Sunday, May 28, 2017

Transatlantic Music Exchange: Cikada Trio and Bifrost Ensemble

June in Buffalo marks the culmination of an exchange project between composers and performers in Buffalo and Oslo, Norway. Organized by June in Buffalo Director and UB Distinguished Professor of Composition David Felder, Norwegian Academy of Music Professor of Composition Henrik Hellstenius, Norwegian Academy of Music Associate Professor of Percussion Kjell Tore Innervik, and UB PhD candidate in composition Colin Tucker, the project will bring two Norwegian ensembles—Cikada Trio and Bifrost Ensemble—to the June in Buffalo Festival, alongside two faculty composers—Henrik Hellstenius and Eivind Buene—from the Norwegian Academy of Music.

Cikada Trio, a subset of the larger Cikada Ensemble, returns to Buffalo after an acclaimed visit to the Center for 21st Century Music in 2010. At this year’s June in Buffalo, a trio of longtime Cikada members—Anne Karine Hauge, flute; Rolf Borch, clarinet; and Kenneth Karlsson, piano—will perform works by living Norwegian composers: faculty composers Henrik Hellstenius and Eivind Buene as well as Maja Ratkje and Asbjørn Schaathun. One theme running across the concert is the re-imagining of found material: Buene’s Landscape with Ruins alludes to fragments of tonal vocables, while Ratkje’s Two small pieces for Arnold S. takes its point of departure from two chords found in Arnold Schoenberg’s Little Piano Pieces op. 19; Schaathun’s Stravinsky goes Bach and Schaathun goes Frescobaldi is also based on small fragments, in this case from Stravinsky’s Cappriccio and Concerto for Piano and Winds. In previous posts, this publication profiled two composers--Eivind Buene and Henrik Hellstenius--featured on this program.

Active for over two decades, the ensemble is renowned for its high-profile festival appearances and recordings alike. From its earliest days, Cikada distinguished itself by pursuing ambitious projects—music of great performative difficulty by Liza Lim, James Dillon, and Richard Barrett, multimedia collaborations, and numerous concert length works, for instance, by Martin Raune Bauck and Richard Barrett (the latter in collaboration with the Australian ELISION Ensemble). The ensemble is also known for its long-term collaborations with Scandinavian composers; the trio’s program at this year’s festival, featuring works by four living Norwegian composers is evidence of the ample fruits of this endeavor.

Cikada is now a widely recognized senior ensemble in the Scandinavian new music scene; complementing this, this year’s festival features a young, up-and-coming ensemble from Oslo. Bifrost Ensemble is a recently formed sextet (trumpet, clarinet, percussion, harp, violin, and cello) made up of graduate students in performance at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Advised by percussion faculty member Kjell Tore Innervik, the group will give world premiere performances of works by graduate student composers from UB (Roberto Azaretto, Derick Evans, and Colin Tucker) and the Norwegian Academy (Jonas Skaarud) at June in Buffalo. 

Jonas Skaarud, Il vento

Two of the composers spoke with Edge of the Center about their new works. Jonas Skaarud’s Il vento to ha lasciata un’eco chiara, nei sensi, delle cose ch’ài vedute – confuse – il giorno takes its title and inspiration from a poem by Sandro Penna. Skaarud writes that
The piece is about chrysanthemums, shivering lakes, yellowgreen trees in the sunlight and other nice pictures. But often they pass quickly. And while you try to grasp them, they reshape and reshape. And they pass. And you try to grasp them, and they reshape.

Exploring ephemerality from another angle, Colin Tucker’s a rift, like the breath drawn in, immaculate thematizes incompatible tensions between melody and instrument. Tucker writes that
If 19th century Western art music’s aesthetics of melodic lyricism sought to transcend the materiality of the instrumental medium, scripting musical sound as a transparent vessel for ineffable meaning, the present work materializes these aesthetics’ conditions of impossibility, staging melody’s submersion into its physical medium. The instruments strain to enunciate melodic fragments against the headwinds of hushed, high tessituras and instrument-specific techniques that magnify unpredictable interactions between performers’ bodies and their instruments: air sound (clarinet), quiet tremolo from a close distance (percussion and harp), and extremely slow bow (strings).

Colin Tucker, a rift

The program will also include Innervik’s interpretation of former UB professor Morton Feldman’s King of Denmark, a “graph piece” from 1964 to be played at a very quiet dynamic, using only fingers and hands on a variety of instruments. Shortly after its Buffalo presentation, the program will travel to New York City for a concert at the Norwegian Seamen’s Church (317 E 52nd St.), on June 8 at 6pm. Plans are underway for further performances of the new works in Oslo.

Feldman, King of Denmark, performed by UB Percussion Professor Tom Kolor

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