Monday, April 6, 2020

June in Buffalo Senior Composer Roger Reynolds

Roger Reynolds will be working with students at this year’s June in Buffalo Festival as one of three senior composers and guest lecturers. Roger Reynolds is a composer, writer, producer and mentor, pioneer in sound spatialization, intermedia, and algorithmic concepts, is an inveterate synthesizer of diverse capacities and perspectives. His notorious (1961) composition, The Emperor of Ice Cream, which uses graphic notation to depict performer location on a stage, was widely imitated. In fact, Reynolds’s work often arises out of text or visual images. His Pulitzer prize-winning composition, Whispers Out of Time, for string orchestra muses on a poem by John Ashbery. The recent FLiGHT project (2012-16) arose out of a collection of texts and images stretching from Plato’s time to that of the astronauts. Projects with individual performers and ensembles, theater directors, choreographers, and scientists have provoked challenging inter-personal collaborations. He has been, for decades, a sought-after mentor at UC San Diego.

Reynolds’s body of work demonstrates how seamlessly test, electroacoustic resources, and novel presentation strategies can be melded with live instrumental and vocal performance. Sanctuary (2003-2007) for percussion quartet and real-time computer processing arose from interactions with Steven Schick. About it, Gramophone writes: Reynolds goes right inside sound. … Here’s the most outstandingly original view of percussion since Varèse’s ‘Ionisation’”. A recent cycle of duos, SHAREDSPACE, for solo instrumentalist and real-time computer musician includes Shifting/Drifting (with violinist Irvine Arditti). The Strad notes: This is music that demands close attention, but repays it with startlingly abundant invention, delivered with cool authority. In addition to continuing musical composition, Reynolds’s current projects include an innovative collection of texts and images, PASSAGE, and a collaborative book exploring Xenakis’s creative ways as exemplified in a Desert House he designed for Karen and Roger Reynolds.

Reynolds envisions his own path as entailing the principled weaving together of threads from tradition with novel provocations originating outside music. The elements (wind, fire, water) have spoken in his works beginning with the vocal storm in VOICESPACE I: Still (1975) and continuing in Versions/Stages and The Red Act AriasMythic themes are also frequently drawn upon. Reading about and research in psychoacoustics have affected his outlook. Research in the Sacher Foundation’s Collections resulted in publications about Varèse’s conceptualization of “space”: “The Last Word is Imagination: Parts I and II”. His long friendships with Cage, Nancarrow, Takemitsu and Xenakis also inform his outlook in procedural and personal ways. Reynolds conceives of composition as “a process of illumination”, a path toward (occasional) clarity in turbulent times. He seeks the satisfaction of proposing and experiencing unexpected connections, of bringing the elevating capacity of music into public spaces, of engaging with other arts and artists to discover new amalgamations of sensation and insight that can “improve the human experience”.

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