Monday, February 8, 2016

SIGNAL Ensemble featured in CAI Pilot Project


This week, UB's new Creative Arts Initiative launches the first of several pilot projects:  the residency of Ensemble SIGNAL, which will feature a masterclass, an open rehearsal, and a discussion on artistic entrepreneurship, all leading up to Performance in the Dark, a concert in the CFA Black Box Theater featuring works by Steve Reich and Georg Friedrich Haas.

The university-wide Creative Arts Initiative is "dedicated to the creation and production of new work upholding the highest artistic standards of excellence and fostering a complementary atmosphere of creative investigation and engagement among students, faculty, visiting artists, and the community."  Through a number of programs aimed at exposing UB students to the richness of the Buffalo arts community—including artist residencies and innovative interdisciplinary course offerings—the CAI will contribute to UB's Strategic Plan by "creating opportunities for creative interaction between visiting artists, students and faculty, and the Buffalo arts community."  "We feel a tremendous amount of energy in being able to create opportunities for people to interact with really high-level, excellent artists," says co-Director, David Felder, in the CAI's introductory video (see below), "We're talking about individuals and groups, companies as well as solo [artists]."


One of the ways the CAI will engage students is through direct interaction with visiting artists.  Ensemble Signal's residency is the first of many such engagements.  The residency will feature a number of exciting events, beginning on February 10th with "Rehearsing in the Real World," an open rehearsal at which students will be able to witness how the ensemble works together to prepare Georg Friedrich Haas's famous String Quartet no. 3.  Later that evening, Signal's leadership will host "The Entrepreneurial Artist," an open discussion and Q&A covering the ensemble's history, with the aim of empowering UB students in the creation of their own community projects.  The following day will feature a public performance workshop and masterclass, at which Signal co-artistic director and others from the ensemble will coach UB music students, some of whose compositions will be performed later this semester.  

Ensemble Signal
The residency will culminate in Performance in the Dark:  Music by Steve Reich and Georg Friedrich Haas, a free concert in the CFA Black Box Theater featuring two groundbreaking works of contemporary music.  The concert will open with Part I of Reich's Drumming, performed by Doug Perkins of Signal alongside Tom Kolor and students in his percussion studio.  The 1971 work was composed after Reich's trip to West Africa, where he studied with Ghanaian master drummers.  One of the first large-scale masterpieces in American minimalism, the piece quickly became a staple of contemporary percussion repertoire, especially its opening section:  a quartet for tuned bongos which employs Reich's characteristic phasing techniques.  The concert also features Haas's more recent String Quartet no.3 „In iij. Noct.“ (2001), a piece which is "performed in complete darkness, with the musicians playing from memory in different parts of the room."  The New Yorker's Alex Ross has described the piece as one in which the performers 
seem to map the space with tones, like bats using echolocation to navigate a lightless cave.  […]  Often, the music borders on noise:  the strings emit creaks and groans, clickety swarms of pizzicato, shrill high notes, moaning glissandos.  At other times, it attains an otherworldly beauty, as the players spin out glowing overtone harmonies.
This week marks just the first of two non-consecutive weeks of Signal's residency:  the ensemble will return the week of April 30 for a second week which will include a series of "secret" pop-up concerts around UB North Campus, a collaborative performance of Terry Riley’s In C with UB students, and a large-scale concert celebrating the music of Steve Reich.  (For more about Ensemble Signal, see our JiB 2015 profile post from last year.)

The CAI is currently accepting proposals for residencies from creative artists from all fields (music, film, plastic arts, visual arts, drama, writing, and architecture).  This first open call aims to attract artists from around the world, with the aim of giving students the opportunity to interact with great artists who are not currently active in Buffalo.  CAI Managing Director, Cynthia Stewart emphasizes that the initiative is seeking artists who will be actively creating at UB.  Rather than bringing in a visiting artist to simply give a talk, the CAI seeks artists who will actually engage in artistic creation as part of their residency, with an emphasis on student involvement.  "The call is really open with regard to how to incorporate student interaction," says Stewart, "but the more student involvement the better."  Stewart stresses the lack of constraints on the scope of the residencies artists can propose.  "It might be a micro-seminar or a master class.  It might be a semester-long encounter.  There are not a lot of strictures."  The first open call has a deadline of March 1st, and the CAI is eagerly anticipating a variety of proposals from artists of diverse disciplines.

Arts One will visit the Albright Knox Gallery this semester
One of the initiative's key new programs is the Arts One course.  Aimed at introducing students to "a wide range of artistic performance and creative activity," the course consists of a unique approach:  every week, students are exposed to a new artistic exhibition.  Through a partnership with a variety of local institutions, including the Albright Knox, the Burchfield Penney Art Center, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, students will attend a different event each week.  "This course is deliberately designed to put students in direct contact with artists and arts organizations in a very topical way. Each semester will be very different based on what’s happening in Western New York," says Felder.  This semester, the capacity-filled course will hear curator's talks at Hallwalls and the Albright Knox, attend concerts by Ensemble Linea, the BPO, and the Richmond Ballet, and will see performances by the Zodiaque Dance Company, among many others.  "The aim is to demonstrate to students the difference between a live performance and simply seeing something on YouTube," says Stewart, "it also forces them off campus and allows them to connect to the creative riches in Buffalo."

CAI co-director D. Felder
The Creative Arts Initiative was itself initiated through the hard work of co-directors David Felder and Bruce Jackson.  "It was their brainchild," says Stewart, "and they've been beating the drum for it for a long time."  Their vision was for an initiative that would see more investment in the creative arts, specifically.  "It's based on the idea that creating is a different process from studying," Stewart explains.  "Due to their work and persuasion we were able to receive a grant to get the initiative started, and using their relationships in the arts community we were able to assemble an excellent board.  This gives us a good position to help visiting artists make a splash in the community and not just here at UB."




Ensemble Signal Residency


Rehearsing in the Real World
Feb. 10, 3:00-4:00pm, B1 Slee
Open to all students

The Entrepreneurial Artist
Feb. 10, 6:30-8:30 pm, 211 Baird
Open to all students

Performance Workshop/Masterclass with UB Students
Feb. 11, 10:00am-12:00pm, B1 Slee
Open to UB music students

Performance in the Dark: Music by Steve Reich & Georg Friedrich Haas
Feb. 12, 8:00 pm, CFA Black Box Theater
Open to the public

Monday, November 30, 2015

Voxnova Italia & Nicholas Isherwood to Tune Voices, Souls


Voxnova Italia perform Stimmung
This week, the Center is excited to host the residencies of Voxnova Italia and Project Isherwood, who will present three events of adventurous vocal music sure to engage, challenge, and transport listeners.  Known for pushing vocal and performative boundaries, these artists have cultivated a repertoire and an approach to vocal music that centers on the raw physicality of the voice itself, while always expanding listener's understanding of the voice through intrepid use of technology and extended vocal techniques.

Voxnova Italia is an ensemble of vocal soloists dedicated to the repertoire of the 20th and 21st centuries.  They have made their reputation through the performance of works by the great composers of contemporary vocal music (Berio, Scelsi, Aperghis, Nono, Cage, et al.), and also through their mission of making heard the music of young and "unjustly neglected" composers.  In so doing, they have premiered a number of new works, including pieces by Giacinto Scelsi, Steve Lacy, Luca Francesconi, Betsy Jolas, and Gerard Pape (see below for a recording of the latter's Battle, commissioned by Voxnova in 1996).


Voxnova's December 5th program will feature two works:  a new arrangement of David Felder's …la dura fría hora… and Karlheinz Stockhausen's vocal opus, Stimmung.  Felder's work, originally composed in 1986 for chamber chorus and orchestra, is an ornate work of vocal counterpoint beginning from a simple seed of two notes, which expands at turns delicately and aggressively into rich harmonies that are at once forceful and mysterious—assertively present while hinting at whole worlds just over the sonic horizon.  Voxnova will perform a new adaptation for six voices.

Stimmung, Stockhausen's meditative masterwork for six amplified voices, is the first major Western composition to be based entirely on the production of vocal overtones.  Organized into 51 "moments," the work explores the natural resonances of the human vocal apparatus, while pushing the voice to create new timbres and rhythmic textures.  Evoking mystical and earthy elements pulled from Eastern religious traditions and the 1960s counterculture, Stimmung unfolds ritualistically, moving up and down the Bb harmonic series in a unique manner that is both ceremonial and theatrical.  The title, in the composer's words, "means 'tuning,' but it really should be translated with many other words because Stimmung incorporates the meanings of the tuning of a piano, the tuning of the voice, the tuning of a group of people, the tuning of the soul."  Voxnova's performances of this work have been called "stunningly beautiful, utterly serene, full of charm" by the LA Times, which adds, "the voices here might have been angels."  The ensemble specializes in performing a new version of the classic work, which uses Mongolian diphonic singing for the execution of the overtones.  This reinterpretation is perhaps closer to the composer's original vision, as Nicholas Isherwood, Voxnova's bass singer, worked closely with Stockhausen during the last years of the composer's life, performing the role of Lucifer in the world premieres of several of the Licht operas (Montag, Dienstag, and Freitag).

Nicholas Isherwood
Isherwood, Voxnova's founder, is one of the most widely-recognized bass singers active today.  Having worked with an impressive roster of composers, including Carter, Crumb, Kagel, Kurtág, Messiaen, and Xenakis, Isherwood has played a significant role in the creation of the contemporary repertoire for solo and operatic vocal music.  As a director, he has produced performances of Hans Werner Henze's El Cimarrón in Fontenay, Cage's Song Books Dijon and Paris, and Mauricio Kagel's Phonophonie at venues around the world (including a well-received performance at June in Buffalo 2006, see below).  Also a renowned performer of Baroque music and the commedia dell'arte, Isherwood has directed student productions of Adriano Banchieri’s La Pazzia Senile and Berio’s A-Ronne in traditional 'commedia' style.  An active teacher, he has taught vocal music opera at institutions in France, Germany, and the United States, including the IRCAM Summer Academy, Conservatoire de Montbéliard, Ecole Normale de Musique (Paris), California Institute of the Arts, the University of Oregon, and currently, Le Conservatoire national supérieur musique et danse de Lyon.  His book, The Techniques of Singing, was published by Bärenreiter in 2013, and quickly became a widely referred to work by performers and composers alike.


Isherwood's December 4th concert features works that extend his virtuosic vocality through the use of electronics.  The program includes Otro, a recent (2010) work by the computer music pioneer Jean-Claude Risset, Michael Norris's Deep Field, for voice and live electronics, and Isaac Shankler's evocatively-titled, Mouthfeel.  Also featured on the program will be Black Fire/White Fire, the third part of David Felder's Shamayim (2008), a work for voice, electronics, and video composed in close collaboration with Isherwood and video artist Elliot Caplan, which Haskins American Recod Guide called "abstract but not forbidding, [with] images arresting and unforgettable."  [An excerpt of Chashmal, the first work in the series, can be seen below).


The residency will conclude with a composer workshop on December 6th, at which Voxnova will perform new works by UB graduate composers Jessie Downs, Ethan Hayden, Brien Henderson, and Ying-Ting Lin.  Through this presentation, Voxnova and Isherwood carry forth their mission to articulate and embody the newest works of contemporary vocal music, always adding dynamic new pieces to the repertoire.  This, and the other events are definitely not to be missed!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Loadbang Brings Lung-Powered New Music to Buffalo


Loadbang
This week, the Center is excited to welcome LoadBang, the NY-based chamber ensemble that TimeOutNY has called "a formidable new-music force."  With their unique, pneumatic instrumentation of trumpet, trombone, bass clarinet, and baritone voice, the ensemble has quickly cultivated a broad and diverse repertoire since their founding in 2008, premiering over 200 new works, including originals and arrangements by Charles Wuorinen, David Lang, Alex Mincek, Eve Beglarian, Nick Didkovsky, Reiko Füting, Andy Akiho, and Alexandre Lunsqui.  Their bio proudly boasts a "stylistic palette ranging from whistled Brazilian rhythms and microtonal jazz standards to the decoupled and deconstructed sounds of the second modernity."  Indeed, Loadbang's unorthodox instrumentation yields a distinctive character all its own, one that the NewYorker has characterized as having "an irreverent, rough-edged, yet oddly cultivated style."

Loadbang - Lungpowered
This oddly-cultivated style will be on display at their November 12 concert, at which the ensemble will showcase selections from their recently-released LP, Lungpowered.  The program will include Alex Mincek's Number May Be Defined, a driving rhythmic work that corrals a diverse ecosystem of polyphonic organisms into a quirkily dynamic sonic unity.  Scott Worthington's Infinitive strikes a different balance, one between motion and stasis, anxiety and resignation, as its repeating harmonies outline Shakespearean soliloquies sung over shifting colors and uneasy rhythms.  The program will also feature a work by Loadbang's own Jeffrey Gavett, whose Musicorum et Cantorum sets a text by the Medieval theorist Guido of Arezzo around a dense microtonal tapestry of brass glissandi and disjunct clarinet stabs.  Other works featured will include the dynamic agitation of Heather Stebbins Quiver, the quarter-tone excitations of Adam Zahller's Ledascape, and Taylor Brook's Ouricon Songs, Volume 2, a new quasi-musical theatre take on European-American folk music.


Loadbang's members are each renowned musicians in their own right.  Baritone Jeff Gavett is the founder of the virtuosic vocal ensemble, Ekmeles, and has performed with groups as diverse as ICE, Red Light New Music, the Wet Ink Ensemble, the Rolling Stones, and frequent Center-quests Ensemble SIGNAL and Talea.  Also active as a composer and conductor, Gavett has premiered a number of significant works, including the US premiere of Luigi Nono's Quando stanno morendo and the world premiere of the full version of Iannis Xenakis's Oresteïa.  Carlos Cordeiro (bass clarinet) has toured Europe, Russia and the United States with groups like the Ensemble and Lucerne Festival Orchestra, while performing with conductors like Pierre Boulez and Magnus Lindberg.  Andy Kozar (trumpet) is a member of TILT Brass and has worked closely with composers like Helmut Lachenmann and Augusta Read Thomas.  As a baroque trumpeter, he has performed as part of the Boston Early Music Festival and with Ensemble Musica Humana, while also finding time to record on indie pop albums by the likes of Yuck, Emanuel and the Fear, and Bennett Lin.  William Lang (trombone) is a founding member of the Guidonian Hand trombone quartet, as well as the Boston Microtonal Society's Notariotious ensemble.  A student of the Meridian Arts Ensemble's Benjamin Herrington, Lang has performed solo recitals at the Stone, the Tank, the Gerschwin Hotel, and Greenfield Hall, and other venues throughout the Northeast and Miami.  Together, the four musicians in Loadbang not only premiere cutting-edge works of notated music—they are also expert improvisors known for pushing their breath-powered instruments to physical extremes.  They recently inaugurated a project to record some of their improvisations, which are to be released in hand-made limited editions.


Following their Thursday night concert, Loadbang will work with UB graduate composers at a composer workshop that will see the ensemble performing several new works.  Included will be Derick Evans' Bare Ruined Choirs, Igor Marques's Suíte Curitibana, and a new work by Roberto Azaretto.  As an ensemble devoted to education, with both the technical skill and musical enthusiasm needed to execute complex new music, we look forward to hearing Loadbang breathe life into these new works!


—Ethan Hayden

Monday, November 9, 2015

June in Buffalo 2016: Call for Works


Ensemble SIGNAL will be among the
resident ensembles at June in Buffalo 2016
The Center is excited to announce the June in Buffalo 2016 call for works!  Below you can find application requirements for composers interested in attending the festival and writing for one of the many renowned resident ensembles, including the Arditti Quartet, Uusinta Ensemble, Dal Niente, and Ensemble SIGNAL.  Additional information can be found on the June in Buffalo website.





JUNE IN BUFFALO CALL FOR WORKS:


Presented by the Department of Music and The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, June in Buffalo, a festival and conference dedicated to composers, will take place from June 6-12, 2016 at the University at Buffalo.  June in Buffalo offers an intensive schedule of seminars, lectures, master classes with selected faculty composers, workshops, professional presentations, participant forums and open rehearsals as well as afternoon and evening concerts open to the general public and critics.  Each of the invited composers will have one of his/her pieces performed during the festival (please see application process for specifics).  Evening performances feature faculty composers, resident ensembles and soloists renowned internationally as interpreters of contemporary music.

Application Procedures
  1. A résumé or curriculum vitae detailing your education, experience, and creative activity.
  2. A letter of reference from someone acquainted with your current compositional activity.
  3. A proposal requesting the performance of a recent work for:
  1. 2 violins, viola, cello (or subset) – Arditti Quartet
  2. flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, viola, cello (or subset) – Uusinta Ensemble
  3. flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, cello (or subset) – Dal Niente
  4. flute, clarinet, oboe, piano, violin, cello (or subset) – Ensemble Signal
  5. solo instrument
Proposals with electronics and/or multimedia will be considered.

Included with the proposal should be a brief description of the work that includes length, full instrumentation, and any technical requirements.  Proposals for works in progress will be considered. A portion of the score plus the description listed above must be included with application materials for in-progress works.
  1. One or two scores that demonstrate your recent work and accompanying recordings, if available.
  2. A $25 non-refundable processing fee. Checks or money orders should be made payable to June in Buffalo.  Foreign applicants must pay by international money order in US currency. Do not send cash.
  3. An e-mail address at which you can be easily contacted and a SASE (optional) for the return of application materials.
Application materials sent to:

June in Buffalo
220 Baird Hall
Department of Music
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260

To apply as an auditor please send a resume and the processing fee. Auditors attend all June in Buffalo events, but will not have a piece performed.

Participant fee is $775 USD
Auditor fee is $400 USD

Application materials must be postmarked by February 15, 2016.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Checking in with Evan Johnson & Adrienne Elisha


This week, we continue profiling and former UB composers and alum who are working on a variety of exciting musical projects.

Evan Johnson
Evan Johnson's music has always focused on "extremes of density and of reticence, of difficulty and of sparsity, and on hiding itself.  This aesthetic of microscopic focus on the faint and fragmentary, exploiting complex sonic peripheries and exploring the musical minuscule in great detail has led The Telegraph to praise his ability to "[conjure] a Beckett-like eloquence from stammers and silences."

This can be heard in one of Johnson's most recent works, my pouert and goyng ouer, for baritone voice, bass clarinet, trumpet and trombone.  The work, premiered last year by New York's Loadbang (who the Center is excited to host for a residency next month), bears an aphoristic program note which, at once, emphasizes its nervously introverted quietude while belying its complexity:  
Badly lit, interiorized, atomized, fragmentary, mumbled, private and unclear: focused intently on the minor detail and on marginal, intermittently audible pressures.
Notated in Johnson's characteristic calligraphic notation, the piece hints at a gorgeously intricate sound world just out of the listener's reach, a labyrinthine flicker of nervous shadows on a cave wall.


Johnson graduated from the PhD program in 2006, and his music has been programmed by an impressive number of internationally-acclaimed ensembles since then, including past/future Center-guests the Mivos Quartet, Dal Niente, and Ensemble SurPlus, among many others, and his work has been heard at several festivals including Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik, Klangwerkstatt Berlin, Dark Music Days, June in Buffalo, and the Darmstadt Summer Courses (at which he was the recipient of a 2012 Fellowship Prize).

Some of the composer's most recent works include indolentiae ars, a medium to be kept, for eighteenth-century basset clarinet, which will be premiered by Musikfabrik's Carl Rosman early next year in Cologne, and the evocatively-titled three reversed movements, to bring destroyed objects back to life, which was premiered by pianist Michael Finnissy last summer.  Johnson describes the latter as, "A small set of motions, extremely, painfully private, miniature rituals."

Evan Johnson, emoi
His current composition projects include Wolke über Bäumen for violin with baroque bow and gut strings, which will be premiered by Karin Hellqvist at the 2016 Ultima festival, and a new work for 'cellist Severine Ballon, to be premiered at the conDiT festival (Buenos Aires) and Tectonics Reykjavik in 2016.  Johnson will also be featured in portrait recordings to be released next year on Carrier Records and Another Timbre, and in two upcoming portrait concerts:  one at Spectrum (NYC) in April and another based around his complete unaccompanied vocal works by Accordant Commons in May.  His work will also see release on recital discs by Ryan Muncy (Largo calligrafico / patientiam for baritone saxophone, on Tundra) and Richard Craig (émoi for bass flute, on Metier Records).  The latter work, a meditation on what Jacques Lacan called "the most profound form of being disturbed in the dimension of movement" can be heard below:




Adrienne Elisha
Adrienne Elisha is a composer and violist who graduated from the PhD program in 2007.  As an advocate for new music, she regularly performs her own pieces and other contemporary works for viola, as she did at the International Bartók festival in Szombathely, Hungary.  Elisha regularly performs with the Slee Sinfonietta, and has been a guest violist with SIGNAL Ensemble and, currently, TON (The Orchestra Now).  In 2008, she displayed
Paul Klee,
Once Emerged from
the Grey of Night
both aspects of her musicianship when she performed with Ensemble Paul Klee in the premiere of Tristan Murail's Liber Fulguralis at a concert in Switzerland. The Klee center also displayed her own work, inspired by Klee's painting, Once Emerged from the Grey of Night, at a play station.

Some of Elisha's recent honors include her 2009 Herrenhaus Composer Residency in Edenkoben, Germany (more about that here), a 2011 Outer Cape Cod Artist's Residency, and fellowships from the 2011 Wellesley Composers Conference (Mario Davidovsky, director) and the MacDowell Colony.  Her works often feature a density of gesture and counterpoint, an often ferocious intensity which is even evident in solo compositions.  For example, listen to Inner Voices for solo viola, a work the composer will perform next month in Switzerland:


Rochester City Ballet rehearses InCantation
Following her residency at MacDowell, Elisha was granted a composer fellowship from the Rockefeller Foundation for a residency at the Bellagio Center (May 2013).  Her work, InCantation, for solo bass and thirteen dancers, was commissioned by the Rochester City Ballet, and was premiered by James VanDemark and RCB in January of last year.  In addition, her recent string octet, Azure, was premiered in September 2014 by the Chamber Orchestra of Boston.  This eloquently lyrical piece, with harmonic textures at times glisteningly brilliant or lush and sinewy, was also broadcast on WPRB, and can be heard below.  The same ensemble has commissioned a second work from Elisha, which will be premiered next April.



Congrats to Evan and Adrienne for all their accomplishments and upcoming projects!  We're eagerly looking forward to what they come up with next!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Checking in with Aaron Cassidy & Diana Soh


So many amazing composers have made their way through the composition program at UB.  This week we thought we'd check in with two former UB composers, both of whom are continuing to work on exciting projects and writing compelling music.

Aaron Cassidy graduated from the PhD program in 2003, and has been based in England since 2007 where he teaches at the University of Huddersfield.  At Huddersfield, Cassidy is the Research Coordinator for Music and Music Technology, and part of the Directorate of the Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM).  In addition, he was recently promoted to Professor of Composition, and you can see his Inaugural Professorial Lecture, "Imagining a Non-Geometrical Rhythm," below.  "[It's] a very British affair," Cassidy says, "I did at least forgo the usual tradition of doing the whole thing in academic robes."


Cassidy's music has been programmed by a number of internationally-recognized contemporary ensembles, including friends-of-the-Center Ensemble SurPlus, Talea Ensemble, JACK quartet, and LoadBang's Jeff Gavett, and has been heard at renowned festivals including Donaueschingen, Gaudeamus, Dark Music Days, and June in Buffalo.  Recent performances include the premier of his The Pleats of Matter by Chilean guitarist Diego Castro in February at the Electric Spring Festival.  The work, for solo electric guitar with three outputs and electronic processing, takes its title from the first chapter of Delueze's The Fold.  "It is a work in which overflowing trajectories of material and process collide, overlap, collapse, and slide, where strata melt and rupture and deform, and where form and shape are only the final byproduct of lines folding into one another."  Commenting on the nature of the instrument itself, Cassidy explains, 
The electric guitar, perhaps more than any other instrument, involves a massive chasm between the physical process of sound production and the actual sounding result.  The instrument includes the ability to separate thoroughly the physical from the aural, with sound distorted and refracted and disembodied through any number of layers of electronic manipulation.  This work aims first to push the lacunae of this separation to their limits, and second to envelop and embrace these gaps as being part of the essential and fundamental character of the instrument.
As can be seen in the video below, Castro is presented several significant performative difficulties, as the player is required to traverse the entire topography of the instrument, while also maneuvering two foot pedals.  "The nature of the work’s approach to the instrument—in which both hands can potentially occupy any location on the strings or fingerboard, either hand might be plucking or depressing or striking the strings, and either hand (and, occasionally, the elbow!) might have responsibilities for moving the tremolo bar—means that there are logistical questions and fingerings to untangle in almost every bar."


Cassidy's current project is a 35-minute double trumpet concerto for Tristram Williams, Peter Evans, and ELISION (five players and multi-channel electronics).  The wreck of former boundaries includes short, extractable solos for electric lap steel guitar & electronics, double bass, clarinet, saxophone & electronics, and trombone & electronics.  Cassidy spent a week in September working in creative development sessions with players from the ensemble, focusing on ideas which draw on the rhythm experiments discussed in the lecture above.  With a premiere scheduled for Fall 2016, it's sure to be an exciting addition to the repertoire!

Diana Soh
Diana Soh graduated in 2013, and has been busy with many projects ever since.  Upon leaving Buffalo, she relocated to Paris, where she spent two years at IRCAM for the Cursus 1 and 2 program, and served as composer-in-residence at the Conservatoire D'ivry sur Seine in partnership with La Muse en Circuit—the latter of which ended with her first portrait concert at the Festival Extension.

Widely recognized for her work, Soh was recently selected to participate in the Helsinki Chamber Choir's Rautavaara Workshop, where she will have the opportunity to work closely with the ensemble during a November workshop, in preparation for a piece which will be premiered next summer.  She was also selected to take part in the upcoming impuls Composition Workshop in Vienna and Graz with Klangforum Wien, and will be writing a piece for the ensemble which will be premiered at the impuls Festival in 2017.  Finally, her work Arboretum:  of myths and trees was a finalist for the 2015 Musical Composition Prize of the Fondation Prince Pierre de Monacco.  The work, a setting of a text by UB's own James R. Currie, is an exploration of the duality of musical gestures between what is seen and what is heard.  Composed for soprano, 2 flutes, harp, piano, and electronics, the piece uses motion sensors, which allow the soprano—through a series of composed gestures—to control and interpret the electronic treatments of the harp and piano.  "This use of such technology is also a way of returning the autonomy of the electronic processing back to the performer," Soh explains.  "The composition of the music and gestures are, naturally, subjected to the psychological states of these mythic characters Daphne and Apollo."  Listen below to a recording by Ensemble Court-Circuit and Elise Chauvin.


Recent performances included the April Forum neuer Musik, where Ensemble Phoenix Basel played a revised version of Soh's Incantare:take2, and the March performance of … // …, an orchestral work commissioned by the National Arts Council of Singapore and played by Orchestre symphonique de Bretagne.  Check out a recording of the former below:


Soh's current projects include an installation with the American video collective, Openended Group (scheduled for Summer 2016 at IRCAM), and two premieres in the spring:  anew work for solo Noh voice to be performed by Ryoko Aoki in Japan (February 20), and a new chamber ensemble work to be premiered by Ensemble Multilatérale in March.  It's sure to be an exciting year for Soh, who also recently became a new mom.  "[We are] very busy because our daughter's favorite activity is tearing up paper lying around the house!"

Congratulations to Soh and Cassidy for all their accomplishments and upcoming projects, we can't wait to hear what they're up to next!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Saariaho, Fagerlund, and others celebrate FinnFest


Next week will see the beginning of FinnFest 2015 in Buffalo, an annual festival celebrating Finnish culture and heritage, which includes a variety of cultural and educational activities and events.  Due to Finland's rich musical history, the week-long festival will feature a variety of exciting musical performances, including a pair of concerts by the Buffalo Philharmonic in Kleinhans Music Hall (itself designed by Finnish architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen).  "Echoes of Sibelius" (October 9-10) will feature the first symphonies of Sibelius and Einojuhani Rautavaara, with the US premiere of Jaakko Kuusisto's Violin Concerto; "Northern Lights" (October 3-4), will feature Sibelius's Fifth Symphony and Grieg's famous Piano Concerto, alongside the US premiere of Isola, by Sebastian Fagerlund.  Both Fagerlund and Kuusisto will be present for their respective premieres, and will give preconcert talks.

Sebastian Fagerlund
The Center is also excited to welcome Fagerlund as the first guest in this season's Visiting Lecture Series, with his presentation on October 2.  Fagerlund's rich, vibrant music often carries existential themes, and has been described as "post-modern impressionism depicting mental landscapes."  Combining elements from Eastern and Western musics, minimalist electronica and Scandinavian black metal, big band and Boulez, his diverse output—while oscillating between extremes—errs on the side of rhythmic drive and unceasing energy.  "A sort of primitivism is present in many of my works, [and] as a result, rhythm, in particular, has become very important [to me]" he explains.  Isola represents these ideas well, featuring an often violent approach to the orchestra which combines performative aggression with harmonic and textural sophistication.

Kuuisto will also present at the Visiting Lecture series, the following week.  The violinist-composer began studying at the Sibelius Academy at the age of 12 and quickly made a name for himself by winning several international competitions.  As a violinist, he has performed with the Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne Orchestras, the Hannover NDR Orchestra, and the Belgian Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as most of the major Finnish orchestras.  As a composer, his output includes chamber and vocal music, orchestral works, film music, and operas—including his most well-known work, the "family opera," Koirien Kalevala, which was presented at the Savonlinna Opera Festival to a full house for three consecutive seasons.  We look forward to hearing his insights into his work.

Kaija Saariaho
The Center's contributions to FinnFest do not end there.  We are excited to also host the residency of famed Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, and to present a special Slee Sinfonietta / Ensemble SIGNAL concert  of some of the composer's most significant works on October 6.

Saariaho's music has always been marked by a fascination with color and texture, with timbre and harmony being the foundational elements.  While her earliest works showed the influence of late-modernist post-serialism—an idiom she eventually found to be constraining—her outlook shifted after being exposed to the music of Grisey and Murail while studying at Darmstadt.  As her aesthetic began to take shape during a period of research at IRCAM in Paris, Saariaho developed new expressive techniques based in analysis of the sonic spectra of instrumental sounds.  Her first computer-assisted composition was Lichtbogen, for 9 instruments and live electronics (1986), a piece whose point of departure lies in the spectrum of high harmonics which burst forth from a cello when bow pressure is increased (hence the title, which translates as "light-bow").

Paul Gauguin - NoaNoa
NoaNoa (1992), for flute and electronics, was composed in close collaboration with flautist Camilla Hoitenga, who will perform the work during next week's Sinfonietta concert.  The composer describes the work, which was inspired by the Paul Gauguin woodcut of the same title, as stemming from a desire to "write down, exaggerate, even abuse certain flute mannerisms that had been haunting me for some years."  The piece itself has become a key work in the contemporary flute repertoire and a signpost in the solo-instrument-plus-electronics genre.  Prés (1992), for solo 'cello and electronics, is also inspired by a Gauguin work (the painting, By the Sea), and pairs the string instrument with an electronic doppelgänger consisting of synthesized tones, manipulated 'cello sounds, and real-time processing of the live 'cello with resonant filters.  The piece will be played by SIGNAL executive director, Lauren Radnofsky.

The concert's most recent work is 2001's Aile du Songe, a concerto for flute, string orchestra, and percussion (also to be played by Hoitenga).  Like so much of the Saariaho's work, the piece is written in exquisitely detailed notations featuring harmonics, microtonal coloring, and a wealth of expressive markings.  Listeners will be privy to her slow timbral transformations as well as the sensitive lyricality which has been an increasingly present element in the composer's work since the late 1990s, when she began a series of operatic and vocal works.  Still marked by a sparsity characteristic of much of her earlier music, ("I don’t believe in austerity," the composer has said, "but I do [believe] in purity"), the work is sure to illustrate why the Denver Post has called "one of the most original compositional voices of our time."

The festival will include other intriguing musical events, including the Buffalo Chamber Music Society's hosting of the Carpe Diem String Quartet, who will perform a concert of Finnish works in Kleinhans' Mary Seaton room, including Sibelius's Andante Festivo, Rautavaara's first quartet, and Erkki Melartin's "The Sunflower."  In addition, Buffalo contemporary music ensemble Wooden Cities will present "A Kalevala Duo:  Playing Bones" a collaborative concert with performance artist Pia Lindman, which will feature the ancient Finnish technique of "bone-setting" set to music by recent UB-graduates Nathan Heidelberger and Brendan Fitzgerald.


Mivos Quartet
If that's not enough music for you, next week the Center will host the Mivos Quartet for a concert of new works for string quartet (including works by Taylor Brook, David Felder, Martin Stauning, and Helmut Lachenmann).  This concert (October 5) was rescheduled from last season after a blaze of Buffalonian thundersnow (read more about the program here), so don't miss your second chance to see these amazing works played by the quartet the Chicago Reader has called "one of America's most daring and ferocious new-music ensembles."

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Busy Summer for UB Composers...


Summer is always a busy and exciting time for UB graduate composers, with many of them participating in conferences, festivals, and seminars in the US and abroad, and having their works performed by some of the most skilled performers in the field.  This past summer was no different, as you can see below:

Weijun Chen had two pieces which received multiple performances this summer.  First, his string quartet, Canoe, was performed by the Rhythm Method quartet at New York's Mise-En Music Festival in June.  As a student composer at this year's Aspen Music Festival and School, Weijun heard an orchestral adaptation of the piece performed twice (in July, and a few weeks later in August).  In addition, his Memos, for pierrot and percussion, was premiered at June in Buffalo by the New York New Music Ensemble, and was performed again at Aspen by the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble.


Matthew Chamberlain
Also at June in Buffalo, Matthew Chamberlain saw the premiere of his brass quintet, Three Family Photos, by the Meridian Arts Ensemble.  In addition, his string trio, Photo, was premiered by Chartreuse, with performances in Buffalo, Chicago, and New York.  Also a skilled conductor of new music, Matthew conducted at a JiB Performance Institute concert, leading a number of performers in Jacob Druckman's Come Round.  He also participated in a weeklong master course with world-renowned conductor Péter Eötvös in Budapest, where he performed Philippe Manoury’s piano concerto, Passacaille pour Tokyo.

Colin Tucker curated and produced Decay/Reverberate, a four-day festival of site-specific sound works created for presentation at Silo City, a group of historic vacant grain elevators in Buffalo.  The event included performances, installations, and guided listening activities, each of which engaged with the acoustic, social, and historical implications of the site.  Part of the Null Point series, a Buffalo-based platform for experimental arts founded by Colin, the festival featured performances by several artists associated with UB, including composers/sound artists Matt Sargent, Daniel Bassin, and Tom Stoll, and performers Zane Merritt, Crossfire Percussion (Bob Fullex and Jason Bauers), and John Bacon.  Read more about the event here, and check out Matt Sargent's Tide (10+1 Basses), a piece premiered at the event by bassist Zachary Rowden, below:


"I am grateful for the Center for 21st Century Music's financial support of the event," says Colin, who is currently planning a similar event at the same site for next spring.  Colin was also a fellow in the Summer Academy for Young Composers at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany, where he studied with Chaya Czernowin, Ming Tsao, and Rebecca Saunders.  At Schloss, Colin presented a lecture on his work, and his engulfed, constrained in a widening gap was performed by friends of the Center, Ensemble SurPlus.

Colin also curated, organized, and performed on Null Point's Virtuosities, a concert program which toured the American midwest, playing eight cities in nine days.  The program featured two of Colin's pieces, distances swarming and encompassing, for prepared electric guitar and the audio installation, voice-dross, in addition to North American premieres of works by Joseph Kudirka, and Eva-Maria Houben.  While on tour, the ensemble was featured on Muddle Instead of Music, a weekly radio show directed by recent UB graduate, Jacob Gotlib.  A video summarizing the tour's stop at Cincinnati's Experimental Music at the Library series, can be seen below:


The two other composers featured on the Null Point tour were Zane Merritt and Ethan Hayden.  In addition to performing Colin's distances swarming and encompassing, Merritt performed his own solo electric guitar work, Double Etude Gizmo Mechanism Device Machine class alpha, set 1, number A, for guitar and fixed media electronics.  Ethan performed his "…ce dangereux supplément…", for voice and electronics, on the Null Point tour, and a version of the same piece with animated projections was performed by the composer at the international E-Poetry festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  This weekend, Ethan will perform the piece at the International Computer Music Conference in Denton, TX.

Dimitar Pentchev wrote, directed, and produced Gleams, an evening-length work featuring live piano, two singer-actors, dancer, and live video projection.  The piece saw three June performances at Toronto's Array Space.  "It is based on my own poetry," Dimitar explains, "and it was produced without any outside help."  An excerpt of the work can be seen below.


Esin Gündüz
ritüellerin yakınlığı (the proximity of rituals), Esin Gündüz's piece for two violas and recorded voice was premiered earlier this month by violists Yuri Gandelsman and Tuba Özkan.  The work was commissioned by the former's viola masterclass at Mersin State Conservatory in South Turkey.  She will soon see the premiere of cura, a new composition for violin, 'cello, and voice, which she will perform with UB's Yuki Numata and Jonathan Golove at the October 11th concert by Friends of Vienna—an organization at which Esin has been composer-in-residence for the past year.

Finally, Roberto Azaretto attended the 2015 MusicArte Festival in Panamá City, where Impasse, his 2011 duo for clarinet and 'cello was premiered by Gleb Kanasevich and Cody Green.

We should also congratulate the composers who, last spring, graduated with their PhDs:  Megan Grace Beugger, Jacob Gotlib, Clint Haycraft, Nathan Heidelberger, and Chun Ting Pang.  We couldn't be more thrilled for them and we know they're already up to new and exciting things!

As the Fall semester begins, each of these composers will begin composing new works and starting new projects, we can't wait to see what's next for them this year!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New Composers Join UB Composition Program


This year, UB's Composition program welcomes six extremely talented new composers.  We're excited to get to know them and their music, and we look forward to hearing what they come up with as they pursue their PhD's in Buffalo.

Jessie Downs is a composer, vocalist, and teaching artist who recently graduated from Oberlin (2013).  For Jessie, music is a medium for sharing personal experiences and entering into community with others.  "My work aims to capture things of delicate and wild beauty, from the sound of my mother's backyard, to the decrepit intonation of an antique folk instrument, to elements of the work of other artists […] that resonate deeply with my own practice and view of the world."  Her most recent large-scale work, a piece written during a residency with a middle school band called Dismal Harmony, is a "a surreal sonic expedition."  Each section of the piece strives to capture the experience of a particular point along New Jersey's Dismal Brook.  The musical material comes both from harmonies and textures that resulted from a composing workshop with the band, as well as from Jessie's own time spent with the sounds of the park.


Jessie Downs conducting students at
the NJPAC “Fiddle and Fa-la-la” Fest.
In writing for non-professional musicians, Jessie combines her love of music-making and education.  Since graduating Oberlin, she has worked primarily as a music educator in Orange, New Jersey, where she played a vital role in creating Sonic Explorations, an after-school music program for the elementary school students.  "As a way of creating a space in the program for each student to find their own musical persona, my partner Douglas Farrand and I developed the Creative Musicianship curriculum, in which students build an embodied understanding of key musical concepts through and for creative applications (composing, improvising, instrument building, etc)."  As a vocalist, Jessie practices what is often considered an "arcane strain" of the bel canto technique.  With an approach to vocalization that is much like a gym workout—complete with its grunts and squeals—she aims to build vocal musculature through the practice of a variety of 'raw sounds.'  "The element of struggle with one's voice—both physical and psychological—and the divine variety of timbres, registers, and dynamics that (sometimes) result from this struggle, is a subject of great interest and importance to me."

Alex Huddleston studied composition at Columbia College Chicago with Marcos Balter, Kenn Kumpf, and David Reminick, and recently completed his Masters degree at the Boston University School of Music, where he studied with Joshua Fineberg.  A recent piece of his for pianist and assistant, neglected Gardens; layers of rust, patina, and rock, treats the piano as a complex assembly of mechanical objects and vibrating entities.  In the piece, the pianist sits at the keyboard while the assistant reaches into the body of the instrument and plays directly on the strings.  "As a composer, my interests tend toward oblique criticism of structures of music making in various traditional forms."  The work treats the piano as a series of oscillators in a great "analogico-mechanical synthesizer."



Brien Henderson

Brien Henderson's recent compositional work examines the introspective power of medieval plainsong and the textured melodicism of Renaissance polyphony.  Strongly guided by architect Antoni Gaudí's claim that "originality means returning to our origins," Brien reimagines these timeworn elements in a pitch organization system of his own invention that "embraces the full chromatic spectrum while maintaining a decidedly modal character."  Brien's work also treats noise elements, timbre, and musical fragments as essential material.  A June in Buffalo alum, his piece Fragments of Lost Words was performed by Ensemble SIGNAL at the festival in 2013.

Brien has studied composition with Richard Festinger, Christopher Jones, and Ben Sabey at San Francisco State University, where he earned both Bachelor of Music and a Master of Arts degrees.  Also a singer, for the past two years he sang with Ut Re Mi, a San Francisco-based choir specializing in Renaissance music, and for whom he composed Noli esse vana, a setting of a text from The Confessions of St. Augustine.

Igor Coelho Marques hails from Curitiba, a large Brazilian city 500 miles southwest of Rio de Janeiro.  Beginning his musical education at the city's public conservatory, he soon transferred to Brigham Young University, where he received his undergraduate degree in composition.  He later pursued a Master's degree at the University of Utah before arriving in Buffalo for his PhD.



Igor's style and skill is on display in his 2014 piece, I Win, for pierrot ensemble.  "At the time, I was taken by the idea that even when people discredit you, if you trust your choices and cherish meaningful relationships, you 'win' in the end."  Each of the five instruments is highlighted in a different section of the piece; the composer giving unique material and a characteristic affect to each part, with a conclusion that brings together all the disparate elements.

Nathan Kelly is a composer interested composing for large ensemble forces and in post-minimal music.

Derick Evans is a New York native who grew up just outside of Utica.  Spending his youth performing as an electric bassist in various bands—including his own instrumental jazz-rock trio—he went on to earn his Bachelor of Music degree from the College of Wooster.  He later earned his Master of Music degree from The University of Arizona, where he studied with Daniel Asia.  While in Arizona, Derick served as instructor of a self-designed undergraduate music course focused on improvisation and composition, and earlier this year he founded ensemble D.E.R.F., the school’s first ensemble dedicated solely to performing student works.  D.E.R.F. has performed a variety of works, including Derick's own GILA, a "quirky and playfully irreverent" piece composed for the ensemble.


Derick's academic interests center on American composers, rock music theory, and the assimilation of popular styles in Western concert music.  Derick is excited to leave the Southwest for a cooler northern state.  "Having spent the last two winters in Arizona, I’m excited about the changing seasons and experiencing a snow-filled winter this year in Buffalo.  Although I admit that, having been away for so long, I may have a nostalgic and romanticized recollection of what the snow is like.  My boots and I will find out soon enough."