Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Composition Students at UB

There are six extremely talented composers joining the Composition program this Fall!  We're excited to get to know them and their music, and we can't wait to hear what new things they'll be coming up with during their time in Buffalo.

Matthew Chamberlain is a composer and conductor from Leesburg, Virginia.  He studied composition at Oberlin with Josh Levine and Tim Weiss, eventually earning a Bachelor's in composition and a Master's in conducting.  As a conductor, Matthew has served as Music Director of the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestras’ Philharmonia Orchestra.  He has also led the Oberlin Sinfonietta, Arts & Sciences Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, and Contemporary Ensemble with whom he performed at the 2013 Third Practice Festival at the University of Richmond.  As an advocate of new music, Matthew has commissioned works by young composers for the NOYO Philharmonia, and has premiered numerous new pieces.  

In 2014, Matthew premiered his large ensemble piece, Falstaff imagines a passacaglia with the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra.  His recent pieces have focused on defamiliarizing common formal devices, playing on listener expectation.  He says that Falstaff is a piece that doesn't trust it's own form.  "The piece is easily distracted; it wanders from the only goals it has been able to articulate, and when all is said and done, it’s not quite sure whether to be proud or sad about its nascent independence."  While Falstaff might not know whether to be proud or sad, Matthew is enthusiastic.  He's currently working on an essay about the concept of "relevance," aiming to "help people to talk about the art they make with less shame and more gusto!"  Matthew is also a fan of earlier music, an affinity which comes across in his own work.  "I am predisposed to [musical] materials that carry a great deal of historical baggage, as they have so much potential to illuminate the contexts in which they are presented."  We're sure he'll be at home in a city with as rich a musical heritage as Buffalo!

Jiryis Ballan grew up in Kafr Yasif, a city in Northern Israel near Nazareth.  As a child, he was exposed to a wide variety of music, including slassical opera, liturgical music, 1960s protest songs, as well as music from South America and Lebanon.  He studied music and archaeology at the University of Haifa, and, more recently, taught at an alternative school called "Hewar" (which means "dialogue" in Arabic).  While in Haifa, he studied classical and jazz theory, and played guitar and buzuq, a long-necked fretted lute from Lebanon.  Jiryis can be seen playing the buzuq in a recent film, 1913:  Seeds of Conflict and recently performed at the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony.

As a Fulbright scholar, Jiryis is excited to join the program at UB.  "I wish to further work and develop my composition skills, with special focus on notation techniques, music analysis, and orchestration.  There is a warm atmosphere in the Music Department.  I am looking forward to being involved as much as I can here, and other departments."  He's already begun reaching out to the Theatre and Dance department, where he's an accompanist for the contemporary dance class.

Meredith Gilna recently received her MM in composition from the Hartt School, where she studied with Robert Carl and David Macbride.  Before that, she was at Butler University, studying with Michael Schelle, Frank Felice, and James Aikman.  As an accomplished electric bassist, much of her work explores the lower realm of the pitch spectrum.  "I love all sounds that are low pitched," she says.  You can certainly hear this in her recent piece, Ride, for three electric basses with delay, distortion, alligator clips, and electric lady razor.  Ride is a text-based guided improvisation composed for her Electric Bass Band, one of the few exclusively electric bass ensembles.  When she's not composing, Meredith is playing bass in whatever context she can find.  She's currently working on learning all of the bass parts in Steely Dan's Royal Scam and Aja—a pursuit which she says is informing her compositional work(!).

Roberto Azaretto comes to UB from Buenos Aires, where he studied composition at Universidad Católica Argentina.  While he comes from a more modernist background, his work is starting move closer to "an experimental, desubjectivized, speculative perspective."  He describes his ever-changing compositional process:  "During the last few years most of my work has been about filtering and permuting modules, to be later stretched or compressed according to arbitrary metric sequences, and further altered by the accumulation of timbral modifications."

Ying-Ting Lin is a Taiwanese composer with degrees from National Kaohsiung Normal University and National Taiwan Normal University, where she studied with Ching-Wen Chao.  Active as a composer and pianist, Ying-Ting's music has been awarded several prizes, including the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan competition in 2010-2011, and the Taiwan National Ministry of Education Composition Award in 2010.  Her recent piece, Memories of Landscape (2011) for sheng, erhu, liuqin, pipa, and guzheng was awarded second place in the Chai Found Chinese Musical Instruments Competition in 2011.  The piece, inspired by Yan-Ting Hou's painting, Spring, represent's the composer's attempt to reflect her deepest solicitude over her motherland by featuring dots and lines—the two main components of Chinese ink wash painting.  

She describes her piece:  "It begins with sheng and string instruments, which portray the initial black spot in a Chinese painting. It then continues on melodious elements that depict lines. These two main components interlock throughout the whole work, embellishing the contemporary outfit by a traditional way of thinking.  The piece ends with the pipa and guzheng playing harmonics, as though an egret and a clover hide within branches and weeds. This suggests the beginning of lives, and the beginning of everything."

—Ethan Hayden