Thursday, November 29, 2012

UB composer Robert Phillips helps celebrate the 20th anniversary of Ensemble SurPlus

We’re excited to report that UB graduate composer Robert Phillips will be traveling to Freiburg, Germany, next month to have a piece premiered on the 20th anniversary concert of Ensemble SurPlus. Ensemble SurPlus have been friends of the Center for 21st Century Music and the UB Department of Music since they first performed at June in Buffalo in 2005, and we’ve been fortunate to have them back frequently throughout the years. The University at Buffalo was blessed to have the founder of Ensemble SurPlus, James Avery, on faculty teaching piano and conducting the UB Contemporary Ensemble here in 2007 and 2008, when he brought a wizard-like sense of musical energy to all of the projects he guided and participated in. Since James Avery’s passing in 2009, Ensemble SurPlus has continued to be one of the most dedicated contemporary music ensembles around today, generously devoting time to working with composers, both old and young, and adding pieces to their repertoire after learning them at June in Buffalo or other conferences and festivals, and bringing new music and virtuosic performances to places all around the globe, including, recently, Ecuador, Korea, U.S.A., and Indonesia.

A little more on Ensemble SurPlus from their website:

Ensemble SurPlus at Niagara Falls 
“Ensemble SurPlus was founded in 1992 by the eminent pianist and conductor James Avery (1937-2009). The Ensemble performs chamber music ranging from duos to large instrumental combinations. Its primary objective is to give new or unknown works an optimal performance, regardless of compositional style or technical and intellectual demands. After its formation in 1992 the ensemble was invited in the same year to perform at the International Summer Courses for New Music in Darmstadt. In 1993 it was engaged to give the first performance of a contemporary chamber opera at the Archipel Festival in Geneva, which received enthusiastic critical acclaim. Since that time it has gained increasing recognition on the international scene for contemporary music and has been a frequent guest at festivals throughout Europe (Musica Viva, mehr!klang, Donaueschingen) Asia and North America (June in Buffalo, Stanford University, University of Victoria). In addition to performing in traditional concert settings, SurPlus also welcomes experimental projects, improvisation and Music Theater. A close cooperation with Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart has existed since 1994. Most recently the Ensemble has collaborated in the project “New Music Network” funded by the German Ministry of Culture, working with young people in the German school system in order to educate a young public about new music. The ensemble has also collaborated closely with the Experimental Studio of the German Radio (SWR). Numerous CD productions and recordings (Ferneyhough, Clark, Spahlinger, Mahnkopf, Wolpe with Heinz Holliger) document the great versatility of the ensemble. The ensemble is based in Freiburg, Germany.”

Robert Phillips
photo by Megan Metté
We asked Robert Phillips to talk a little about his upcoming piece on the Ensemble SurPlus 20th anniversary concert, “I am greatly looking forward to the 20th anniversary concert of Ensemble SurPlus on Saturday, December 8th, at the E-Werk Freiburg. They asked me to compose what they referred to as a ‘conceptual’ piece for them, which would involve all 13 players on stage and could be performed without a conductor. Having worked with SurPlus extensively in the past, I knew this project would be a great opportunity to work closely with a large cast of some of the world’s best musicians to workshop and experiment with new musical ideas, extremely flexible frameworks for interpretation, diverse interpretation strategies, and to forego the ordinary start-to-finish through-composing that is my usual method of operation. The piece is titled O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden, and is a collection of performance guidelines to work through five J.S. Bach chorales, with each player being given separate indications to interpret, alter, augment, distort, and otherwise navigate through their specific SATB voice-leading designation of the J.S. Bach chorales.

“The concert will be one exclusively of world premieres, with all of the pieces having been written for and commissioned by Ensemble SurPlus. Also on the program will be Yonsei (2010), by Dieter Mack, and Hommage à Daniel Libeskind Vol.II (2010/11), by Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf – two German composers I have been following closely for a while now. I’m really looking forward to being around so many excellent musicians, composers, and musical thinkers.”

Phillips provided an excerpt from the program note:

“In O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden, written for and dedicated to Ensemble SurPlus on their 20th anniversary, the players are given performance directions and interpretation strategies to work through five J.S. Bach chorales. Each player navigates through one of the four individual Soprano, Alto, Tenor, or Bass contrapuntal lines of the chorales, and each of their lines have been augmented, distorted, expanded, and given indications to extend expressivity through a wide variety of performance techniques – all while the players read from the same four-voice SATB Bach chorale.

“To further intensify and complicate matters, there is no conductor, and each player is given a flexible, uncoordinated tempo to work through, only occasionally taking cues from the pianist or violinist. In this way, the antiquated Baroque rhythmic grid of the Bach chorales has been rendered fluid and unpredictable, with each contrapuntal voice rising and falling as waves of interpretive virility and spontaneity flow through each of them; transforming them into liquid, as if cast over water.”

We wish a firm proverbial breaking of the legs to Ensemble SurPlus, Robert Phillips, and all involved in the 20th anniversary concert on December 8th at the E-Werk Freiburg!

Link to this post here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Norbotten NEO visits the Center!

We’re looking forward to a winter visit from virtuosic new music ensemble and long-time friend of the Center, Norbotten NEO, who will be in residence at the University at Buffalo Department of Music, from December 5 – 6. On Wednesday, December 5, they will perform a concert of contemporary music in Lippes Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m., and the next day, Thursday, December 6, at 12:00 p.m., they will perform works by University at Buffalo graduate composers Clint Haycraft, Colin Tucker, David Rappenecker, Nathan Heidelberger, Kenichi Saeki, Daniel Bassin, and Megan Buegger.

Norrbotten NEO is Sweden’s newest voice on the contemporary music scene. Formed in January 2007, the ensemble is funded by the national, regional and municipal governments, and has a mission to perform throughout the country, as well as internationally. NEO has a core ensemble of seven musicians: flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, viola and cello.

Norbotten NEO

NEO regularly incorporates new commissions into its repertoire and stages at least one chamber opera production annually under the name Piteå Chamber Opera. NEO has its home in Piteå, at the newly built Acusticum complex located in Sweden’s northern most province. Acusticum offers a unique working environment complete with a concert hall boasting world-class acoustics, a ”black box” theatre, as well as state of the art broadcasting and recording studios.

Norbotten NEO has recently released a new CD full of music by contemporary composers, Bent Sørensen, Tristan Murail, David Felder, Rolf Wallin, and Steve Reich. The CD is titled The Age of Wire and String, and has been receiving rave reviews, including from the major Swedish newspaper, Svenska Dagbladet, "This is new music that sounds like new music should. Brilliance that bursts, switching timbre, a hair of repetition aesthetics. What stands out is the American composer David Felder and his work Partial [Dist]res[s]toration."

We asked some of the UB graduate composers about the pieces they wrote for Norbotten NEO. Megan Buegger writes about her piece, Wabi-Sabi, for snare drum, piccolo, and cello, “Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese aesthetic centered on the acceptance of the momentary and imperfection. The range of conventional performance techniques and dynamics are limited to only that which can be completely controlled, and thus perfected. My piece uses techniques that sit right outside normative controlled ranges. Instead of notating the beginning of the sounds, the piece often notates the beginning of the intention to create sound. Due to the innate indeterminacy of these techniques, the sound we hear will occur later than the onset of the intention to create sound. Additionally, in most music performers are commonly instructed to minimize the time between the onset of intention to create sound, and the sound itself. My piece embraces the effort required to create sound and often sits in the space between sound and silence by asking performers to stretch the amount of time between the intention to create sound and the actual sound further than they normally would.”

We also asked Kenichi Saeki to talk a bit about his piece for NEO, “Deconstruction is the first of my three-movement work, Transformations, the second and the third movements of which I am still working on. The main concept of Transformations is to inject memorable elements into a complex polyphonic texture so that they work as a guide to help follow and remember the complexity. Two things have been done to support this concept –one is to create a clear and audible structure, which is a ‘deconstruction’ in the first movement. The opening texture is gradually deconstructed into something different while it always maintains a link with the later fragmented and transformed textures. The other is to create several repeated patterns of motives (harmonies, sonorities, contours, or gestures) which can be remembered. These patterns are also deconstructed and varied, and heard in different contexts throughout the first movement. As a result, Deconstruction explores textual and motivic links in a process of deconstruction, which I consider to be one of continuous transformation. The duration of the first movement is 4’30”.”

We look forward to seeing you there!

Norrbotten Neo
New Music Ensemble, Sweden
December 5th: Concert
Lippes Concert Hall, 7:30pm
December 6th: Composer Workshop
Lippes Concert Hall, 12:00pm

Link to this post here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

UB composers at Guadeamus Muziekweek!

We’re excited to report that UB composer Jacob Gotlib has been nominated to be a participant composer at Gaudeamus Muziekweek 2013, and has had his percussion duet Portrait Sequence (Blanching Out) chosen to compete for the prestigious Gaudeamus Prize. The University at Buffalo has a long history of composers being selected to compete for the Gaudemus Prize – first was Aaron Cassidy in 2002 with The Misprision of Transparency, for viola d'amore, and then Cassidy again in 2004, with his ten monophonic miniatures for solo pianist, then Robert Phillips in 2009, with his Mapauna mai kekahi (scent of another), for three players performing on various Hawaiian and percussion instruments, and more recently was Diana Soh in 2011, with her string quaret [Ro]ob[ta]ject[tions].   

Jacob Gotlib
More about Gadeamus Muziekweek 2013 from their blog:

“Thirteen compositions have been shortlisted for the Gaudeamus Prize 2013. Over 200 composers under the age of 30, hailing from 29 different countries, entered a composition in hopes of winning this much sought-after award. Now the jury, consisting of Peter Adriaansz (NL), Annelies van Parys (BE), and Dmitri Kourliandski (RU) has made its selection. At the end of the Gaudeamus Muziekweek 2013 it will determine the winner of the Gaudeamus Prize. All nominated works will be performed during Gaudeamus Muziekweek which runs from 1 through 8 September 2013 in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

“Gaudeamus Muziekweek is an internationally renowned festival for young composers and new music. It takes place annually in various locations in the central Dutch city of Utrecht. Apart from the short-listed works, Gaudeamus Muziekweek features numerous other pieces by young composers, including the new composition commissioned by the festival from the winner of the Gaudeamus Prize 2012, Konstantin Heuer (born 1989). In addition, there will be discussions, meetings, and talks with composers as well as sound installations in unusual locations. Next year's program will be announced in June. Gaudeamus Muziekweek runs from 1 through 8 September 2013.

“The winner of the Gaudeamus Prize 2013 will receive €4,550 to write a composition for Gaudeamus Muziekweek 2014. Many composers dream of winning the prestigious prize that can help launch their international careers.”

We asked Jacob to talk a little about his piece:

Portrait Sequence (Blanching Out) is built around the question, what would happen if we did not strike percussion instruments, but instead allowed them to vocalize? Although it turns out that they can’t sing very well, with an affectionate touch, they can growl, snarl, wheeze, gasp, moan, and croak. Instruments that seemed literally far removed from innate, bodily music-making -- that were only as useful as far as they could be hit with a foot-long stick -- become prostheses for primal expression: visceral, ghastly, and heaving, but also fluent, articulate, and sensitive. The performers produce all the sounds in this piece by dragging, scraping, and scratching along the surface of the instruments with their fingers. You can see and hear some of these techniques in the promotional video I’ve made for the Gaudeamus festival.

“This piece was commissioned by and dedicated to the Crossfire Percussion Duo, Jason Bauers and Bob Fullex. It would have been impossible for me to write this piece alone. It’s rare that a composer gets to enjoy such a close collaboration, and I am deeply grateful to them for the countless hours of meetings, recordings, sight-readings through terrible sketches, and harried last-minute rehearsals over the course of many months that brought this music to fruition. The Crossfire Duo has performed the work several times now -- most recently this summer, inside the Marine A grain silos outside of downtown Buffalo as part of Torn Space Theater’s production American Grain.

“It’s an incredible honor to be nominated for the 2013 Gaudeamus Prize. I’m thrilled to be representing UB at this internationally prominent festival, just as Diana Soh (2011), Robert Phillips (2009), and Aaron Cassidy (2002 and 2004) have done in recent years. The fact that UB’s composers are regularly chosen to present their works in high-profile venues around the world says tremendous things about our program!”

Check out this terrific promotional video Jacob put together for Gaudeamus:

Also below is a video of an incredible performance of Portrait Sequence (Blanching Out) by the renowned Crossfire Percussion Duo:

Link to this post here.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Congratulations to UB Alumn Adrienne Elisha on her MacDowell Colony Residency!

Congratulations to UB alumn Adrienne Elisha on winning a prestigious residency at the MacDowell Colony, which is located in an idyllic rustic environment in Peterborough, New Hampshire, where she is currently expanding a solo bass piece for James VanDemark into a collaborative work for solo bass and modern dance, as well as working on a handful of other exciting projects as a composer.

Elisha, who was Visiting Assistant Professor of Composition at Vassar College in 2008, is no stranger to artist colonies – she was recently nominated by Peter Eötvös for five months as a resident composer at Herrenhaus in Edenkoben, Germany, where she wrote a large work for sextet, and a work for solo viola. Other recent projects of hers include a multi-media collaboration with artist/sculptor Harry Roseman, head of the art department at Vasser College, which celebrated the anniversary of the Vassar Art Museum, and featured his murals on the walls of the museum.

Elisha is an active violist, and regularly joins us in Buffalo to perform with the Slee Sinfonietta, and also regularly performs with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project

Below is a little more background on Elisha, taken from her bio:

“Adrienne Elisha and music have an extraordinary relationship. As a creator and a re-creator, she understands music from the inside out and from the outside in.

”She is a champion of new music--equally talented as both a skilled violist and as a composer whose voice is distinctly contemporary but whose inspiration is drawn directly from the heart. And for audiences experiencing her compositions, the result is a mesmerizing and emotional ride into an imaginary sound world unlike any other: Mario Davidovsky has described her sextet Anthelion as “a new kind of polyphony”. Her music, as Leonard Bernstein put it, is “excitingly unpredictable, yet inevitable in retrospect.
Marian MacDowell in front of Edward's log cabin,
the Colony's prototype studio.

Adrienne is a 2007 winner of the Thayer Award in Music Composition, she received her Ph.D in Composition from the University of Buffalo, working with David Felder as a Presidential Doctoral Fellow. Also a graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Indiana University School of Music in Bloomington, Indiana, Ms. Elisha's grants and commissions include those from Meet the Composer, the National Music Teachers' Association (naming her the 1997 "Ohio Composer of the Year"), Fortnightly Music of Cleveland, Cleveland Chamber Music Society, newEar Ensemble (Kansas City) and the American Music Center.

”Her works have been featured nationally and internationally, including at June in Buffalo, The Colorado Springs New Music Symposium, the Chintimini Chamber Music Festival, and at the International Bartok Festival in Szombathely, Hungary, where she performed her own solo and chamber works and premiered those of other composers.

 “Cry of the Dove—her cello concerto—was commissioned and premiered by The Cleveland Chamber Symphony for solo cellist Steven Elisha. Subsequent performances have included the Grand Rapids Symphony (David Lockington, conductor).”

We asked Adrienne about her time at UB and she remarked, "The composition program at UB allows each composer to express their unique voice, and David Felder sets the tone for this supportive environment."

Adrienne Elisha currently lives in Rhinebeck, New York. 

Link to this post here.