Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Slee Sinfonietta showcases powerful soloes at June in Buffalo 2019

David Felder, the Center for 21st Century Music’s Artistic Director, founded the Slee Sinfonietta in 1997 for the purpose of producing accessible world-class performances and iconic recordings of important repertoire from both established as well as emerging composers, particularly in the context of the annual June in Buffalo festival. Comprised of a core group of faculty members from the University at Buffalo and other visiting artists, the Slee Sinfonietta will kick off this year’s June in Buffalo—as it has done for over two decades—with two concerts. An admission-free, 4pm matinee on June 4th in Baird Recital Hall will be June in Buffalo’s first public event, showcasing pieces by student participant composers. Then, the Sinfonietta will present an evening concert at 7:30pm on June 5th in Lippes Concert Hall with a program of major works by some of the festival’s senior composers; a solo cello performance of Brian Ferneyhough’s In Nomine by TJ Borden will be followed by three works for chamber orchestra (including two concertos): Rolf Wallin’s Under City Skin, Matthew Chamberlain’s Science Fiction Music , and Stephen Hartke’s Ship of State. Chamberlain will also be the guest conductor in both concerts, a capacity he has filled with the Sinfonietta since 2016.

(A performance of In Nomine by Lucas Fels (Arditti Quartet) in the premiere of Umbrations)

TJ Borden, the Mivos Quartet’s recently appointed cellist, will open the June 5th show with In Nomine, the fourth of eleven works comprising Ferneyhough’s large Umbrations cycle, premiered less than two years ago. Umbrations stands out in Ferneyhough’s output for directly referencing music written in the past by a Western composer—in this case, a set of works by English Renaissance composer Christopher Tye (1505-1572)—a popular trend in much of contemporary music which Ferneyhough has generally steered clear of. Interestingly, these pieces by Tye also appropriated earlier medieval melodies, adapting them into the framework of the viol consort that was so much in vogue during the Elizabethan era.

The medieval theme continues in Norwegian composer Rolf Wallin’s Under City Skin (2009) for solo viola, string orchestra and surround sound. Inspired by alchemical or otherwise absurd powers attributed to animals in bestiaries from the Middle Ages, Wallin chose to pursue the idea that “maybe we still hold an unconsciously mythological relation to the world around us, in spite of our modernization and urbanization.” Consciously fashioned after Hector Berlioz’s viola concerto Harold en Italie, Under City Skin presents its solo violist as an explorer of sound-producing objects and events one finds in a modern city, e.g. “The Mercedes” or “The Cash Register,” in a quest to reveal these sounds’ “hidden meanings [and] histories of power, fear, yearning, and bliss.” Wallin has adapted Under City Skin for solo violin, and legendary British violinist Irvine Arditti (of the Arditti Quartet) will solo with the Slee Sinfonietta on the June 5th concert.

(The Oberlin Sinfonietta under Tim Weiss performing Chamberlain's Science Fiction Music)

After a brief intermission, the concert will resume with Chamberlain’s Science Fiction Music, commissioned last year by Tim Weiss for the Oberlin Sinfonietta. Chamberlain describes Science Fiction as an imagination of a future “in which this piece is widely loved, its sensibility appreciated, its craft revered.” The composer’s tongue-in-cheek assessment of his work might prove more prophecy than science fiction, however; in 2018, Science Fiction Music earned Chamberlain the very rare merit of a “PhD with distinction,” unanimously bestowed upon him by his PhD committee at the University at Buffalo.

Finally, the Slee Sinfonietta will close its concert with Ship of State, a chamber concerto for piano and 20 players by Oberlin Conservatory’s Chair of Composition, Stephen Hartke. Ship of State takes its inspiration from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Building of the Ship, a long poem that draws on an allegorical comparison between the responsibilities of a sea captain and those of a statesman. The dedicatee and original soloist, Xak Bjerken, who has collaborated with a host of noteworthy living composers and has built an internationally-renowned career as a new music champion , will make the drive up from Cornell University in Central NY to June in Buffalo and solo with the Sinfonietta.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Irvine Arditti celebrates 30-plus years of partnership with David Felder at June in Buffalo 2019

There are interesting parallels between the lives of noted British violinist Irvine Arditti and the Center for 21st Century Music’s Artistic Director, American composer David Felder. Both men were born in the same year, 1953, and came of age in the mid-1970s, displaying a precocious musical maturity and aptitude for contemporary music. Felder’s "opus 1"—Nexus, a daring solo work for bass trombone—was written at the same time that Arditti founded the ensemble that would earn him countless accolades in the four and a half decades since, the Arditti Quartet. Toward the end of the 1970s, Arditti chose to leave his post as the London Symphony Orchestra’s Co-Concertmaster to devote more time to the Arditti Quartet, and Felder quit his teaching job at the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music to pursue a PhD at the University of California, San Diego. As difficult as these decisions might have seemed at the time, both proved wise in the long run. The Arditti Quartet would go on to become worldwide leaders in the promotion of contemporary music, and Felder would likewise build an award-winning career that would distinguish him as a leader of his generation of composers. So, at that juncture in the 1980s, it was only a matter of time before the paths of these two luminaries of contemporary music crossed.

Brad Lubman, Signal Ensemble's director, Felder, and Arditti discuss Jeu de Tarot (2018)

An important part of Felder’s trajectory included the revival of the University at Buffalo’s June in Buffalo Festival in the mid-1980s, which had been dormant since Morton Feldman founded and led it between 1975-80. Soon thereafter, June in Buffalo’s gravitational pull brought Arditti and his Quartet to Buffalo in 1988 to premiere Felder’s first string quartet, Third Face, commissioned by the Quartet and the North American New Music Festival.

Music of David Felder (1995) included a recording of  Third Face by the Arditti Quartet; this CD is available for purchase via this link

Their collaboration had undeniable chemistry, and the partnership between Arditti and Felder grew stronger and stronger as the years went by, leading to several additional residencies at June in Buffalo and two more commissions for the quartet: Stuck-Stücke, premiered in 2007, and Netivot, an ambitious multimedia work for string quartet, electronics and an optional video component from 2016. Most recently, Felder collaborated extensively with Arditti to produce a half-hour-long violin concerto, Jeu de Tarot. As it has been discussed at some length in an earlier post, Jeu de Tarot consists of seven movements in which the soloist and the ensemble explore a scene suggested by the rich symbology of images found on Tarot cards. Arditti and Signal Ensemble premiered the work a couple of years ago at the University at Buffalo's Lippes Concert Hall.

Arditti soloing with Signal Ensemble in Felder's Jeu de Tarot

In early May 2019, as detailed in a recent post, the Arditti Quartet arrives in Buffalo to present a program comprised by Jeu de Tarot and the three monumental quartets Felder has written for the group over the past 30 years. About a month later, Arditti returns sans the other three members of his ensemble to present a solo recital at June in Buffalo 2019. Arditti's recital takes place on Thursday, June 6th, at 7:30 pm in Baird Recital Hall, and will include Felder’s Another Face for violin and electronics, along with other works by Brian Ferneyhough, Rolf Wallin, and the festival’s participant student composers.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Mivos returns to June in Buffalo 2019 to present a mind-bending program

Recently recognized by the prestigious Dwight and Ursula Mamlok Prize—awarded to “an ensemble making a significant contribution to the performance of contemporary music”—the Mivos Quartet has enjoyed a fruitful partnership with the University at Buffalo for many years. Our shared history has shaped the ensemble’s trajectory in very real ways; in 2018, for instance, recent UB alumnus Tyler J. Borden was chosen to become the quartet’s new cellist, and current PhD candidate Alex Huddleston won the incredibly competitive 8th Mivos/Kanter String Quartet Competition Prize. As Mivos enters its second decade, poised to become an even more influential actor in the American new music scene, UB and the Center for 21st Century Music are proud to welcome them back to this year’s June in Buffalo for their 3rd residency in a row since 2017.
Mivos will perform two concerts at June in Buffalo 2019. On June 5th, they will present a program of works by some of the festival’s senior composers, and two evenings later, they will perform string quartets submitted by the festival’s student participant composers.

A performance by the Arditti Quartet of Ferneyhough's Second Quartet

Brian Ferneyhough’s Second String Quartet (1980) will kick off Mivos’ June 5th program. Ferneyhough is “a controversial figure of world renown, bent on making the most out of music” by a constant reliance on relentless complexity (Ross Allan Feller), but his Second Quartet is one of his “most approachable and outgoing pieces,” (Lois Fitch) clocking in at just under 10 minutes—an ideal show opener.

Next, Mivos will tackle a piece by June in Buffalo’s own Artistic Director, David Felder. Commissioned by the Siemens Foundation for the Arditti Quartet in 2007, Stuck-Stücke has evocative markings throughout—like “effervescent!” or “perky,” to name a few—which seem to “be trying to put something into music that cannot be put into music,” such as “murmuring, or dancing, or breathing” (Buffalo News). Stuck-Stücke and 3 other works are featured in BoxMan, a CD released by Albany Records several years ago and available for purchase on their websiteLei Liang’s Serashi Fragments (2005), a tribute to the Mongolian chaorer (an ancient two-string fiddle) player Serashi, is third in the program. Following a centuries-long tradition in Western music, Liang employes the notes Sol, La and Si—G, A and B—in various forms as musical inscriptions of the artist’s name. 

Clyne's Roulette is featured on her CD Blue Moth (Tzadik)

Finally, Mivos will close the concert with Anna Clyne’s unique Roulette (2007)Roulette features an electronic track, composed of processed recordings of choral singing, sharp breaths, and other noises, which, according to the composer, are “sounds that (…) both complement, interact with, and oppose” the gestures of the live string quartet. Tzadik Records released Roulette and six other stunning electroacoustic chamber works by Clyne in a CD entitled Blue Moth in 2012.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Felder Portrait Concert

The Center for 21st Century Music is pleased to announce a portrait concert featuring UB Distinguished Professor and Center Director David Felder’s works for string quartet and his more recent violin concerto to take place on May 9th, performed by two world-class new music groups: the Arditti Quartet and Ensemble Signal.

(Arditti Quartet)

The first part of the program will feature the acclaimed Arditti Quartet playing Felder’s three works for the medium: Third Face, from 1998, Stuck-Stücke, from 2007, and Netivot, from 2016. All three pieces were written for and premiered by the Ardittis, as part of a collaborative process dating back more than twenty years.

In Third Face, Felder was inspired by the 1964 novel The Face of Another, by Japanese author Kōbō Abe, although the music doesn't illustrate the action but rather takes the rough scenario as point of departure. With respect to the musical structure, the program notes tell us that "the work sets up a linear series of coded fragments based upon interval. These fragments are then layered through four contrapuntal passes through the materials, each pass separated by increasingly lengthy passages solely in harmonics. As the work unfolds the ‘coded fragments’ begin to coalesce eventually becoming melodic line."

Stuck-stücke, the second work in the program, is concerned with short form. It consists of a set of thirteen miniatures in three discontinuous, but related, streams of musical material. However, Felder preserves continuity by means of temporal proximity, since the pieces are to be played in close juxtaposition to one another, with minimal transition. The insistent iteration of small gestures in many of the pieces is what gives them the "stuck" character addressed in the title.

In Netivot—the more recent quartet, more inwardly oriented than the previous two—the material is "abstracted from an array of some biblical text", in the words of the composer. It also resulted from a larger collaboration, because its live performance requires the projection of a video consisting of images of Nature recorded in the American West by visual artist Eliot Caplan.

(Caplan: still image from Netivot Video)

The second part of the concert will consist of the performance of Felder’s Jeu de Tarot, a concerto for solo violin and sinfonietta from 2017 which draws its inspiration from the card deck long used as a divination method. Irvine Arditti, for whom the work was written, will play the solo violin part, accompanied by Ensemble Signal conducted by Brad Lubman.

The composition is in seven short movements, titled after seven selected cards from the twenty-two major arcana of the Tarot deck. They are: The Juggler, The Fool, The High Priestess, The Hermit, The Empress (Whorld), The Hierophant and Moonlight. In each movement, soloist and ensemble explore a scene suggested by the interpretation of the cards made by Russian polymath P.D. Ouspensky in his 1919 publication A new model of the Universe.

Due to the technical and logistical requirements of the pieces, the concert will take place in two different venues at UB’s Department of Music. The first part will be in Baird 250, the recital hall at Baird Hall, while the second part will be in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall. The concert will begin at 7:30PM.

As part of their visit, the Arditti Quartet will also conduct a workshop with UB graduate composers, lending their expertise and virtuosity to works written for them by Kenneth Tam, Tomek Arnold, Matías Homar, Igor Coelho A.S. Marques and Edgard Girtain.

Purchase tickets here:

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

More on the pieces for ELISION's workshop

In our previous post we presented the work of ELISION ensemble in the context of their visit to the University at Buffalo. We wanted to know more about the second event of their residency, so we asked the four students who composed pieces for them to write short texts about their works.

John Aulich’s work is titled The angles which wound me, and it is written for Uillean pipes, lap steel guitar and contrabass.
“I began preparations for this piece in the middle of last semester with my head full of detritus relating to ritual, futility, pointlessness and transcendence, so in a very broad way that’s what the piece is ‘about.’ The normal meaning of the word ritual needs no further elaboration, but I would also hazard invoking it in a more ostensibly banal sense. That is, in terms of those things we do with as much regularity as is necessary to draw boundaries; to keep ourselves from spilling over and to define ourselves against everything else.
So, there are definitely embedded in the piece - hopefully in more than one way - notions of drawing, navigating and perhaps transgressing or transcending boundaries through ritual acts.  On the other hand, significant aspects of the piece were in large part inspired by an advert for a children’s toy called Transformers, which I’m led to believe is a franchise in itself with movies and everything. In entirely unrelated news, a large number of scientists are currently searching for new means to quantify ‘mouthfeel’ (supposedly) in the service of the food-industrial complex; sensation comes before sermon, so I’ll leave it you to imagine what other complexes we might soon be forced to contend with.
I would like to thank members of Elision for their time and work so far in helping me put this piece together. Their advice and encouragement has been invaluable to the compositional process, and I very much look forward to working with them when they arrive here.”

Roberto Azaretto:
Registral extremes are the areas of pitch space where the material nature of sound, the fact that we are dealing with vibration, with molecules moving in space, bodies affecting bodies, becomes most clear. Sound is a haptic phenomenon: we sense low register sounds as much in our stomachs as in our ears. The vocabulary we use to describe pitch space manifests this to a different degree depending on the language we speak. Whereas in English, sounds are placed in a vertical line, a continuum between low and high, in Spanish, my native tongue, sounds themselves are conceived as bodies: high sounds are agudos (which means sharp or piercing) and low sounds are graves (heavy, big).
Historically, most music has taken place in the central region of this space, probably because this is the optimal area for the identification of pitch patterns, but there is also a growing body of works where the primary concern is the investigation of registral extremes. I have been interested in exploring the structuring capabilities of register for several years, so when I learned that ELISION was coming to UB I decided to take the opportunity to concentrate on dense sonorities in the lowest part of the register, writing for a quartet of contrabass clarinet, baritone saxophone, trombone and double bass. The result was a piece where the highest notated pitch after transposition is a major third below middle c.
The title of the piece, eigengrau, alludes to another semantic field common in discussions of sound: that of color. The term means "intrinsic grey" in German, and denotes the uniform dark background that many people report seeing in the absence of light.

Igor Coelho A.S Marques:
Noturno is a sort of autobiographical piece for actor/poetry reciter, an 8-piece mixed chamber ensemble, and a stereo fixed media track, in which I deal with some of my nightly anxieties via three poems by Brazilian poet Ferreira Gullar. The first, Teu corpo, explores the inconsistency in seeking to define one's identity in the notion of an unfathomable soul, rather than in the concrete realities of their body. Then, Exercício de Relax emulates an insomniac's self-soothing bedtime routine, and Dentro sem fora closes with some paradoxical ontological aphorisms.
While the focus, sonically and theatrically, remains on the actor reciting the poems, the instrumental ensemble and the electronics play a crucial role in inflecting the text and spinning a narrative from the juxtaposition of these three different poems. A counterpoint of breathy and airy noises with metallic and distorted ones populates the first third of Noturno, while the drummer's gestures rise in entropy, painting a picture of increasing tension that counterposes the relaxing affirmations of Exercício de Relax. Relaxation eventually comes in the form of tonal and metrical stability, but this stability--or the illusion thereof--is short-lived, and quickly erodes away as the actor closes the work by reciting Dentro sem fora three times, each more disconsolate than the previous.

Alex Huddleston:
"My piece is titled Books II III VI VII XI XVII XXIV XXIX XLI. I would like to tell you some details of its construction. It is scored for Tenor Trombone, Bass, Soprano and Tenor Saxophone, Contrabass and Soprano Clarinet, seven guitar Pedals and Amplifier, fixed electronics, with limited amplification. Of the five musicians, all excepting the guitar pedals will be arrayed in a partial arc on the stage. The Clarinetist will sit closest to the audience on the right-most end of the arc, facing to the left; beside him will be the bass, beside her will be the Trombone, beside him will be the Saxophone. The manipulator of the pedals is seated behind them. The two speakers, stereo, will be rotated from their traditional position at the far left and right of the stage, such that the L channel will sound in the rear left corner, while the R channel will sound in the front left corner.
Both the trombone and the guitar pedals will have their sounds taken into a microphone, and displaced to the rear left corner. The piece is 25 minutes long. There are 6 autonomous musical strands occurring simultaneously - Each of which is an exploration of continuity as foundation - none of which are coordinated in any musical, or technical way. Each autonomous musical strand equally divides the total duration into some number of equal segments - the electronics are in 7 parts, the guitar pedals in 11, the Trombone in 17, the Bass in 24, the Saxophone in 29, and the Clarinet in 41. When conveyed through notation, each segment is indexed to the page - thus every page within a single stream is exactly the same length of time. Rhythms, Meters, & Tempi are not employed for the structure of time. A page may contain more or less material, having a clear sonic impact - more material within the same page = less time = faster. less material = more time = slower. In this way, the material of the music is imbricated in a notational network of nested imprecisions, ambiguities, aleatorea.
I have focused my descriptions to the structural elements of this work, rather than those of emotion or phenomenon. They have been written into the music, and cannot be rewritten in prose here. Therefore I invite you to hear the work for yourself with or without the information above in mind as you listen."

Alex also wrote a blog post about this text, and more generally about the possibilities and problems of connecting verbal language with music.

We look forward to listening to these works during ELISION's workshop, which will take place on April 24th at 2 PM in Lippes Concert Hall at Slee Hall. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

ELISION Ensemble UB Residency

The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music is proud to welcome ELISION Ensemble in their first visit to the University at Buffalo. Formed over thirty years ago in Australia, ELISION is one of the world’s foremost new music ensembles, a fearless group of musicians who have commissioned, premiered and continue to champion some of the most exciting works of the last decades, as demonstrated by their discography, which contains, in its more than fifteen titles, many of the best performances ever recorded of the music of Brian Ferneyhough, Richard Barrett, Chris Dench and Liza Lim.

Buffalo audiences will have the opportunity so see them in a free and open-to-the-public concert on April 23 at 7:30PM in Lippes Concert Hall at Slee Hall, with a program consisting of recent works from their repertoire, including two world premieres. The next day, the ensemble will conduct a workshop with pieces written for them by four UB Composition students: John Aulich, Roberto Azaretto, Igor Coelho A. S. Marques, and Alex Huddleston.

In addition to their virtuosity, the musicians of ELISION are also known for establishing deep collaborative relationships with some composers, lasting for many years. This has proven to be beneficial for both parties: writing for specific persons allows composers to take advantage of a performer’s entire range of musical abilities–which in the case of ELISION’s musicians is truly remarkable–rather than being confined to composing for an abstract, idealized and impersonal “instrument”; whereas extended collaborations give members of the ensemble a much deeper understanding of the composers’ interests, aesthetics, and goals, and has resulted in quite unique music.

As a result, there are composers who see ELISION as a fundamental outlet for their work. One of them is Richard Barrett, who had this to say on the subject: "My working relationship with ELISION goes back to 1990 which means it has occupied more or less half of my life, during which time around half of the compositions I’ve written have involved the ensemble. To describe the evolution of this relationship and the music and friendship it has involved would fill a book, but for now I’ll just say a couple of things. Firstly, my ideal of a working relationship with other musicians is one where all are equal participants, bringing their individual imaginations, energies and skills together into a collective arena of creativity, over and above any functional distinctions between “composer” and “interpreters”, and being able to make music like this has surely been a central factor in keeping us together for so long. Secondly, the length and depth of this relationship has enabled us to conceive and realise a still-continuing series of projects which it would be difficult to imagine coming about in any other way." Barrett's flechtwerk, a clarinet in A and piano duo finished in 2006, will be one of the pieces in the program for the April 23 concert.

Another regular ELISION collaborator whose work will be played at the concert is Liza Lim. A trombone adaptation of her 2014 work The Green Lion Eats the Sun, originally written for double bell euphonium, will be performed by Ben Marks. Lim was scheduled to be one of the senior composers at June in Buffalo's 2018 edition, but was unable to come; this will be another opportunity to hear her work in Buffalo. About her piece, she wrote: "The Green Lion Eats the Sun was written especially for Melvyn Poore and the double-bell euphonium that he developed in collaboration with the instrument builder Gottfried Büchel during 2011-12. ‘The Green Lion Devouring the Sun’ is one of the classic images of alchemy with a great variety of interpretations as to its possible meaning. The green lion usually represents a powerfully volatile corrosive agent (aqua regis) which swallows seven metals, even dissolving gold in a process of purification.

The solo work explores the sonic worlds of the two bells of the instrument: a muted bell is used to filter fragments of a carnival of sound that are played through the open bell. The muted echoes represent the level of our conscious knowledge that barely catches hold of a riot of activity arising and falling away at the pre-conscious level. Every now and then a more intense communication between the two sides occurs as the bells flutter open and closed." The trombone version requires a specially rigged double bell trombone, in which the second bell is connected by a long plastic tube to the F trigger. For those who want to know more about the process of composing the piece, Lim wrote a very interesting blog post on the subject.

(Liza Lim)

Last, but definitely not least, UB alumnus Aaron Cassidy—who has also enjoyed a close collaboration with ELISION for well over a decade—will have two pieces performed by members of the ensemble: The wreck of former boundaries, for B flat clarinet, an extractable part of the monumental conglomerate of pieces by the same title Cassidy completed in 2016, will be played by Carl Rosman and, in what promises to be a very special event, a new quartet for saxophone, trombone, piano and contrabass titled Self-Portrait, Three Times, Standing (15.3.1991–20.3.1991) will receive its world premiere, with the composer conducting Joshua Hyde, Ben Marks, Alex Waite and Kathryn Schulmeister.

The title of Cassidy's piece comes from a painting by the German artist Gerhard Richter, a figure who has been a source of inspiration for several younger composers. In a recent text on his website, Cassidy wrote the following about this quartet and a second piece he is working on, also based on Richter's work: “Both of these new works explore similar issues, dancing between the representational and the abstract, between obliteration as covering and obliteration as revealing the reality of instrumental and bodily material, between intimacy and separation, between vulnerability and otherness, between layering as stacking/extending and layering as concealing/hiding. And both new pieces continue a path I’ve been exploring in my work over the last 2-3 years, rethinking where ‘I’ sit in my work, and reimagining the personal, the evocative, and the expressive aspects of how and why I make pieces. To that end, the pieces are also mirrors of each other—somehow appropriate with the notion of the self-portrait—one external, outward, explosive, expanding, the other inward, reflective, closed, internal, but both built on the same reflections.”

(Richter - Self Portrait Standing, Three Times 17.3.1991)

Tuesday, April 23
Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall
University at Buffalo
Doors 7:00 PM / Show 7:30 PM
This concert is free and open to the public. 

Monday, December 3, 2018

Recent student activities

2018 has been a busy year for UB Composition PhD students. They have received awards, international performances, important commissions, and other forms of recognition for their work. Below is a sample of their activity.

Graduate composers received performances in Europe, Asia and America during 2018. Ka Shu Tam’s Reaction I for viola solo was performed in Hong Kong in April, and was later broadcast twice through the Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). In June, Tam’s Manjusaka for overtone singing and viola received its premiere in Hong Kong as a part of "The Cityscape II 2018" project. His fixed media composition City Story - Flying Sword was presented in the International Computer Music Conference (ICMC) in Daegu, Korea, the MUSLAB International Electroacoustic Exhibition in Mexico City, and at the Asian Composers League (ACL) Conference and Festival in Taipei.

Fourth-year student Igor Coelho Arantes Santana Marques’ string trio Courante was premiered by Meitar Ensemble at Royaumont, France, where he was a participant of the Voix Nouvelles academy, receiving lessons from Philippe Hurel, Maura Lanza and Noriko Baba.

Alex Huddleston attended the Estalagem da Ponta do Sol Residency for Contemporary Music and Electronics in Madeira, Portugal, with Patricia Alessandrini. During the residency, Karin Hellqvist premiered his work I want every gun we have to fire on that man, for violin and fixed media. 

In March, Jessie Downs was a finalist in the BMP Next Generation Composition Competition for her work The Second Sight for voice and piano. She was flown into and housed for a week in Brooklyn, New York, to rehearse for a presentation of the work, which serves as the opening scene to her dissertation project, an opera-in-progress. The scene was then presented at National Sawdust Theatre with works by the other finalists.

Su Lee premiered her Nachklang für Nr. 503 (Obituary for no. 503), for microtonally tuned keyboards, at June in Buffalo 2018 to audience acclaim, and was recently awarded a grant from UB's Mark Diamond Research Fund to extend the work, which will be her dissertation piece.

Recent alumnus Colin Tucker has received several commissions for new pieces to be premiered next year, among which are a new work for listeners commissioned by the Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester, with funds from Art Bridges Foundation, a work for vocalists jointly commissioned by the Canadian Music Centre-Toronto and Jumblies Theatre, and a work for ensemble and electronics commissioned by the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University.

Colin has also given several guest lectures during this year, at the Undergraduate Sound Studies Course in Princeton University, in April; the Graduate Seminar in Digital Music, in Dartmouth University in May; and the Musicology Symposium Series at the Eastman School of Music in September, among others. He has also authored two peer-reviewed publications:  “Sounding Collectivities beyond Nature and Culture: an Introduction to the Music of David Dunn,” with another UB alumnus, Ethan Hayden, and “A Listener’s Guide to David Dunn’s PLACE,” both in Sound American 19 (online).

Matt Chamberlain, who recently traveled to Royaumont to hear the world premiere of the piano solo Rejected Ballet Music by Claudia Chan, is another student who has received his doctorate in the last months. At the beginning of the year, Matt was an artist in residence at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he conducted the second ever performance of Du Yun’s Pultizer Prize winning opera Angel’s Bone. He also led their Sinfonietta and Contemporary Music Ensembles on programs of 20th and 21st century works, including his own Science Fiction Music, a new piece which was commissioned by the school.

Other UB students have also been very active as performers. Su Lee frequently performs as an organist in the Buffalo area. Her latest presentations have been two events in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, "In Flanders Fields", with the Freudig Singers of Western New York and "Duty, Honor and Valor" with the Buffalo Silver Band. In addition, she has performed Leonard Bernstein's Chichester Psalms with Buffalo Master Chorale for the 100th anniversary of the composer's birth.

In October of 2017 Jessie Downs attended the Royaumont Répertoire Vocal Contemporain workshop with Juliet Fraser, focused on the interpretation and preparation of contemporary vocal music. On December 6th of this year, Jessie will make her debut with Nickel City Opera, performing musical theater and operatic sections. Three days later, she will be singing with a subset of the BPO as UUCB Soprano Soloist in Bach's Christmas Oratorio Part V. Part VI will be performed on January 6th, and part IV was presented last winter. Then, on December 15th, Jessie will be a guest artist at Carnegie Hall in NYC, singing as an operatic soloist with choir and orchestra on "A Night of Inspiration"—an interfaith event promoting hope and raising money for arts education.

Downs is also a singer in Sotto Voce Vocal Collective—as was until recently fellow fourth year student Brien Henderson. In the last year the ensemble commissioned and premiered works by two other PhD students: Alex Huddleston's The Sonnets, for vocal ensemble and fixed media was performed in Buffalo, Oberlin, and Cleveland, and a quartet for female voices, Ave Virgo Virginum by Coelho Marques.

Henderson was recently elected president of the Music Graduate Student Association, which is hard at work organizing a symposium for next spring.  Dan Gostelow was appointed to faculty position at Buffalo Community Music School teaching piano, trombone and trumpet lessons/classes at Montessori, Elementary, Middle, and Charter schools in the local community.

Derick Evans, who became the recipient of a Morris Scholarship Award from the College of Arts and Sciences, organized a fundraising concert for Buffalo's Friends of Night People at Flying Bison in August, where he performed 30-minutes of original music with a 10-piece ensemble. Derick performs regularly with—among other ensembles—Much Band, which in August published "Much Quintet Volumes 1 & 2" by Friendship Tapes. He is also a playwright. In September he premiered "The Fate of Indigo Pilot Six," at Indigo Gallery in Buffalo.

Derick's work has received international recognition. In April, his music was the subject of a special program that aired on Rádio MEC FM - Rio De Janeiro (Brazil's national radio station for classical and new music) and Rádio UFMG Educativa (Universidade Federal De Minas Gerais's University radio station). Another student whose work received recognition is Alex Huddleston, whose string quartet i found a few configurations :: some stripes won the 2018 Mivos/Kanter Composition Competition.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sotto Voce Concert

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

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

(Sotto Voce)

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

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

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

HANATSU Miroir: creating interdisciplinary connections

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

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

(HANATSU Miroir)

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

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

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

Friday, October 26, 2018

Welcoming new students

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

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

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

(Edgar Girtain)

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

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

(John Aulich)

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

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

(Matías Homar)

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

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

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

(Tomek Arnold)

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

Monday, October 1, 2018

Brad Lubman and Ensemble Signal pay tribute to Oliver Knussen

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

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

(Ensemble Signal and Brad Lubman)

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

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

(Oliver Knussen)

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

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

(Elliott Carter)

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

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

(Toru Takemitsu)

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

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

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