture. This medium may have become obsolete were it not for the advocacy of the Ardittis—alongside the contemporaneous LaSalle, Berner, and Kronos Quartets—in encouraging living composers to write for the medium. Today, the string quartet medium is alive and well, with a vibrant scene of younger string quartets (including June in Buffalo resident ensemble MIVOS Quartet) and an ever-growing and accomplished repertoire of works by living composers of a wide range of aesthetic persuasions.

Irvine Arditti and the Arditti Quartet have long been closely connected to UB and the Center for 21st Century Music. The Center’s artistic director, SUNY Distinguished Professor David Felder, wrote all three of his string quartets for the group (the first one dates from 1987-88), who went on to play them at prominent new music festivals worldwide. His latest string quartet, Netivot, written for both the Arditti and JACK Quartets, was premiered by the Ardittis at June in Buffalo 2016. Thanks to the Center’s support, both Irvine Arditti and his quartet have been able to visit June in Buffalo with greatly increased frequency—the quartet was resident ensemble in 2007, 2010, and 2016, while Arditti was guest soloist in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017.


At this year’s festival, Irvine Arditti will perform a solo recital of works by senior faculty Roger Reynolds, Hilda Paredes, and Hans Thomalla—all of them long-time Arditti collaborators—on Thursday, June 7 at 7:30pm in Baird Recital Hall. The recital also includes a work by the late Portugese composer Emmanuel Nunes. The following Saturday, June 9, at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Arditti joins Signal Ensemble to give the second full performance of Center artistic director David Felder’s violin concerto Jeu de Tarot which he premiered at the Center in November with Ensemble Linea.



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

David Felder: Sustaining Cultural Ecosystems



As the final post of our series introducing senior composers featured at this year’s June in Buffalo festival, we introduce the festival’s artistic director David Felder, who is also SUNY Distinguished Professor, Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition, and artistic director of the Center for 21st Century Music at the University at Buffalo. Felder revived the then-defunct festival in 1986, and has continued as its director ever since. It is no small accomplishment to keep an arts institution running for decades, and it is due in large part to Felder’s tireless (and often under-recognized) work that the festival not only continues but flourishes today. Active on multiple fronts—composition, pedagogy, arts administration, and curation—Felder has been able make uniquely impactful contributions to the field of contemporary art music. Through June in Buffalo alone, he has opened up countless opportunities for composers and performers—both student and professional—as well as enriched Western New York’s cultural ecosystem. The composer will present his own perspective on these activities in a public lecture on Monday, June 4 at 10am in Baird Hall.

This year’s festival features performances of three Felder works, ranging from early to recent. On Tuesday, June 5 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, the MIVOS Quartet will perform Third Face, Felder’s first string quartet (1987-88). The piece has been performed by the Arditti Quartet at a number of significant European new music festivals and was subsequently praised by Andrew Porter of the The New Yorker: “After further hearings of it I admire it even more. It is lucid, but with a controlled wildness in its making.” The work’s title originates in Kobo Abe’s novel The Face of Another, wherein “the main character is a chemist/teacher whose face horribly disfigured when an experiment explodes. He is fitted with a ‘neutral’ mask and given the opportunity to select new features that will be accomplished through plastic surgery.” Felder “borrowed only the rough scenario” as a metaphor guiding the concatenation of melodic fragments into phrases.

On Saturday, June 9 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Signal Ensemble will give the second full performance of Felder’s new work Jeu de Tarot, a violin concerto featuring star new music violin soloist Irvine Arditti. The work was premiered last November by Ensemble Linea—who commissioned the work—during their residency at the Center. Arditti played the solo part in this performance as well, and the solo part was in fact composed in direct collaboration with the violinist. Felder says “I’d like to express my extreme gratitude to Irvine Arditti, who generously took time out of his hectic touring schedule to work closely with me while I composed this work.” The work’s title references the Tarot deck, and each of the work’s seven movements takes its title from a particular major arcanum of the Tarot deck. Each movement explores a “scene suggested by the rich symbology of the images upon the cards,” including images by Hieronymous Bosch and William Blake as well as the textual speculations of P.D. Ouspensky in his remarkable publication “A New Model of the Universe.”

William Blake, Tarot images
Finally, on Sunday, June 10 at 2:30pm in Slee Hall, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra presents a concert consisting entirely of music by living composers. The concert includes two movements from Felder’s Six Poems from Neruda’s “Alturas…”, based on the poetry of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The work has the distinction of being the only American orchestral composition selected by the international jury of the International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM) in 1994 for performance at its festival in Sweden that year. It is fitting that the Buffalo Philharmonic will perform this piece, given that they premiered it in 1992, after New York State Council on the Arts commissioned the piece. The quality of the piece led Mode Records to release it on disc; the liner notes describe how

Like Neruda's cycle of twelve poems on which it is based, the music weaves together images and themes such as reverence for nature, cyclical aspects of regeneration, irresistible death and its accompanying transience of the individual against a background of the collective vastness of time. This is accompanied by a strong sense of individual isolation and alienation and a powerful feeling of loss and longing for a discovery of a greater identity.

June in Buffalo 2018 Announces Participant Composers


The June in Buffalo Festival is delighted to announce 23 accomplished emerging composers selected from a distinguished pool of applicants from four continents to participate in this year's festival. Their names are below, listed with information about their piece featured at the festival. 

Mathew Arrellin (Northwestern University): Cacodemonic for string quartet

Josiah Catalan (University of California Davis): Mirages for fl, vla, vc, perc

Kai-Young Chan (Chinese University of Hong Kong): Shimmers in the Shivery Moon for fl, cl, vn, vc, pf

Weijun Chen (University at Buffalo): Watercolors for fl/pic, ob/eh, cl/bcl, bsn, hn, timp, 2 perc, hp, pf, 2 vn, va, vc, db

Yi-Hsien Chen (University of California San Diego): Breathing In Memory for string quartet

William David Cooper (University of California Davis): Epilogue for fl, cl, ob, hn, tpt, trb, hp, pf, perc, 2vn, va, vc, cb

Nathan Courtright (University of Pennsylvania): No. 305 for string quartet

Flannery Cunningham (University of Pennsylvania): We are the same as we have always been for cl, electronics

Sean Doyle (American University): regarding "Reconciliation Elegy" for vn

Kyle Puebla Dubin (New York University): Under the Glacier for string quartet

Dylan Findley (University of Missouri Kansas City): Mind of Energy for bs cl, marimba

Yotam Haber (University of New Orleans): estro poetico armonico II for afl, bcl, vn, vc, pf

Angel Hernandez-Camen (New England Conservatory): Apanahuiayan for pf

Kyle Johnson (University of California San Diego): String Quartet 

Seoung Ae Kim (Stonybrook University (SUNY)):  #metoo for bs cl, perc

Su Lee (University at Buffalo): Nachruf für Nr. 503 for pf, hpschd, perc, org

Clay Mettens (University of Chicago): Without Air for fl db pic, va, vc, hp, perc

Ioannis Mitsialis  (University of California San Diego): Saturn for fl/pic, cl/bcl, trb, perc, pf, vn, vc 

Fernando Munizaga (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris): Ondas Primarias for fl, cl, perc, pf, hp, cb

Alon Nechushtan (New England Conservatory): Three Places in New York for fl, cl, ob, bsn, hn, tpt, trb, hp, pf, perc, 2 vn, va, vc, cb

Kurt Nelson (Temple University): strttura assente for vn, va, vc

Reilly Spitzfaden (Eastman School of Music): Touch for vla solo
  
Kezia Yap (University of Sydney): a structure of silences: an exploration of (*) (ma) for afl, electronics

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hans Thomalla: Critical Engagements with History



The Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to welcome Hans Thomalla as senior composer at this year’s June in Buffalo festival. Currently Associate Professor of Composition at Northwestern University, he also founded and directs the university’s Institute for New Music, Northwestern’s counterpart to UB’s Center for 21st Century Music. Thomalla’s work has been widely performed in North America, Europe, and beyond, by ensembles Ensemble Recherche, the Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Modern, Musikfabrik, Ensemble Dal Niente, Ensemble Ascolta, Spektral Quartet, and Trio Accanto, and soloists Nicolas Hodges, Lucas Fels, Marcus Weiss, Sarah-Maria Sun, and Yukiko Sugawara. Awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung Composer Prize, the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis, the Christoph-Delz-Prize, and a fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Remarkably for a mid-career composer, two of his operas have been produced in high profile settings: Fremd at the main stage of the Stuttgart Opera in 2011, Kaspar Hauser at the Freiburg Opera in 2016; a third opera Dark Spring will be produced by the Mannheim Opera in Spring 2019.


While Thomalla is highly regarded as a composer, he is also in demand as a lecturer, writer, and pedagogue. Thomalla’s invitation to this year’s festival follows his guest artist residency at the Center in spring 2017, where he gave a masterclass to graduate students as well as a particularly well-received talk on how his compositions converse with historical musical conventions. Additional teaching and lecturing, for instance, at the Darmstadt Summer Courses and the SWR Experimentalstudio’s MATRIX course, has also been highly regarded.

At this year’s June in Buffalo festival, he will give a public lecture on his work on Tuesday, June 5, at 10am in Baird Hall, as well as multiple masterclasses to the festival’s participant composers. Thomalla’s discourse about music is an unusually sophisticated one, informed not only by a knowledge of musical histories, but also by knowledge of non-musical fields like philosophy, cultural theory, and semiotics; these diverse knowledges are then synthesized into a highly original critical perspective on music making. The composer has posted numerous texts on his website; the recent “Traces of Meaning” makes a particularly consequential intervention in discussions about text-music relationships in recent opera.

This year’s festival features performances of three Thomalla works, including a relatively new one. Chamber music is perhaps the core of his work, and Buffalo audiences are fortunate to have opportunities to hear two of the composer’s challenging chamber works. On Tuesday, June 5 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, the MIVOS Quartet performs Albumblatt, Thomalla’s deconstruction of the “album leaf,” the diaristic 19th-century music genre. On Friday, June 8 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Ensemble Mise-En presents the commposer’s Momentsmusicaux for mixed chamber ensemble, a work that negotiates between aesthetic extremes of 19th century Western art music: the technocratic aesthetics of Theobald Boehm and the lyric aesthetics of Johannes Brahms, each embodied in fragments sampled to generate the music’s surface.

The festival will also present a performance of a relatively new Thomalla work—Air for solo violin, performed by violin soloist extraordinaire and long-term Thomalla collaborator Irvine Arditti. This piece is the latest in the composer’s increasingly concrete, and yet critical, engagement with the materials of historical tonality. Thomalla writes that in recent years he has become

…more and more interested in the formal possibilities of tonality. Less because of what I increasingly experienced as a staleness of a certain “jargon of New Music,” but rather for my personal rediscovery of tonality’s syntactic semantic potential, a discovery I made through a re-engagement with music of composers such as Eisler and Sondheim. It is less the “development music” tonality of the classic romantic period, but that of song…its melodies hardly ever consolidate in tonal cadences, but are characterized by a tonality of constant modulatory drift.



Monday, May 14, 2018

Roger Reynolds: Pioneering Composer Returns to UB



June in Buffalo is delighted to welcome back Roger Reynolds, University Professor at the University of California-San Diego. Reynolds is a major figure in American music, having pioneered numerous possibilities now embraced widely within contemporary art music: sound spatialization, intermedia, algorithms, live electronics, graphic notation, new approaches to music and text, and more. For this, his work has been widely recognized, for instance with a Pulitzer Prize and commissions from the Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, BBC, and National Symphony Orchestras, and the UK Arts Council, French Ministry of Culture, IRCAM, and the Fromm, Rockefeller, and Koussevitzky Foundations. Also highly respected as a pedagogue, Reynolds’s students include Center for 21st Century Music artistic director David Felder, as well as other composers in top faculty positions across the US, at Harvard (Chaya Czernowin), University of Michigan (Michael Daugherty), University of Florida (Paul Koonce), and University of North Texas (Andrew May).


Reynolds has a long-standing relationship with UB and the Center for 21st Century Music. Reynolds has appeared regularly senior composer at June in Buffalo since the mid-1980s, acting as mentor to participant composers and working with resident ensembles on performances of his music. In addition to numerous appearances in the 1990s and early 2000s, Reynolds has appeared at the Center four times since its 2006 creation. In addition to a visit on the Center’s guest artist series in 2014, Reynolds has been invited as senior composer at June in Buffalo in 2007, 2010, and 2015. During these festivals, June in Buffalo has been able to present a wide cross section of his work: violin soloist extraordinaire Irvine Arditti presented solo violin works, while the Arditti Quartet (led by Irvine Arditti himself) performed works for string quartet, UB Piano Professor Eric Huebner interpreted Reynold’s Piano Etudes, Book I, and the percussion ensemble red fish blue fish realized the composer’s ambitious Sanctuary for percussion and live electronics. Significantly, all of these performers are long-term collaborators with Reynolds—Irvine Arditti and the Arditti Quartet for decades—resulting in ideal performance circumstances for this challenging work.

This year’s festival presents a similarly wide range of Reynolds works. Irvine Arditti returns to this year’s festival to perform Shifting/Drifting, a work for solo violin and real time algorithmic transformation. The work will be performed on Thursday, June 7 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, with technical assistance from another regular Reynolds collaborator, electronic musician Paul Hembree.
The festival is also delighted to be facilitating collaborations between Reynolds and ensembles who are newer to his work. On Friday, June 8 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Ensemble Mise-En will perform Shadowed Narrative for clarinet, piano, violin, and cello, and Signal Ensemble will present Positings for flute, horn, violin, cello, piano, and real time sound spatialization.


In addition to performances of his music, Reynolds will also give a public talk, on Wednesday June 6 at 10am in Baird Hall. Reynolds is renowned for his writing and his lecture curation, so the talk will undoubtedly provide unique insight into the creative process driving his decades-long career.



Monday, May 7, 2018

Hilda Paredes: Strings of Destiny



The Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to announce that Hilda Paredes will be returning to June in Buffalo as a senior composer. One of the leading Latin American composers of her generation, her music has received awards from the Arts Council of Great Britain, Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, and the Sistema Nacional de Creadores (FONCA) in Mexico, performances by Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Aventure, Ensemble Court Circuit, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Recherche, Ensemble Signal, London Sinfonietta, Lontano, The New Julliard Ensemble, Neue Vocalsolisten, L’Instant Donné, and English National Opera, at festivals such as Huddersfield, Edinburgh, Eclat, Ultraschall, Musica, Wien Modern, Akiyoshidai, Takefu, Archipel, De Ijsbreker, Warsaw Autumn, Ultima, Melbourne, Ars Musica Festival de Alicante, and Festival Internacional Cervantino. She has held teaching positions at Manchester University, University of San Diego California, Centre Acanthes, Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya, and Mills College (as the prestigious Darius Milhaud Visiting Professor).

Paredes’s upcoming visit to the Center is not the first. Her music and pedagogy has been met with high praise on previous visits: at June in Buffalo in 2011 and 2014, and as a guest on the Center’s visiting artist series in 2017. Her past appearances included a performance of her violin concerto Señales by Irvine Arditti (violin soloist) and Signal Ensemble—for whom the piece was written—as well as additional performances of her work by Norrbotten NEO and the Center’s own Slee Sinfonietta. With this programming, the Center not only supports the growth of existing collaborative relationships—for instance between Paredes, Arditti, and Signal—but also facilitates the formation of new partnerships—as with Norrbotten NEO and the Slee Sinfonietta’s performances of Paredes’s music; together, these opportunities contribute to the health of broader artistic ecosystems.

This year’s festival will present a total of four Paredes works for soloists and chamber ensembles, in addition to a public lecture (Friday, June 8 at 10am in Baird Hall) by the composer. This year’s festival will perform a total of four Paredes works for soloists and chamber ensembles. Each work will be performed by a different ensemble, providing a unique way to learn about different ensembles’ approaches to performing music by the same composer. Beginning on Tuesday, June 5 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, the MIVOS Quartet will perform Cuerdas del Destino, the composer’s second string quartet. As the title implies, “the concept of consequence is the principle from which all materials develop by creating the direction, dramaturgy and structure of the work…The dramatic treatment of these three materials sets up the principles which will develop throughout the piece.”



Following this, on Thursday, June 7 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, Irvine Arditti will perform In Memoriam Thomas Kakuska, a violin solo commemorating the composer’s close friend, the violist of the Alban Berg Quartet, while another solo piece, Chaczidzib for solo piccolo (pictured above), will be performed by Signal Ensemble on Saturday, June 9 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall. Ensemble Mise-En features Siphonophorae for mixed chamber ensemble on their concert, on Friday, June 8 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall. In this work, according to the composer, “I allowed myself to go through a process of discovery, which led me to find contrasting shapes and ideas, but always following a thread that unites them.”


Monday, April 30, 2018

Louis Karchin: Fearless Eloquence



The Center for 21st Century Music is pleased to welcome Louis Karchin as senior composer at this year’s upcoming June in Buffalo festival. Currently Professor of Music at New York University, Karchin has received many of the most prestigious awards and commissions available to an American composer: the Koussevitzky, Fromm and Barlow Foundation Commissions, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and three awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Praised by the New Yorker for his music’s “fearless eloquence,” his work has been presented by many of the most recognized classical music institutions in America: with performances at Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Fort Worth Opera, the Center for Contemporary Opera, Tanglewood, the Guggenheim Museum, the Louisville Orchestra, the Group for Contemporary Music, the Da Capo Chamber Players, and the New York New Music Ensemble, and recordings on Bridge, Naxos, New World, Albany and CRI labels. In any era when few new works are published, his music has been published by both C. F. Peters Corporation and the American Composers Alliance.

As senior composer, Karchin will collaborate with resident ensembles on performances of his work, meet with participant composers in masterclasses, and give a public lecture on his work (Thursday, June 7 at 10am in Baird Hall). The Slee Sinfonietta will present two of his vocal works on Monday, June 4 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall. The Sinfonietta will perform Gods of Winter for voice, flute, clarinet, horn, two violins, cello and percussion. Featuring the poetry of Dana Gioia, Karchin writes that the piece

[Stems] from personal tragedy and loss…the poems are somber and stark. The first song is introductory in nature. The second, preceded by a long, ruminative prologue is the more intense expression, with suggestions of tumultuous motion and restlessness. The mood finally disperses in favor of the music of the opening, but no the voice is added where there were only instruments previously. The ending seeks to fuse vocal and instrumental colors in a stately epilogue.

The vocal soloist will be Thomas Meglioranza, an “immaculate and inventive recitalist” (The New Yorker) who has previously appeared with the National Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, MET Chamber Ensemble, Houston Symphony, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and Les Violons du Roy, and at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival.

The same concert will also feature Karchin’s Four Songs on Poems of Seamus Heaney for voice, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion, with UB voice faculty Tiffany DuMouchelle as soloist. Karchin assembled the four poems himself, writing that

although [the poems] are not ostensibly related to each other, in my mind, I constructed a scenario linking them. …I related the various songs to the growth and development of an imagined ancient town by the sea.

The festival will also feature a purely instrumental Karchin work. On Friday, June 9, in 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Ensemble Mise-En presents the local premiere of Karchin’s As the circle opens to infinity…, for flute, clarinet, trombone, percussion, piano, violin, and cello, a work written for and premiered by Mise-En earlier this year.


Monday, April 23, 2018

John Harbison: Distinguished Composer Returns to UB



The Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to welcome John Harbison as senior composer at the upcoming June in Buffalo festival. Currently Institute Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harbison has achieved a level of visibility and institutional recognition rare for a living composer. He has received a MacArthur Fellowship, a Pulitzer Prize, and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among the highest honors available to an American artist. The composer has also written for the most hallowed institutions in American art music: the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. His recent opera The Great Gatsby has been staged at the Metropolitan Opera, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Aspen Music Festival, and the Semperoper Dresden. Harbison has also held composer-in-residence positions with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the American Academy in Rome. Also active in service to the field behind the scenes, the composer is trustee of the American Academy in Rome, and was President of the Aaron Copland Fund for New Music for fifteen years.

After an acclaimed appearance at June in Buffalo in 2007, Harbison returns this year to collaborate with resident ensembles on performances of his compositions, lecture on his music, and mentor participant composers. Harbison will lecture on his works at 10am on Saturday, June 9 in Baird Hall, and four of his pieces will be featured during the week-long festival.

On Monday, June 4, at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, the Center’s own Slee Sinfonietta will perform Harbison’s Mirabai Songs, settings of the ecstatic religious poetry of the eponymous sixteenth century Indian poet, with UB voice faculty Tiffany DuMouchelle as featured soloist. On the following day at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, the MIVOS Quartet performs the prolific composer’s String Quartet no. 6, originally commissioned by an impressively prestigious consortium of the Lark, Ariel, and Telegraph Quartets, and the Tanglewood Music Center.

This year’s festival also features a rare chance to hear a full concert of orchestral works by living composers, performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. The concert includes two pieces by Harbison: Darkbloom: Overture for an Imagined Opera, and Remembering Gatsby (Foxtrot for Orchestra). Darkbloom was created from the remnants of an abandoned opera project. The composer writes that “I am as reluctant as any artist to part with good material…I am very fortunate to be able to collect up strands of the music in this overture.” The title derives from the name Vivian Darkbloom, “a secondary character in a famous and infamous American novel.” Harbison explains that “I borrowed Darkbloom as a title because it effectively conjures up the mood of this overture. It serves as an emblem or anagram for the complex tragicomic spirit of the story and its author.”

Remembering Gatsby references the foxtrot, a dance that reached its height of popularity during the 1930s. Like Darkbloom, this work also derives from an abandoned opera project, in this case based on (onetime Buffalo resident) F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. The composer explains how the work portrays the novel’s scenes:

The piece…begins with a cantabile passage for full orchestra, a representation of Gatsby's vision of the green light on Daisy's dock. Then the foxtrot begins, first with a kind of call to order, then a [1920s] tune I had written for one of the party scenes, played by a concertino led by a soprano saxophone. The tune is then varied and broken into its components, leading to an altered reprise of the call to order, and an intensification of the original cantabile…A brief coda combines some of the motives, and refers fleetingly to the telephone bell and the automobile horns, instruments of Gatsby's fate.




Monday, April 16, 2018

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Returns to June in Buffalo



Next in our profiles of resident ensembles at this year’s June in Buffalo we profile the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, who continues its annual appearance at the festival with a concert on June 10. The ongoing partnership between the Center for 21st Century Music and the Orchestra is one of a number of collaborations with local organizations—others include A Musical Feast, The Burchfield Penney Art Center, and Pausa Art House—which strengthen the local arts ecosystem. Partnerships like these encourage closer interaction between arts organizations, maximize the impact of involved organizations’ resources, and boost visibility and attendance. The Center’s partnerships are not exclusively local, however; in fact, a recent post of this publication discussed the Center’s extensive international partnerships.

This year, the orchestra presents three works by senior composers featured at the festival. It is a rare occurrence for an orchestra to perform a program consisting solely of works by living composers; in doing so, the Center and Orchestra have made a significant contribution to Western New York’s cultural scene. The concert features two works by senior composer John Harbison: Darkbloom: Overture for an Imagined Opera, and Remembering Gatsby (Foxtrot for Orchestra). Darkbloom was created from the remnants of an abandoned opera project. The composer writes that “I am as reluctant as any artist to part with good material…I am very fortunate to be able to collect up strands of the music in this overture.” The title derives from the name Vivian Darkbloom, “a secondary character in a famous and infamous American novel.” Harbison explains that “I borrowed Darkbloom as a title because it effectively conjures up the mood of this overture. It serves as an emblem or anagram for the complex tragicomic spirit of the story and its author.”

Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at JiB 2015
Remembering Gatsby was composed for the Atlanta Symphony, one of a large number of works commissioned by major musical institutions, including the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The work references the foxtrot, a dance that reached its height of popularity during the 1930s. Like Darkbloom, this work also derives from an abandoned opera project, in this case based on (onetime Buffalo resident) F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby. The composer explains how the work portrays the novel’s scenes:

The piece…begins with a cantabile passage for full orchestra, a representation of Gatsby's vision of the green light on Daisy's dock. Then the foxtrot begins, first with a kind of call to order, then a [1920s] tune I had written for one of the party scenes, played by a concertino led by a soprano saxophone. The tune is then varied and broken into its components, leading to an altered reprise of the call to order, and an intensification of the original cantabile…A brief coda combines some of the motives, and refers fleetingly to the telephone bell and the automobile horns, instruments of Gatsby's fate.

Harbison explains how the piece emerged from unlikely circumstances of his biography: “My father, eventually a Reformation historian, was a young show-tune composer in the twenties, and this piece may also have been a chance to see him in his tuxedo again.”

The concert also features two movements from Center artistic director David Felder’s Six Poems from Neruda’s “Alturas…”, based on the poetry of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. It is fitting that the Buffalo Philharmonic will perform this piece, given that New York State Council on the Arts commissioned it for the Orchestra, who premiered it in 1992.

The work, a sample of whose score is available online, has the additional distinction of being the only American orchestral composition selected by the international jury of the International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM) in 1994, leading to its performance in Sweden. The quality of the piece lead Mode Records to release it on disc; the liner notes explore the nature of this music’s unique poetry:

Like Neruda's cycle of twelve poems on which it is based, the music weaves together images and themes such as reverence for nature, cyclical aspects of regeneration, irresistible death and its accompanying transience of the individual against a background of the collective vastness of time. This is accompanied by a strong sense of individual isolation and alienation and a powerful feeling of loss and longing for a discovery of a greater identity.






Monday, April 9, 2018

Ensemble Signal: New Music Dream Team



In this post, we continue our portraits of resident ensembles featured at this year’s June in Buffalo with Ensemble Signal. A chamber ensemble of flexible instrumentation, the group was founded in 2008. A “new music dream team” (Time Out New York) of new music specialists, many of them highly regarded soloists in their own right, the group has rapidly ascended through the ranks of the new music world to appear at prestigious venues such as the Lincoln Center Festival, BIG EARS Festival, Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall, Tanglewood Music Festival of Contemporary Music, Ojai Music Festival, Miller Theatre, (le) Poisson Rouge, Cleveland Museum of Art, the Wordless Music Series, and the Bang on a Can Marathon. Signal has collaborated with leading artists such as Steve Reich, Helmut Lachenmann, Irvine Arditti, Kristian Bezuidenhout, Michael Gordon, David Lang, Julia Wolfe, Oliver Knussen, Hilda Paredes, and Charles Wuorinen, and has recorded for Cantaloupe, Harmonia Mundi, Mode, Orange Mountain, and New Amsterdam Records.

Signal at JiB 2015
(performing Center artistic director David Felder's Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux)
The group’s sheer volume of activity is astonishing in and of itself: in only a decade, the group has performed over 150 concerts, co-produced nine recordings, and given numerous NY, national, and world premieres. Signal’s long term commitment to the field has not gone unnoticed, with the New York Times itself noting calling the group “one of the most vital groups of its kind.” The group’s intensity of activity is in part a function of its flexibility in size and instrumentation, encompassing “everything from solo to large contemporary ensemble in any possible combination.”

The Center for 21st Century Music has contributed to Signal’s success via its long-term partnership with the ensemble. The group has been a resident ensemble at June in Buffalo each year since 2010, and has also been invited to the Center for appearances on its visiting artist series during the academic year. The group’s flexibility has been an asset here, enabling occasional presentation of rarely presented extended works for large ensembles, such as Steve Reich’s Music for 18 Musicians (in 2017) Sextet and Double Sextet (2012), Center artistic director David Felder’s Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux (2015), and Louis Andriessen’s La Passione (2012). Most recently, the group appeared at the Center for another ambitious programming venture, a portrait concert of the demanding, detail-oriented music of acclaimed American composer Charles Wuorinen in late April.

At this year’s festival, Signal will present two concerts: one featuring works by participant composers, and another with works by senior composers: Hilda Paredes’s Chaczibzib for solo piccolo, Roger Reynold’s Positings for flute, horn, piano, violin, cello, and electronics, and David Felder’s Jeu de Tarot for violin and ensemble. At last year’s June in Buffalo, Signal gave a preview of select movements from Felder’s piece; Ensemble Linea premiered it during their November residency at the Center. In all of these performances, the guest violin soloist has been Irvine Arditti, who collaborated closely with David Felder in the creation of the solo violin part.

Signal has continually astounded Buffalo audiences with their high level of execution on even the most ambitious, demanding projects, so we greatly look forward to their return visit in June!



Monday, April 2, 2018

Ensemble Mise-En: Generative Partnerships



This week in our series of profiles on this year’s resident ensembles at June in Buffalo, we are delighted to introduce Ensemble Mise-En. The ensemble is a flexible NYC-based collective of young performers, founded in 2011, whose name originates from two Korean words—“‘mee ,’…means ‘beauty,’ and ‘zahn,’ ‘to decorate,’” and the name crystallizes the ensemble’s focus, as a “multi-national personnel…unabashedly promotes “beautiful” artwork to increasingly diverse audiences of contemporary sounds.” The ensemble has established itself with surprising speed, with performances at high profile venues like (le) poisson rouge, Bohemian National Hall, Italian Academy, Tenri Cultural Institute, a residency at the cell, and partnerships with Washington Square Contemporary Music Society, International Alliance for Women in Music, Austrian Cultural Forum New York, Open Meadows Foundation, New York University, New York Foundation for the Arts, I-Park, Goethe-Institute Boston, Villa Gillet (FR) and others.

The ensemble is remarkable in its commitment to emerging as well as established composers. The group runs a programming space in Brooklyn and produces an annual festival; both platforms take much of their content from open calls for proposals, eliminating barriers to access while at the same time ensuring accountability in quality. To find out more about the ensemble’s activities, have a look at their website, soundcloud page, and the ample documentation of their performances available on youtube.


Following a successful residency at the Center in March 2017, Ensemble Mise-En was invited as residenty ensemble to June in Buffalo 2018. As with many of the Center’s partnerships, the relationship with Mise-En is emerging to be a fundamentally collaborative, long-term one. The group’s visit to the Center in 2017 was not merely a one-off “gig,” but planted the seeds of deeper partnerships between the ensemble and the Center, including not only the ensemble’s appearance at June in Buffalo, but their performance of works by Center graduate student composers such as Meredith Gilna, Matt Sargent, Weijun Chen, and Su Lee. This approach in turn positions the guest ensemble not merely as a hired contractor but as a crucial collaborator, and, more importantly, advocate for the important work the Center is doing.

It is in this context that the ensemble appears at this year’s June in Buffalo festival, where they will present two concerts. The ensemble performs works by participant composers on Wednesday, June 6 at 7:30 in Baird Hall, and works by senior composers on Friday, June 8 at 7:30pm. In the latter concert, the ensemble will perform Hans Thomalla’s moments musicaux (for flute, clarinet, piano, viola, and cello), Louis Karchin’s As the Circle Opens to Infinity (for flute, clarinet, trombone, piano, percussion, violin, and cello), and Roger Reynolds’s Shadowed Narrative (for clarinet, piano, violin, and cello). All three works have distinctively extensive and thoroughly worked out formal structures—in the case of the Reynolds, a sequence of four contrasting movements. Center audiences may remember the Reynolds piece, played expertly by the Antares Quartet on their guest concert at the Center in 2012. Mise-En’s second concert will feature works by participant composers selected from the festival’s recent call for scores, which drew submissions from multiple continents.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Celebrating Charles Wuorinen at 80



The Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to present an 80th birthday concert for Charles Wuorinen on April 24. Under the auspices of the Center’s Slee Sinfonietta series, guest ensemble Signal will perform a rare full concert of Wuorinen’s work. For event details and ticket information, visit Slee Hall’s website.

Wuorinen is among the most recognized living composers worldwide. He has received many of the highest honors available to an American composer—a Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur and Guggenheim Fellowships, and membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters and American Academy of Arts and Sciences—while his works have been performed by many of the most respected American orchestras, with commissions for new works from the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and more. As an opera composer, Wuorinen has collaborated with noted literary figures Salman Rushdie and Anne Proulx, in works commissioned by the New York City Opera and Teatro Real Madrid, respectively.




Also active as a performer (conductor and piano), in 1962 he joined Harvey Sollberger, past June in Buffalo faculty member, to create and lead the noted Group for Contemporary Music in NYC. The group has been credited for raising standards across the board in contemporary music performance, and functioned as an important model for later contemporary music ensembles. In fact, UB’s own Creative Associates in the 1960s and 70s were funded by the Rockefeller Foundation’s project to create Group for Contemporary Music “spin off” ensembles; more recently, the Center’s flagship Slee Sinfonietta (founded in 1997 by the Center’s Artistic Director David Felder) continues to refine models of new music ensemble performance pioneered by these earlier ensembles.

Throughout his long career, Wuorinen has been a frequent guest at UB. He has served as faculty composer at numerous June in Buffalo festivals, from the early days of the Festival in the 1970s all the way through to recent years. In turn, the festival has functioned as an important outlet for Wuorinen’s work over the years, including large-scale works such as the complete Fenton Songs (performed by Ensemble Surplus in 2006), the orchestral Microsymphony (performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic in 2007), and the cantata It Happens Like This (performed by the Slee Sinfonietta in 2013). Building on this long-standing relationship, the State University of New York awarded Wuorinen an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York during the 2013 June in Buffalo Festival, where a ceremony was followed by a portrait concert.

Charles Wuorinen speaks at the ceremony at which he was awarded a SUNY honorary doctorate, with composer David Felder, University President Satish K. Tripathi, and SUNY Trustee Eunice Lewin on stage. Photo by Irene Haupt.
The Center’s upcoming 80th birthday concert features performances by Ensemble Signal of three Wuorinen works for instrumental soloist and large ensemble: Megalith (with piano soloist), Spin 5 (with violin soloist), and Iridule (with oboe soloist). Megalith will feature UB Associate Professor Eric Huebner as piano soloist, while the other works will feature highly regarded guest soloists: Olivia De Prato (violin)—known to Buffalo audiences for past appearances with Signal and the MIVOS Quartet, and Jacqueline Leclair (oboe)—known to Buffalo audiences for past appearances with Signal and the Slee Sinfonietta. Iridule was in fact written specifically for Leclair, and the composer has made audio of her performance available on his website here.