Saturday, March 31, 2012

David Felder discusses his work-in-progress, "Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux," his work as the Center's Director, and his many other projects as a composer.

We recently caught up with the many activities of the Director of the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, David Felder, who follows a very demanding schedule as Director of the June in Buffalo Festival, Artistic Director of the Slee Sinfonietta, and University at Buffalo Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition. As a SUNY Distinguished Professor, David maintains a very active and highly regarded composition studio and keeps up a very impressive output of works as a composer. He has recently completed new works – Funfares, which was written for the inauguration of UB's President and premiered last September, and Nomina Sunt Consequentia Rerum, written for Harold Rosenbaum's New York Virtuoso Singers.  

We asked David about his recent projects, “I’ve been working very hard on a vocal cycle commissioned by the Koussevitzky Music Foundation, my second Koussevitsky I'm happy to say, which will feature bass singer Ethan Herschenfeld and soprano Laura Aikin, who starred as Lulu in the recent production of Lulu at La Scala. Joining them will be a good-size chamber orchestra of about 30 musicians from SIGNAL, as well as ten channels of electronics. Co-commissioners are the Slee Sinfonietta, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, who will also program the work in subsequent seasons and record it as well. The entire cycle is built on a central poem by René Daumal, Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux (The Four Cardinal Seasons), which is a seemingly simple unpublished poem Daumal composed late in his life that has to do with the seasons, the times of the day, nature, and the life cycle. I’m using other poems to complement the central poem that are of a more personal nature and are more located in a specific place and time than the Daumal verses, which are more transpersonal. Two of the more specific poems, Spring Light and Buffalo Evening, are by Robert Creeley who was a greatly admired former colleague here at UB. Also in the cycle will be a poem from a terrific poet named Dana Gioia, who used to be the head of the National Endowment for the Arts and is now a distinguished chair at USC. His work is entitled Insomnia, which will be one of the companion poems linked to various times of the day. I also include Full Powers, a poem from one of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda.

David Felder

“An interesting aspect of the piece is that I have audio recordings of the poets reading their poems, and can use their voices as source material. Most of the readings will be substantially electronically transformed, though you’ll definitely be able to hear Dana Gioia’s voice. Often the phonemes from the spoken poems will be translated into instrumental analogues, or processed into bell sounds or other timbres. The texts will also be carried, to a large degree, by the singers. It’s been a really big project – projecting to be about 40-45 minutes and it’s about halfway done now in draft, with a lot of provisionary electronic cues and processing engines already made. I’ll be doing a substantial amount of work on it during the summer, as the premiere will be April 23rd, 2013. 

“Many other projects are due soon: a piece for painter Alfred DiCredico, and one for the John Cage Centennial Observation in Washington DC. As well, I’ve got a handful of other commissions to work on from NEO Norbotten, and the Norwegian contrabass clarinetist Rolph Borch, which will feature electronics and must be done by the end of 2013 – and the New York New Music Ensemble, and Talujon too. So lots to do...

“This year has been particularly complicated because I had been asked to co-chair the University at Buffalo Provost search, which required a lot of time and energy. Plus, my composition studio is fuller than it has ever been with 13 Ph.D. students. I’m extraordinarily busy. It’s a very exciting time though. The Center is doing very well and we’re happy to have all of our major donors renewing their commitments. We’ve gotten to the point where we have to plan our activities about three years in advance, and we’re on the air in a very real way. Now it’s time to expand and formalize our activities and to broadcast more effectively what we do." 

You can stay abreast of David Felder’s latest recordings by checking in with Albany Records, who will be releasing a 90-minute portrait disc, on blu ray and in surround sound, by the summer of 2012. High quality audio samples of David Felder’s work can also be found here, and many of his scores have been made available online by the Theodore Presser Company, as well as the new score-publishing intitiative, Project Schott New York .

Below is a strikingly beautiful excerpt from David Felder’s Chasmal, from Shamayim, a recent three-part music/video collaboration with video artist Elliot Caplan, featuring the virtuosic bassist Nicholas Isherwood.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Maestro Dan Bassin debuts with the Slee Sinfonietta!

The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to present "UB Graduate Composers: PAST and PRESENT," a concert performed by the virtuosic Slee Sinfonietta next week on Tuesday, April 3rd, at 7:30 p.m. in Lippes Concert Hall. The program will showcase the finest recent works from UB composers, and feature an epic violoncello quartet from contemporary Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina.
Daniel Bassin

Wielding the baton for the evening will be well-known friend of the Center and conductor of the UBSO, Maestro Daniel Bassin, who will be conducting the Slee Sinfonietta for the first time next week. Daniel Bassin has come to UB after having been awarded a prestigious fellowship with the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and later working for five seasons with the American Symphony Orchestra in New York City. As a passionate advocate of new music, Daniel has led premieres and first performances of over 80 works, and has performed as a conductor and trumpeter in 37 countries. In 2008 he acted as assistant conductor for the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra’s 16-city tour of the American West Coast and Midwest. Maestro Bassin’s work with the UBSO was recently featured in an article in Buffalo’s Artvoice by Jan Jezioro, "A Musical Director With a Mission".

Dan has nothing but glowing words for the Slee Sinfonietta, “I would like to thank David Felder for the opportunity to work with this group. Since my coming to UB two years ago, I’ve been deeply impressed and excited by the concerts, events, visiting artists, and all facets of how the Center contributes to the cultural and musical life of Buffalo. The Slee Sinfonietta is a dynamic group of musicians who are incredibly dedicated to ensuring that each performance features new and rarely heard works, realized at the highest level and in a deeply musical fashion. What this group does is much more than just play the notes of these compositions. Each performance the Slee Sinfonietta gives brings the unique character and musical world of each composer’s work to life.” 

The concert will feature many premieres, including Nathan Heidelberger’s My Hands are Empty, for chamber ensemble, Jacob Gotlib’s Portrait Sequence (Blanching Out) for percussion duet, JT Rinker’s Frigate, for solo percussion and electronics, and David Hanner’s Monologue, for soprano and large ensemble. Each piece is uniquely engaging and demonstrates the tremendous diversity and talent in the UB composition program. Nathan Heidelberger’s piece, has, in the words of Maestro Bassin, “the ecstasy of virtual stillness and transformation.” David Hanner’s Monologue will feature UB vocalist Tony Arnold, who will join the Slee Sinfonietta to create a dense but colorful and floating tapestry of sound, brilliantly orchestrated and full of textural subtlety and nuance. Jacob Gotlib’s Portrait Sequence (Blanching Out) is strikingly masterful, original, and well-crafted, and asks the percussionists to scrape, scratch, and otherwise sculpt a variety of intricate gestures on a kaleidoscopic array of strange and intriguing materials including glass, ceramic, metal, and other unconventional percussion instruments. JT Rinker, an expert in music technology, directs a fresh and dynamic conversation between the crotales and electronics in his Frigate. Daniel Bassin describes Frigate, “[JT Rinker] utilizes very high frequencies with his electronics to create complex difference tones, which partially transmute and color the acoustic resonances of the crotales and interact with the live acoustic space that the crotales would otherwise inhabit. A brilliant piece!”

Sofia Gubaidulina’s Quaternion, an epic 25-minute long work for cello quartet, will be the grand finale of the program, and will be played by Jonathan Golove, Colin Tucker, TJ Borden, and Adriana Pera. Quaternion features a variety of innovative and pioneering performance techniques for the cello, including playing with thimbles on the fingertips, which creates a fresh and evocative timbre. TJ Borden describes his experience rehearsing Quaternion, “two of the cellos are tuned a quarter-tone apart from the other two cellos, which symbolizes the divide between the divine and man. While rehearsing the piece, I was deeply struck by moments where the pairs of cellos seemed to approach complete union but never achieve it. Knowing Sofia Gubaidulina is a devout Catholic, one of the images the piece elicited for me was of Michelangelo’s painting on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, of God and Man almost touching.”

As a teaser for the upcoming concert, below is a video of Brad Lubman conducting the Slee Sinfonietta for a performance of David Felder’s Inner Sky, featuring guest flutist Mario Caroli.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Center welcomes the Antares New Music Quartet to UB!

The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music is excited to be co-sponsoring a visit by the Antares New Music Quartet to the University at Buffalo on March 30th for an evening concert of some of the finest and most elegant music composed in recent times. We are also looking forward to the composer workshop the day before, on March 29th, when Antares will perform works by graduate composers selected from the University at Buffalo Department of Music.
The Antares New Music Quartet includes violinist Jesse Mills, cellist Rebecca Patterson, clarinetist Garrick Zoeter, and UB faculty pianist Eric Huebner, who specialize in bringing to life contemporary musical works created by today’s living composers, as well as masterpieces from the immediate past. On Friday, March 30th, at 7:30 p.m. in Lippes Concert Hall, Antares will perform Roger Reynolds’ Shadowed Narrative, a recent piece that uses text written by author Gabriel Garcia Marquez as a model for assembling the individual voices of the ensemble into a complex conversation, with the instrumental phrases resembling the syntax and grammar of spoken language. The program will also feature Igor Stravinksy’s L'historie du soldat Suite, Paul Hindemith’s Quartet, and Maurice Ravel’s Trio for piano, violin and cello. Ticket information can be found at the Slee Hall Box Office. 

Antares New Music Quartet

The composer workshop will showcase pieces composed by six graduate students from UB’s diverse composition program: Clint Haycraft, Zane Merritt, Chun-Ting Pang, Nathan Heidelberger, Kenichi Saeki, and Dmitri Penchev. The first composer on the list, Clint Haycraft, has just recently moved to Buffalo from Switzerland, where he obtained a Masters degree in Music Composition from the Zurich University of the Arts. His piece, American Music, uses advertising jingles as found sound objects which he fuses, mutates, fragments, and puts together again, as he makes them his own and molds them into his own personal style. Clint describes the piece, “I tried to address the intense nostalgia elicited by these commercial jingles – it struck me how powerfully these melodies impacted my childhood and shaped my memory of my teenage years. While researching advertisements and commercial music from the past, I began to feel that these jingles shaped my memory, surprisingly, even more than the music I loved and chose to listen to at the time. American Music is my attempt to address the musical tools that were used on me as I grew up, and recapture them so that I may use them and explore them in a fresh and critical way.”

Zane Merritt, who comes to us after just completing a Masters degree from Butler University in Indiana, has a piece that will be performed by Antares titled Mixed Quartet No. 1 (breakdown), which includes intricate, interlocking rhythms, and tightly coordinated motivic gestures that develop, expand, and stretch throughout the piece, resulting in extreme rhythmic complexity and vibrant physical intensity. Zane says, “I was interested in pushing performers to the outer limits of rhythmic virtuosity so that the piece feels like it is on the brink of falling apart.” The composer workshop will be in Lippes Hall at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 29th, and will be free and open to the public.

The Antares New Music Quartet was originally created to perform Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, which the composer, shockingly, composed and had performed while he was a prisoner in an internment camp under the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. Below is a video of Antares performing the seventh movement of the Quartet. Absolutely Gorgeous! 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Center celebrates John Cage's 100th birthday at UB and all around Buffalo

Join us next week and throughout April for a celebration of John Cage’s music for his 100th birthday. University at Buffalo faculty and graduate students will be performing John Cage’s pieces at UB and around the city of Buffalo for the rest of the spring to honor the man who relentlessly pioneered and innovated in nearly all forms of art, including poetry, film, multimedia installation, theater, and performance art, as well as in a plethora of musical genres and compositional styles. The upcoming John Cage concerts will feature many of Cage’s myriad approaches to composition, and showcase pieces composed during all the various periods of his long and very productive life. John Cage has long been a deeply respected friend of the University at Buffalo Department of Music, as he was a regular June in Buffalo Faculty Composer from as far back as 1975, a frequent collaborator with Lejaren Hiller, and close personal friend of UB Composer Morton Feldman.
John Cage

The celebration begins next week on Wednesday, March 21st, at 7:30 p.m. in Slee Hall with a free concert of the complete Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano performed by UB Professor and New York Philharmonic pianist-in-residence Eric Huebner. The piano will be ‘prepared’ ahead of time with screws, bolts, pennies, weather stripping, washers, and pieces of rubber, wood, and bamboo, all strategically inserted and threaded into the piano’s strings. The score diligently maps out the placement of the materials within the piano strings to a quarter of an inch, catalyzing the many delicate interactions between the strings’ harmonics and the preparation materials and achieving an astonishing variety of textures and timbres. At the premiere of the Sonatas and Interludes in 1949, the critic for The New York Times wrote that the work, “left one with the feeling that Mr. Cage is one of this country’s finest composers and that his invention [the prepared piano] has now been vindicated musically.” Eric Huebner’s piano students will also showcase their talents throughout the evening and perform certain selections from the Sonatas and Interludes.

The following week there will be a concert of John Cage’s early works at Buffalo’s Hallwalls on Tuesday, March 27th, at 8:00 p.m., presented by Tom Kolor and the UB Contemporary Ensemble. Some of the works to be performed include Sonata for Clarinet, Solo with obligato accompaniment, and John Cage’s very first percussion piece, Trio, which features Cage’s love for including atypical percussion materials such as wooden planks, bamboo, twigs, and an impressive assortment of drums and other percussion instruments.

The birthday celebration will continue into April with an afternoon concert at Villa Maria College on April 19th, where UB percussionist Shelly Purdy will perform Cage’s indeterminate work 27’ 10.554”.  The final concert in the John Cage series will be back at the University at Buffalo’s Slee Hall on April 24th and feature performances by UB Performance Faculty and the UB Contemporary Ensemble, check in next month at the Center’s website for details.

Below is a video of Sonatas VII and XVI from the Sonatas and Interludes, performed by James Tenney at the Schindler House in 2002.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music co-sponsors "A Musical Feast" featuring works by Rands, Carter, Heidelberger, Bacon, and Mozart.

Here at the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music we are excited to be gearing up for the upcoming March 18th concert in the continuing concert series presented by “A Musical Feast.” Founded in 2006 by retired Concert Master of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Charles Haupt, “A Musical Feast” ventures to fuse contemporary and classical music with poetry and dance, and features internationally renowned musicians alongside Buffalo’s top performers and music-makers. For this upcoming concert at the Burchfield Penney Art Center, co-sponsored by the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, we are particularly excited to be showcasing two world premieres from University at Buffalo composers Nathan Heidelberger and John Bacon, as well as works by Wolfgang Mozart, Elliot Carter, and long-time friend of the Center Bernard Rands.

Opening the concert will be UB composer and percussionist John Bacon premiering his new piece, ...wind, water, metal, skin…, for flute and percussion. John Bacon will be joined by UB faculty flutist Barry Crawford for this premiere, which will feature a prepared vibraphone – John logged many hours experimenting and working with different materials (alluded to in the title of the piece) to doctor up the vibraphone and create an exciting blend of textures and timbres to dialogue with the many colors Barry Crawford is able to achieve with his virtuosic flute playing. John describes his thoughts about the work, "the piece started from the idea of wind chime melodies and the way that the notes combine into different orderings and repetitions, along with that is the idea of each of the materials in the title and how to express some of their properties through music. One final idea that is used is how the two players coordinate, sometimes very specifically, and other times, more casually."

Nathan Heidelberger
photo by Megan Metté

The other UB composer on the program, Nathan Heidelberger, will premiere his new work for soprano voice and piano, Descriptions of the Moon, a nine-part song cycle which sets a divergent array of texts on the topic of the moon from authors including Dante Alighieri, Galileo Galilei, James Joyce, Pablo Neruda, e.e. cummings, D.H. Lawrence, and Rainer Maria Rilke. Nathan was recently interviewed by Buffalo’s radio station WBFO  on his many recent activities: composing for the upcoming visit of the Antares Quartet, his regular performances with Buffalo’s multimedia improvisation group, Wooden Cities, his upcoming summer residency at the Aspen Music Festival, and his work with mezzo-soprano Julia Bentley, who will be premiering Descriptions of the Moon with UB faculty member and recently appointed principal pianist of the New York Philharmonic Eric Huebner.

Nathan elucidates some of the key compositional issues at play in Descriptions of the Moon, “The piece begins with a first hand account (imagined, of course) of walking on the moon, and it ends with an image of the moon drifting away from the earth, leaving a lone narrator behind. The contrast between these two texts reveals a number of binaries that play out during the piece: proximity/distance, excitement/restraint, declamation/soliloquy, verb/adjective. These binaries are represented through a gradual diminishment (waning) of activity, a process that is enacted twice over the course of the piece, once from the first to the fourth song, and again from the fifth song to the end. Another important binary is the relationship between the voice and the piano, which is carefully controlled throughout the work. While one hopes that most song cycles represent an equal partnership between a singer and a pianist, the singer, as the possessor of the text and thus the sole communicator of semantic meaning, often seems to take on a dominant role. In Descriptions of the Moon I tried to level the playing field as much as possible. In some songs the vocal line propels the music forward, while in others the piano part does.  Sometimes the two performers seem to be on different planes entirely, with little overt connection or synchronization between them.”

Bernard Rands and Julia Bentley

Julia Bentley will also be singing Bernard Rands’ Memo 7, for solo female voice, part of a series of short works for solo instruments Bernard Rands began back in 1971 with Memo 1 for contrabass. We were fortunate to have been visited last fall by Bernard Rands for a screening and discussion of his recent opera in two acts, Vincent, about the life and work of painter Vincent van Gogh. During his visit, Julia Bentley and the Slee Sinfonietta performed Rands' "Now Again"... fragments from Sappho, a collection of songs for voice and ensemble setting the poetry of the Greek poet Sappho. Audio from the concert can be heard on the Center's website.

Eric Huebner will also be performing Elliott Carter’s work for solo piano Night Fantasies. Carter, who celebrated his 103 birthday this past December, describes the work as, "a piano piece of continuously changing moods, suggesting the fleeting thoughts and feelings that pass through the mind during a period of wakefulness at night... In this score, I wanted to capture the fanciful, changeable quality of our inner life at a time when it is not dominated by strong, directive intentions or desires." Carter’s Night Fantasies, which has been informally referred to as ‘an intense act of self-communion,’ will appear fittingly programmed alongside Mozart’s introverted and dark-hued K. 397 Fantasia in D minor, also to be interpreted by Eric Huebner.

Information about the "A Musical Feast" concert series can be found at   Details of the concert, location, and how to buy tickets here:
Sunday, March 18, 2012
2:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Peter & Elizabeth C. Tower Auditorium Burchfield Penney Art Center
Buffalo State College
1300 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo,
NY, 14222

Tickets by Telephone: (716) 878-6011 

Burchfield Penney members: $10
Students with ID: $10 
Non-members: $20 
Join today. Advance tickets strongly recommended.