Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Saariaho, Fagerlund, and others celebrate FinnFest

Next week will see the beginning of FinnFest 2015 in Buffalo, an annual festival celebrating Finnish culture and heritage, which includes a variety of cultural and educational activities and events.  Due to Finland's rich musical history, the week-long festival will feature a variety of exciting musical performances, including a pair of concerts by the Buffalo Philharmonic in Kleinhans Music Hall (itself designed by Finnish architects Eliel and Eero Saarinen).  "Echoes of Sibelius" (October 9-10) will feature the first symphonies of Sibelius and Einojuhani Rautavaara, with the US premiere of Jaakko Kuusisto's Violin Concerto; "Northern Lights" (October 3-4), will feature Sibelius's Fifth Symphony and Grieg's famous Piano Concerto, alongside the US premiere of Isola, by Sebastian Fagerlund.  Both Fagerlund and Kuusisto will be present for their respective premieres, and will give preconcert talks.

Sebastian Fagerlund
The Center is also excited to welcome Fagerlund as the first guest in this season's Visiting Lecture Series, with his presentation on October 2.  Fagerlund's rich, vibrant music often carries existential themes, and has been described as "post-modern impressionism depicting mental landscapes."  Combining elements from Eastern and Western musics, minimalist electronica and Scandinavian black metal, big band and Boulez, his diverse output—while oscillating between extremes—errs on the side of rhythmic drive and unceasing energy.  "A sort of primitivism is present in many of my works, [and] as a result, rhythm, in particular, has become very important [to me]" he explains.  Isola represents these ideas well, featuring an often violent approach to the orchestra which combines performative aggression with harmonic and textural sophistication.

Kuuisto will also present at the Visiting Lecture series, the following week.  The violinist-composer began studying at the Sibelius Academy at the age of 12 and quickly made a name for himself by winning several international competitions.  As a violinist, he has performed with the Sydney, Adelaide, and Melbourne Orchestras, the Hannover NDR Orchestra, and the Belgian Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as most of the major Finnish orchestras.  As a composer, his output includes chamber and vocal music, orchestral works, film music, and operas—including his most well-known work, the "family opera," Koirien Kalevala, which was presented at the Savonlinna Opera Festival to a full house for three consecutive seasons.  We look forward to hearing his insights into his work.

Kaija Saariaho
The Center's contributions to FinnFest do not end there.  We are excited to also host the residency of famed Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, and to present a special Slee Sinfonietta / Ensemble SIGNAL concert  of some of the composer's most significant works on October 6.

Saariaho's music has always been marked by a fascination with color and texture, with timbre and harmony being the foundational elements.  While her earliest works showed the influence of late-modernist post-serialism—an idiom she eventually found to be constraining—her outlook shifted after being exposed to the music of Grisey and Murail while studying at Darmstadt.  As her aesthetic began to take shape during a period of research at IRCAM in Paris, Saariaho developed new expressive techniques based in analysis of the sonic spectra of instrumental sounds.  Her first computer-assisted composition was Lichtbogen, for 9 instruments and live electronics (1986), a piece whose point of departure lies in the spectrum of high harmonics which burst forth from a cello when bow pressure is increased (hence the title, which translates as "light-bow").

Paul Gauguin - NoaNoa
NoaNoa (1992), for flute and electronics, was composed in close collaboration with flautist Camilla Hoitenga, who will perform the work during next week's Sinfonietta concert.  The composer describes the work, which was inspired by the Paul Gauguin woodcut of the same title, as stemming from a desire to "write down, exaggerate, even abuse certain flute mannerisms that had been haunting me for some years."  The piece itself has become a key work in the contemporary flute repertoire and a signpost in the solo-instrument-plus-electronics genre.  Prés (1992), for solo 'cello and electronics, is also inspired by a Gauguin work (the painting, By the Sea), and pairs the string instrument with an electronic doppelgänger consisting of synthesized tones, manipulated 'cello sounds, and real-time processing of the live 'cello with resonant filters.  The piece will be played by SIGNAL executive director, Lauren Radnofsky.

The concert's most recent work is 2001's Aile du Songe, a concerto for flute, string orchestra, and percussion (also to be played by Hoitenga).  Like so much of the Saariaho's work, the piece is written in exquisitely detailed notations featuring harmonics, microtonal coloring, and a wealth of expressive markings.  Listeners will be privy to her slow timbral transformations as well as the sensitive lyricality which has been an increasingly present element in the composer's work since the late 1990s, when she began a series of operatic and vocal works.  Still marked by a sparsity characteristic of much of her earlier music, ("I don’t believe in austerity," the composer has said, "but I do [believe] in purity"), the work is sure to illustrate why the Denver Post has called "one of the most original compositional voices of our time."

The festival will include other intriguing musical events, including the Buffalo Chamber Music Society's hosting of the Carpe Diem String Quartet, who will perform a concert of Finnish works in Kleinhans' Mary Seaton room, including Sibelius's Andante Festivo, Rautavaara's first quartet, and Erkki Melartin's "The Sunflower."  In addition, Buffalo contemporary music ensemble Wooden Cities will present "A Kalevala Duo:  Playing Bones" a collaborative concert with performance artist Pia Lindman, which will feature the ancient Finnish technique of "bone-setting" set to music by recent UB-graduates Nathan Heidelberger and Brendan Fitzgerald.

Mivos Quartet
If that's not enough music for you, next week the Center will host the Mivos Quartet for a concert of new works for string quartet (including works by Taylor Brook, David Felder, Martin Stauning, and Helmut Lachenmann).  This concert (October 5) was rescheduled from last season after a blaze of Buffalonian thundersnow (read more about the program here), so don't miss your second chance to see these amazing works played by the quartet the Chicago Reader has called "one of America's most daring and ferocious new-music ensembles."

Monday, September 21, 2015

A Busy Summer for UB Composers...

Summer is always a busy and exciting time for UB graduate composers, with many of them participating in conferences, festivals, and seminars in the US and abroad, and having their works performed by some of the most skilled performers in the field.  This past summer was no different, as you can see below:

Weijun Chen had two pieces which received multiple performances this summer.  First, his string quartet, Canoe, was performed by the Rhythm Method quartet at New York's Mise-En Music Festival in June.  As a student composer at this year's Aspen Music Festival and School, Weijun heard an orchestral adaptation of the piece performed twice (in July, and a few weeks later in August).  In addition, his Memos, for pierrot and percussion, was premiered at June in Buffalo by the New York New Music Ensemble, and was performed again at Aspen by the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble.

Matthew Chamberlain
Also at June in Buffalo, Matthew Chamberlain saw the premiere of his brass quintet, Three Family Photos, by the Meridian Arts Ensemble.  In addition, his string trio, Photo, was premiered by Chartreuse, with performances in Buffalo, Chicago, and New York.  Also a skilled conductor of new music, Matthew conducted at a JiB Performance Institute concert, leading a number of performers in Jacob Druckman's Come Round.  He also participated in a weeklong master course with world-renowned conductor Péter Eötvös in Budapest, where he performed Philippe Manoury’s piano concerto, Passacaille pour Tokyo.

Colin Tucker curated and produced Decay/Reverberate, a four-day festival of site-specific sound works created for presentation at Silo City, a group of historic vacant grain elevators in Buffalo.  The event included performances, installations, and guided listening activities, each of which engaged with the acoustic, social, and historical implications of the site.  Part of the Null Point series, a Buffalo-based platform for experimental arts founded by Colin, the festival featured performances by several artists associated with UB, including composers/sound artists Matt Sargent, Daniel Bassin, and Tom Stoll, and performers Zane Merritt, Crossfire Percussion (Bob Fullex and Jason Bauers), and John Bacon.  Read more about the event here, and check out Matt Sargent's Tide (10+1 Basses), a piece premiered at the event by bassist Zachary Rowden, below:

"I am grateful for the Center for 21st Century Music's financial support of the event," says Colin, who is currently planning a similar event at the same site for next spring.  Colin was also a fellow in the Summer Academy for Young Composers at Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart, Germany, where he studied with Chaya Czernowin, Ming Tsao, and Rebecca Saunders.  At Schloss, Colin presented a lecture on his work, and his engulfed, constrained in a widening gap was performed by friends of the Center, Ensemble SurPlus.

Colin also curated, organized, and performed on Null Point's Virtuosities, a concert program which toured the American midwest, playing eight cities in nine days.  The program featured two of Colin's pieces, distances swarming and encompassing, for prepared electric guitar and the audio installation, voice-dross, in addition to North American premieres of works by Joseph Kudirka, and Eva-Maria Houben.  While on tour, the ensemble was featured on Muddle Instead of Music, a weekly radio show directed by recent UB graduate, Jacob Gotlib.  A video summarizing the tour's stop at Cincinnati's Experimental Music at the Library series, can be seen below:

The two other composers featured on the Null Point tour were Zane Merritt and Ethan Hayden.  In addition to performing Colin's distances swarming and encompassing, Merritt performed his own solo electric guitar work, Double Etude Gizmo Mechanism Device Machine class alpha, set 1, number A, for guitar and fixed media electronics.  Ethan performed his "…ce dangereux supplément…", for voice and electronics, on the Null Point tour, and a version of the same piece with animated projections was performed by the composer at the international E-Poetry festival in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  This weekend, Ethan will perform the piece at the International Computer Music Conference in Denton, TX.

Dimitar Pentchev wrote, directed, and produced Gleams, an evening-length work featuring live piano, two singer-actors, dancer, and live video projection.  The piece saw three June performances at Toronto's Array Space.  "It is based on my own poetry," Dimitar explains, "and it was produced without any outside help."  An excerpt of the work can be seen below.

Esin Gündüz
ritüellerin yakınlığı (the proximity of rituals), Esin Gündüz's piece for two violas and recorded voice was premiered earlier this month by violists Yuri Gandelsman and Tuba Özkan.  The work was commissioned by the former's viola masterclass at Mersin State Conservatory in South Turkey.  She will soon see the premiere of cura, a new composition for violin, 'cello, and voice, which she will perform with UB's Yuki Numata and Jonathan Golove at the October 11th concert by Friends of Vienna—an organization at which Esin has been composer-in-residence for the past year.

Finally, Roberto Azaretto attended the 2015 MusicArte Festival in Panamá City, where Impasse, his 2011 duo for clarinet and 'cello was premiered by Gleb Kanasevich and Cody Green.

We should also congratulate the composers who, last spring, graduated with their PhDs:  Megan Grace Beugger, Jacob Gotlib, Clint Haycraft, Nathan Heidelberger, and Chun Ting Pang.  We couldn't be more thrilled for them and we know they're already up to new and exciting things!

As the Fall semester begins, each of these composers will begin composing new works and starting new projects, we can't wait to see what's next for them this year!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

New Composers Join UB Composition Program

This year, UB's Composition program welcomes six extremely talented new composers.  We're excited to get to know them and their music, and we look forward to hearing what they come up with as they pursue their PhD's in Buffalo.

Jessie Downs is a composer, vocalist, and teaching artist who recently graduated from Oberlin (2013).  For Jessie, music is a medium for sharing personal experiences and entering into community with others.  "My work aims to capture things of delicate and wild beauty, from the sound of my mother's backyard, to the decrepit intonation of an antique folk instrument, to elements of the work of other artists […] that resonate deeply with my own practice and view of the world."  Her most recent large-scale work, a piece written during a residency with a middle school band called Dismal Harmony, is a "a surreal sonic expedition."  Each section of the piece strives to capture the experience of a particular point along New Jersey's Dismal Brook.  The musical material comes both from harmonies and textures that resulted from a composing workshop with the band, as well as from Jessie's own time spent with the sounds of the park.

Jessie Downs conducting students at
the NJPAC “Fiddle and Fa-la-la” Fest.
In writing for non-professional musicians, Jessie combines her love of music-making and education.  Since graduating Oberlin, she has worked primarily as a music educator in Orange, New Jersey, where she played a vital role in creating Sonic Explorations, an after-school music program for the elementary school students.  "As a way of creating a space in the program for each student to find their own musical persona, my partner Douglas Farrand and I developed the Creative Musicianship curriculum, in which students build an embodied understanding of key musical concepts through and for creative applications (composing, improvising, instrument building, etc)."  As a vocalist, Jessie practices what is often considered an "arcane strain" of the bel canto technique.  With an approach to vocalization that is much like a gym workout—complete with its grunts and squeals—she aims to build vocal musculature through the practice of a variety of 'raw sounds.'  "The element of struggle with one's voice—both physical and psychological—and the divine variety of timbres, registers, and dynamics that (sometimes) result from this struggle, is a subject of great interest and importance to me."

Alex Huddleston studied composition at Columbia College Chicago with Marcos Balter, Kenn Kumpf, and David Reminick, and recently completed his Masters degree at the Boston University School of Music, where he studied with Joshua Fineberg.  A recent piece of his for pianist and assistant, neglected Gardens; layers of rust, patina, and rock, treats the piano as a complex assembly of mechanical objects and vibrating entities.  In the piece, the pianist sits at the keyboard while the assistant reaches into the body of the instrument and plays directly on the strings.  "As a composer, my interests tend toward oblique criticism of structures of music making in various traditional forms."  The work treats the piano as a series of oscillators in a great "analogico-mechanical synthesizer."

Brien Henderson

Brien Henderson's recent compositional work examines the introspective power of medieval plainsong and the textured melodicism of Renaissance polyphony.  Strongly guided by architect Antoni Gaudí's claim that "originality means returning to our origins," Brien reimagines these timeworn elements in a pitch organization system of his own invention that "embraces the full chromatic spectrum while maintaining a decidedly modal character."  Brien's work also treats noise elements, timbre, and musical fragments as essential material.  A June in Buffalo alum, his piece Fragments of Lost Words was performed by Ensemble SIGNAL at the festival in 2013.

Brien has studied composition with Richard Festinger, Christopher Jones, and Ben Sabey at San Francisco State University, where he earned both Bachelor of Music and a Master of Arts degrees.  Also a singer, for the past two years he sang with Ut Re Mi, a San Francisco-based choir specializing in Renaissance music, and for whom he composed Noli esse vana, a setting of a text from The Confessions of St. Augustine.

Igor Coelho Marques hails from Curitiba, a large Brazilian city 500 miles southwest of Rio de Janeiro.  Beginning his musical education at the city's public conservatory, he soon transferred to Brigham Young University, where he received his undergraduate degree in composition.  He later pursued a Master's degree at the University of Utah before arriving in Buffalo for his PhD.

Igor's style and skill is on display in his 2014 piece, I Win, for pierrot ensemble.  "At the time, I was taken by the idea that even when people discredit you, if you trust your choices and cherish meaningful relationships, you 'win' in the end."  Each of the five instruments is highlighted in a different section of the piece; the composer giving unique material and a characteristic affect to each part, with a conclusion that brings together all the disparate elements.

Nathan Kelly is a composer interested composing for large ensemble forces and in post-minimal music.

Derick Evans is a New York native who grew up just outside of Utica.  Spending his youth performing as an electric bassist in various bands—including his own instrumental jazz-rock trio—he went on to earn his Bachelor of Music degree from the College of Wooster.  He later earned his Master of Music degree from The University of Arizona, where he studied with Daniel Asia.  While in Arizona, Derick served as instructor of a self-designed undergraduate music course focused on improvisation and composition, and earlier this year he founded ensemble D.E.R.F., the school’s first ensemble dedicated solely to performing student works.  D.E.R.F. has performed a variety of works, including Derick's own GILA, a "quirky and playfully irreverent" piece composed for the ensemble.

Derick's academic interests center on American composers, rock music theory, and the assimilation of popular styles in Western concert music.  Derick is excited to leave the Southwest for a cooler northern state.  "Having spent the last two winters in Arizona, I’m excited about the changing seasons and experiencing a snow-filled winter this year in Buffalo.  Although I admit that, having been away for so long, I may have a nostalgic and romanticized recollection of what the snow is like.  My boots and I will find out soon enough."

Monday, September 7, 2015

2015-2016 Calendar of Events

The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music is excited to announce its 2015-2016 Calendar of Events.  The season is sure to be one full of exciting music for adventurous listeners, with performances by the Slee Sinfonietta, Mivos Quartet, Ensemble Linea, and Project Isherwood among other stellar ensembles.

Brad Lubman will direct the Slee Sinfonietta and Ensemble SIGNAL
in works by Kaija Saariaho next month!
The Center is thrilled to host the residencies of several renowned artists this year, including LoadBang, VoxNova Italia, JACK Quartet, and Oerknal Ensemble, all of whom will present concerts of cutting-edge contemporary music and work directly with Buffalo composers at student workshops.  Our Visiting Lecture Series will feature world-renowned composer Kaija Saariaho, whose time in Buffalo will coincide with the events of FinnFest 2015, including a special Slee Sinfonietta program featuring some of her most significant works.  The Lecture Series will also welcome Sebastian Fagerlund, another Finnish composer whose works have received wide acclaim, and who will be featured on an October Buffalo Philharmonic concert as part of FinnFest.

The year will culminate in June in Buffalo 2016, the Center's annual festival and conference dedicated to composers, which will welcome a number of exciting artists including the composers Hans Abrahamson, Hanna Eimermacher, Joshua Fineberg, and Josh Levine, in addition to the festival's artistic director, David Felder.  A number of spectacular resident ensembles will be in attendance, including the Arditti Quartet, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Ensemble SIGNAL, the Slee Sinfonietta, and—in their first visits to the festival—Dal Niente and Uusinta Ensemble.   The JiB call for works will be released within the coming months…

See below for our full calendar of events, or visit the Center's website.

Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music

2015-16 Schedule of Events

October 2, 2015
Sebastian Fagerlund
Visiting composer

October 5, 2015
[Rescheduled concert]:
Program to include works by 
Brook, Felder, Lachenmann, Stauning

October 6, 2015
Visiting composer

November 12-13, 2015
Visiting ensemble
Evening performance and composer workshop

December 4-6
Visiting ensembles
Two evenings of concerts and composer workshop

April 5, 2016
Visiting ensemble
Evening performance

April 30 - May 2, 2016
Visiting ensemble
Evening performance and composer workshop

May 2-5, 2016
Visiting Ensemble
Evening performance and composer workshop
Program to include works by 
Felder, Heidelberger, Nielson, Zorn

Slee Sinfonietta

October 6, 2015
Slee Sinfonietta Presents
Ensemble Signal
Brad Lubman, conductor
Camilla Hoitenga, flute
Lauren Radnofsky, 'cello
Featuring works by Kaija Saariaho
Part of FinnFest in Buffalo, NY

April 21, 2016
Slee Sinfonietta
Program TBA

June in Buffalo 2016
June 6-13
David Felder, Artistic Director

Faculty Composers
Hans Abrahamson
Hanna Eimermacher
David Felder
Joshua Fineberg
Josh Levine

Resident Ensembles
Arditti Quartet
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Dal Niente
Ensemble Signal
Slee Sinfonietta
Uusinta Ensemble

Special Guests
Magnus Andersson
Brad Lubman