Thursday, May 25, 2017

June in Buffalo 2017 Participants

The June in Buffalo Festival is pleased to announce its 2017 composer participants: 

Phil Acimovic
Roberto Azaretto
Michael Bang
Joseph Bohigian
Lily Chen
Yu-Chun Chien
Paul Duffy
Derick Evans
Meredith Gilna
Kolten Heeren
Alex Huddleston
Zhuosheng Jin
Jihyun Kim
Jiyoung Ko
Leslie Lang
Sunyeong Pak
Jakub Polaczyk
Matt Simon
Ben Stevenson
Adam Strawbridge
Adrien Trybucki
Colin Tucker
Jacob Walls
Jung Yoon Wie

The June in Buffalo Festival takes place June 5-11 2017 on the University at Buffalo campus. June in Buffalo offers an intensive schedule of seminars, lectures, 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 their pieces performed during the festival. Evening performances feature faculty composers, resident ensembles and soloists renowned internationally as interpreters of contemporary music. Faculty composers include Eivind BueneDavid DzubayDavid Felder, Brian FerneyhoughHenrik Hellstenius, and Jeffrey Mumford, while resident performers include Dal NienteMivos QuartetEnsemble SIGNAL, Slee Sinfonietta. Buffalo Philharmonic OrchestraCikada Trio, and Irvine Arditti.

A schedule of all June in Buffalo concerts is available here.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Henrik Hellstenius: Voyages and Rifts

June in Buffalo is delighted to welcome Henrik Hellstenius as a faculty composer in 2017. Hellstenius will be featured at June in Buffalo alongside composer Eivind Buene, the Cikada Trio, and the Bifrost Ensembles as part of a broader musical exchange between Buffalo and Oslo during 2017, to be profiled in a future blog post. Currently professor of composition at the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, Hellstenius has written music that has appeared on 22 commercially available recordings, spanning chamber music, orchestra, opera, electroacoustic music, and music for theatre. This year’s June in Buffalo will feature performances of Hellstenius’s chamber and solo music. During the festival, Hellstenius will also give a lecture and will give feedback to participant-composers in masterclasses.

Rift, a string trio from 2014, will be performed by the MIVOS Quartet; Trio Aristos’s recording of the work is available on Tidal, Spotify, and iTunes. Perhaps most immediately striking about the piece’s musical language is its approach to accumulating and dissipating gestural energy. While the piece follows a familiar global shape of accumulation to a high point (4:50 in the Trio Aristos recording) followed by dissipation, this shape unfolds in unpredictable and remarkable ways on a local level. In accumulating momentum over the piece’s first five minutes, the piece charts a patient, often discontinuous trajectory. Much of the first half of the piece attempts to gather rhythmic energy on descending scalar figures, as if trying to roll down a hill; these efforts rarely sustain themselves, and often end up far afield of their goal. At times, one’s location within the global energy shape is clear, but at other times, it is not apparent at all, making for an exciting play of expectation and realization as the piece unfolds. The piece’s nuanced dramatic shape is undoubtedly assisted by the piece’s subtle pitch language. Pitches are derived from spectral chords, yielding a colorful range of microtonal intervals. These intervals—sometimes reminiscent of tonal sonorities—together with the piece’s widely varying registral spacing in a striking sound world wholly distinct from the saturated chromaticism of high modernist atonality.

June in Buffalo will also feature a performance by Irvine Arditti (of the Arditti Quartet) of the violin solo The Argonaut (2010). You can hear a performance of the work by Emily Fowler in the recording above. Drawn from the material of a larger instrumental theatre piece Victoria Counting for staged violinist. Hellstenius writes that “the title refers to the seamen following Ulysses on his many voyages,” based on Heiner Müller’s text Landscape with Argonauts.

This year’s festival will also feature a new Hellstenius piece Unfolded, as it were, performed by the Cikada Trio, who commissioned the piece. The composer writes that

This piece shifts between short sections, or moments, with repetition of a sparse material of chords and sound objects, and moves towards a more linear music. It begins in an environment of small cells of noise sound and repeated musical objects. Then it moves towards the linear outstretched music, unfolding gradually a long garland or chain of tight piano chords forming the nave the last part of the piece. The piece develops from fragmented music towards compound music, from objects towards process. 

Despite the attention that his music has received across Europe, Hellstenius’s music has rarely been performed in the US. This year’s June in Buffalo, with performances of multiple recent works by top new music ensembles, provides optimal introduction to his music.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Juliet Fraser: Wondering, Reaching, Grasping

This week renowned British soprano Juliet Fraser visits the Center for 21st Century Music for a residency. Fraser, principal soprano and co-founder of the Exaudi Vocal Ensemble, will present a solo concert Thursday featuring an extended vocal work by former UB Professor Morton Feldman. In addition to a concert, she will conduct a new workshop with graduate composition students, focusing on a new work for solo voice by PhD composition student Jessie Downs. Drawing on her experiences performing contemporary vocal ensemble music, Fraser will also coach the local Sotto Voce Vocal Collective on its interpretations of works by James Weeks and Lauren Redhead to be featured on an upcoming concert.

Active in performing a wide range of repertoire, Fraser has performed classical and early music with the Monteverdi Choir, The King's Consort, The Tallis Scholars, and BBC Singers, and was a soloist of the Collegium Vocale Gent, directed by Philippe Herreweghe, for six years. In new music, she is principal soprano and co-founder of the Exaudi Vocal Ensemble, and has also appeared as soloist with Klangforum Wien, ICTUS, Plus-Minus, We Spoke: New Music Company, London Sinfonietta and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and is active in duos with pianist Mark Knoop and percussionist Maxime Echardour. She has appeared at festivals such as as hcmf//, Tectonics Glasgow, Transit 20/21, Donaueschinger Musiktage, MaerzMusik, Wien Modern, Aldeburgh, Spitalfields, hcmf//, ManiFeste, Festival d'Automne, Ars Musica, Wittener Tage and Darmstadt Ferienkurse.

Fraser has developed close collaborative relationships with numerous renowned living composers. The list of composers who have written solo works for her is impressive: Michael Finnissy, Bernhard Lang, Rebecca Saunders, Stefano Gervasoni, Frank Denyer, Christopher Fox, Matthew Shlomowitz, Cassandra Miller and Andrew Hamilton. As a member of Exaudi, she has worked with many of today's great compositional talents, including two graduates from UB’s Center for 21st Century Music.  Aaron Cassidy’s A Painter of Figures in Rooms was commissioned for Exaudi by the high profile PRS for Music New Music 20×12 as part of the 2012 London Cultural Olympiad, and was later recorded by the ensemble on Huddersfield Contemporary Records. Meanwhile, Fraser has premiered multiple vocal ensemble works by Evan Johnson, a collaboration that will continue in 2019 with a new work for voice and piano.

At UB, Fraser will perform Three Voices, a work by another UB-affiliated composer, Morton Feldman, who was Edgar Varèse Professor during the height of the Center for Creative and Performing Arts. Feldman wrote the work for innovative vocalist/composer Joan La Barbara, who premiered it singing simultaneously with two recordings of herself, a practice Fraser will adopt in her performance (although the score is written conventionally for three voices). Written in 1982 in Buffalo, much of the piece is wordless, with the choice of vowels at the performer’s discretion. A ways into the piece, words emerge, in the form of fragments of a poem dedicated to Feldman by his friend Frank O’Hara.

Fraser recently recorded Three Voices on Hat Hut Records. Her first solo disc, the album has already received international acclaim, including a nomination for a German Schallplattenkritik Prize, and a four-star review from The Guardian music critic Andrew Clements. Fraser wrote the liner notes for her CD, discussing how she formulated an interpretation of this work, which is surely among the most difficult contemporary vocal works:

The challenge of recording this piece is to avoid rendering the delicate tapestry either too cold, too clinical, or too gorgeous; to rest in the ambiguous space between beauty and evil, between the living and the dead. On every level, from the text of O’Hara’s poem to the demands of Feldman’s music, this is a work that is about the very human effort of wondering, reaching, grasping.