Monday, November 22, 2010

Henryk Górecki (1933-2010)

Henryk Górecki, one of the leading composers of the Western-European avant-garde, passed away in his home city of Katowice on November 12th. He was 76.

Born in 1933 in Czernica, southern Poland, Górecki worked as a teacher before studying music in Rybnik with Bolesław Szabelski. In 1961, he studied in Paris, and his music was often heard at the Warsaw Autumn festivals in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Like many of his contemporaries, Górecki's early works extended from the post-Webernian school of serialism. His orchestral work Scontri was controversial upon its premiere in Warsaw in 1960 due to its harsh articulations, and frantic, dissonant textures. In the mid sixties, with the work Refren (1965), which featured whole-tone-based harmonies, his work took a turn toward more straightforward modality and traditional expressivity.

Composed for Pope John Paul II's visit to Kraków in 1979, Górecki's Beatus Vir set biblical psalm texts for baritone, chorus and orchestra, and became something of a personal victory over the secular Soviet regime. Poland's political unrest inspired many of the composer's works, including 1987's Miserere for unaccompanied chorus, composed in remembrance of the violence in Bydgoszcz between the Polish military and members of the Solidarity movement.

In 1992, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Górecki's Third Symphony, was recorded by the London Sinfonietta under David Zinman, with Dawn Upshaw. The recording, which TIME magazine called "a transcendental meditation on mortality and redemption," became an international bestseller, projecting the reclusive composer into the spotlight and proving it possible for a contemporary composer to achieve significant success without compromising originality or substance.

Górecki's later years were plagued with poor health, and he was unable to compose much. His Fourth Symphony was scheduled to be premiered by the London Philharmonic in April, but was postponed due to the composer's health problems.

The Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest honor, which was awarded to his contemporaries Penderecki and Lutosławski in years past, was awarded to Henryk Górecki in October, a month before his death.

Kronos Quartet's David Harrington said of the composer: "There is no one who can replace Henryk Górecki in the world of music. Many others have created beautiful, passionate, even exalted music. But Henryk found a way forward and beyond, through thickets of styles and fashions, that resonates of the single human being in communion with the power of the Universe. I miss him immensely."

In September of 2008, the Slee Sinfonietta performed Górecki's Concerto for Harpsichord and Strings. An excerpt is available here.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Guest Composer to Conduct Copland, Corigliano

The end of October marks the arrival of composer/conductor Matthias Pintscher in Buffalo. Pintscher will conduct the Slee Sinfonietta in a program consisting of crowd favorites: Copland’s Appalachian Spring and Corigliano’s Red Violin Suite (Soloist: Tim Fain).
Also on the program is Pintscher’s own songs from Solomon’s garden. Pintscher is fast gaining recognition internationally as a composer/conductor with numerous accolades. His recent activities include work with distinguished ensembles such as the BBC Scottish Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic.
Tickets for the concert are available at the ticket office in Slee Hall at the University at Buffalo.
(Advance: $12/$9/$5
Day of: $20/$15/$8)

For more information on Matthias Pintscher, check out his very cool website.

Juilliard Composer Visits UB

This week, the Center for 21st Century Music and the UB Department of Music welcome the Emmy-nominated composer Bob Beaser.  Beaser will conduct master-classes for UB graduate composition students on Wednesday October 13th 2010 and lecture on his own works during the graduate composition seminar. Hailed as one of the most accomplished creative musicians of his generation, the Center is excited to host Beaser for this short residency in Buffalo. Beaser is currently Professor and Chairperson of the composition department at the Juilliard School.

CIKADA to Premier Work, Read Student Works

From October 17-22, the center will host Norway’s leading contemporary music ensemble CIKADA. Along with Magnus Andersson, the ensemble will premiere a new commission by David Felder, director of the Center for 21st Century Music and composition faculty of the UB Music department. The visiting ensemble will also conduct a workshop/reading session with the graduate student composers.

The session will take place on Wednesday the 20th of October at 3.30pm and is free and open to public. The young composers involved include Chun-ting Pang, Joe Lake, Diana Soh and Jacob Gotlib. 

Virtuosic Trio Plays New Music at UB

“Did you see that? There are Gods walking down the halls!” remarked Trevor Bjorklund, adjunct theory professor, upon bumping into the Trio of Magnus Andersen, Pascal Gallois and Rohan de Saram.
Indeed, the center for 21st century music and the UB music department was fortunate to have powerhouse virtuosi Magnus Andersson, Pascal Gallois and Rohan de Saram visit for a week of masterclasses, workshops that culminated in an arresting evening concert. The concert program included contemporary music staples like the Berio Sequenza for Bassoon and Xenakis’s Kottos for Cello.

Champions of their instruments, the trio have individually contributed to the development of contemporary music through their collaboration with established composers like Luciano Berio, and Ianis Xenakis to name a few. Now with the new formation of this yet unnamed trio, they are coming together to pass on their valuable experience and to spark a whole new genre of works for this instrumental combination.
Student composers that benefited from the workshop include John Bacon, Felipe Ribero, Diana Soh, Ethan Hayden, Chun-ting Pang and Robert Philips whose piece was selected to be played as an encore in their evening concert.
Unassuming in their demeanor, they were approachable and generous with their time, offering anecdotes on their past experiences working with other composers and educating all that were in the room.

Monday, June 7, 2010

"In Low Key Buffalo, a New Music Milestone"

Wrapping up his series of articles and reviews on JiB 2010, Allan Kozinn of The New York Times contributed a lengthy writeup on several of the festival's concerts, including recitals by Signal, Ensemble SurPlus, and the Arditti Quartet.

While Kozinn had much to say about works by JiB master composers, including Steve Reich, Augusta Read Thomas, Olivier Pasquet, and David Felder, he also devoted substantial space to works by this year's participants, including Daniel Bassin, Matthew Heap, Ashley Wang, Emily Koh, Peter Van Zandt Lane, Huck Hodge, David Wightman, Ray Evanoff, and Jordan Kuspa.  Kozinn described Heap's Illicit Trysts as "an engagingly noisy, rhythmically sharp-edged essay, full of sudden starts and stops and colorful instrumental effects (including quiet sections that sounded as if they were a tape being played backward)."

Noted Kozinn, "Emily Koh’s beautifully eerie circum perceptio, built in layers of delicate string, piano and woodwind timbres, was another highlight of the Signal program. And Peter Van Zandt Lane’s Magana, with a repeating, syncopated clarinet figure taken up contrapuntally in the cello and percussion writing, was one of several student works that used Minimalist techniques as a springboard but headed off in different directions.

"Another, on the Ensemble SurPlus program, was Huck Hodge’s Apparent Motion, which began with a thoroughly Reichian figure and evolved into a harmonically fresh work with a variegated texture full of both sparkle and thunder.

Regarding Kuspa's Piano Trio, Kozinn wrote, "His writing here was sharply focused, carefully shaped and attuned to coloristic possibilities of the piano, violin and cello. The resulting four-movement work, animated and melodically opulent, sounded consistently alive and inspired."

You can follow Allan Kozinn (left), a writer whose interests range from Buxtehude to the Beatles, on Twitter at, also via

Friday, June 4, 2010

"Steve Reich and More at June in Buffalo"

Allan Kozinn, writing about June in Buffalo for The New York Times, weighed in with some interesting observations gleaned from attending seminars led by Olivier Pasquet and Steve Reich. In the course of his thoughtful article, Kozinn touched on a hot topic in the new music world: where the boundaries lie between popular and classical music. Writes Kozinn, "Mr. Pasquet edged onto a fascinating subject when he played examples rooted in techno but meant to be heard as concert music. Mr. Pasquet described this style as 'nonacademic contemporary music,' an awkward description for a gray area that has become pretty crowded recently."

Kozinn also reported remarks by Reich regarding Popcorn Superhet Receiver, an orchestral work by Jonny Greenwood, the guitarist for Radiohead and the composer of the soundtrack score for There Will Be Blood.

“He is an interesting and serious guy,” Mr. Reich said of Mr. Greenwood (at right). “I suggest that instead of thinking in terms of popular music and classical music, we are going to be thinking more in terms of notated music and non-notated music. Instrumentation is no longer a defining issue.” 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Pictures at an Exhibition: UB Music Library celebrates 25 years of JiB under David Felder

Drawing from its extensive archives, UB's Music Library has assembled an exhibition of memorabilia celebrating a quarter-century of June in Buffalo under David Felder's leadership. In true 2010 fashion, the exhibition can be viewed at the library (112 Baird Hall on the Amherst campus) or online in the comfort of your home.  It includes photos, programs, posters, and other documents relating to the festival. Notes the Library's website, "More than 450 student composers have journeyed to Buffalo from around the world to have their music performed by performers of the highest caliber and to study with leading contemporary composers. As Nils Vigeland noted in his liner notes to the Electronic Music Foundation CD 033 (in 2001, referring to 25 years at that time from the beginning of the festival under its originator Morton Feldman in 1975):
In present-day America, twenty-five years is a long time to sustain an artistic organization. This recording reminds one of what extraordinary things can happen when gifted people decide to do something in the time and place where they live. And, they can happen in June, in Buffalo."
Online, one can view lists of master composers who have led seminars at JiB (with photos); a complete list of works performed since 1986; and some highly impressive lists of prominent ensembles and individual performers who have played at the festival. Whether you're a local listener, a proud JiB alum, or a new music researcher, you'll find much to enjoy at this exhibition. At left, a blast from the past: the press release announcing June in Buffalo 1986. Click to enlarge...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

JiB in the Press

Only a few days into June in Buffalo 2010, the festival has already gained notable media attention. New York Times critic Allan Kozinn interviewed festival (and Center) director David Felder on the occasion of June in Buffalo's 25th anniversary. Felder had much to say about the vital process of training young composers, and the pivotal experience of hearing their work played by a world-class professional ensemble. He also offered some interesting observations on the dynamics of having one's music critiqued, whether by a master composer or one's peers.

The Buffalo News reviewed the opening concert of music by Steve Reich, performed by the exciting chamber orchestra known as Signal. Noted Geraud MacTaggart, "June in Buffalo is always interesting, and this year’s version of the venerable festival of modern classical music promises to be more of the same.

"Young composers get their works performed by world-class musicians and critiqued by master composers. For a solid week, all kinds of sounds come from the auditoriums and classrooms at the University at Buffalo’s Amherst campus, and people come from across the continent to sample them." Regarding the program, which consisted of Reich's classic Sextet (1984-85) and his recent, Pulitzer Prize-winning Double Sextet, MacTaggart observed, "While the composer’s musical pulse is one of the first things listeners discern in a Reich score, the way he plays with percussive colors, sliding them in and out of the beats, is one of his great contributions to the minimalist fabric of modern classical music."

In the well-read Sequenza21 website, composer/writer Rob Deemer observed, "That Signal, under the direction of Brad Lubman, could put together a stellar performance of Reich’s works did not come as a surprise – they have been methodically ticking off each of his major chamber works one by one since their inception in 2008. What was surprising, however, was the enthusiasm and unbridled joy with which they pulled the audience into the work; every single performer on both works seemed like they were having the time of their lives, and Lubman was practically dancing more than once during his conducting of the Double Sextet."

Above: David Felder. Photo by Irene Haupt.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Slee Glee

As is customary for June in Buffalo, UB's own Slee Sinfonietta plays a key role in the concert schedule this year, serving up two programs of music by JiB master composers. On June 2, James Baker leads the ensemble in David Felder's Tweener, Olivier Pasquet's Kasper, 6 Piano Etudes by Augusta Read Thomas, and Roger Reynolds's Aspiration.  

On June 4, Brad Lubman conducts the Slee Sinfonietta in works by Harvey Sollberger (New Millennium Memo), Felder (Partial [Dist]res[s]toration and Canzone XXXI), Thomas (Carillon Sky), and Bernard Rands (Now again - fragments from Sappho). Julia Bentley is the mezzo-soprano soloist in the Rands, and violinist Yuki Numata takes the solo role in Thomas's piece.  You can hear excerpts from Carillon Sky here and here.  

In case you're unfamiliar with the group, the Slee Sinfonietta is the professional chamber orchestra in residence at the University at Buffalo and the flagship ensemble of the Center for 21st Century Music. Founded in 1997 by David Felder, it is comprised of UB faculty artists, visiting artists, regional professionals and advanced performance students. Others activities include tours, professionally produced recordings, and unique concert experiences for regional and international audiences alike.  

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A not-so-secret Laboratorium

Another European ensemble appearing at June in Buffalo 2010 is Ensemble Laboratorium. Like Ensemble SurPlus, the group is playing two concerts -- one featuring 20th-century classics (June 3):
Transparente - Oscar Bianchi
Glint - Jacob Druckman
Influence Liquide from Laboratorium - Vinko Globokar
Assonance VI - Michael Jarrell
déja - Bernard Rands
from behind the unreasoning mask - Roger Reynolds

...and the other comprising pieces by JiB participants (June 4):
A Fragmented Landscape - John Bacon
For Bass - Matthew Goodheart
January Miniatures - Joshua Groffman
A Matter of Truth - Hannah Lash
Cross-sightedness - Diana Soh
Chiaroscuro - Gabriele Vanoni
Night Spiral - Christopher Walczak
Cleave Orestes - Stephen Wilcox

Ensemble Laboratorium is based in Switzerland, but the group's members hail from fourteen countries on five continents. A primary goal of the ensemble is the development of an interactive exchange between the cultures represented by its members. This work takes the form of specific projects that explore the complete range of contemporary music -- from well and lesser known repertoire of the 20th and 21st centuries to newly commissioned works, including multimedia collaborations with artists from other fields. In addition to its JiB performances, the group's upcoming swing through New York state will include stops at two experimental music outposts in NYC: The Tank (May 31, June 11) and Issue Project Room (June 10). 

Monday, May 17, 2010

SurPlus value

Among the noteworthy ensembles participating in June in Buffalo 2010, one name in particular may be unfamiliar to American new music fans: Ensemble SurPlus. But this highly accomplished German group plays an important role in this year's JiB, performing works by Augusta Read Thomas, Lukas Foss, Harvey Sollberger, Alvin Lucier, Charles Wuorinen, and Brian Ferneyhough on June 1, and playing participant composers' pieces on June 2. (A full concert schedule is available here.)

Based in Freiburg, Ensemble SurPlus was founded in 1992 by the eminent pianist and conductor James Avery (1937-2009). The Ensemble performs chamber music ranging from duos to large instrumental combinations, and aims to give new or unknown works optimal performances, regardless of compositional style or technical and intellectual demands. Its credits include performances at numerous European festivals including Darmstadt, Musica Viva, Donaueschingen, and others. Ensemble SurPlus has also collaborated closely with the Experimental Studio of the German Radio (SWR). Numerous CD productions and recordings (Ferneyhough, Clark, Spahlinger, Mahnkopf, Wolpe with Heinz Holliger) document the great versatility of the ensemble. For further information and sound samples, visit the Ensemble SurPlus website.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Unburied treasures

The Center for 21st Century Music's official website contains a trove of fascinating archival material pertaining to June in Buffalo. You can view scans of JiB program books stretching back almost 20 years at this page, which also has links to photo galleries from the 2006-09 festivals.

At left, Gunther Schuller explains it all during a 2006 June in Buffalo seminar.

At right, Morton Subotnick makes a point at JiB 2008. Both photos are by the Center's gifted and indefatigable house photographer, Irene Haupt.

Friday, April 30, 2010

June in Buffalo concert schedule now posted!

Now available at the Center for 21st Century Music's official site, the complete schedule of concerts for June in Buffalo, including works by participating composers. As noted previously, a distinguished array of performers and ensembles will be on hand, including the Arditti QuartetSignalEnsemble LaboratoriumEnsemble SurPlus, and as always, the Slee Sinfoniettaand the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. All concerts are open to the public, and many are free. With thirteen new music concerts in seven days, June in Buffalo offers an exceptionally rich experience for insiders and casual listeners alike. 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Olivier Pasquet

Wrapping up our series of posts introducing the senior faculty of June in Buffalo 2010, we present French electro-acoustic composer Olivier Pasquet. Noted for his multimedia collaborations, Pasquet will give two workshops during the festival as well as presenting his own work.  His workshops will explore Computer Aided Composition, demonstrating techniques for using computers to develop both electronic and acoustic pieces.

"Writing electronic music may seem like an easy task at first," says Pasquet. "All who have tried have realized that there is a difference between writing a piece that sounds either amateurish or too commercial and creating something truly unique. Electronic music is supposed to be opening new horizons towards melodic and rhythmic structures that are not limited by physical properties of natural instruments and its musicians. One can argue though, that the removal of all such intermediaries brings the composer a step closer to the ultimate barrier. Of course, we’re talking about inspiration.

Pasquet's own compositions will be heard as well, among them a work for voice and computer, and a collaborative project titled Haxan in which he and Mauro Lanza created a soundtrack for the early Swedish silent film of the same title. Here one can glimpse a bit of City of Flowers, an installation that "invites one to discover a poetic representation of the city."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A few words from a newcomer

Composer Hannah Lash, a PhD candidate at Harvard, is attending June in Buffalo for the first time this year. Hannah is a rising figure on the new music scene, with performances at the Times Center, Chicago Art Institute, Tanglewood Music Center, Harvard University, and on the American Opera Project's stage in New York City. She has written pieces for such artists and ensembles as the Arditti Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, harpist Yolanda Kondonassis, mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer, and Ensemble NEM. Her recent orchestral work, Leave, was selected to be performed by Harvard University's Composer's Orchestra.

"I applied to June in Buffalo because it's solely dedicated to new music and specifically geared to emerging composers," says Hannah.  "Younger composers have the opportunity to share their music in masterclasses with an array of established composers. There are concerts every night featuring the music of the composers in residence at the festival. 

"I look forward to meeting many colleagues with whom I might not have contact otherwise, sharing my music with them, and hearing their work.  I'm also looking forward to interacting with the composers in residence, some of whom are former teachers of mine; it will be fun to reconnect. 

"Also exciting for me is a performance I'll have of my recent piece for Pierrot ensemble: A Matter of Truth.  The fact that this performance is not a premiere makes it almost more interesting for me; I had a wonderful premiere of it by Talea this past spring, and I'm fascinated to discover how another performance may differ and how other performers might interpret the piece. 

"This brings me to another very important reason why I applied to JiB, and that is the resident ensembles.  I've worked with the Arditti Quartet in the past, and also the Buffalo Philharmonic in a reading, but the rest I have not yet had the chance to meet.  Although not all of them will be playing my music, I'm really excited about the opportunity to meet and talk with them, and find out what each one is all about."

(Photo: Noah Fowler)

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This year's June in Buffalo participants: some demographics

Year after year, June in Buffalo draws emerging composers from around the globe, offering an ideal opportunity to exchange ideas and network with colleagues in other territories.

Applications were submitted by some 90 composers from Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan, the UK, and of course the USA. This year, about a third of the JiB applicants were accepted.

American conservatories were represented by the Juilliard School, Peabody Institute, Eastman School of Music, New England Conservatory, Cleveland Institute of Music, and the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music, among others.

Universities included Columbia, Harvard, Yale, University of Pennsylvania, UC Berkeley, UCLA, UC San Diego, Chicago, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, plus scores of others. Foreign institutions included the National Conservatory of Paris, Hochschule fur Musik und Theater Hamburg, Robert-Schumann-Hochschule, Duesseldorf, the Conservatory Vincenzo Bellini in Parlermo, Universities of Huddersfield and Brunel (UK), Wilfrid Laurier and Montreal (Canada), Trinity College Dublin, and the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts.

Many participants find June in Buffalo to be an eye- and ear-opening experience, as they encounter composers whose aesthetic views diverge widely from the ones they cherish. Lively discussions -- whether in seminars or in late-night bull sessions over pitchers of beer and authentic Buffalo chicken wings -- can often prove illuminating, and the bonds formed in these encounters can last for decades.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A(nother) Musical Feast

We're taking a short break from June in Buffalo business to mention an upcoming concert co-presented by the Center for 21st Century Music and Buffalo's chamber music series, A Musical Feast. Taking place at the Burchfield-Penney Arts Center on April 15 (7 pm), the typically diverse program includes Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italien, played by duo-pianists Claudia Hoca and Phyllis East; Schubert's well-loved String Quintet in C Major, with an ensemble led by series director Charles Haupt; and David Felder's November Sky for solo flute and tape, with Barry Crawford on flute. 

The latter work, composed in 1992, was released on an all-Felder Bridge Records CD that earned the title "Disc of the Year" (chamber music) from the American Record Guide, and landed on the Buffalo News Best of Year list as well. That recording is available through Amazon and iTunes, among others. Reviewing a live performance, Paul Griffiths wrote, "November Sky, a duet for flutist and computer, descending from piccolo screams to the cool dark of the bass flute...showed the importance to a composer of being around performers."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"Inspiring and rewarding:" John Bacon Jr. on June in Buffalo

Composer/percussionist John Bacon, Jr. has been a mainstay of Buffalo's jazz and new music scenes since the 1980s. As a performer, his impressive resume includes stints with the Buffalo Philharmonic, trombonist Roswell Rudd, Bobby Previte's Voodoo Orchestra West, the Maelström Percussion Ensemble, and many others. His compositions have been performed by the Amherst Saxophone Quartet and violinist Leroy Jenkins, among others. He is now enrolled in UB's doctoral program in composition. John offers the following thoughts on June in Buffalo:

"I have been living in the Buffalo area and working as a professional musician for many years.  My involvement with June in Buffalo has been as a student in the 1980's, as a performer in the 1980's and 90's and as an audience member throughout most of the life of the festival.  I recall meeting David Felder at an early festival when he first arrived at UB. He was investigating some specifics about almglocken in B-1 Slee and I tried to help him as best I could. I remember performing in the percussion section with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra with Charles Wourinen conducting. I remember Steve Reich crediting the great Jazz drummer Kenny Clarke with being the inspiration for the rhythmic drive in his music.

"In 2009 I was finally able to participate as a composer. I have enjoyed all of my experiences with the festival and each of them holds something unique in my musical life, but participating as a composer was by far the most engaging of these experiences...You can't help but feel that the whole festival is happening for you.  The senior faculty  serve as mentors, inspiring and guiding the composers. The ensembles dedicate themselves to the wide variety of music. The staff organize and accommodate efficiently and effectively. The other composers bring their excitement and enthusiasm.  This mixture creates  an inspiring and rewarding experience.

"Last year I attended every event that the festival offered. Although quantity doesn't always equate with quality I must say that in this case, where the quality of every event is so high, seeing more of them is better... I am looking forward to this year's festival and again participating as a composer.  I will try to attend every event this year also.  I hope to see you there."

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Announcing this year's participants!

Here's the list you've been waiting for: the emerging composers who have been invited to participate in June in Buffalo 2010. As always, each of the invited composers will have one of his/her pieces performed during the festival. We invite you to check out their websites, Myspace pages, Twitter feeds, etc...links below.

Shawn Allison
John Bacon, jr.
Daniel Bassin
Shiuan Chang
Chun Ting Pang 
Carl Christian Bettendorf
Juan Garcia Escudero
Ray Evanoff
Matthew Goodheart
Jacob Gotlib
Joshua Groffman
Matthew Heap
Huck Hodge
David Hudry
Emily Koh
Jordan Kuspa
Joseph Lake
Peter Van Zandt Lane
Hannah Lash
Felipe de Almeida Ribeiro 
Mischa Salkind-Pearl
Benjamin Scheuer
Diana Soh
Gabriele Vanoni
Christopher Walczak
Ashley Wang
David Wightman
Stephen Wilcox
William Zuckerman

Friday, March 26, 2010

from JiB alum David Smooke

We're taking a short break from introducing this year's senior faculty to offer some reminiscences from a former June in Buffalo participant, composer David Smooke (JiB '99). Says David, who's now a member of the composition faculty at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, "My June in Buffalo experience was one of the formative moments of my compositional career. I made friendships among my compositional peers that remain strong over a decade later and enjoyed hearing music from many different styles over the course of the festival. The music and masterclasses with the guest composer Jukka Tiennsu made an especially strong impression on me, opening my ears to musical ideas that remain quite dear to me.

"At the festival, I encountered recent experiments in microtonality and in the utilization of natural sounds in compositions in ways I had never before considered. In addition, June in Buffalo was the first opportunity that I had to work closely with professional performers, and some of these performers remain friends and advocates to this day."

At David's website,, you can hear samples of his beautifully-crafted and engaging scores, and view some videos involving his music. Here are two, one lyrical and reflective (blades, for whistling and singing cellist) and the other funky and playful (Four Score, for toy piano and two violas).

Do you have June in Buffalo stories and memories to share? Drop us a note at c21cmusic [at] the mail with the 'G' and we may just post them in this blog. Doesn't matter if they're serious, trivial, life-changing, or funny...bring them on!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Augusta Read Thomas

June in Buffalo's senior faculty members are not only distinguished composers, but dedicated teachers. Augusta Read Thomas, returning to June in Buffalo for 2010, is a case in point. She is one of the most widely performed composers of her generation, with no fewer than 36 commercial recordings to her credit. Her music has been championed by conductors Daniel Barenboim, Pierre Boulez, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Oliver Knussen, Seiji Ozawa, Mstislav Rostropovich, Leonard Slatkin, David Robertson, and Christoph Eschenbach.

At the same time, Thomas describes teaching as a deeply felt commitment, and an integrated part of her creative existence. She taught composition at the Eastman School of Music from 1993-2001, and from 2001 until 2006 was the Wyatt Professor of Music at Northwestern University. She frequently undertakes residencies in colleges, universities, and festivals across the country and in Europe; in the summers she often teaches at the Tanglewood Music Center, and was the Director of the Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood in 2009. For 2009-2011 she is teaching and mentoring 10 high school-aged composers in the state of Connecticut. Each composer will have his or her new piece premiered by the New Haven Symphony in May 2011.

Here is Rachel Barton Pine in Augusta Read Thomas's dramatic and moving Caprice for solo violin.  

Monday, March 22, 2010

Roger Reynolds

Roger Reynolds, another frequent member of June in Buffalo's senior faculty, returns for this year's festival. His music will be performed by the Slee Sinfonietta on June 2 and by the Arditti Quartet on June 5. An influential teacher, his students include Michael Daugherty, Paul Dresher, and the Center's own David Felder.

Born in 1934 in Detroit, he studied music and science at the University of Michigan - a background that foreshadowed his subsequent explorations of advanced musical technology.  His aesthetic outlook was jointly shaped by the American Experimental tradition and - through his teachers Ross Lee Finney and Roberto Gerhard - also by the Second Viennese School. Reynolds refuses categorization, responding to the variety of the contemporary world with a uniquely diversified output - music now increasingly concerned with myth, text and space-ranging from the purely instrumental and vocal to involvements with computers, video, dance and theater. He is a member of the faculty at the University of California, San Diego, where he was the founding director of the Center for Music Experiment (now CRCA). Writing in The New Yorker, Andrew Porter called him "at once an explorer and a visionary composer, whose works can lead listeners to follow him into new regions of emotion and imagination." Among numerous other awards and commissions, he won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for his Whispers Out of Time for string orchestra.

Reynolds's music is widely recorded. Among the items in his discography is a portrait disc titled Three Circuitous Paths to the Music of Roger Reynolds, performed by the June in Buffalo Ensemble under Harvey Sollberger and Jesse Levine, and released in 2005 on the Neuma label. It includes Transfigured Wind III (flute, tape, and orchestra), Ambrages (solo flute), and Mistral (orchestra). Sadly, it's out of print, but you might find a copy if you're lucky.

Above: Roger Reynolds at June in Buffalo, 2004. Photo by Irene Haupt.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Steve Reich at June in Buffalo

Steve Reich has been a frequent presence at June in Buffalo ever since the festival's second iteration in 1976, when five of his works were performed. It's fitting, then, that June in Buffalo 2010 opens on May 31 with an evening of his music. Signal, under the direction of Brad Lubman, will perform Reich's Sextet (1984-85) and its successor, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Double Sextet (2007). Reich considers the score "one of the better pieces I've done in the past few years."

Here's Steve Reich talking about the genesis of the work:

Saturday, March 13, 2010

about Bernard Rands

Bernard Rands, a returning member of JiB's senior faculty, was born in Sheffield, England in 1934, he has been an American citizen since 1983. He is a dedicated teacher, both at Harvard, where he is the Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music, and at summer festivals such as Aspen, Tanglewood, and June in Buffalo.

His work Canti del Sole, premiered by Paul Sperry, Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic, won the1984 Pulitzer Prize in Music. His large orchestral suite Le Tambourin won the 1986 Kennedy Center Freidheim Award.

Conductors who have championed his work include Barenboim, Boulez, Berio, Maderna, Marriner, Mehta, Muti, Ozawa, Rilling, Salonen, Sawallisch, Schiff, Schuller, Schwarz, Silverstein, Sinopoli, Slatkin, von Dohnanyi, and Zinman, among others.

His 20-minute score Chains Like the Sea, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, was given its premiere by the orchestra in October 2008. Wrote Steve Smith in The New York Times, "Mr. Rands... creates pieces filled with technical demands that make them gratifying to the performer, as well as sufficient sensual beauty to appeal to listeners. Poetry has provided the spark for some of his strongest creations; Chains Like the Sea, an instrumental work about 20 minutes long, was inspired by Dylan Thomas’s Fern Hill. Certain phrases, Mr. Rands explained in a program note, conjured memories of early years spent in Wales.

"True to its title, The Sabbath Rang Slowly, the first of two sections, was a broadly paced sequence punctuated with bell tones made from stacked notes that shimmered and rippled in combination. Patches reminiscent of Debussy seascapes and early Stravinsky lullabies floated in a dreamlike drift, meant to evoke the tedium of slow, pious Sundays. A more animated second part, Rivers of the Windfall Light, repeatedly surged with chattering gusts of horns, brass and percussion.

Mr. Rands has an unerring knack for lucid orchestration; here, scintillating details regularly pricked through an overall melancholy tone. A brief, gentle duo for solo violin and muted trumpet midway through the second part, for instance, seemed to leave behind a humid, bluesy wilt in its wake."

In this video, Rands describes the genesis of Chains Like the Sea.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

June in Buffalo: a rather distinguished list

For emerging composers, one of the vital attractions of June in Buffalo is the opportunity to attend seminars and master classes with the festival's senior faculty. Over the years, eminent composers from around the globe have taken part -- a veritable roll call of leading 20th- and 21st-century compositional giants. The list includes Milton Babbitt, Henry Brant, John Cage, Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, Jacob Druckman, Morton Feldman, Lejaren Hiller, Lukas Foss, Otto Luening, Conlon Nancarrow, Pauline Oliveros, Bernard Rands, Steve Reich, Poul Ruders, Frederic Rzewski, Ralph Shapey, Leo Smit, Virgil Thomson, and Charles Wuorinen

Along with David Felder, this year's senior faculty members include Steve Reich, Roger Reynolds, Bernard Rands, Augusta Read Thomas, and Olivier Pasquet. Each brings an invaluable compositional perspective to the festival. Over the next several weeks, we'll be introducing each of them a little more fully.

Left: John Cage (photo by Irene Haupt)

Friday, March 5, 2010

June in Buffalo 2010: watch this space

Applications for June in Buffalo 2010 have been received and the participants are now being chosen. Watch this space for a list of the lucky composers who will have the opportunity to take part in a week of seminars, lectures, master classes, 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 his/her pieces performed during the festival.

Meanwhile, the evening concert schedule for the festival -- a fabulous array of programs by the Arditti Quartet, Signal, the Slee Sinfonietta, and other leading ensembles -- can be viewed here.  As is customary, June in Buffalo ends with a concert by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, heard this year under the baton of JoAnn Falletta in works by David Felder, Augusta Read Thomas, and Bernard Rands. 

Thursday, March 4, 2010

New honor for David Felder

The Center's Director, David Felder, has just been recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is one of sixteen recipients of this year's awards in music, which total $170,000. The winners were selected by a committee of Academy members:  Robert Beaser (chairman), Bernard Rands, Gunther Schuller, Steven Stucky, and Yehudi Wyner. Candidates for music awards are nominated by the 250 members of the Academy.

Felder is one of four composers to receive a $7500 Academy Award in Music, which honors outstanding artistic achievement. Each composer will receive an additional $7500 toward the recording of one work. The other winners were Daniel Asia, Pierre Jalbert, and James Primosch; the awards will be presented at the Academy's annual Ceremonial in May.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A Musical Feast

On February 14, 2010, celebrate Valentine's Day with "A Musical Feast". The 23-day Lecture on the Weather-John Cage in Buffalo showcase will conclude with an afternoon concert (2:00pm) by "A Musical Feast" at the new Burchfield Penney Auditorium.  The program will include Bohuslav Martinu's Duo No. 2 for violin and cello, a sampling of Eric Satie's piano pieces, Jacob Druckman's Animus III for clarinet and tape, as well as a presentation of Shamayim, a film by Elliot Caplan and David Felder.

Shamayim is a work for solo bass voice, 8 channels of electronic sound made or modeled upon bass singer Nicholas Isherwood's vocal instrument, with video created by Elliot Caplan. The work is an extended meditation inspired in part by close readings of the Book of Formation (Sefer Yetzirah), the writings of thirteenth century mystic Abraham Abulafia, and descriptions of states of consciousness that accompany prophetic experiences. The work is in three sections titled respectively:

1. Chashmal  (speaking silence) 2006-7
2. Sa'arah (stormy wind) 2007-8
3. Black Fire / White Fire 2008-9

This work is designed to exist in two complementary versions: the first, is a conventional live performance, with or without image, in concert halls with live amplification, processing, and 8 channels of sound; the second, a version for installation or home theater presentation in surround 5.1 and with a specially prepared image presentation. The latter was released October, 2009 by Albany Records (see previous post for more details).  

The "A Musical Feast" concert series is organized by former concert master of the Buffalo Philharmonic, Charles Haupt, and features established new music advocates like Claudia Hoca (piano), Jonathan Golove (cello), and Jean Kopperud (clarinet). "A Musical Feast" is co-sponsored by The Center for 21st Century Music.

For more information, visit the Lecture on the Weather-John Cage in Buffalo and "A Musical Feast" websites.

Friday, January 29, 2010

TALUJON Residency at the Center for 21st Century Music

On Friday, March 19, 2010, the Talujon Percussion Quartet comes to the University at Buffalo’s Lippes Concert Hall performing a concert of contemporary percussion music.

Thoroughly committed to the expansion of the contemporary percussion repertoire as well as the education and diversification of its worldwide audience, their residency at the Center for 21st Century Music and the Department of Music also includes master-classes on Friday, March 19, 2010 at 1pm and a composer workshop with the UB graduate composers on Thursday, March 18, 2010 at 4pm. All master classes and workshop sessions are free and open to public and will take place in Lippes Concert Hall.

Described by the New York Times as an ensemble possessing an "edgy, unflagging energy", the Talujon Percussion Quartet has been mesmerizing audiences since 1991. Based in New York City, Talujon performs regularly for highly regarded organizations such as the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, Bang on a Can, Carnegie Hall, Symphony Space, Harvard University, and the Percussive Art Society.

More information about the ensemble can be found at their website:

For tickets to Talujon's concert visit the Lippes Concert Hall website.

Talujon performing Julia Wolfe's Dark Ride at CD Release Party
(part 3 of 3)