Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Recent grad Leah Muir on UB: "a rare mix of performance, intellect, and experiment"

Leah Muir completed her doctoral studies in composition at UB in 2008, and is now living in Berlin. She reports:

"My doctoral study at Buffalo was a huge enrichment to my musical life and experience, and continues to be so -- in fact I think it is one of the few organizations in the US that could prepare me for the European musical life I found myself suddenly in. Right now, in fact, I am preparing for a Morton Feldman concert for the Crescendo concert series on June 10, of which I am in charge of musical direction and conducting. Morton Feldman seems to be around every turn I take.

"It was Amy Williams who first introduced me to the University at Buffalo at 19; she brought a group of composers from Bennington College to June in Buffalo. There I met David Felder, and never forgot him or my amazing musical experience during the program. I applied later to Buffalo for my Doctoral degree and was accepted on a Presidential fellowship, where I was able to gain four years of teaching experience. There I made extremely close musical relationships with musicians and composers in the program, and had many compositional breakthroughs with David as my teacher. David Felder demands excellence from his students, and I was pushed very hard to go as far as I possibly could with my own talents, and then maybe even farther. For that I am very grateful.

"Beyond my work at the Institut für Neue Musik, I have also some commissions to write this year. The first is my Doppelkonzert für E. Gitarre und Akkordeon, dedicated to Krassimir Sterev, Yaron Deutsch, Ajtony Csaba and the Mitteleuropäisches Kammerorchester to be premiered in Vienna, Austria in 2011. The second for the Münchener Biennale, is a 25 minute music theater piece to be premiered in May of 2012. Last year, I had a couple of important premieres, on Märzmusik and Wien Modern, and a slight foray into video brought on a sudden premiere at Soundtrack Cologne.

"Buffalo, where American experimentalism is still cherished, was instrumental to my development in these musical directions. David Felder, Cort Lippe and Jeff Stadelman provided an excellent scope of what is out there that is most intellectually stimulating in music, and also what reality is and could be for a composer in our current musical landscape. Beyond this, an idealistic and utopian approach to music is also coveted at the university, where experiment is fully encouraged and when followed, given free reign of the imagination. I find this mixture to be quite unique. Charles Smith and Michael Long are also an extremely important part of the program for me, because the sort of analysis they teach is rare and hard to find. In other departments, with Tony Conrad and Elliot Caplan also in the wings of the greats teaching there, I had the possibility to participate in some transmedial collaborations. Hallwalls, Soundlab and the Burchfield-Penney, beyond the University, provided yet another platform to branch out into a wider community, together with self-organized group of composers, we were able to play music and have a public." Here's Leah's unsettling and inventive Sound Bandage, scored for the offbeat combination of soprano and bass saxophones, cello, and "tape."

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