Sunday, May 27, 2018

Irvine Arditti: Reimagining String Instruments

The Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to welcome star new music violinist Irvine Arditti back to the June in Buffalo festival. It is difficult to overstate Arditti’s importance in the new music world: he has played a leading role as advocate for the creation of new works for string instruments. Between his activities as violin soloist and his role in founding (in 1974) and leading the Arditti Quartet, he is responsible for commissioning, premiering, and recording countless important works.

Numerous important violin solos and concerti have been written for Arditti, who has appeared as soloist with distinguished orchestras and ensembles such as the Bavarian Radio Orchestra, BBC Symphony, Berlin Radio Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw, Munich Philharmonic, Orchestre National de Paris, Philharmonia Orchestra, Ensemble Modern, Asko Ensemble, London Sinfonietta, and the Nieuw Ensemble. As leader of the Arditti Quartet, he has received additional accolades. The quartet’s recordings (over 200 albums to date) have received multiple Gramophone (“Grammy”) Awards and Deutsche Schallplattenpreisen, and a Coup de Coeur Prize and Grand Prix from the Academie Charles Cros in 2004; the group has played at most major new music festivals worldwide, and is the only ensemble to receive the Ernst von Siemens Prize for lifetime achievement.

Irvine Arditti at June in Buffalo 2015
Arditti has played a crucial role in reviving composers’ interest in string instruments. In the decades after WWII, interest in strings and in particular the string quartet waned, due in part because of their (negatively perceived) associations with “high” Western culture. This medium may have become obsolete were it not for the advocacy of the Ardittis—alongside the contemporaneous LaSalle, Berner, and Kronos Quartets—in encouraging living composers to write for the medium. Today, the string quartet medium is alive and well, with a vibrant scene of younger string quartets (including June in Buffalo resident ensemble MIVOS Quartet) and an ever-growing and accomplished repertoire of works by living composers of a wide range of aesthetic persuasions.

Irvine Arditti and the Arditti Quartet have long been closely connected to UB and the Center for 21st Century Music. The Center’s artistic director, SUNY Distinguished Professor David Felder, wrote all three of his string quartets for the group (the first one dates from 1987-88), who went on to play them at prominent new music festivals worldwide. His latest string quartet, Netivot, written for both the Arditti and JACK Quartets, was premiered by the Ardittis at June in Buffalo 2016. Thanks to the Center’s support, both Irvine Arditti and his quartet have been able to visit June in Buffalo with greatly increased frequency—the quartet was resident ensemble in 2007, 2010, and 2016, while Arditti was guest soloist in 2011, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2017.

At this year’s festival, Irvine Arditti will perform a solo recital of works by senior faculty Roger Reynolds, Hilda Paredes, and Hans Thomalla—all of them long-time Arditti collaborators—on Thursday, June 7 at 7:30pm in Baird Recital Hall. The recital also includes a work by the late Portugese composer Emmanuel Nunes. The following Saturday, June 9, at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Arditti joins Signal Ensemble to give the second full performance of Center artistic director David Felder’s violin concerto Jeu de Tarot which he premiered at the Center in November with Ensemble Linea.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

David Felder: Sustaining Cultural Ecosystems

As the final post of our series introducing senior composers featured at this year’s June in Buffalo festival, we introduce the festival’s artistic director David Felder, who is also SUNY Distinguished Professor, Birge-Cary Chair in Music Composition, and artistic director of the Center for 21st Century Music at the University at Buffalo. Felder revived the then-defunct festival in 1986, and has continued as its director ever since. It is no small accomplishment to keep an arts institution running for decades, and it is due in large part to Felder’s tireless (and often under-recognized) work that the festival not only continues but flourishes today. Active on multiple fronts—composition, pedagogy, arts administration, and curation—Felder has been able make uniquely impactful contributions to the field of contemporary art music. Through June in Buffalo alone, he has opened up countless opportunities for composers and performers—both student and professional—as well as enriched Western New York’s cultural ecosystem. The composer will present his own perspective on these activities in a public lecture on Monday, June 4 at 10am in Baird Hall.

This year’s festival features performances of three Felder works, ranging from early to recent. On Tuesday, June 5 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, the MIVOS Quartet will perform Third Face, Felder’s first string quartet (1987-88). The piece has been performed by the Arditti Quartet at a number of significant European new music festivals and was subsequently praised by Andrew Porter of the The New Yorker: “After further hearings of it I admire it even more. It is lucid, but with a controlled wildness in its making.” The work’s title originates in Kobo Abe’s novel The Face of Another, wherein “the main character is a chemist/teacher whose face horribly disfigured when an experiment explodes. He is fitted with a ‘neutral’ mask and given the opportunity to select new features that will be accomplished through plastic surgery.” Felder “borrowed only the rough scenario” as a metaphor guiding the concatenation of melodic fragments into phrases.

On Saturday, June 9 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Signal Ensemble will give the second full performance of Felder’s new work Jeu de Tarot, a violin concerto featuring star new music violin soloist Irvine Arditti. The work was premiered last November by Ensemble Linea—who commissioned the work—during their residency at the Center. Arditti played the solo part in this performance as well, and the solo part was in fact composed in direct collaboration with the violinist. Felder says “I’d like to express my extreme gratitude to Irvine Arditti, who generously took time out of his hectic touring schedule to work closely with me while I composed this work.” The work’s title references the Tarot deck, and each of the work’s seven movements takes its title from a particular major arcanum of the Tarot deck. Each movement explores a “scene suggested by the rich symbology of the images upon the cards,” including images by Hieronymous Bosch and William Blake as well as the textual speculations of P.D. Ouspensky in his remarkable publication “A New Model of the Universe.”

William Blake, Tarot images
Finally, on Sunday, June 10 at 2:30pm in Slee Hall, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra presents a concert consisting entirely of music by living composers. The concert includes two movements from Felder’s Six Poems from Neruda’s “Alturas…”, based on the poetry of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. The work has the distinction of being the only American orchestral composition selected by the international jury of the International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM) in 1994 for performance at its festival in Sweden that year. It is fitting that the Buffalo Philharmonic will perform this piece, given that they premiered it in 1992, after New York State Council on the Arts commissioned the piece. The quality of the piece led Mode Records to release it on disc; the liner notes describe how

Like Neruda's cycle of twelve poems on which it is based, the music weaves together images and themes such as reverence for nature, cyclical aspects of regeneration, irresistible death and its accompanying transience of the individual against a background of the collective vastness of time. This is accompanied by a strong sense of individual isolation and alienation and a powerful feeling of loss and longing for a discovery of a greater identity.

June in Buffalo 2018 Announces Participant Composers

The June in Buffalo Festival is delighted to announce 23 accomplished emerging composers selected from a distinguished pool of applicants from four continents to participate in this year's festival. Their names are below, listed with information about their piece featured at the festival. 

Mathew Arrellin (Northwestern University): Cacodemonic for string quartet

Josiah Catalan (University of California Davis): Mirages for fl, vla, vc, perc

Kai-Young Chan (Chinese University of Hong Kong): Shimmers in the Shivery Moon for fl, cl, vn, vc, pf

Weijun Chen (University at Buffalo): Watercolors for fl/pic, ob/eh, cl/bcl, bsn, hn, timp, 2 perc, hp, pf, 2 vn, va, vc, db

Yi-Hsien Chen (University of California San Diego): Breathing In Memory for string quartet

William David Cooper (University of California Davis): Epilogue for fl, cl, ob, hn, tpt, trb, hp, pf, perc, 2vn, va, vc, cb

Nathan Courtright (University of Pennsylvania): No. 305 for string quartet

Flannery Cunningham (University of Pennsylvania): We are the same as we have always been for cl, electronics

Sean Doyle (American University): regarding "Reconciliation Elegy" for vn

Kyle Puebla Dubin (New York University): Under the Glacier for string quartet

Dylan Findley (University of Missouri Kansas City): Mind of Energy for bs cl, marimba

Yotam Haber (University of New Orleans): estro poetico armonico II for afl, bcl, vn, vc, pf

Angel Hernandez-Camen (New England Conservatory): Apanahuiayan for pf

Kyle Johnson (University of California San Diego): String Quartet 

Seoung Ae Kim (Stonybrook University (SUNY)):  #metoo for bs cl, perc

Su Lee (University at Buffalo): Nachruf für Nr. 503 for pf, hpschd, perc, org

Clay Mettens (University of Chicago): Without Air for fl db pic, va, vc, hp, perc

Ioannis Mitsialis  (University of California San Diego): Saturn for fl/pic, cl/bcl, trb, perc, pf, vn, vc 

Fernando Munizaga (Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris): Ondas Primarias for fl, cl, perc, pf, hp, cb

Alon Nechushtan (New England Conservatory): Three Places in New York for fl, cl, ob, bsn, hn, tpt, trb, hp, pf, perc, 2 vn, va, vc, cb

Kurt Nelson (Temple University): strttura assente for vn, va, vc

Reilly Spitzfaden (Eastman School of Music): Touch for vla solo
Kezia Yap (University of Sydney): a structure of silences: an exploration of (*) (ma) for afl, electronics

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hans Thomalla: Critical Engagements with History

The Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to welcome Hans Thomalla as senior composer at this year’s June in Buffalo festival. Currently Associate Professor of Composition at Northwestern University, he also founded and directs the university’s Institute for New Music, Northwestern’s counterpart to UB’s Center for 21st Century Music. Thomalla’s work has been widely performed in North America, Europe, and beyond, by ensembles Ensemble Recherche, the Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Modern, Musikfabrik, Ensemble Dal Niente, Ensemble Ascolta, Spektral Quartet, and Trio Accanto, and soloists Nicolas Hodges, Lucas Fels, Marcus Weiss, Sarah-Maria Sun, and Yukiko Sugawara. Awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Ernst von Siemens Musikstiftung Composer Prize, the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis, the Christoph-Delz-Prize, and a fellowship at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. Remarkably for a mid-career composer, two of his operas have been produced in high profile settings: Fremd at the main stage of the Stuttgart Opera in 2011, Kaspar Hauser at the Freiburg Opera in 2016; a third opera Dark Spring will be produced by the Mannheim Opera in Spring 2019.

While Thomalla is highly regarded as a composer, he is also in demand as a lecturer, writer, and pedagogue. Thomalla’s invitation to this year’s festival follows his guest artist residency at the Center in spring 2017, where he gave a masterclass to graduate students as well as a particularly well-received talk on how his compositions converse with historical musical conventions. Additional teaching and lecturing, for instance, at the Darmstadt Summer Courses and the SWR Experimentalstudio’s MATRIX course, has also been highly regarded.

At this year’s June in Buffalo festival, he will give a public lecture on his work on Tuesday, June 5, at 10am in Baird Hall, as well as multiple masterclasses to the festival’s participant composers. Thomalla’s discourse about music is an unusually sophisticated one, informed not only by a knowledge of musical histories, but also by knowledge of non-musical fields like philosophy, cultural theory, and semiotics; these diverse knowledges are then synthesized into a highly original critical perspective on music making. The composer has posted numerous texts on his website; the recent “Traces of Meaning” makes a particularly consequential intervention in discussions about text-music relationships in recent opera.

This year’s festival features performances of three Thomalla works, including a relatively new one. Chamber music is perhaps the core of his work, and Buffalo audiences are fortunate to have opportunities to hear two of the composer’s challenging chamber works. On Tuesday, June 5 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, the MIVOS Quartet performs Albumblatt, Thomalla’s deconstruction of the “album leaf,” the diaristic 19th-century music genre. On Friday, June 8 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Ensemble Mise-En presents the commposer’s Momentsmusicaux for mixed chamber ensemble, a work that negotiates between aesthetic extremes of 19th century Western art music: the technocratic aesthetics of Theobald Boehm and the lyric aesthetics of Johannes Brahms, each embodied in fragments sampled to generate the music’s surface.

The festival will also present a performance of a relatively new Thomalla work—Air for solo violin, performed by violin soloist extraordinaire and long-term Thomalla collaborator Irvine Arditti. This piece is the latest in the composer’s increasingly concrete, and yet critical, engagement with the materials of historical tonality. Thomalla writes that in recent years he has become

…more and more interested in the formal possibilities of tonality. Less because of what I increasingly experienced as a staleness of a certain “jargon of New Music,” but rather for my personal rediscovery of tonality’s syntactic semantic potential, a discovery I made through a re-engagement with music of composers such as Eisler and Sondheim. It is less the “development music” tonality of the classic romantic period, but that of song…its melodies hardly ever consolidate in tonal cadences, but are characterized by a tonality of constant modulatory drift.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Roger Reynolds: Pioneering Composer Returns to UB

June in Buffalo is delighted to welcome back Roger Reynolds, University Professor at the University of California-San Diego. Reynolds is a major figure in American music, having pioneered numerous possibilities now embraced widely within contemporary art music: sound spatialization, intermedia, algorithms, live electronics, graphic notation, new approaches to music and text, and more. For this, his work has been widely recognized, for instance with a Pulitzer Prize and commissions from the Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, BBC, and National Symphony Orchestras, and the UK Arts Council, French Ministry of Culture, IRCAM, and the Fromm, Rockefeller, and Koussevitzky Foundations. Also highly respected as a pedagogue, Reynolds’s students include Center for 21st Century Music artistic director David Felder, as well as other composers in top faculty positions across the US, at Harvard (Chaya Czernowin), University of Michigan (Michael Daugherty), University of Florida (Paul Koonce), and University of North Texas (Andrew May).

Reynolds has a long-standing relationship with UB and the Center for 21st Century Music. Reynolds has appeared regularly senior composer at June in Buffalo since the mid-1980s, acting as mentor to participant composers and working with resident ensembles on performances of his music. In addition to numerous appearances in the 1990s and early 2000s, Reynolds has appeared at the Center four times since its 2006 creation. In addition to a visit on the Center’s guest artist series in 2014, Reynolds has been invited as senior composer at June in Buffalo in 2007, 2010, and 2015. During these festivals, June in Buffalo has been able to present a wide cross section of his work: violin soloist extraordinaire Irvine Arditti presented solo violin works, while the Arditti Quartet (led by Irvine Arditti himself) performed works for string quartet, UB Piano Professor Eric Huebner interpreted Reynold’s Piano Etudes, Book I, and the percussion ensemble red fish blue fish realized the composer’s ambitious Sanctuary for percussion and live electronics. Significantly, all of these performers are long-term collaborators with Reynolds—Irvine Arditti and the Arditti Quartet for decades—resulting in ideal performance circumstances for this challenging work.

This year’s festival presents a similarly wide range of Reynolds works. Irvine Arditti returns to this year’s festival to perform Shifting/Drifting, a work for solo violin and real time algorithmic transformation. The work will be performed on Thursday, June 7 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, with technical assistance from another regular Reynolds collaborator, electronic musician Paul Hembree.
The festival is also delighted to be facilitating collaborations between Reynolds and ensembles who are newer to his work. On Friday, June 8 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall, Ensemble Mise-En will perform Shadowed Narrative for clarinet, piano, violin, and cello, and Signal Ensemble will present Positings for flute, horn, violin, cello, piano, and real time sound spatialization.

In addition to performances of his music, Reynolds will also give a public talk, on Wednesday June 6 at 10am in Baird Hall. Reynolds is renowned for his writing and his lecture curation, so the talk will undoubtedly provide unique insight into the creative process driving his decades-long career.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Hilda Paredes: Strings of Destiny

The Center for 21st Century Music is delighted to announce that Hilda Paredes will be returning to June in Buffalo as a senior composer. One of the leading Latin American composers of her generation, her music has received awards from the Arts Council of Great Britain, Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, and the Sistema Nacional de Creadores (FONCA) in Mexico, performances by Arditti Quartet, Ensemble Aventure, Ensemble Court Circuit, Ensemble Modern, Ensemble Recherche, Ensemble Signal, London Sinfonietta, Lontano, The New Julliard Ensemble, Neue Vocalsolisten, L’Instant Donné, and English National Opera, at festivals such as Huddersfield, Edinburgh, Eclat, Ultraschall, Musica, Wien Modern, Akiyoshidai, Takefu, Archipel, De Ijsbreker, Warsaw Autumn, Ultima, Melbourne, Ars Musica Festival de Alicante, and Festival Internacional Cervantino. She has held teaching positions at Manchester University, University of San Diego California, Centre Acanthes, Escola Superior de Música de Catalunya, and Mills College (as the prestigious Darius Milhaud Visiting Professor).

Paredes’s upcoming visit to the Center is not the first. Her music and pedagogy has been met with high praise on previous visits: at June in Buffalo in 2011 and 2014, and as a guest on the Center’s visiting artist series in 2017. Her past appearances included a performance of her violin concerto Señales by Irvine Arditti (violin soloist) and Signal Ensemble—for whom the piece was written—as well as additional performances of her work by Norrbotten NEO and the Center’s own Slee Sinfonietta. With this programming, the Center not only supports the growth of existing collaborative relationships—for instance between Paredes, Arditti, and Signal—but also facilitates the formation of new partnerships—as with Norrbotten NEO and the Slee Sinfonietta’s performances of Paredes’s music; together, these opportunities contribute to the health of broader artistic ecosystems.

This year’s festival will present a total of four Paredes works for soloists and chamber ensembles, in addition to a public lecture (Friday, June 8 at 10am in Baird Hall) by the composer. This year’s festival will perform a total of four Paredes works for soloists and chamber ensembles. Each work will be performed by a different ensemble, providing a unique way to learn about different ensembles’ approaches to performing music by the same composer. Beginning on Tuesday, June 5 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, the MIVOS Quartet will perform Cuerdas del Destino, the composer’s second string quartet. As the title implies, “the concept of consequence is the principle from which all materials develop by creating the direction, dramaturgy and structure of the work…The dramatic treatment of these three materials sets up the principles which will develop throughout the piece.”

Following this, on Thursday, June 7 at 7:30pm in Baird Hall, Irvine Arditti will perform In Memoriam Thomas Kakuska, a violin solo commemorating the composer’s close friend, the violist of the Alban Berg Quartet, while another solo piece, Chaczidzib for solo piccolo (pictured above), will be performed by Signal Ensemble on Saturday, June 9 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall. Ensemble Mise-En features Siphonophorae for mixed chamber ensemble on their concert, on Friday, June 8 at 7:30pm in Slee Hall. In this work, according to the composer, “I allowed myself to go through a process of discovery, which led me to find contrasting shapes and ideas, but always following a thread that unites them.”