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.