Tuesday, April 18, 2017

MIVOS Quartet: Expanding the String Quartet

The Center for 21st Century Music is excited to welcome the MIVOS Quartet as a resident ensemble at this year’s June in Buffalo Festival. The ensemble, who previously visited the University at Buffalo for a residency in 2014, will perform works by faculty composers Jeffrey Mumford, Eivind Buene, Henrik Hellstenius, and Brian Ferneyhough.

Founded in 2008, the group has quickly gained recognition as “one of America’s most daring and ferocious new-music ensembles” (The Chicago Reader). The quartet’s festival appearances include the New York Phil Biennial, Wien Modern (Austria), the Darmstadt Internationalen Ferienkurse für Neue Musik (Germany), Asphalt Festival (Düsseldorf, Germany), HellHOT! New Music Festival (Hong Kong), Shanghai New Music Week (Shanghai, China), Edgefest (Ann Arbor, MI), Música de Agora na Bahia (Brazil), Aldeburgh Music (UK), and Lo Spririto della musica di Venezia (La Fenice Theater, Italy). Central to the quartet’s mission is advocacy for new works by living composers; commissioned composers include Sam Pluta (Lucerne Festival Commission), Dan Blake (Jerome Commission), Mark Barden (Wien Modern Festival Commission), Richard Carrick (Fromm Commission), George Lewis (ECLAT Festival Commission) Eric Wubbels (CMA Commission), Kate Soper, Scott Wollschleger, Patrick Higgins (ZS), and poet/musician Saul Williams.

In its commissioning projects, the group has often collaborated with guest artists from fields other than notated concert music, opening up previously unexplored possibilities for the string quartet. For instance, the quartet has collaborated with improvisers such as Ned Rothenberg, Timucin Sahin, and Dan Blake in the creation of new works for improvising instrumentalist with string quartet (MIVOS’s collaborative work with Ned Rothenberg was performed live in Buffalo in 2011, presented by Hallwalls). MIVOS has also collaborated with media artists in multimedia works, such as a 2014 collaboration with Samson Young on an interactive work for “extremely amplified” string quartet, 20-channel spatialized sound, 8 video tracks, and EEG (brainwave) sensors. Significantly, quite a few of the quartet’s projects are concert length works, facilitating a depth, immersion, and ambition that might not emerge within the confines of the customary 7-22 minute duration typical of many new music festival commissions.

Complementing their endeavor to expand the string quartet through improvisation and interactive multimedia, the group has also collaborated with spoken word artist Saul Williams. In this project, composers Ted Hearne, Jace Clayton, and the quartet’s own members created material for string quartet to be played alongside Williams’s live performance of his poems. An article from Minnesota Public Radio gives more detail about the innovative project.
Finally, one cannot help but be struck by the volume of the group’s activities that have unfolded in a mere nine years. In addition the genre-bending collaborations described above, the group has release five full albums—including two albums devoted to notated works—and has appeared on numerous other recordings as well. The internet thankfully offers ample documentation of their performances: the group’s soundcloud page is a great place to start; be sure to also check out the plentiful videos available on youtube and vimeo.


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