Monday, November 30, 2015

Voxnova Italia & Nicholas Isherwood to Tune Voices, Souls

Voxnova Italia perform Stimmung
This week, the Center is excited to host the residencies of Voxnova Italia and Project Isherwood, who will present three events of adventurous vocal music sure to engage, challenge, and transport listeners.  Known for pushing vocal and performative boundaries, these artists have cultivated a repertoire and an approach to vocal music that centers on the raw physicality of the voice itself, while always expanding listener's understanding of the voice through intrepid use of technology and extended vocal techniques.

Voxnova Italia is an ensemble of vocal soloists dedicated to the repertoire of the 20th and 21st centuries.  They have made their reputation through the performance of works by the great composers of contemporary vocal music (Berio, Scelsi, Aperghis, Nono, Cage, et al.), and also through their mission of making heard the music of young and "unjustly neglected" composers.  In so doing, they have premiered a number of new works, including pieces by Giacinto Scelsi, Steve Lacy, Luca Francesconi, Betsy Jolas, and Gerard Pape (see below for a recording of the latter's Battle, commissioned by Voxnova in 1996).

Voxnova's December 5th program will feature two works:  a new arrangement of David Felder's …la dura fría hora… and Karlheinz Stockhausen's vocal opus, Stimmung.  Felder's work, originally composed in 1986 for chamber chorus and orchestra, is an ornate work of vocal counterpoint beginning from a simple seed of two notes, which expands at turns delicately and aggressively into rich harmonies that are at once forceful and mysterious—assertively present while hinting at whole worlds just over the sonic horizon.  Voxnova will perform a new adaptation for six voices.

Stimmung, Stockhausen's meditative masterwork for six amplified voices, is the first major Western composition to be based entirely on the production of vocal overtones.  Organized into 51 "moments," the work explores the natural resonances of the human vocal apparatus, while pushing the voice to create new timbres and rhythmic textures.  Evoking mystical and earthy elements pulled from Eastern religious traditions and the 1960s counterculture, Stimmung unfolds ritualistically, moving up and down the Bb harmonic series in a unique manner that is both ceremonial and theatrical.  The title, in the composer's words, "means 'tuning,' but it really should be translated with many other words because Stimmung incorporates the meanings of the tuning of a piano, the tuning of the voice, the tuning of a group of people, the tuning of the soul."  Voxnova's performances of this work have been called "stunningly beautiful, utterly serene, full of charm" by the LA Times, which adds, "the voices here might have been angels."  The ensemble specializes in performing a new version of the classic work, which uses Mongolian diphonic singing for the execution of the overtones.  This reinterpretation is perhaps closer to the composer's original vision, as Nicholas Isherwood, Voxnova's bass singer, worked closely with Stockhausen during the last years of the composer's life, performing the role of Lucifer in the world premieres of several of the Licht operas (Montag, Dienstag, and Freitag).

Nicholas Isherwood
Isherwood, Voxnova's founder, is one of the most widely-recognized bass singers active today.  Having worked with an impressive roster of composers, including Carter, Crumb, Kagel, Kurtág, Messiaen, and Xenakis, Isherwood has played a significant role in the creation of the contemporary repertoire for solo and operatic vocal music.  As a director, he has produced performances of Hans Werner Henze's El Cimarrón in Fontenay, Cage's Song Books Dijon and Paris, and Mauricio Kagel's Phonophonie at venues around the world (including a well-received performance at June in Buffalo 2006, see below).  Also a renowned performer of Baroque music and the commedia dell'arte, Isherwood has directed student productions of Adriano Banchieri’s La Pazzia Senile and Berio’s A-Ronne in traditional 'commedia' style.  An active teacher, he has taught vocal music opera at institutions in France, Germany, and the United States, including the IRCAM Summer Academy, Conservatoire de Montbéliard, Ecole Normale de Musique (Paris), California Institute of the Arts, the University of Oregon, and currently, Le Conservatoire national supérieur musique et danse de Lyon.  His book, The Techniques of Singing, was published by Bärenreiter in 2013, and quickly became a widely referred to work by performers and composers alike.

Isherwood's December 4th concert features works that extend his virtuosic vocality through the use of electronics.  The program includes Otro, a recent (2010) work by the computer music pioneer Jean-Claude Risset, Michael Norris's Deep Field, for voice and live electronics, and Isaac Shankler's evocatively-titled, Mouthfeel.  Also featured on the program will be Black Fire/White Fire, the third part of David Felder's Shamayim (2008), a work for voice, electronics, and video composed in close collaboration with Isherwood and video artist Elliot Caplan, which Haskins American Recod Guide called "abstract but not forbidding, [with] images arresting and unforgettable."  [An excerpt of Chashmal, the first work in the series, can be seen below).

The residency will conclude with a composer workshop on December 6th, at which Voxnova will perform new works by UB graduate composers Jessie Downs, Ethan Hayden, Brien Henderson, and Ying-Ting Lin.  Through this presentation, Voxnova and Isherwood carry forth their mission to articulate and embody the newest works of contemporary vocal music, always adding dynamic new pieces to the repertoire.  This, and the other events are definitely not to be missed!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Loadbang Brings Lung-Powered New Music to Buffalo

This week, the Center is excited to welcome LoadBang, the NY-based chamber ensemble that TimeOutNY has called "a formidable new-music force."  With their unique, pneumatic instrumentation of trumpet, trombone, bass clarinet, and baritone voice, the ensemble has quickly cultivated a broad and diverse repertoire since their founding in 2008, premiering over 200 new works, including originals and arrangements by Charles Wuorinen, David Lang, Alex Mincek, Eve Beglarian, Nick Didkovsky, Reiko Füting, Andy Akiho, and Alexandre Lunsqui.  Their bio proudly boasts a "stylistic palette ranging from whistled Brazilian rhythms and microtonal jazz standards to the decoupled and deconstructed sounds of the second modernity."  Indeed, Loadbang's unorthodox instrumentation yields a distinctive character all its own, one that the NewYorker has characterized as having "an irreverent, rough-edged, yet oddly cultivated style."

Loadbang - Lungpowered
This oddly-cultivated style will be on display at their November 12 concert, at which the ensemble will showcase selections from their recently-released LP, Lungpowered.  The program will include Alex Mincek's Number May Be Defined, a driving rhythmic work that corrals a diverse ecosystem of polyphonic organisms into a quirkily dynamic sonic unity.  Scott Worthington's Infinitive strikes a different balance, one between motion and stasis, anxiety and resignation, as its repeating harmonies outline Shakespearean soliloquies sung over shifting colors and uneasy rhythms.  The program will also feature a work by Loadbang's own Jeffrey Gavett, whose Musicorum et Cantorum sets a text by the Medieval theorist Guido of Arezzo around a dense microtonal tapestry of brass glissandi and disjunct clarinet stabs.  Other works featured will include the dynamic agitation of Heather Stebbins Quiver, the quarter-tone excitations of Adam Zahller's Ledascape, and Taylor Brook's Ouricon Songs, Volume 2, a new quasi-musical theatre take on European-American folk music.

Loadbang's members are each renowned musicians in their own right.  Baritone Jeff Gavett is the founder of the virtuosic vocal ensemble, Ekmeles, and has performed with groups as diverse as ICE, Red Light New Music, the Wet Ink Ensemble, the Rolling Stones, and frequent Center-quests Ensemble SIGNAL and Talea.  Also active as a composer and conductor, Gavett has premiered a number of significant works, including the US premiere of Luigi Nono's Quando stanno morendo and the world premiere of the full version of Iannis Xenakis's Oresteïa.  Carlos Cordeiro (bass clarinet) has toured Europe, Russia and the United States with groups like the Ensemble and Lucerne Festival Orchestra, while performing with conductors like Pierre Boulez and Magnus Lindberg.  Andy Kozar (trumpet) is a member of TILT Brass and has worked closely with composers like Helmut Lachenmann and Augusta Read Thomas.  As a baroque trumpeter, he has performed as part of the Boston Early Music Festival and with Ensemble Musica Humana, while also finding time to record on indie pop albums by the likes of Yuck, Emanuel and the Fear, and Bennett Lin.  William Lang (trombone) is a founding member of the Guidonian Hand trombone quartet, as well as the Boston Microtonal Society's Notariotious ensemble.  A student of the Meridian Arts Ensemble's Benjamin Herrington, Lang has performed solo recitals at the Stone, the Tank, the Gerschwin Hotel, and Greenfield Hall, and other venues throughout the Northeast and Miami.  Together, the four musicians in Loadbang not only premiere cutting-edge works of notated music—they are also expert improvisors known for pushing their breath-powered instruments to physical extremes.  They recently inaugurated a project to record some of their improvisations, which are to be released in hand-made limited editions.

Following their Thursday night concert, Loadbang will work with UB graduate composers at a composer workshop that will see the ensemble performing several new works.  Included will be Derick Evans' Bare Ruined Choirs, Igor Marques's Suíte Curitibana, and a new work by Roberto Azaretto.  As an ensemble devoted to education, with both the technical skill and musical enthusiasm needed to execute complex new music, we look forward to hearing Loadbang breathe life into these new works!

—Ethan Hayden

Monday, November 9, 2015

June in Buffalo 2016: Call for Works

Ensemble SIGNAL will be among the
resident ensembles at June in Buffalo 2016
The Center is excited to announce the June in Buffalo 2016 call for works!  Below you can find application requirements for composers interested in attending the festival and writing for one of the many renowned resident ensembles, including the Arditti Quartet, Uusinta Ensemble, Dal Niente, and Ensemble SIGNAL.  Additional information can be found on the June in Buffalo website.


Presented by the Department of Music and The Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, June in Buffalo, a festival and conference dedicated to composers, will take place from June 6-12, 2016 at the University at Buffalo.  June in Buffalo offers an intensive schedule of seminars, lectures, master classes with selected faculty composers, workshops, professional presentations, participant forums and open rehearsals as well as afternoon and evening concerts open to the general public and critics.  Each of the invited composers will have one of his/her pieces performed during the festival (please see application process for specifics).  Evening performances feature faculty composers, resident ensembles and soloists renowned internationally as interpreters of contemporary music.

Application Procedures
  1. A résumé or curriculum vitae detailing your education, experience, and creative activity.
  2. A letter of reference from someone acquainted with your current compositional activity.
  3. A proposal requesting the performance of a recent work for:
  1. 2 violins, viola, cello (or subset) – Arditti Quartet
  2. flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, viola, cello (or subset) – Uusinta Ensemble
  3. flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, cello (or subset) – Dal Niente
  4. flute, clarinet, oboe, piano, violin, cello (or subset) – Ensemble Signal
  5. solo instrument
Proposals with electronics and/or multimedia will be considered.

Included with the proposal should be a brief description of the work that includes length, full instrumentation, and any technical requirements.  Proposals for works in progress will be considered. A portion of the score plus the description listed above must be included with application materials for in-progress works.
  1. One or two scores that demonstrate your recent work and accompanying recordings, if available.
  2. A $25 non-refundable processing fee. Checks or money orders should be made payable to June in Buffalo.  Foreign applicants must pay by international money order in US currency. Do not send cash.
  3. An e-mail address at which you can be easily contacted and a SASE (optional) for the return of application materials.
Application materials sent to:

June in Buffalo
220 Baird Hall
Department of Music
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14260

To apply as an auditor please send a resume and the processing fee. Auditors attend all June in Buffalo events, but will not have a piece performed.

Participant fee is $775 USD
Auditor fee is $400 USD

Application materials must be postmarked by February 15, 2016.