Monday, February 20, 2017

Student Activities 2016

PhD composition students at the Center for 21st Century Music had a busy year in 2016, with high profile festival appearances, portrait concerts, and a prominent role in a new book surveying the recent history of experimental music, among other successes.

In 2016, UB PhD composers’ work was featured at leading festivals and venues throughout North America and Europe. Weijun Chen received the Jacob Druckman Prize, resulting in the commission of a new work, Dancer (orchestral version), premiered last summer by the Aspen Philharmonic at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. Chen's music also made an appearance at New York City’s MATA Festival, where Dancer (chamber version) was performed by Ensemble Linea. Matt Sargent, now Visiting Assistant Professor of Electronic Music and Sound at Bard College, composed Three Illuminations for Ensemble Mise-En during a residency at I-Park International. The work was premiered at NYC’s National Opera Center and was later selected for the prestigious 2017 ISCM World Music Days; other pieces by Sargent were presented at the New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, Chicago’s Frequency Festival, and Germany’s Darmstadt Ferienkurse für Neue Musik. On a more local note, this year’s June in Buffalo festival featured works by four UB doctoral composers Weijun Chen, Brien Henderson, Igor Coelho Arantes Santana Marques, and Colin Tucker, performed by Ensembles Uusinta and Dal Niente.

Two UB PhD composers were the recognized by portrait concerts devoted solely to their work, a rare honor for young composers. Colin Tucker’s maps of disintegration and forgetfulness, a series of works for small ensembles, was featured on a concert at Detroit’s Trinosophes, while Matt Sargent’s music was the sole focus of no less than three individual portrait concerts, presented by The Wulf, the Silpe Gallery of the University of Hartford (CT), and the Woodstock Artist Association and Museum. The former two events featured Sargent’s new work Tide for UB alumnus TJ Borden for solo cello and electronics.

Other UB composers were active creating work in a wide range of mediums. In the realm of chamber music, Derick Evans was commissioned along with Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw to write a new piece for the River Town Duo, while Roberto Azaretto’s Abrasion platforms was commissioned by Argentina’s Fundación MúsicaAntiquaNova for Thomas Skeweres and Yui Iwata. For Ensemble Linéa’s April visit to the Center for 21st Century Music, Roberto Azaretto, Matt Chamberlain, Weijun Chen, Meredith Gilna, Alex Huddleston, and Su Lee wrote new works for the group. UB doctoral composers have also been active writing for virtuoso soloists who specialize in new music: Colin Tucker’s center unmoored in the presence of infinite fringes was premiered by tuba soloist Aaron Hynds at Bowling Green State University, while Jessie Downs’s Torpid Smoke was premiered by percussion soloist Christian Smith at the Basel Music Academy. Downs, in addition to Meredith Gilna, also composed new works for UCSD doctoral flutist Michael Matsuno, who visited UB to premiere the works last March. Beyond chamber music, UB PhD composers took on ambitious large-scale projects, such as Matt Sargent’s trumpet concerto “The Singing Shore,” premiered at the River Concert Series in St. Mary's City, MD, by soloist Jeff Silberschlag and the Chesapeake Orchestra, and Colin Tucker’s voice-dross, a five-channel, two-room, long-term sound installation at Detroit’s Spread Art.

In addition to recognition by performers, festivals, and venues, the music of UB composers featured prominently in the book Experimental Music since 1970 by Jennie Gottschalk, published by Bloomsbury this past summer. In surveying experimental music practices, the book discusses works by current PhD student Matt Sargent, PhD alumni G. Douglas Barrett, Megan Beugger, Aaron Cassidy, and Evan Johnson alongside those of master composers—such as Maryanne Amacher, Cornelius Cardew, Julius Eastman, and MaxNeuhaus—who were Creative Associates at UB during the 1960s and 70s.

In addition to their compositional endeavors, UB composers were also active in performance and curation, initiating innovative musical programming locally, nationally, and internationally. Matt Chamberlain was active internationally as a conductor, conducting two works by Josh Levine with the Slee Sinfonietta at June in Buffalo as well as conducting his own work In Ignorance at the Budapest New Music Center as part of a master course with Peter Eötvös and friend of the Center Jean-Philippe Wurtz.

UB’s doctoral composers were especially active in the field of vocal music. Jessie Downs founded Sotto Voce, a vocal ensemble focusing on works by emerging composers whose members include PhD composer alumni Ethan Hayden and Zane Merritt. During 2016, the ensemble presented two programs of demanding recent works by local, national, and international composers. Esin Gündüz, as a vocalist, was active as member of the free jazz ensemble resAUnance—whose debut album received praise internationally—and also joined a quartet led by free jazz legend Juini Booth. In the realm of concert music, she created a site-specific duo project “Senso di Voce” with oboist Megan Kyle at Buffalo’s Silo City, re-contextualizing Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music through contemporary improvisation in the site’s reverberant acoustic. The event was featured in WNED public radio and other local press

Null Point, a curatorial initiative for new music in Buffalo led by Colin Tucker, also had an active year. During 2016 the initiative received competitive grants for its projects: New Music USA supported a recording project with Ithaca-based composer/percussionist Sarah Hennies at Silo City, while New York State Council on the Arts supported a series of workshops introducing youth in underserved neighborhoods to experimental music. PhD composers Jessie Downs, Esin Gündüz, and Colin Tucker, as well as alumni Ethan Hayden and Zane Merritt, were involved in developing and teaching the workshops. In the realm of performance, Null Point presented the North American premiere of James Saunders’s Surfaces as part of the Echo Art Fair. The piece—an open-ended series of prompts for sound making with unspecified surfaces—was brought into dialogue with Buffalo’s unique, historic built environment in a site-specific durational performance where all sounds were generated from the disintegrating floors of the vacant Buffalo Gear and Axle Plant.

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