Friday, August 31, 2018

Case Scaglione joins the Slee Sinfonietta to conduct Berio and Copland

(Case Scaglione)

     Acclaimed conductor Case Scaglione is returning to UB on September 12 for the first concert of the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music’s fall season, which will consist of two essential pieces of 20th century repertoire: Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Luciano Berio’s Folk Songs. The works will be performed by the Slee Sinfonietta, featuring UB’s own soprano Tiffany DuMouchelle in Folk Songs. The concert will take place on Wednesday, September 12th, in the Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall on the University at Buffalo’s North Campus in Amherst. As usual, tickets are available at the Slee Hall box office, (716) 645-2921, and more detailed information is provided at the end of this post.

       The Buffalo community has had the opportunity to see Maestro Scaglione perform at UB twice before: first in 2013, when he conducted a concert with music by Maurice Ravel, Edgard Varèse and Pierre Boulez, and more recently in 2016, when Dérive, by Boulez, was followed by two pieces by Arnold Schoenberg: his Opus 4, Verklärte Nacht  (Transfigured Night), for string sextet, and Pierrot Lunaire (Op. 21), for voice and chamber ensemble. Scaglione, who in the past has conducted prominent American and Asian orchestras, such as the New York Philharmonic, the China Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic, spent much of the 2017-18 season in front of the Oulu Symphony Orchestra, the Brussels Philharmonic, the Ulster Orchestra and the RTE National Symphony Orchestra, among other European institutions.

(Tiffany DuMouchelle)

       The two works featured in the program Scaglione will conduct during the September 12th concert are audience favorites from last century’s repertoire. However, their popularity is not all that Appalachian Spring and Folk Songs have in common. They are also works that engage with pre-existing music to a significant degree. And in both cases, rather than resort to themes from the classical tradition, Copland and Berio used prior melodies which have their origin in a genre that has become the epitome of folk and popular music in the West: the song. 

       Copland’s work, originally a ballet commissioned by Martha Graham, was written between 1942 and 1944, and received the Pulitzer Prize the following year. The composer later condensed the music, scored for a chamber ensemble of thirteen instruments, to create a suite for orchestra at the behest of conductor Artur Rodzinski. This orchestration retained all the essential features of the music, omitting those sections in which the interest was primarily choreographic. The Slee Sinfonietta will perform a version of the condensed suite scored for the original ensemble of thirteen instruments.

(Aaron Copland)

       The work is structured in eight sections, originally accompanying a choreographic action focused on different scenes in the life of a young couple in the Pennsylvania hills at the beginning of the 19th century. The seventh section—one of the highlights of the work—consists of five variations on a song known as “Simple gifts”, written by Joseph Brackett, a member of a Shaker community in Maine during the 19th century.  It is perhaps partly for its use of such willfully unassuming material, that Appalachian Springs has become an enduring symbol of Americana.

       Berio’s Folk Songs was composed in 1964 on a commission by Mills College. Although the composer would eventually write a version for full orchestra in 1973, the version to be performed during the upcoming concert is the original for chamber ensemble. The work was written for Cathy Berberian, an extremely versatile American soprano with whom the composer had a prolonged professional and personal relationship. They were, in fact, married for 14 years, and their collaboration resulted in some of the most important vocal works of the second half of the 20th century, such as Sequenza III, Recital I (for Cathy), Thema (Omaggio a Joyce), Circles and Epiphanie, in addition to the piece we are discussing.

(Luciano Berio)

       As we’ve mentioned above, in Folk Songs—possibly one of Berio’s best known works, together with the voices and orchestra piece Sinfoniathe composer makes use of a characteristic strategy: the recontextualization of pre-existing music. In this case, Berio selected European and American popular melodies from clearly defined musical cultures and built a subtle and imaginative orchestration supporting them. However, contrary to the title of the work, not all the songs Berio used are folkloric in a strict sense: the melodies of the first two—”Black is the colour of my true love’s hair” and “I wonder as I wander”were composed by John Jacob Niles, and Berio himself wrote the sixth and seventh songs—”La donna ideale” and “Ballo”—while he was a student at the Milan conservatory. The seven remaining songs do belong to the folklore of Armenia, France, Sicily, Sardinia and Azerbaijan. 

       The event is not to be missed, as it will surely offer exciting performances of these admired works.

General Public: $15 plus $2 fee online at Ticketfly (up to 90 minutes prior to concert time) $15 plus $4 fee by phone at 877-987-6487 (Ticketfly) $19 in person at UB's Center for the Arts (Tue-Fri, 12pm-6pm) $22 in person at the door (one hour before concert time) Seniors/UB fac, staff, alumni/non-UB students: $10 plus $2 fee online at Ticketfly (up to 90 minutes prior to concert time) $10 plus $4 fee by phone at 877-987-6487 (Ticketfly) $14 in person at UB's Center for the Arts (Tue-Fri, 12pm-6pm) $17 in person at the door (one hour before concert time) All UB students with a valid ID will receive one complimentary ticket to all UB Music Department events.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Center for 21st Century Music announces its 2018-2019 Season!

Take a quick look at our 2018-2019 Season, details below!

The Robert & Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music
Calendar of Events

Slee Sinfonietta

September 12, 2018
7:30 pm in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall
Case Scaglione, Conductor
Luciano Berio – Folk Songs
Aaron Copland – Appalachian Spring

October 15, 2018
7:30 pm in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall
The Slee Sinfonietta presents Ensemble Signal
Brad Lubman, Conductor

Oliver Knussen – Sonya’s Lullaby
Oliver Knussen – Hums and Songs of Winnie the Pooh
Elliott Carter – Triple Duo

– Intermission –  

Oliver Knussen – Secret Psalm
Toru Takemitsu – Rain Tree Sketch II
Oliver Knussen – Songs without Voices

Visiting Ensemble Series

November 6, 2018
UB Graduate Composer Workshop

November 7, 2018
7:30 pm in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall
Program to feature the music of Samuel Andreyev, others

April 23, 2019
7:30 pm in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall
Music by Cassidy, Lim, and Barrett

April 24, 2019
ELISION Ensemble
UB Graduate Composer Workshop

May 7/8 TBA, 2019
UB Graduate Composer Workshop

May 9, 2019
7:30 pm in Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall
Composer Portrait: David Felder
The Arditti String Quartet performs Third Face, Stuck-stücke, and Netivot
Violin Soloist Irvine Arditti joins Ensemble Signal for David Felder’s Violin Concerto Jeu de Tarot

(ELISION ensemble)

Visiting Composer Series

Olivier Pasquet, composer, music producer, and visual artist
Berlin, Germany
Fall 2018

Aaron Holloway-Nahum, composer, conductor, and sound engineer
London, UK
March 2019

Paris, France
May 3, 2019

(Stefano Gervasoni)

Co-Sponsored Events

A Musical Feast at the Burchfield Penney

Composers’ Workshop Band
February – May 2019
Final concert date TBA

June in Buffalo

June 3 – 9, 2019
David Felder, Artistic Director

Senior Composers:
Other, TBA

Resident Ensembles:

Special Guest:
(Ensemble Dal Niente)

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Celebrating 12 Years at the Center

After 12 years of existence, the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music has progressed from strength to strength. The Center is the support system for contemporary music at the University at Buffalo, providing financial, technical, and administrative support for the June in Buffalo Festival, Slee Sinfonietta, visiting composers, visiting contemporary music ensembles, and more.

Edge of the Center recently sat down with the Center’s artistic director, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition David Felder, to reflect on the institution’s history. Founded in 2006, the Center for 21st Century Music was the culmination of two decades of behind the scenes administrative efforts on Felder’s part. Professor Felder took the first step towards the creation of the Center by reviving the then defunct June in Buffalo Festival, upon joining the music department’s faculty in 1985. In doing so, he also significantly transformed the festival’s format through the addition of opportunities for young composers to have their music played by professional performers. Moreover, this model of how to run a music festival would ultimately have a crucial influence on the wider contemporary music world; developed a few years earlier through Felder’s creation of the Summer Composer Institute at California State University-Long Beach, the model would later be replicated by dozens of music festivals worldwide.

Guest ensemble Signal performs David Felder's Tweener
The second step came in 1995, when Felder, as chair of the music department, created the Slee Sinfonietta, a chamber ensemble consisting of music performance faculty, advanced students, and professionals devoted to the performance of neglected and underrepresented repertoire of the present and past. The ensemble’s regular programming, collaborations with guest artists, recordings, and tours have contributed significantly to the department’s local, national, and international visibility. Given the difficulties of funding a chamber ensemble, the Sinfonietta was fortunate Robert and Carol Morris stepped up as donors in 1996 with substantial funds to support the ensemble’s performances.

The Morrises would later go on to become central donors to the Center for 21st Century Music following its creation in 2006. The Center’s creation with support from the College of Arts and Sciences established a robust support system for contemporary music at the university enabling the significant expansion of a guest artist series, inviting leading composers, soloists, and ensembles to share their talent and expertise not only with students and faculty in the music department but also with the general public of Western New York, enriching local culture.

Guest ensemble Signal performs David Felder's concert-length
Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux
Other components of the Center’s programming were also augmented correspondingly. The Slee Sinfonietta was able to present ambitious projects the likes of which are rarely realized outside of large coastal cities, such as the Slee Sinfonietta’s performance of large-scale modern chamber orchestra masterpieces like Pierre Boulez’s Pli selon Pli and Gyorgy Ligeti’s Piano Concerto, as well as regular appearances by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra at June in Buffalo, in concerts devoted solely to music by living composers. These programming successes led to notice from national press outlets, such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

The Center’s financial support system also led to less overt but equally consequential improvements in the university’s infrastructure for contemporary art music. Equipment upgrades, for instance to the projection system in Baird Hall, including the addition of high quality surround sound, ultimately benefitted all students and faculty of the music department by improving the presentation of media featured in lectures, concerts, and classes. Purchase of new equipment, such as an eight-channel rig of Meyers speakers, mixing consoles, microphones, and so forth, supported first-rate realizations of cutting edge works involving technology. The Center’s funds also led to the creation of stable professional development funding for advanced students in composition and performance, such as the Enhancement Awards for PhD students, which supported travel to and attendance at prestigious national and international festivals, culminating in the creation of exchange partnerships with the Abbaye de Royaumont’s “Voix Nouvelles” (New Voices) Course for Young Composers in France as well as a partnership in development with the Norwegian Academy of Music. In these activities, the Center functions as catalyst for creativity and connection, providing a support system for innovative creative endeavors while facilitating the dissemination of content locally, nationally, and internationally.

The Center's artistic director, David Felder
As the Center’s outputs involves a broad spectrum of people, its continued support has likewise depended upon the generosity and hard work of numerous individuals. Felder says, “I would like to express my sincere gratitude to past Deans of the College of Arts and Sciences, Uday Sukhatme, Bruce McCombe, Bruce Pitman, to present Dean Robin Schulze, for their support of the Center’s activities. I’d also like to thank President (and previously Provost) Satish K. Tripathi, and Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Charles F. Zukoski, whose support has been crucial to the Center’s thriving. Professor Felder notes that, in addition to university administrators, donors have played a crucial role in establishing and sustaining the Center. “I immensely value the friendship and generosity of Robert and Carol Morris,  and Brian Baird of the Cameron Baird Foundation, for their continuing support, and extend gratitude to long time funders of June in Buffalo such as the Copland Fund, the Ditson Fund, and the Amphion Foundation."

Behind the scenes, numerous music department staff have played important roles in the Center’s logistics, often behind the scenes: Dusti Dean (Assistant to the Chair) has mastered and managed the complex financial requirements inherent in administering the Center’s funds, while Christopher Jacobs (music technology director) has assisted in the realization of numerous works with complex audio technology requirements. Phil Rehard (Slee Hall concert manager) has provided essential assistance with concert production, while Devin Zimmer (piano technician) has brought great expertise and dedication to keyboard instrument maintenance.

J.T. Rinker, the Center’s first managing director, stepped down from this role in summer 2017. A composition PhD graduate of UB, J.T. oversaw the implementation of the Center’s projects, including everything from realizing complex live electronic set-ups, to all of the smallest tasks required to produce literally thousands of events dating back nearly two decades. “It is with great sadness that we say goodbye to J.T., and we wish him the very best,” says Felder.

Robert Phillips succeeds Rinker as managing director. Phillips also holds a composition PhD from UB; since completing his degree in 2012 he has been selected for competitive fellowships and residencies at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stiftung Künstlerdorf Schöppingen, and PACT Zollverein. The Center welcomes Robert on board as it continues to build on its record of substantive programming. When asked about his current activities at the Center, Robert remarked, “Of course there’s lots to do with all of the June in Buffalo applications rolling in, and plans are underway for the 35th anniversary of June in Buffalo in 2020!”

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Irvine Arditti: Reimagining String Instruments

The Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to welcome star new music violinist Irvine Arditti back to the June in Buffalo festival. It is difficult to overstate Arditti’s importance in the new music world: he has played a leading role as advocate for the creation of new works for string instruments. Between his activities as violin soloist and his role in founding (in 1974) and leading the Arditti Quartet, he is responsible for commissioning, premiering, and recording countless important works.

Numerous important violin solos and concerti have been written for Arditti, who has appeared as soloist with distinguished orchestras and ensembles such as the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, BBC Symphony, Berlin Radio Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw, Munich Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Paris, Philharmonia Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, Asko Ensemble, London Sinfonietta, and the Nieuw Ensemble. As leader of the Arditti Quartet, he has received additional accolades. The quartet’s recordings (over 200 albums to date) have received multiple Gramophone (“Grammy”) Awards and Deutsche Schallplattenpreisen, and a Coup de Coeur Prize and Grand Prix from the Academie Charles Cros in 2004; the group has played at most major new music festivals worldwide, and is the only ensemble to receive the Ernst von Siemens Prize for lifetime achievement.

Irvine Arditti at June in Buffalo 2015
Arditti has played a crucial role in reviving composers’ interest in string instruments. In the decades after WWII, interest in strings and in particular the string quartet waned, due in part because of their (negatively perceived) associations with “high” Western culture. This medium may have become obsolete were it not for the advocacy of the Ardittis—alongside the contemporaneous LaSalle, Berner, and Kronos Quartets—in encouraging living composers to write for the medium. Today, the string quartet medium is alive and well, with a vibrant scene of younger string quartets (including June in Buffalo resident ensemble MIVOS Quartet) and an ever-growing and accomplished repertoire of works by living composers of a wide range of aesthetic persuasions.

Irvine Arditti and the Arditti Quartet have long been closely connected to UB and the Center for 21st Century Music. The Center’s artistic director, SUNY Distinguished Professor David Felder, wrote all three of his string quartets for the group (the first one dates from 1987-88), who went on to play them at prominent new music festivals worldwide. His latest string quartet, Netivot, written for both the Arditti and JACK Quartets, was premiered by the Ardittis at June in Buffalo 2016. Thanks to the Center’s support, both Irvine Arditti and his quartet have been able to visit June in Buffalo with greatly increased frequency—the quartet was resident ensemble in 2007, 2010, and 2016, while Arditti was guest soloist in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017.

At this year’s festival, Irvine Arditti will perform a solo recital of works by senior faculty Roger Reynolds, Hilda Paredes, and Hans Thomalla—all of them long-time Arditti collaborators—on Thursday, June 7 at 7:30pm in Baird Recital Hall. The recital also includes a work by the late Portugese composer Emmanuel Nunes. The following Saturday, June 9, at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Arditti joins Signal Ensemble to give the second full performance of Center artistic director David Felder’s violin concerto Jeu de Tarot which he premiered at the Center in November with Ensemble Linea.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

David Felder: Sustaining Cultural Ecosystems

As the final post of our series introducing senior composers featured at this year’s June in Buffalo festival, we introduce the festival’s artistic director David Felder, who is also SUNY Distinguished Professor, Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition, and artistic director of the Center for 21st Century Music at the University at Buffalo. Felder revived the then-defunct festival in 1986, and has continued as its director ever since. It is no small accomplishment to keep an arts institution running for decades, and it is due in large part to Felder’s tireless (and often under-recognized) work that the festival not only continues but flourishes today. Active on multiple fronts—composition, pedagogy, arts administration, and curation—Felder has been able make uniquely impactful contributions to the field of contemporary art music. Through June in Buffalo alone, he has opened up countless opportunities for composers and performers—both student and professional—as well as enriched Western New York’s cultural ecosystem. The composer will present his own perspective on these activities in a public lecture on Monday, June 4 at 10am in Baird Hall.

This year’s festival features performances of three Felder works, ranging from early to recent. On Tuesday, June 5 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, the MIVOS Quartet will perform Third Face, Felder’s first string quartet (1987-88). The piece has been performed by the Arditti Quartet at a number of significant European new music festivals and was subsequently praised by Andrew Porter of the The New Yorker: “After further hearings of it I admire it even more. It is lucid, but with a controlled wildness in its making.” The work’s title originates in Kobo Abe’s novel The Face of Another, wherein “the main character is a chemist/teacher whose face horribly disfigured when an experiment explodes. He is fitted with a ‘neutral’ mask and given the opportunity to select new features that will be accomplished through plastic surgery.” Felder “borrowed only the rough scenario” as a metaphor guiding the concatenation of melodic fragments into phrases.

On Saturday, June 9 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Signal Ensemble will give the second full performance of Felder’s new work Jeu de Tarot, a violin concerto featuring star new music violin soloist Irvine Arditti. The work was premiered last November by Ensemble Linea—who commissioned the work—during their residency at the Center. Arditti played the solo part in this performance as well, and the solo part was in fact composed in direct collaboration with the violinist. Felder says “I’d like to express my extreme gratitude to Irvine Arditti, who generously took time out of his hectic touring schedule to work closely with me while I composed this work.” The work’s title references the Tarot deck, and each of the work’s seven movements takes its title from a particular major arcanum of the Tarot deck. Each movement explores a “scene suggested by the rich symbology of the images upon the cards,” including images by Hieronymous Bosch and William Blake as well as the textual speculations of P.D. Ouspensky in his remarkable publication “A New Model of the Universe.”

William Blake, Tarot images
Finally, on Sunday, June 10 at 2:30pm in Slee Hall, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra presents a concert consisting entirely of music by living composers. The concert includes two movements from Felder’s Six Poems from Neruda’s “Alturas…”, based on the poetry of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The work has the distinction of being the only American orchestral composition selected by the international jury of the International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM) in 1994 for performance at its festival in Sweden that year. It is fitting that the Buffalo Philharmonic will perform this piece, given that they premiered it in 1992, after New York State Council on the Arts commissioned the piece. The quality of the piece led Mode Records to release it on disc; the liner notes describe how

Like Neruda's cycle of twelve poems on which it is based, the music weaves together images and themes such as reverence for nature, cyclical aspects of regeneration, irresistible death and its accompanying transience of the individual against a background of the collective vastness of time. This is accompanied by a strong sense of individual isolation and alienation and a powerful feeling of loss and longing for a discovery of a greater identity.

June in Buffalo 2018 Announces Participant Composers

The June in Buffalo Festival is delighted to announce 23 accomplished emerging composers selected from a distinguished pool of applicants from four continents to participate in this year's festival. Their names are below, listed with information about their piece featured at the festival. 

Mathew Arrellin (Northwestern University): Cacodemonic for string quartet

Josiah Catalan (University of California Davis): Mirages for fl, vla, vc, perc

Kai-Young Chan (Chinese University of Hong Kong): Shimmers in the Shivery Moon for fl, cl, vn, vc, pf

Weijun Chen (University at Buffalo): Watercolors for fl/pic, ob/eh, cl/bcl, bsn, hn, timp, 2 perc, hp, pf, 2 vn, va, vc, db

Yi-Hsien Chen (University of California San Diego): Breathing In Memory for string quartet

William David Cooper (University of California Davis): Epilogue for fl, cl, ob, hn, tpt, trb, hp, pf, perc, 2vn, va, vc, cb

Nathan Courtright (University of Pennsylvania): No. 305 for string quartet

Flannery Cunningham (University of Pennsylvania): We are the same as we have always been for cl, electronics

Sean Doyle (American University): regarding "Reconciliation Elegy" for vn

Kyle Puebla Dubin (New York University): Under the Glacier for string quartet

Dylan Findley (University of Missouri Kansas City): Mind of Energy for bs cl, marimba

Yotam Haber (University of New Orleans): estro poetico armonico II for afl, bcl, vn, vc, pf

Angel Hernandez-Camen (New England Conservatory): Apanahuiayan for pf

Kyle Johnson (University of California San Diego): String Quartet 

Seoung Ae Kim (Stonybrook University (SUNY)):  #metoo for bs cl, perc

Su Lee (University at Buffalo): Nachruf für Nr. 503 for pf, hpschd, perc, org

Clay Mettens (University of Chicago): Without Air for fl db pic, va, vc, hp, perc

Ioannis Mitsialis  (University of California San Diego): Saturn for fl/pic, cl/bcl, trb, perc, pf, vn, vc 

Fernando Munizaga (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris): Ondas Primarias for fl, cl, perc, pf, hp, cb

Alon Nechushtan (New England Conservatory): Three Places in New York for fl, cl, ob, bsn, hn, tpt, trb, hp, pf, perc, 2 vn, va, vc, cb

Kurt Nelson (Temple University): strttura assente for vn, va, vc

Reilly Spitzfaden (Eastman School of Music): Touch for vla solo
Kezia Yap (University of Sydney): a structure of silences: an exploration of (*) (ma) for afl, electronics

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hans Thomalla: Critical Engagements with History

The Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to welcome Hans Thomalla as senior composer at this year’s June in Buffalo festival. Currently Associate Professor of Composition at Northwestern University, he also founded and directs the university’s Institute for New Music, Northwestern’s counterpart to UB’s Center for 21st Century Music. Thomalla’s work has been widely performed in North America, Europe, and beyond, by ensembles Ensemble Recherche, the Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Modern, Musikfabrik, Ensemble Dal Niente, Ensemble Ascolta, Spektral Quartet, and Trio Accanto, and soloists Nicolas Hodges, Lucas Fels, Marcus Weiss, Sarah-Maria Sun, and Yukiko Sugawara. Awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung Composer Prize, the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis, the Christoph-Delz-Prize, and a fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Remarkably for a mid-career composer, two of his operas have been produced in high profile settings: Fremd at the main stage of the Stuttgart Opera in 2011, Kaspar Hauser at the Freiburg Opera in 2016; a third opera Dark Spring will be produced by the Mannheim Opera in Spring 2019.

While Thomalla is highly regarded as a composer, he is also in demand as a lecturer, writer, and pedagogue. Thomalla’s invitation to this year’s festival follows his guest artist residency at the Center in spring 2017, where he gave a masterclass to graduate students as well as a particularly well-received talk on how his compositions converse with historical musical conventions. Additional teaching and lecturing, for instance, at the Darmstadt Summer Courses and the SWR Experimentalstudio’s MATRIX course, has also been highly regarded.

At this year’s June in Buffalo festival, he will give a public lecture on his work on Tuesday, June 5, at 10am in Baird Hall, as well as multiple masterclasses to the festival’s participant composers. Thomalla’s discourse about music is an unusually sophisticated one, informed not only by a knowledge of musical histories, but also by knowledge of non-musical fields like philosophy, cultural theory, and semiotics; these diverse knowledges are then synthesized into a highly original critical perspective on music making. The composer has posted numerous texts on his website; the recent “Traces of Meaning” makes a particularly consequential intervention in discussions about text-music relationships in recent opera.

This year’s festival features performances of three Thomalla works, including a relatively new one. Chamber music is perhaps the core of his work, and Buffalo audiences are fortunate to have opportunities to hear two of the composer’s challenging chamber works. On Tuesday, June 5 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, the MIVOS Quartet performs Albumblatt, Thomalla’s deconstruction of the “album leaf,” the diaristic 19th-century music genre. On Friday, June 8 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Ensemble Mise-En presents the commposer’s Momentsmusicaux for mixed chamber ensemble, a work that negotiates between aesthetic extremes of 19th century Western art music: the technocratic aesthetics of Theobald Boehm and the lyric aesthetics of Johannes Brahms, each embodied in fragments sampled to generate the music’s surface.

The festival will also present a performance of a relatively new Thomalla work—Air for solo violin, performed by violin soloist extraordinaire and long-term Thomalla collaborator Irvine Arditti. This piece is the latest in the composer’s increasingly concrete, and yet critical, engagement with the materials of historical tonality. Thomalla writes that in recent years he has become

…more and more interested in the formal possibilities of tonality. Less because of what I increasingly experienced as a staleness of a certain “jargon of New Music,” but rather for my personal rediscovery of tonality’s syntactic semantic potential, a discovery I made through a re-engagement with music of composers such as Eisler and Sondheim. It is less the “development music” tonality of the classic romantic period, but that of song…its melodies hardly ever consolidate in tonal cadences, but are characterized by a tonality of constant modulatory drift.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Roger Reynolds: Pioneering Composer Returns to UB

June in Buffalo is delighted to welcome back Roger Reynolds, University Professor at the University of California-San Diego. Reynolds is a major figure in American music, having pioneered numerous possibilities now embraced widely within contemporary art music: sound spatialization, intermedia, algorithms, live electronics, graphic notation, new approaches to music and text, and more. For this, his work has been widely recognized, for instance with a Pulitzer Prize and commissions from the Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, BBC, and National Symphony Orchestras, and the UK Arts Council, French Ministry of Culture, IRCAM, and the Fromm, Rockefeller, and Koussevitzky Foundations. Also highly respected as a pedagogue, Reynolds’s students include Center for 21st Century Music artistic director David Felder, as well as other composers in top faculty positions across the US, at Harvard (Chaya Czernowin), University of Michigan (Michael Daugherty), University of Florida (Paul Koonce), and University of North Texas (Andrew May).

Reynolds has a long-standing relationship with UB and the Center for 21st Century Music. Reynolds has appeared regularly senior composer at June in Buffalo since the mid-1980s, acting as mentor to participant composers and working with resident ensembles on performances of his music. In addition to numerous appearances in the 1990s and early 2000s, Reynolds has appeared at the Center four times since its 2006 creation. In addition to a visit on the Center’s guest artist series in 2014, Reynolds has been invited as senior composer at June in Buffalo in 2007, 2010, and 2015. During these festivals, June in Buffalo has been able to present a wide cross section of his work: violin soloist extraordinaire Irvine Arditti presented solo violin works, while the Arditti Quartet (led by Irvine Arditti himself) performed works for string quartet, UB Piano Professor Eric Huebner interpreted Reynold’s Piano Etudes, Book I, and the percussion ensemble red fish blue fish realized the composer’s ambitious Sanctuary for percussion and live electronics. Significantly, all of these performers are long-term collaborators with Reynolds—Irvine Arditti and the Arditti Quartet for decades—resulting in ideal performance circumstances for this challenging work.

This year’s festival presents a similarly wide range of Reynolds works. Irvine Arditti returns to this year’s festival to perform Shifting/Drifting, a work for solo violin and real time algorithmic transformation. The work will be performed on Thursday, June 7 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, with technical assistance from another regular Reynolds collaborator, electronic musician Paul Hembree.
The festival is also delighted to be facilitating collaborations between Reynolds and ensembles who are newer to his work. On Friday, June 8 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Ensemble Mise-En will perform Shadowed Narrative for clarinet, piano, violin, and cello, and Signal Ensemble will present Positings for flute, horn, violin, cello, piano, and real time sound spatialization.

In addition to performances of his music, Reynolds will also give a public talk, on Wednesday June 6 at 10am in Baird Hall. Reynolds is renowned for his writing and his lecture curation, so the talk will undoubtedly provide unique insight into the creative process driving his decades-long career.