Thursday, December 1, 2011

The myriad projects of UB Cellist Jonathan Golove

University at Buffalo Professor Jonathan Golove has been injecting a high degree of dynamism into the music scene lately: he recently helped curate a chamber music concert at the Marine A Grain Elevator in downtown Buffalo, and has scheduled an upcoming midnight concert for CUBE, UB's Contemporary Music Ensemble, which he has been directing this year. Jonathan also enjoys frequent commissions as a composer, leads the cello studio at UB, and performs regularly on the theremin cello.

Jonathan Golove
The chamber music concert at Buffalo's grain elevators last October 21st was a very rare occasion. Normally the elevators are closed to the public, but for one day only they were opened by the National Preservation Conference to allow architects, engineers, preservationists, and scholars from around the country to get a close-up look. Jonathan was accompanied by UB percussionists Tom Kolor and Michelle Purdy in a lengthy performance of John Cage's Four6 as admirers toured the 120-foot-high silos. Jonathan remarks, “I've never given a performance of Cage that was so enthusiastically received, partly because of the 8-10 seconds of reverb in the acoustics of the grain elevator.” The full article on the event is available at the Buffalo News.

Aside from ferreting out interesting locales for chamber music performance, Jonathan is one of the very few cellists who regularly perform on the theremin cello, an instrument he helped resurrect from the early 20th century. He is currently collaborating with pianola player Robert Berkman, and the two have formed a duet comprised of these rare mechanical instruments from the beginning of the century. The group's title is Duo Shiddach, and their repertoire is comprised mainly of Klezmer music. Jonathan, however, is not new to the theremin cello, and has been playing it for almost ten years. He describes some of his history with the instrument, “In the period from June 2009 to April 2010, I traveled to Amsterdam, Paris, and London to perform as a theremin cello soloist in Edgar Varèse's Ecuatorial. The theremin cello, invented by the same man, Leon Theremin (Lev Termen), who created the space controlled instrument that has achieved a certain amount of fame, is an early electronic instrument which had gone extinct for approximately 60 years. The theremin cello was recreated in 2002 by Floyd Engels, a retired model builder for Fisher Price, and its debut came when the Department of Music's Slee Sinfonietta performed Varèse's Ecuatorial, the only work known to have been composed for the instrument.

“The performances in Europe took place at a number of important festivals/venues, such as the Holland Festival, Festival de l'Automne (Paris Autumn Festival), and the Southbank Centre, and with leading ensembles, including the Asko/Schönberg Ensemble (conducted by Peter Eötvös) and the London Sinfonietta (conducted by Daivd Atherton). Ecuatorial was presented as part of “ Varèse 360º,” a retrospective including the complete works of Varèse, one of the most fascinating and influential figures of the music of the twentieth century.”

Jonathan is very active in the recording studio as well, and just recently released an album of contemporary music from Mexico on Albany Records entitled Voces Internas. The CD features several pieces by renown composer Mario Lavista, as well as some more esoteric pieces, such as those by Nicandro Tamez, who specializes in graphically notated music and scores with a high degree of directed improvisation. UB Professor Emeritus of Piano Stephen Manes joins Jonathan on the CD, and the two have recently performed repertoire from the album at the dedication of the new concert hall at St. Lawrence University. The album has already received rave reviews, including an extensive interview, article, and front-page feature by Fanfare Magazine, “...the well-played CD should provide rewards to those interested in the avant-garde school of cello writing and playing. Jonathan Golove and his colleagues are up to the considerable technical and musical demands placed upon the performers of these works.” The complete article is available here.

Jonathan is a composer in his own right as well – earlier this year he was commissioned by A Musical Feast to write a piece to accompany an exhibit on synesthesia at the Burchfield Penney. The work, Kreisler's Coat, for cello and piano, takes its title from a character of E.T.A. Hoffman's, who Hoffman describes as being, “A little man wearing wearing a coat the color of C# minor with an E major collar.”   The piece was premiered earlier this year at Burchfield Penney as part of A Musical Feast's concert series.  

You can see Jonathan on Friday December 12th, at 11:59 p.m., when CUBE will present a unique concert of Night Music. The event will take place in Slee Hall and include Night Music by Robert Erickson, selections from Donald Martino 's Pulitzer Prize-winning Notturno, and a few other special surprises.

In the video below, you can listen to Jonathan performing Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vocalise on the theremin cello  – the perfect instrument to convey the haunting melancholia of Rachmaninoff. The video was taken at the Burchfield Penney as part of last year's A Musical Feast concert series and features pianist Claudia Hoca.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Flutist Barry Crawford's many activities at UB and around the world...

University at Buffalo Flute Professor Barry Crawford currently tours as a flutist in countries all around the world (20 countries to date), performs a wide range of repertoire ranging from 19th century salon music to contemporary music’s thorniest and most demanding works, regularly releases recordings as a member of several top ensembles, and teaches a full flute studio here at UB. Early next year, Barry will perform in festivals in Europe and New York City before returning to participate with the Slee Sinfonietta in June in Buffalo 2012.
Barry Crawford

In January, Barry will be performing with the renowned Talea Ensemble at the Chamber Music America Conference in New York City. The group will be premiering a new work by John Zorn, bateau ivre, in a program filled with pieces by New York City’s major composers. Shortly after the conference, Barry will travel to Iceland to perform in Iceland’s Dark Music Days Festival with Poetica Musica, an ensemble of musicians that are currently Artists-in-Residence at Old Westbury Gardens in Long Island. The Dark Music Days Festival is named after the four-hour days that occur in Iceland during the winter, and will feature some of Scandinavia’s top musicians and composers (more info here). Barry will perform in many concerts throughout his time there, and will star as the soloist in David Felder’s November Sky, for flute and electronics.

One of Barry’s most active groups is the Manhattan-based Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, who perform a 20-week season and 40 gigs a year, and usually play in front a sold-out audience. The group enjoys resurrecting the sometimes forgotten repertoire from the 18th and 19th century – often picking pieces which have no available recording to reference and delving into the challenging work of interpreting the music and making it their own. One of the forgotten gems from the Romantic era, Aldabert Gyrowetz’s Flute Quartet, has been featured on their program and is one of Barry's personal favorites. Much of the music from that time was too instrumentally virtuosic to be regularly included in concerts, and provides a perfect opportunity for a chamber group of today to hone their skills for bringing pieces to life that lack the incredibly refined performance practice of Haydn or Schubert. The group is partly named after the late Jens Nygaard and his Jupiter Symphony, and as the New York Times puts it, mimics his “[inspiring] determination to explore rarely heard early works by Mozart and present virtually unplayed music by 19th-century composers like Louis Spohr, Ethelbert Nevin and Carl Czerny.” The Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players worked with Jens Nygaard often and continues to perform regularly to carry on his vision as a conductor and curator.

Barry has high praise for the Department of Music at UB, calling it, “an absolute pleasure to play here, with so many top new music performers to play with and a lot of really terrific opportunities to perform with the Slee Sinfonietta.” He is very active in the department, and leads the music department’s flute ensemble Plosion, who have recently commissioned and premiered works from UB graduate composers Juan Colón-Hernandez, Ethan Hayden, and Chun Ting Pang. Plosion plays not only at venues in the music department, but at the Student Union and other venues around campus, bringing new music to students and faculty all around the campus community. Barry’s flute studio, which now has several students wait-listed to get in, has been quite successful, with undergrads and graduates performing regularly in competitions and festivals in Italy, the Czech Republic, and elsewhere around the world.

You can listen to Barry perform on a recent recording of Three Romances, by Milos Raickovich, now available on iTunes, as well as on a CD of Gabriela Frank’s music with Ensemble Meme, soon to be released on Albany Records (available here). 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Oberlin Conservatory's Bonne Action performs new works at the University at Buffalo

Bonne Action 

On Tuesday, November 15th, Oberlin College Conservatory’s premiere new music ensemble, Bonne Action, will visit the University at Buffalo to give a concert of works by today’s leading composers. The group, founded in 2009, features some of Oberlin’s finest musicians, including flutist Laura Cocks, clarinetist Theophilus Chandler, violinist Holly Jenkins, violist Carrie Frey, cellist Dylan Messina, pianist Daniel Walden, and percussionist Christian Smith. Bonne Action will be joined by the head of Oberlin’s composition department, Lewis Nielson, who will have two pieces on the concert. Also on the program will be pieces by young American composer Jason Eckardt, and German composers Rolf Riehm and Reiko Füting. 

The group’s dedication to sharing new music is evident in their very thoughtful mission statement: “Bonne Action is a group of performers from Oberlin Conservatory who devote the majority of their time and energy to the performance of contemporary music. Each player has, in the context of the music they play or the music they play and write, placed an emphasis on the musical present in their lives and attitudes toward the world. Bonne Action finds it’s name and association in performing the good (and therefore essential) task of presenting music that changes the musical and social environment; that assumes the audience is not merely admirers of works or those who perform them but, rather, active participants in the experience of music; equal in all respects to composer and performer, and just as necessary. We believe that this exchange relation represents an excellent model not only for the experience of art but for socio-political organization as well. Bonne Action is about music and community.” 

One of the concert highlights will be Lewis Nielson’s Iskra, which features a singer with several options to navigate: he/she may sing a fully-composed melody to one of the two given texts, use incipits provided to improvise with, or improvise the entire melody while the other members of the trio continue with their music – it is a piece full of spontaneity and risk. A video of Bonne Action performing Iskra can be found here.

Join us at 7:30 p.m. in Lippes Concert Hall on November 15th for Bonne Action’s concert of new works. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Eric Huebner performs with the New York Philharmonic

The University at Buffalo’s own Eric Huebner, who is Assistant Professor of Piano in the Department of Music, will perform with the New York Philharmonic on December 16 and 17 as part of their CONTACT! New Music Series at The Met Museum, with conductor Alan Gilbert. In addition to an active performance schedule, Eric also keeps busy expanding the discography of his new music group, Antares, and working to incorporate master classes for young performers into the June in Buffalo festival.

Eric Huebner
Eric’s frequent stints as the guest pianist of the New York Philharmonic will continue into next year and carry across the Atlantic Ocean, where he will tour with the Philharmonic throughout Europe next February to perform Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements and Thomas Adés’ Polaris. Upon returning to the U.S., Eric will be premiering an exciting new work by esteemed American composer and centenarian Elliot Carter, Conversations, for piano, percussion, and chamber orchestra, with the New York Philharmonic under the baton of David Robertson in New York City, in June of 2012 (more details can be found at the Philharmonic’s website).   

In between bouts of touring and performing with the Philharmonic, Eric will bring his group Antares to the University at Buffalo next March to host a master class and give a concert of Stravinsky, Ravel, Reynolds, and Hindemith. Antares is a quartet that specializes in performing and recording new music, and includes clarinetist Garrick Zoeter, violinist Jesse Mills, and cellist Rebecca Patterson. While they are in residency at the University at Buffalo, they will also be spending an afternoon performing the works of UB graduate composers at a composer reading and workshop. Eric, who has recently released a full-length disc of Roger Reynolds’ piano works on Mode Records, enjoys working closely with composers and fostering an intimate collaborative relationship. He remarks, “by collaborating with composers, I’ve been given opportunities to learn not only about their work, but also about my own playing. Composers have given me great insight into my own performance tendencies and approaches to the piano, and each new composer I collaborate with provides me with a learning experience that broadens my abilities to successfully interpret new music.”

Originally founded in 1996, Antares has been releasing critically acclaimed recordings of world premieres for several years. The group was recently treated to a glowing review by Ken Smith of The Gramophone, who wrote, “Antares have the gift of making whatever they’re playing seem the most important piece in the world. And as long as they keep playing, I’m tempted to believe them.” The group has recently released a world premiere recording of Shadowed Narrative by Roger Reynolds on Innova recordings, and has several other new releases available on a variety of record labels (find a complete list here).

The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music is happy to report that Eric is helping to develop a performance institute for the annual June in Buffalo Festival. Though the final details of the project are still being coordinated, the institute is planned for June in Buffalo 2013 and will include opportunities for solo instrumentalists, string quartets, and pre-formed contemporary music ensembles to workshop and study with June in Buffalo performance faculty. The institute will be modeled, in a smaller scale, after the Lucerne Festival, and provide a framework for meetings and collaborations between composers and performers. The JACK Quartet are currently slated to be on the list of performance faculty members, as well as other members of UB’s music performance faculty including Jean Kopperud, Jonathan Golove, and Tom Kolor. Stay tuned for a formal announcement on the June in Buffalo performance institute in Spring of 2012.

Below is a video of an excellent concert of Eric Huebner with David Robertson and the Juilliard Orchestra, performing Olivier Messaien’s Oiseaux Exotiques.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Paolo Cavallone since graduating from the University at Buffalo...

Composer and UB alumnus Paolo Cavallone has recently returned to Buffalo after lecturing in New Zealand and Canada, and having had works premiered and toured in Italy, Portugal, and Brazil. We met with Paolo and asked him to fill us in on his recent activities abroad since graduating with a PhD in music composition in 2009.

Paolo Cavallone
photo by Luca Del Monaco 
“I just returned to Buffalo last Friday from Florence, Italy, where I had been invited by renown Italian composer Giorgio Battistelli to participate in ‘Festival Play It!’ a three day-long festival dedicated to contemporary Italian music, which, this year, celebrated the 80th birthday of great Italian composer and artist Sylvano Bussotti. It was a privilege to be a part of this fantastic showcase of Italian music played by some of Italy’s greatest musicians and broadcast live by Italy’s public radio station, Radio RAI. My symphony, Porte, was premiered there by Orchestra Toscana under the baton of Tonino Battista, and received an enthusiastic response by the audience (see the complete program here). It was a very special event, as painters, poets, and artists from all over the country would open the day’s activities with presentations and lectures about their art. Florence has a rich environment full of history and beautiful architecture, and was a magical place to be.

“It has been a very productive time for me in many ways since graduating from the University at Buffalo. Recently I gave visiting lectures as a composer at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, and Conservatorio Santa Cecilia in Rome, Italy. Moreover, after a year at UB as a piano accompanist and research collaborator for the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, I spent the fall of 2010 in New Zealand as a visiting professor teaching composition and orchestration at the New Zealand School of Music in Wellington at Victoria University. I am excited to be returning there next year for the premiere of my flute concerto, commissioned by the Siemens Foundation, for the Stroma New Music Ensemble conducted by Hamish McKeich, and featuring flute legend Roberto Fabbriciani, whom I originally met when he visited the University at Buffalo to give a lecture and concert. Many of the performers I’ve developed successful working relationships with I met through the music department here at UB.

“I am very glad to announce the upcoming release of my new monographic CD, Confini, on the Tactus label. The CD is the fruit of the collaboration between my publisher, RAI Trade, and the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, and includes a bonus DVD and video documentary, Paolo Cavallone: Potrait of a Composer, which shows footage of UB and interviews with conductor Harvey Sollberger, saxophonist Gaetano Di Bacco, violist Luca Sanzò, and David Felder, among others. The CD itself features many UB musicians such as Tony Arnold, Jean Kopperud, Jonathan Golove, Catarina Domenici, Sabatino Scirri, Christian Baldini, Nicholas Isherwood, and Movses Pogossian. The first track on the CD, (Dis)tensioni, for clarinet and piano, was a commission by Jean Kopperud and Stephen Gosling for the ‘Rated X Project’ which I composed during my time in the PhD program at UB and having composition lessons with David Felder. Both Jean and Steve gave a remarkable interpretation of the piece, performing complex, virtuosic passages, extended techniques, and gestures that perhaps only they are able to play, such as pitches outside of the normal range of the clarinet, which Jean was able to execute with extreme facility. The CD will be released by the end of November and be available on the internet and at most major CD retailers (more information about the CD can be found at Paolo’s website, and will soon be available at Tactus Records).

"My perspective as an artist is based on framing a unique musical gesture/object from different angles, so after completing my studies at the Accademia di Santa Cecilia in Rome, I was eager to expand my artistic vision in an international environment, and experience a different side of Western culture in America. At the University at Buffalo I met a faculty full of first-rate scholars and musicians. First and foremost was my composition teacher, David Felder, who has a rare sense of musical form, and is able, as a teacher, to integrate the students’ perspective without imposing a pre-formed musical aesthetic or compositional school onto the student. I learned from other professors at UB as well – I still remember the high quality of Michael Long’s class on Medieval and Renaissance notation, and Jeffrey Stadelman’s class on contemporary music. I am happy to be back in Buffalo for a while, where I can enjoy and participate in the musical activities at UB and the Center for 21st Century Music."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bernard Rands, Gil Rose, and Julia Bentley visit the Center next week

Julia Bentley
Next week will be a very exciting and interesting one for all of us at the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, as we will be hosting top tier musicians from all over the country. Mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley, conductor Gil Rose, and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bernard Rands will be visiting the University at Buffalo and converging for a concert with the Slee Sinfonietta on November 1st at 7:30 p.m.

Julia Bentley, who has previously performed at June in Buffalo, is a dizzyingly accomplished singer and voice teacher at the Music Institute of Chicago and has been featured as a soloist with orchestras led by Pierre Boulez, George Manahan, Raymond Leppard, Oliver Knussen, and Robert Shaw. She has taken on leading roles in several operas including Carmen and Rosina, as well as performed and premiered some of contemporary music’s most engaging and virtuosic works. The New York Times recently gave a glowing review of her singing in Pierre Boulez’s Le Marteau sans Maître, stating, “The mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley brought rich sound, deep expressivity and an uncanny sense of pitch to the work's restless vocal lines, alive with sudden skips and spiky rhythms one moment, hushed and Impressionistic the next.” She will join the Slee Sinfonietta in Tuesday night’s concert in Lippes Concert Hall for an evening of works by Bernard Rands, Iannis Xenakis, Igor Stravinsky, and Nikos Skalkottas.
Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project

The concert will be conducted by Gil Rose, who in 1996 founded the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, one of the world’s leading professional orchestras dedicated exclusively to performing and recording music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Throughout his tenure as the music director of the BMOP, Gil has received numerous awards from Columbia University and ASCAP, among others, as well as worked laboriously to record an extensive discography of world premieres by Louis Andriessen, John Cage, Robert Erickson, Lukas Foss, John Harbison, Lee Hyla, David Lang, Tod Machover, Steven Mackey, Bernard Rands, George Rochberg, Elena Ruehr, Gunther Schuller, Reza Vali, and Evan Ziporyn on such labels as Albany, Arsis, Cantaloupe, Chandos, ECM, Innova, Naxos, New World, and BMOP/sound, the Grammy-nominated label for which he serves as Executive Producer. His recordings have appeared on the year-end "Best of" lists of The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, American Record Guide, NPR, and Downbeat Magazine (learn more about Gil Rose and the BMOP here).
Bernard Rands

Bernard Rands will be joining us for the concert as well as giving a lecture the following day on Wednesday, November 2nd at 3:00 p.m. in Baird Recital Hall, on his recent work Vincent, an opera about the life of Vincent van Gogh with libretto written by American poet J.D. McClatchy. Vincent was premiered last April in Bloomington, Indiana after being commissioned by the Indiana University School of Music and Opera Department. According to the program note, the two act opera is a “succession of ‘tableaux’ each placing Vincent in contexts which were his real experiences thus revealing his complex character - that of genius artist, religious fanatic, alcoholic, epileptic, unstable of temperament resulting in behavior ranging unpredictably between kindly affability and violent aggression.”

Below is a video of Bernard Rands discussing the tumultuous life of Vincent van Gogh, his captivating works as a painter, and their effect on Rands and his opera.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Composer Derek Charke since graduating UB...

We recently caught up with University at Buffalo alumnus and composer Derek Charke, who has had a very exciting career since graduating from the UB composition program in 2005.  Derek currently teaches music composition and theory at Acadia University in Nova Scotia, and is kept busy composing and fulfilling commissions. We sat down with Derek and asked him about his time at UB and to fill us in on his recent projects.

"I remember my time at SUNY Buffalo fondly.  Prior to this I had studied with Louis Andriessen in Holland, at the Royal Academy in London, and at the University of North Texas.  I wanted to find a place that allowed for experimentation and cross fertilization of ideas and aesthetics.  Composer Rodney Sharman, a UB grad himself, encouraged me to apply.  What I encountered at UB was a top notch faculty, an assortment of amazing new music performers, and a thoughtful and diverse bunch of fellow students, each with their own individual voices.  At UB there was an openness, and a free exchange of ideas, that made the environment invigorating.

Derek Charke
"First off, I’ve got to give kudos to David Felder, for his inspiration, and for his guidance.  He has an uncanny ability to get to the heart of the matter, to be flexible in identifying what an individual student is trying to get at aesthetically, formally, etc., and for his ability to impart solid advice on what the next step(s) should be in order to fully realize a particular idea.  I gained many valuable insights from David that will stick with me throughout my career.

"I had the great privilege of studying flute with the late Cheryl Gobbetti-Hoffman.  Cheryl was a nurturing instructor whose pedagogical use of ‘extended’ techniques in her approach to both contemporary and traditional flute literature was inspiring.  I worked closely with the flute studio, performing concerts with the contemporary ensemble (under Jonathan Golove), the Slee Sinfonietta, JiB, Augenmusik (a composer collective), and in the Pantasmagoria flute festival, which was run by Cheryl, and where I had the opportunity to work with visiting artists like Robert Dick, Mathias Ziegler, and Peter Lloyd.  UB allowed me to combine my interests in composition and flute performance.  I ended up with two degrees; a Masters in flute performance, and; a PhD in composition.  No surprise then that my dissertation ended up as a concerto for flute and chamber orchestra!

"Theory and history courses with Michael Long, Charles Smith and Jeffrey Stadelman, and four years as a TA/GA, helped me obtain my current position as an associate professor of music.  And the electronic music courses with Cort Lippe gave me the necessary skills to work with Max/MSP.  Soundscapes and electronics have rapidly become an important facet of my compositional activity––so much so that very few works these days are without some sort of EA component.

"Much has happened since I graduated from SUNY Buffalo six years ago.  I'm currently on my first sabbatical leave from Acadia University.  Recent commissions have come from established ensembles like the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, the National Flute Association, and the Katona Twins, as well from many local performers and ensembles in Atlantic Canada.  As a professor I’ve had the opportunity to start my own new music festival, Shattering the Silence, which is now into its sixth year (more information on Shattering the Silence here).  And I continue to perform regularly on the flute.

"A recent commission highlight is my first full-length symphony.  ‘Symphony no. 1 - Transient Energies’ is a 45 minute work that was commissioned in 2010 by Symphony Nova Scotia.  It uses an electronic soundscape consisting of sounds from energy production and usage: wind turbines, diesel power generators, electric hums, sounds of shoveling coal, train whistles, car engines, etc...  Sounds are triggered using Max/MSP from a laptop performer in the orchestra.  'Transient Energies' was premiered to much acclaim this past April, and is currently available on CBC Radio, Concerts on Demand website (click here to listen to 'Symphony no. 1 - Transient Energies'). 

"One of the most fruitful collaborations since leaving UB has been a series of commissions for the Kronos Quartet.  Interestingly enough, this came about as a direct result of my studies at UB.  During a particular composition seminar with David Felder, we were given the task of creating small chamber works to be recorded in the UB recording studio.  I transcribed some Inuit throat song games and reworked them for string quartet––I’ve always had an interest in the arctic.  Using experimental circle and vertical bowing techniques (and assisted by fellow student Carter Williams) I created a set of 11 throat songs.  Subsequently, I sent these to a call for scores with the Kronos Quartet.  David Harrington called me a few months later and, out of the blue, commissioned a new work.  ‘Cercle du Nord III’ for string quartet and a soundtrack of northern sounds was created.  Kronos premiered this work, alongside a selection of the original Inuit throat song games, in 2006.  They went on tour with them, including some illustrious spots along the way, like Carnegie Hall and the Vienna Concert House.  With this success, Kronos commissioned a second work, this time including Inuit throat singing superstar, Tanya Tagaq.  ‘Tundra Songs’ (a 30 minute work) was premiered in May 2008 at the Walt Disney Hall in LA (audio samples available on Derek's website).  

"Now, I’m completing a third commission for the Kronos Quartet, a 22 minute concerto for amplified string quartet and orchestra (commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra), that will be premiered on March 3rd, 2012 at the New Creations Festival at Roy Thompson Hall in Toronto (more information available here).  I hope to see some of you there!"

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Meridian Arts Ensemble at the University at Buffalo

The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music is pleased to welcome the Meridian Arts Ensemble to the University at Buffalo for a week of original and virtuosic music for brass quintet. The Meridian Arts Ensemble, a long-time friend of the Center, has commissioned and premiered over fifty new works, and has emerged as one of the most important new music ensembles in the world. Having released nine critically acclaimed CD recordings on the Channel Classics label, the group somehow manages to also commission new composers, tour and perform on nine continents, and regularly win performance competitions. 

The Meridian Arts Ensemble
Featuring UB’s own Professor Jon Nelson, the Meridian Arts Ensemble began as a traditional brass quintet in 1987 and quickly rose to prominence winning four competitions in their first two years. In 1990 they won First Prize in the Concert Artists Guild New York Competition, which launched the group’s international career. With the addition of a percussionist, the group has performed extensively throughout the world in Cuba, Japan, Taiwan, Brazil, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Mexico, Austria, Costa Rica and Colombia. The Meridian Arts Ensemble has toured extensively throughout the U.S. as well, and has been hosted by prestigious venues and concert halls such as the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Merkin Hall, Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, Chicago’s Symphony Hall and Pick-Staiger Hall, Los Angeles’ Ambassador Auditorium, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and Atlanta’s Spivey Hall (more information on their catalogue and recent activities can be found here).

On Tuesday, October 18th at 4:00 p.m. in Lippes Concert Hall, the Meridian Arts Ensemble will host a composer workshop of seven of the University at Buffalo’s graduate composers including Esin Gunduz, Dan Bassin, David Rappenecker, Ethan Hayden, Ryo Nakayama, Juan Colón-Hernández, and Kenichi Saeki. The UB music department is populated by an incredibly original and diverse array of young composers from all over the world, and Tuesday’s composer workshop will be a great chance to see them workshop their music live with one of today’s top ensembles. Ethan Hayden’s piece, Chiral Fanfare, is based on the chemical phenomenon of ‘chirality’ in which two molecules consisting of the same atomic structure – but arranged as mirror images of one another – can have surprisingly different physical properties. The form consists of two sections, each of which feature the same few motivic gestures in drastically different environments, affecting the function and character of the resulting musical fabric. Contrastingly, Esin Gunduz’s piece, On texts of wisdom, will feature voice alongside trumpet and trombone, and include text from 13th century Turkish poet and Sufi mystic Yunus Emre. Each of the composers in UB’s composition program has a wildly unique voice and different musical background, making their concerts and workshops a very engaging listening pleasure full of skillful nuances and surprises, and Tuesday’s composer workshop promises to be no exception.

On Friday, October 21st, the Meridian Arts Ensemble will treat us to a very special 25th Anniversary Concert of works they have commissioned from composers Dave Ballou and David Sanford, as well as perform their own arrangement of 16th century Italian Renaissance composer Giovanni Gabrieli’s Venetian Canzoni. The concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. and take place in Lippes Concert Hall. 

Below is a video of the Meridian Arts Ensemble performing Frank Zappa’s Echidna's Arf from a 2007 concert in Timosoara, Romania:

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Guitarists Magnus Andersson and Arturo Tallini at the Center this week...

This will be a very active and guitar-filled week at the Robert and Carol Center for 21st Century Music. Magnus Andersson, virtuoso guitarist and long time friend of the Center, will be at UB premiering student works written especially for him at an informal workshop and recording session on September 28. The following day he will be joined by Arturo Tallini for a concert of today’s most demanding and complex pieces for guitar duet in Baird Recital Hall.

Wednesday’s program of solo readings will feature six of UB’s graduate composers: Daniel Bassin, Juan-Colón Hernandez, Colin Tucker, Zane Merritt, Nathan Heidelberger, and Chung Ting Pang. The informal session will take place at 3:00 p.m. in Baird Recital Hall on Wednesday, Sep. 28, and will be a great opportunity to hear new music from UB’s incredibly creative and diverse body of young composers. Daniel Bassin’s piece, Gerard, features a timbrally evocative tuning with a unique microtonal scordatura and borrows from Olivier Messiaen’s musical alphabet, which Messiaen created to transcribe theological writings into his musical works. Language plays a large role in some of the other pieces we will hear Wednesday as well – Nathan Heidelberger’s a refrain One keeps playing year after year, concerning the nature of things as they are, includes text adapted from Wallace Steven’s 1937 book of poetry, “The Man with the Blue Guitar,” and will showcase Magnus Andersson’s vocal talents as he speaks and sings the text, simultaneously mimicking the diverse sounds of the guitar he is performing on. The graduate student composers at the University at Buffalo bring their originality from tremendously different geographic and aesthetic backgrounds, and tomorrow will be a terrific opportunity to hear all the diversity and talent staged back-to-back and performed by a world-class musician.
Arturo Tallini

On Thursday, September 29, at 7:30 p.m. in Baird Recital Hall, Arturo Tallini will team up with Magnus to present a concert of modern composers who have written for guitar duet, including Bruno Maderna, Sylvano Busotti, Brian Ferneyhough, and Helmut Lachenmann. Lachenmann’s piece, Salut für Caudwell, artfully runs through a dizzying combination of guitar techniques and performance styles, and includes sounds from the entire body of the guitar, as well as incorporates fingertips, knuckles, the guitar slide, picks, and a wide variety of other plectrums. Both performers speak text from British author Christopher Caudwell and Friedrich Nietzsche while they play, often hocketing with the music and creating a delightful interplay of words and sounds. Thursday’s concert will be a great chance to hear some of the most creative and demanding pieces for guitar duet written in the past few decades.

Below is an excellent video feature of Magnus Andersson and Arturo Tallini performing Ferneyhough’s No time (at all), at the Conservatorio di Musica S. Cecilia in Rome, Italy, from March of 2010. 

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Tierney Sutton Band at UB and Kleinhans Music Hall

The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music is very excited to have the Tierney Sutton Band in town this week for a jazz ensemble master class at the University at Buffalo Music Department and an exclusive benefit event at Kleinhans Music Hall. The Tierney Sutton Band is a three-time Grammy Nominee for “Best Jazz Vocal Album,” and has headlined at The Hollywood Bowl, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and Carnegie Hall. The group has garnered remarkably positive press, and The Buffalo News has recently released a glowing review of their latest album, American Road, and described it as “Gorgeous. Witty. And absolutely fresh. Every bit of it.”

The Tierney Sutton Band

On Thursday, pianist Christian Jacobs, bassist Kevin Axt, drummer Ray Brinker, and singer Tierney Sutton hosted a master class in Baird Hall at the University at Buffalo and coached student jazz musicians on the ins and outs of improvisation, instrumental technique, and the nuances of musical life as a jazz ensemble. The workshop began with stunning performances by The Anthony Rideout Quintet, a student jazz group at UB featuring bassist Anthony Rideout and lead singer Esin Gunduz under the tutelage of Buffalo-based jazz saxophonist Dave Schiavone. Esin, originally from Turkey, had an instant rapport with Tierney Sutton, and members of the band raved about their experiences touring and performing in Esin’s hometown, Istanbul. After offering praise, pointers, tips, and well-received feedback to the quintet, the Tierney Sutton Band took to the stage and gave the packed hall a few of their own unique and dynamic interpretations of jazz standards. They ended their set with a very creative and musical rendition of the traditional folk song, “Shenandoah,” which was met with tremendous enthusiasm and applause.

On Friday, September 23rd, the Tierney Sutton Band will perform at an exclusive event, sponsored by Robert and Carol Morris, to benefit the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in the Blue Room at Kleinhans Music Hall. The event promises to be very special, as the Blue Room will have the atmosphere and ambience of an intimate jazz club for the evening. Seats for Gold and Silver Circle Patrons have already sold out, but some tickets may still available. More information about tickets, availability, and the event itself can be found at the BPO’s website here

Below is a video of the Tierney Sutton Band performing their unique adaptation of the jazz hit, “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

2011-2012 Season Overview

The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Music is pleased to announce a very active 2011-2012 season, which has already kicked off to an exciting start with last Thursday’s concert, “Secret Messages,” where members of The Genkin Philharmonic performed works by UB’s own Moshe Shulman and Jeff Stadelman, as well as works by Morton Feldman, Milton Babbitt, and Iannis Xenakis. Jon Nelson and The Genkin, as always, provided us with a beautiful and well-crafted program, with members of the ensemble improvising between pieces to create a seamless and absorbing flow of music.

The upcoming week will be a vigorous one for the Slee Sinfionetta, as they tour a program of music by some of today’s best composers to Buffalo, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh. The excitement begins at UB’s Slee Hall on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. with works by Erb, Rindfleisch, Rosenblum, D’Alessio, and Felder. The tour will then continue to Cleveland State University on Wednesday and to the University at Pittsburgh on Friday. The Slee Sinfionetta will be under the baton of James Baker and guest conductor Andrew Rindfleisch, who is currently a Professor of Music and the Head of Music Composition Studies at Cleveland State University (click here for more information about Andrew Rindfleisch). The Slee Sinfionetta will also be joined by internationally renowned guitarist Magnus Andersson, who will perform on David Felder’s Requiescat.

The activity continues throughout September as UB music faculty participate in President Satish K. Triparthi’s Investiture Week, with clarinetist Jean Kopperud performing Sep. 19th at 3:00 p.m. for the Annual Celebration of Academic Excellence at the Center for the Arts. The week will conclude with a university-wide ceremony on Friday, Sep. 23rd at 3:00 p.m., also at the Center for the Arts, where Carl T. Hayden, Chairman of the State University of New York Board of Trustees, and SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher will formally invest President Tripathi with his new office. During the ceremony we will be treated to a performance of David Felder’s “Funfares,” a new work written especially for the investiture of UB’s new president.

Investiture Week at the University at Buffalo
The month will conclude with Magnus Andersson returning to UB on September 28th, to lead a composer master class and workshop pieces by Dan Bassin, Nathan Heidelberger, and some of UB’s incoming graduate composers. On the following evening, Sep. 29th, Magnus will pair with fellow guitarist Arturo Tallini for a concert in Baird Recital Hall at 7:30 p.m.

The rest of the fall semester will be packed with visits from the contemporary music scene’s leading ensembles, singers, conductors, and composers. On October 18th acclaimed brass quintet The Meridian Arts Ensemble will lead a composer workshop with UB’s graduate composers, and on November 1st the Slee Sinfionetta, conducted by Gil Rose and featuring mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley, will give a concert featuring works by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Bernard Rands. Bernard Rands will be staying in Buffalo and presenting a guest lecture to the music department the following day (learn about his recent projects here). The semester will begin wrapping up on November 15, when the Bonne Action Contemporary Music Ensemble will put on a concert of contemporary music in Lippes Concert Hall.
Bernard Rands

Next Spring at The Center for 21st Century Music will be just as active as the Fall, as we will be welcoming the return of Mathias Pintscher to conduct the Slee Sinfionetta on April 3rd. Many other distinguished performers and composers will be visiting the Center as well, including distinguished Mozart scholar and pianist Robert Levin and Italian virtuoso flutist Mario Caroli. There will also be several composer workshops featuring works by UB graduate composers, including the Antares New Music Quartet and the Talujon Percussion Ensemble. 

The season will conclude explosively with June in Buffalo 2012, which promises to be one of the largest and most exciting contemporary music events of the year. This year's festival showcases an incredible cadre of faculty composers: Louis Andriessen, Robert Beaser, Steven Stucky, Fred Lerdahl, and David Felder. June in Buffalo 2012 will also feature an all-star lineup of ensembles and soloists, including CIKADA, Ensemble Interface, New York New Music Ensemble, SIGNAL, UB Percussion Ensemble, Slee Sinionetta, and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Special guests James Baker, Roberto Fabricciani, and Brad Lubman will also participate in the festival this year.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

Some of the many opportunities provided by the composition program at UB...

Following up on our series of posts by recent and soon-to-be graduates of UB’s composition program, we invited Robert Phillips to share some of his thoughts on his time at UB. Robert is currently finishing up his PhD in composition and working on multimedia and chamber music works with musicians in London, Montreal, Stockholm, Paris, San Diego, and the Buffalo area. He attributes much of his artistic and professional growth as a composer to opportunities he received while studying at UB.

Robert Phillips
photo by Megan Metté

Robert says, “I grew tremendously as an artist through the generous opportunities presented by the composition program at UB. I received incredible professional support there and have a long list of projects for which I relied on help from UB and The Center for 21st Century Music, which I’m terribly grateful for. Some of the most exciting sponsorship I ever received was the help traveling to Madison, Wisconsin, to rehearse and record Mapuana mai kekahi (scent of another), before The Nonsense Company toured it throughout the U.S. Shortly after, the Center helped me fly to Amsterdam to oversee Mapuana’s performance in the International Gaudeamus Musikweek Composer’s Competition by the Ear Massage Percussion Quartet. David Felder and the Center’s support were instrumental in bringing forth a complex work involving lap steel guitars, Hawaiian records, ukuleles, Tibetan singing bowls, and all sorts of bizarre, but carefully chosen miscellany, to many locations in the U.S. and to festivals and concert halls in Europe.

“Also, studying at UB helped me to grow as an electronic music composer, primarily through working in the Lejaren Hiller Music Studios with Cort Lippe. He has a very sophisticated mind for manipulating and working with samples and sound synthesis, and part of the culmination of working with him was a recent piece of mine involving cut-up a cappella samples of vocalist Gucci Mane, entitled gucci might be, which was recently selected for opening night performance at the Toronto Electroacoustic Symposium. It was a great pleasure to diffuse the piece live over 16 speakers placed strategically over the Wychwood Theatre and participate in such a dynamic and exciting sound environment, and have some of the U.K.’s and Canada’s top electroacoustic composers in the audience.

“Some of my greatest pleasures during my time at UB have been while working with the incredible performance faculty. Clarinetist Jean Kopperud was able to do things that very few clarinetists are able to do, and she did them with a grace and artistry that exceeded my compositional fantasy. Trumpeter Jon Nelson was also a lot of fun to work with and was able to immediately apply powerful interpretive rigor to some very iconoclastic brass music I wrote. Perhaps most recently, I got to work in the Slee Recording Studios with one of my favorite singers, Tony Arnold, who was able to affect incredibly delicate vibrato shadings and was a tremendous compositional inspiration (you can listen to In der Luft, da bleibt deine Wurzel, a selection from heterogeneous blends, with Tony Arnold, here until Robert's website is up and running).

“One of the greatest things about the University at Buffalo is all of the incredible musicians that are constantly visiting. I’ve had many happy surprises walking the stairs of Baird Hall and bumping into one of the world’s top performers who happened to be stopping by, and I attribute much of my growth as a composer to having worked with so many renown ensembles that have come through and given workshops and master classes. Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to work on a studio project with the JACK Quartet through resources provided by the Mark Diamond Research Fund. The four of them were some of the most engaging and sensitive performers I’ve ever had the opportunity to work with, and they were surprisingly adept at negotiating a complex work that borrows an aesthetic strangely adapted from turntable practice and requiring delicate glissando motion. The piece, Ohr, will be finished this fall and feature material for live electronics and digital turntables.

“Best yet, some of the ensembles that have come through have resulted in exciting possibilities for collaboration – last year Pascal Gallois, Rohan de Saram, and Magnus Andersson spent some time here offering a workshop with student composers and giving a concert which lead to a handful of commissions for me. One of the projects will be the largest I’ve ever been able to work on, and I’m really looking forward to learning from these performers and exploiting their sophisticated musical personalities after they did such an incredible job with my recent trio, Larghetto Rubato (available here).  

“Working and studying with David Felder has been hugely influential in helping me develop my personal style. He approaches composition lessons with profoundly open ears, and has a strong desire to hear the student’s unique voice emerge over time. This skill requires deep patience and sensitivity and is very rare in a composition teacher – its effect has served to purge my music of some of the clichés common to composers today and strengthen the unique characteristics of my own sonic imagination. In this respect, I feel UB is incredibly unique as an academic institution in that I didn’t so much learn a craft, like ‘composition,’ but rather, made seminal discoveries about myself as a musician and as an artist.”

Friday, June 17, 2011

"A Positive Signal"

Garaud MacTaggart of the Buffalo News offered another view of Signal's June in Buffalo concert on June 9. Headlined "A Positive Signal," MacTaggart's review praised the playing of this much-lauded group: "The same care and attention to detail that Signal displayed during their workshop for student composers on Tuesday afternoon was evidenced at Thursday night’s performance of scores by more mature composers. Given the level of material they had to work with in the later concert, the results were even more impressive.

"David Felder’s Journal from 1990 was the first composition on the evening’s program and it was clear from the start that if the bones of the score were sturdy, then Signal could flesh out the sound. Under the guidance of the troupe’s conductor, Brad Lubman, the music was revealed as a tautly constructed work but not one so tightly wound that emotion was banished..."

As in Daniel J. Kushner's review, MacTaggart reserved his highest praise for the classic score that ended the concert, Ligeti's Chamber Concerto, which "received a marvelous performance that had echoes of Debussy and Bartok with occasional brief stabs of sound reminiscent of the shower scene from Psycho as a change of pace. OK, that’s a bit of an overstatement but the change in sonic textures from loud to soft, from prickly to flowing had a logic to it that Lubman and Signal were able to convey with the conviction Ligeti deserved to receive. It was probably the highlight performance of the evening."

You can read MacTaggart's entire review here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Fickle Judge

To help wrap up our coverage of June in Buffalo 2011, we're pleased to welcome guest blogger Daniel J. Kushner, reviewing the June 9 concert with Signal and guest violinist Irvine Arditti. Daniel is a music critic whose work has been published by Opera News, The Huffington PostNewMusicBox, and Symphony, among others.  His vivid and insightful writing can be found at and Though his subject matter ranges widely, he most often writes about the burgeoning musical region in which classically-trained musicians and artists from the world of indie rock are finding common ground. Here follows Daniel's review. 

The Fickle Judge
By Daniel J. Kushner

June in Buffalo is a festival for the new music cognoscenti—a welcome destination for some, an alienating locale for others.  But new music sprawls itself out over a vast landscape, and great variety can coexist even with pieces of comparable aesthetic value.  The festival’s June 9 concert, featuring the New York-based chamber ensemble Signal led by conductor Brad Lubman, exemplified this truth.

The program began with David Felder’s 1990 work Journal for chamber orchestra.  Signal communicated with vibrant poignancy the sonorous, cataclysmic evidence of fear made audible, of some unspoken yet inescapable conflict.  Within the composition, melodies are not shaped and sheltered by phrases, but are rather splintered into three and four-note shards, and then dispelled into the ether.  If Felder’s Shamayim—a 2009 collaboration with filmmaker Elliot Caplan performed earlier in the week at the festival—felt cold and clinical, Journal exudes an emotional, reverberating warmth that doesn’t circumvent Felder’s arresting harmonic sensibility, but instead speaks through it.  The work is at times lush and lyrical, even while possessing a thin, fragile texture capable of some impending devolution—hinted at toward the outset—that never comes. 

Featuring a smaller configuration of Signal aided by solo violinist Irvine Arditti, Brice Pauset’s highly gestural and expressionistic Vita Nova (2006) evinced the atonal priorities so readily embraced in many compositional circles of academia.  While certainly intriguing, the piece seemed destined to retreat from my recollection into oblivion.  But why?  Clearly the composition was well constructed, with a keen spatial sense of orchestration and containing proven techniques of modern articulation, including the ingenuous effect of strumming the string instruments with guitar picks.  Its lack of readily discernible melodies is not in and of itself grounds for dismissal.

But if melody does not implant itself in the ear, some other compositional (component(s) may need to take its place—an alluring succession of harmonies, or a novel polyrhythmic device—to bridge the chasm between performance and memory (I took with issue with Hilda Paredes’s Ah Paaxo’ob of 2001, which closed the concert, for similar reason).  One doesn’t even necessarily need to remember a single note of the composition, but rather the response it elicited from within.  Ultimately, the hard reality is that it comes down to the decision of a manifestly fickle, yet unerring judge—emotional resonance.

Fortunately, György Ligeti’s Chamber Concerto (1969-1970) exemplified the atonal aesthetic at its most vibrant and engaging—from the bleary, circular phrases in the woodwinds to the crystalline dizziness of the harpsichord, to the ominous trills in the violins.  Each sonic occurrence seemed to impart some mystical coded meaning.   In the moment, Chamber Concerto struck me as more focused, less visceral yet more palpable, more ethereal yet less distant than the works I had heard earlier in the evening.

Was my response the effect of a placebo?  Does a piece by the venerated Ligeti immediately deserve more respect?  Perhaps vain pride would have me answer, “Yes.”  But, in the interest of being as much of a new-music-hipster as possible, the answer could just as easily be “No.”  In the end, I was drawn in by Ligeti’s use of technical proficiency through such musically volatile means, to achieve such emotionally immediate ends.