Saturday, September 30, 2017

Awards, Grants, Commissions: Student Activities 2017

During 2017, PhD students at the Center for 21st Century Music have received national and international recognition through festival appearances, grants, awards, commissions, performances, and curatorial activities.

Music by Center PhD students appeared at festivals around the US, Canada, and Europe this year. Weijun Chen was selected for two prestigious national residencies—the Atlantic Center for the Arts (with faculty composer Derek Bermel) and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Matt Sargent’s music was featured on Columbia University’s “Re-embodied Sound” Symposium, the first event of its kind examining possibilities with transducers in music and sound art. Jessie Downs appeared as both composer and vocalist at Longy School of Music's Divergent Studio and Loadbang's Contemporary Chamber Connection; the former presented a performance of her composition Shadow a Thing. Downs was also a featured composer at Vocalypse's Opera from Scratch Workshop in Halifax, Canada, and was selected to attend the upcoming Royaumont Contemporary Voice workshop with Juliet Fraser. Matthew Chamberlain recently returned home from the Royaumont Voix Nouvelles (New Voices) Composition Workshop in France, where a new piece was performed by Quatuor Tana and Ensemble Multilatérale, leading to a commission for a new work for pianist Claudia Chan in 2018. Matthew’s appearance at Royaumont was part of the inaugural year of an exchange program between Voix Nouvelles and the Center’s June in Buffalo Festival.

Matthew Chamberlain’s commission from Royaumont was one of a number of prestigious commissions, grants, and awards received by Center PhD students during 2017. Matt Sargent was awarded a commissions from the Hartford Independent Chamber Orchestra and the Switch~ Ensemble. The latter project was awarded a New Music USA Project Grant, to support the ensemble touring the piece across upstate NY in Winter 2018, including a local stop at Buffalo State College. Recognition of Center PhD students' work has been not only national but also international: Igor Coelho Arantes Santana Marques’s Escenas, arranged for string orchestra and piano, was a finalist in the 4th Música Hoje National Composition Competition in Curitiba, Brazil.

In 2017, Center PhD students received performances across the US, Canada, Europe, and South America. Two PhD students are beginning to develop a long-term collaborative relationship with the rising Ensemble Mise-En: Meredith Gilna’s Gravity Shuffle will be performed by the ensemble October 5, and a new work of hers, written especially for the ensemble, will be premiered by the group on October 16; Matt Sargent’s piano solo Going, gone was also written for the ensemble, who have programmed it multiple times, most recently in April. Sargent’s works were also programmed at EMS Stockholm (Sweden), Reykjavik Art Museum (Iceland), on the cutting-edge music series Indexical (at the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History), and on UC San Diego’s new SlowSD Festival of Slow Music. Other notable performances of works by Center PhD composers include the Spektral Quartet’s performance of Weijun Chen’s Canoe at Western Michigan University and Michael Matsuno’s premiere of a new work for flute and electronics at Harvard University.

Numerous Center composition students are also active as curators, performers, and conductors, seeking to be directly involved in the performance and presentation of their own works and those of fellow living composers. Matthew Chamberlain has been active as a conductor, premiering Center PhD alumnus Nathan Heidelberger’s Faust Projecta theatrical adaption of Faust with live music for an ensemble (supported by UB’s Creative Arts Initiative), and conducting premieres of student pieces at June in Buffalo. In October, Matthew will conduct the Slee Sinfonietta in two pieces by Bernard Rands on a concert to celebrate his receiving an honorary doctorate from SUNY (stay tuned for a future post about this concert). Next spring, Oberlin Conservatory has invited Matthew to be artist in residence, where he will conduct Du Yun's Pulitzer Prize winning opera Angel's Bone as well as work with the Conservatory's contemporary music ensemble and Sinfonietta on a new piece commissioned by them.

Null Point, an initiative for new music and sound art led by PhD candidate Colin Tucker, gave the world premiere of PLACE, a previously unrealized extended outdoor piece written in 1975 (!) by David Dunn, who is now a highly recognized figure in American experimental music. Supported by New York State Council on the Arts and UB Department of Music, the project was co-curated by Tucker and Center PhD alumnus Ethan Hayden, both of whom also performed in the piece alongside current Center PhD students Jessie Downs, PhD alumnus Zane Merritt, and former June in Buffalo guest artist (and UB music student) Jonathan Hepfer. The project received press attention internationally in the The Wire as well as locally, and will be the subject of a special issue of the journal Sound American in Winter 2018.

Tucker was also part of a team who curated an exchange project with Norwegian musicians which culminated in 2017’s June in Buffalo Festival. As this publication described in a previous post, Tucker, together with Center Director David Felder and Norwegian Academy of Music Professors Henrik Hellstenius and Kjell Tore Innervik, Norwegian ensembles Cikada Trio and Bifrost Ensemble and Norwegian composers Henrik Hellstenius and Eivind Buene appeared at this year's June in Buffalo. The Bifrost Ensemble—a group of graduate performance students at the Norwegian Academy led by Innervik—presented a concert of world premieres of works by Center PhD students Roberto Azaretto, Derick Evans, and Colin Tucker and Norwegian Academy graduate students. The new pieces were also performed at NYC's Norwegian Seamen's Church and will be performed in the near future in Oslo. The exchange between the Center, the Norwegian Academy, and Cikada, will occur again in 2019, when it will be expanded to include more student composers from both UB and the Academy.

Sotto Voce Vocal Collective, led by PhD student Jessie Downs, celebrated its first full year as an ensemble, with five self-produced concerts and notable guest appearances. Sotto Voce performed on the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s retrospective of the music of former UB graduate composer and Creative Associate Julius Eastman (previewed in a widely read New York Times article), and joined Null Point as featured artists in the inaugural event of a new performance series at Buffalo’s newest arts space, the Cass ProjectAmong its members are Center PhD student Brien Henderson and PhD alumnus Ethan Hayden. 

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