Monday, February 13, 2012

UB Professor Jon Nelson receives inaugural Humanities Fellowship award, tours with the Genkin Philharmonic, and rearranges the 20th century...

Jon Nelson
University at Buffalo Professor and Trumpeter Jon Nelson has been awarded a prestigious Humanities Fellowship this year for his project, “Switching on the Lights: The Early 20th Century Musical Avant-Garde Goes Electric,” a deeply scholastic and hermeneutic compositional undertaking whereby Jon interprets, orchestrates, and adapts a diverse collection of works by avant-garde composers from the early 20th century and arranges them for Buffalo’s favorite style-scaping, electroacoustic ensemble, The Genkin Philharmonic. Jon, a seasoned musical veteran with performance and improvisational skills in nearly every genre of music, is currently pouring through the scores of Bartok, Stravinsky, Ravel, Schoenberg, Debussy, Ives, Satie, and Webern, and brewing up creative interpretations for the 10-piece group of musicians trained in everything from Classical, Rock, and Jazz, to the most demanding and complex contemporary music. One of his recent endeavors with the project is the arrangement of several of Bartok’s Mikrokosmos, piano pieces that exhibit a strong influence from Eastern European Folk Music. The Genkin arrangement will showcase this Folk aspect of the music by temporarily turning the ensemble into an early 1900s Hungarian wedding band – Jon often talks about how during the 20th century Folk Music was brought to academia by scholars and musicians and absorbed into academic musical styles. His arrangements return these Folk influences to their origins in what was once called 'lowbrow' music, by adding the energy and dynamism of a large ensemble and incorporating electric guitars and basses, synthesizers, and a dizzying array of miscellaneous electronic and percussion equipment.

The UB Humanities Fellowship supporting this project is particularly special this year, as it is one of only two inaugural fellowships promoted and co-sponsored by the Office of the Vice President for Research. The additional support will help Jon and the Genkin keep up a lively schedule of recording and performing into next Fall. The Genkin’s next performance will be free to the public on Monday, February 27th at 4:00 p.m. in Baird Recital Hall and will be the premiere for many of these recent arrangements. Shortly after, the Genkin will kick off a series of 2012 concerts by performing at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, on March 2nd. Much of Jon and the Genkin's recent work will bear additional fruit this summer, when the record label 8bells will release an album of the Genkin Philharmonic’s recordings of Jon’s arrangements composed with the support of the Humanities Fellowship.

The June in Buffalo 2012 Festival is proud to have the Genkin taking part this year as one of the resident ensembles, and is excited to offer student and faculty composers the opportunity to have their work performed and recorded by the Genkin. The festival, which begins June 4th and lasts until June 10th, will also include performances and workshops by the Buffalo Philharmonic OrchestraSIGNAL, the New York New Music EnsembleEnsemble InterfaceSlee Sinfonietta, and the UB Percussion Ensemble. One of the highlights of the festival will be the Genkin’s faculty concert at the Birchfield Penney on Friday, June 8th (details of the concert to come on the June in Buffalo 2012 website).

In addition to his arrangements of early 20th century works, Jon Nelson has garnered substantial fame through his many arrangements of pieces by Frank Zappa. Below is a lively performance of the Genkin Philharmonic performing Jon's arrangement of Zappa's Eat That Question/Echidna's Arf at the legendary music venue Nietzsche's, in Buffalo, NY.

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