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: