Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Composition Students at UB

There are six extremely talented composers joining the Composition program this Fall!  We're excited to get to know them and their music, and we can't wait to hear what new things they'll be coming up with during their time in Buffalo.

Matthew Chamberlain is a composer and conductor from Leesburg, Virginia.  He studied composition at Oberlin with Josh Levine and Tim Weiss, eventually earning a Bachelor's in composition and a Master's in conducting.  As a conductor, Matthew has served as Music Director of the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestras’ Philharmonia Orchestra.  He has also led the Oberlin Sinfonietta, Arts & Sciences Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra, and Contemporary Ensemble with whom he performed at the 2013 Third Practice Festival at the University of Richmond.  As an advocate of new music, Matthew has commissioned works by young composers for the NOYO Philharmonia, and has premiered numerous new pieces.  

In 2014, Matthew premiered his large ensemble piece, Falstaff imagines a passacaglia with the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra.  His recent pieces have focused on defamiliarizing common formal devices, playing on listener expectation.  He says that Falstaff is a piece that doesn't trust it's own form.  "The piece is easily distracted; it wanders from the only goals it has been able to articulate, and when all is said and done, it’s not quite sure whether to be proud or sad about its nascent independence."  While Falstaff might not know whether to be proud or sad, Matthew is enthusiastic.  He's currently working on an essay about the concept of "relevance," aiming to "help people to talk about the art they make with less shame and more gusto!"  Matthew is also a fan of earlier music, an affinity which comes across in his own work.  "I am predisposed to [musical] materials that carry a great deal of historical baggage, as they have so much potential to illuminate the contexts in which they are presented."  We're sure he'll be at home in a city with as rich a musical heritage as Buffalo!

Jiryis Ballan grew up in Kafr Yasif, a city in Northern Israel near Nazareth.  As a child, he was exposed to a wide variety of music, including slassical opera, liturgical music, 1960s protest songs, as well as music from South America and Lebanon.  He studied music and archaeology at the University of Haifa, and, more recently, taught at an alternative school called "Hewar" (which means "dialogue" in Arabic).  While in Haifa, he studied classical and jazz theory, and played guitar and buzuq, a long-necked fretted lute from Lebanon.  Jiryis can be seen playing the buzuq in a recent film, 1913:  Seeds of Conflict and recently performed at the Israeli-Palestinian Memorial Day Ceremony.

As a Fulbright scholar, Jiryis is excited to join the program at UB.  "I wish to further work and develop my composition skills, with special focus on notation techniques, music analysis, and orchestration.  There is a warm atmosphere in the Music Department.  I am looking forward to being involved as much as I can here, and other departments."  He's already begun reaching out to the Theatre and Dance department, where he's an accompanist for the contemporary dance class.

Meredith Gilna recently received her MM in composition from the Hartt School, where she studied with Robert Carl and David Macbride.  Before that, she was at Butler University, studying with Michael Schelle, Frank Felice, and James Aikman.  As an accomplished electric bassist, much of her work explores the lower realm of the pitch spectrum.  "I love all sounds that are low pitched," she says.  You can certainly hear this in her recent piece, Ride, for three electric basses with delay, distortion, alligator clips, and electric lady razor.  Ride is a text-based guided improvisation composed for her Electric Bass Band, one of the few exclusively electric bass ensembles.  When she's not composing, Meredith is playing bass in whatever context she can find.  She's currently working on learning all of the bass parts in Steely Dan's Royal Scam and Aja—a pursuit which she says is informing her compositional work(!).

Roberto Azaretto comes to UB from Buenos Aires, where he studied composition at Universidad Católica Argentina.  While he comes from a more modernist background, his work is starting move closer to "an experimental, desubjectivized, speculative perspective."  He describes his ever-changing compositional process:  "During the last few years most of my work has been about filtering and permuting modules, to be later stretched or compressed according to arbitrary metric sequences, and further altered by the accumulation of timbral modifications."

Ying-Ting Lin is a Taiwanese composer with degrees from National Kaohsiung Normal University and National Taiwan Normal University, where she studied with Ching-Wen Chao.  Active as a composer and pianist, Ying-Ting's music has been awarded several prizes, including the National Symphony Orchestra of Taiwan competition in 2010-2011, and the Taiwan National Ministry of Education Composition Award in 2010.  Her recent piece, Memories of Landscape (2011) for sheng, erhu, liuqin, pipa, and guzheng was awarded second place in the Chai Found Chinese Musical Instruments Competition in 2011.  The piece, inspired by Yan-Ting Hou's painting, Spring, represent's the composer's attempt to reflect her deepest solicitude over her motherland by featuring dots and lines—the two main components of Chinese ink wash painting.  

She describes her piece:  "It begins with sheng and string instruments, which portray the initial black spot in a Chinese painting. It then continues on melodious elements that depict lines. These two main components interlock throughout the whole work, embellishing the contemporary outfit by a traditional way of thinking.  The piece ends with the pipa and guzheng playing harmonics, as though an egret and a clover hide within branches and weeds. This suggests the beginning of lives, and the beginning of everything."

—Ethan Hayden

Thursday, September 18, 2014

UB Composers have been up to Great Things!

Summer is often a very exciting and active time for composers, and that's especially true for those here at UB.  This past summer saw many of our composers having works performed, and participating in conferences, festivals, and seminars in the US and abroad.

Colin Tucker
Colin Tucker had a particularly busy summer.  While attending the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music, he presented a lecture recital with renowned Australian saxophonist Joshua Hyde.  The lecture dealt with issues of notation, interpretation, and performance practice in the solo pieces that Colin wrote for him (including futures unmade in the boundlessness of the instant).  In May, Colin had his newest piece, not this (2014) for bass flute, bass clarinet, saxophone, piano, percussion, mezzo-soprano, and strings premiered by the French ensemble, soundinitiative, in Paris.  Finally, his chamber piece, engulfed, constrained in a widening gap (2013), which was premiered at last year's June in Buffalo festival, saw three performances this summer, including two by the East Coast Contemporary Ensemble.

Su Lee also traveled to Europe, as her Melting Crystal for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, and 'cello was a winner of the Kazimierz Serocki International Composers’ Competition in Warsaw, Poland.  In addition, her exciting large ensemble piece, Soundless Cry, was performed at the Mise-en Music Festival in New York. 

Chun-ting Pang was also at this festival, which saw the US premiere of his Vocalize the Voicelessness for trombone, percussion 'cello, and piano.  On the festival’s last day, Chun-ting flew to Finland to attend Sävellyspaja 2014, an annual composition masterclass in Porvoo. While in Finland, he studied with Jukka Tiensuu, Jouni Kaipainen, and Tomi Räisänen, and heard the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra perform his piece, The Flowers Appear on Earth. Later, Chun-ting was privileged to be one of the fellows at the Composers Conference at Wellesley College, a course led by Mario Davidovsky, Steve Mackey, and Augusta Read Thomas.  At Wellesley, Chun-ting revised Vocalize the Voicelessness, which had a successful performance at the conference’s final concert. 

For the past year, Nathan Heidelberger has had the honor of being the first ever composer-in-residence for Oerknal!, a new music collective based in The Hague. The culmination of this partnership took place in June, a portrait concert of Nathan’s music called Lunatics!, featuring his pieces, My Hands Are Empty (which was premiered by the Slee Sinfonietta in April 2012), Descriptions of the Moon (his epic song cycle for soprano and piano), and Breather, a brand new sextet composed for Oerknal!. You can hear some live audio from the performance here.  “It was deeply rewarding to work closely with such a phenomenal great of young performers,” Nathan said, “and I'm looking forward to future collaborations with them.  I was grateful to received support from The Center to help cover my travel expenses.”

Juan Colón-Hernández traveled to Valdeblore, France for the Zodiac Festival, where his trio for clarinet, 'cello, and piano, Sobre el camino y otras cosas, was performed.  While there, he took master classes with composer Andrew List.  Later, Juan's string quartet, A Discontinuous Flux, was awarded third prize at the Malta International Music Competition where he participated in master classes with composer/performer John M. Kennedy.  Finally, Juan's solo guitar piece, Tropos, was selected as part of the 12th Annual Festival of Contemporary Music in San Francisco.

Weijun Chen
Weijun Chen's Canoe for string quartet was premiered by the Freya Quartet at the Charlotte New Music Festival.  Inspired by the poem 'I Am a Canoe' by the Misty Poet, Cheng Gu, Canoe won 2nd prize in the University of Louisville's Frank Robert Abell Young Composer Competition for New Chamber Music.  The reviewer, Perry Tannenbaum, said of Weijun's piece, "Strands of melody broke loose from the quartet harmonies as the score replicated the drift, the loneliness, the longing, the emotion, and the despair of the poem. Toward the end, there were ethereal passages that jumped beyond the template of the poetry and showed that Chen, unlike many of his contemporaries, is unafraid of lingering in intense expression."  Weijun's music was also celebrated when his wind ensemble piece, Distance, won the Hat City Music Theater's American Prize.

Wooden Cities prepares to perform in Cleveland, OH
Other UB composers packed up and took their works on the road.  Buffalo's up-and-coming new music collective, Wooden Cities—which features a number of UB composers among its members—played a five-city DIY tour across the Rust Belt that included performances in university concert halls, experimental theaters, indy bookstores, and even a dive bar. In addition to performing works by Berio, Eastman, Ives, and Zorn, the ensemble's performances were bursting with new music from UB composers, including Ethan Hayden's (tRas), Nathan Heidelberger's Occasionally, music, Zane Merritt's The Reputation, and Matt Sargent's Tide, in addition to UB faculty composer Jeffrey Stadelman's Koral 8.

Megan Beugger
Several other UB composers had eventful summers.  Matt Sargent's large-scale glockenspiel solo, Saint, was premiered by its namesake, percussionist Trevor Saint at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.  Matt also began an appointment as visiting lecturer in composition and electronic music at the Hartt School of Music.  Megan Grace Beugger spent the summer working on a new piece for her dissertation, as well as editing her Liason for piano-dancer, which was performed by Melanie Aceto at Hallwalls in late July (many of you will remember this intriguing piece from June in Buffalo 2013).  In addition to a performance of his bats with baby faces in the violet light at the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival and performances with Wooden Cities, Ethan Hayden saw the publication of his book on Sigur Rós's ( ) by Bloomsbury's 33 1/3 series.

All in all, a remarkably busy summer for our composers!  We can't wait to see what's next for them this year!

—Ethan Hayden

Thursday, September 11, 2014

2014-2015 Calendar of Events

Lots of exciting music being made at the Center this year!

The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music is excited to announce its 2014-2015 Calendar of Events.  There will be a ton of great music being made at the Center this year, with performances by the Slee Sinfonietta, Mivos String Quartet, and the Deviant Septet, among other spectacular ensembles.  In addition to exciting concerts that will delight fans of adventurous new music, our calendar features student composer workshops with visiting ensembles as well as our Visiting Lecture Series, with renowned guests such as Larry Groupé, Rand Steiger, and Daniel Asia.  The year will culminate in June in Buffalo 2015, which celebrates two anniversaries:  the 40th anniversary of the founding of the festival, and the 30th anniversary of the festival under the directorship of David Felder.  2015 also marks the second year of the June in Buffalo Performance Institute.  Finally, the Center will be co-sponsoring a number of exciting events by A Musical Feast, null point, and Music in Buffalo's Historic Places.

We're looking forward to a great year, and we hope to see you at these events!

October 7, 2014
Music of Boulez, Carter, and Wuorinen
with Ensemble Signal
Brad Lubman, Conductor

November 13-15, 2014
Performance in conjunction with Douglas Fitch's production, "How Did We…?"
Music by UB faculty, graduate composer, and others

April 14, 2015
Music of Ives, Nancarrow, Harrison, and Ruggles
Brad Lubman, conductor

June 2, 2015
Performing David Felder's Les Quatres Temps Cardinaux
Part of the 40/30 Anniversary of the June in Buffalo Festival

October 6, 2014
visiting composer

October 29, 2014
composer, UC San Diego

November 5, 2014
composer, University of Arizona

November 19-20, 2014
visiting ensemble

December 4-5, 2014
visiting ensemble

May 4, 2015
visiting performer

June 1-7, 2015
Resident Ensembles:  Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble SIGNAL, Meridian Arts Ensemble, New York New Music Ensemble, Slee Sinfonietta, Talujon Percussion Ensemble
Special Guests:  Irvine Arditti, Heather Buck, Ethan Herschenfeld, Brad Lubman

May 29-June 7, 2015
Performance Institute Faculty:  Jonathan Golove, Eric Huebner, Tom Kolor, Jean Kopperud, Jon Nelson, Yuki Numata Resnick

Co-Sponsored Events

November 14, 2014
Performing works by Mache, Beethoven, Szymanowski, and LeFanu

March 13, 2015
Performing Words and Music by Samuel Beckett and Morton Feldman

May 8, 2015
Program TBA

Music in Buffalo's Historic Places
June 5, 2015
Kleinhans Music Hall

June 12-14, 2015
Silo City

For fifty years, the Music Department at the University at Buffalo has maintained and nurtured a commitment to creative and performing artists at the forefront of contemporary music. The Center for 21st Century Music, founded and directed by composer David Felder in 2006, is built on this legacy, featuring the internationally renowned "June in Buffalo" festival, the Slee Sinfonietta Chamber Orchestra concert series, and the Wednesday Series of performances, lecture presentations, and workshops. The Center for 21st Century Music is dedicated to the creation and production of new work upholding the highest artistic standards of excellence while simultaneously fostering a complementary atmosphere of creative investigation.

For more information, please visit