The University of Iowa Electronic Music Studios Present
The Music of James Dashow,
Electronic Music from the ChuGye University for the Arts in Seoul, Korea
Winners from the University of Iowa EMS Call for Student Works
October 23, 2011
I had the pleasure of attending an electronic music concert given by The University of Iowa Electronic Music Studio on October 23, 2011 at 7:30p.m. The performance was given in Samuel L. Becker Communications Studies Building performance hall in Room 101, Lecture Hall on The University of Iowa campus. This performance marks the first electronic music concert of the semester, which featured works by James Dashow and winners from the University of Iowa Electronic Music Studio Call for Student Works.
The performance venue was intimate and adequately accommodated the audience, which consisted of a diverse crowd of 20-25 people. After the welcome introduction, the audience was encouraged to sit centrally as to better experience the concert in stereo. The program consisted of the following works: Soundings in Pure Duration, n. 2a by James Dashow, New Changes by Miran Noh (ChuGye University for the Arts), Soundings in Pure Duration, n. 3, by James Dashow, Ghosts of Cluny, by Timothy Roy (University of Missouri, Kansas City), Permission to Engage by Sang Mi Ahn (Indiana University), and “Mathematics III” from ARCHIMEDES, a Planetarium Opera by James Dashow. Programmed but not performed due to technical difficulties was As War, As Dance by Benjamin Taylor (Indiana University).
The first work on the program was Soundings in Pure Duration n. 2a (duration approx. 8 mins) by James Dashow. The composition featured pre-recorded percussion and hexaphonic electronic sounds. Being a percussionist, this work was a favorite on the program. The work featured a plethora of pre-recorded African and Latin American percussion instruments including claves, tambourine, snare drum, bongos, congas, chimes, triangles, cymbals, and hi-hat. Compositionally, melodic material incorporating these instruments were synchronized with various electronic sounds and chords with pointillist as well as percussive attacks. A major component of this composition as explained by the composer, is spatialization. “Spatialization is of fundamental importance to the compositional conception, as both an expressive element as well as a structural determinant, particularly the movement >in< space and the movement >of< space, in synchronization with timbral and rhythmic developments.”
New Changes (duration approx. 5 mins) by Miran Noh is a work, which features pre-recorded natural sounds that occur in daily life such as breathing or ice melting. The premise of this work is to convey the unconscious physical transformations these phenomena undergo. The work began with sounds of ice cubes being dropped in a glass as well as various recordings of rushing water, recorded in forward motion as well as in reverse. In New Changes, the composer intended to “convey various internal/hidden changes in life (for example spring from winter) to show my own spring in this piece by compressing or extending the time process in each physical changes of water such as melting ice and freezing water.”
Soundings in Pure Duration, n. 3 (duration approx. 10 mins) by James Dashow was the third selection on the program. This work, similar in construction to Soundings in Pure Duration, n.2, featured guitar as the main voice synchronized with hexaphonic electronic sounds. Rhythmic interactions included plucking of guitar strings, pre-recorded voice, electronic generated chords, the use of extended techniques, as well as an intermittent, ostinato sixteenth-note pattern. The composer provides the following information regarding the work: “The sections are constructed as a long cycle of simultaneities and timbres with structural “sub-spirals” that carry out the local developments of the musical materials, both for the guitar as well as for the electronics. Spatialization of the sounds is a significant factor in these developments, contributing a strong dynamic to the global evolution of the entire work. Each section is characterized by its kind of space, generated by the static positioning of the sounds, or by the movement of sound in space or even creating space via movement of space itself by the sounds.” Dashow’s works “Soundings” 2a and n.3 were constructed via Max/MSP of his Dyad System.
Providing a slight change of pace was Ghosts of Cluny (duration approx. 5 mins) by Timothy Roy. The work featured excerpts from the Catholic Mass. Electronic sounds including chords and pointillists elements were superimposed over spoken Latin text. Program notes regarding the work follows: “The Benedictine Abbey of Cluny, established in 910 by William I or Aquitaine, was the leading center of monasticism in the Middle Ages and boasted the largest church in Christendom prior to the 16th-century reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Today, only the bell tower of the church and a fraction of the great abbey remain, having been devastated by the plundering during the French Revolution. Otherworldly echoes of he millennium-old ruins resound in Ghosts of Cluny, a piece which evokes both the sacredness and the immense acoustic space of the former monastery.”
The most provocative work on the program was Permission to Engage (duration approx. 8 mins) by San Mi Ahn. The work, simplistic in its construction, featured radio transmissions of an Apache helicopter combat mission. Mental images of the combat mission were achieved simply through the intense radio communication between the Apache helicopter pilots “Crazy Horse one-eight” and “Hotel two-six” as they requested ‘permission to engage’ from higher headquarters “Bush Master.” In military jargon, a request for ‘permission to engage’ is a request to engage in lethal combat with the enemy, (i.e. to fire a weapon). The composer’s inspiration of the work resulted in her watching a military video from a website titled “Collateral Murder.” As the composer listened to the conversation between the soldiers, “I was struck by how human beings can be desensitized to the taking of lives. Once desensitized, one may even develop an enjoyment out of the killing process itself. The automatic and rhythmic sounds of gunshots at one moment in my piece depict this perverse pleasure in violence that is developed once one’s heart no longer feels the value of human lives.” Being a member of the military and having served, this work was intense and extremely emotional.
The concert culminated in Dashow’s work “Mathematics III”, from ARCHIMEDES, a Planetarium Opera (duration approx. 15 mins). This work was absolutely splendid. The composition featured electronic music synchronized to video images of geometric shapes and images. These shapes would gyrate, dance, and contort across the video screen in accordance to the intensity and duration of the music. Bright-vivid colors of blue, yellow, red, white, orange, and green filled the visual spectrum of the audience as geometric shapes and figures constantly moved about, creating a tremendous feeling of immersion. This experience was mesmerizing to the point of reaching sensory overload. I enjoyed every minute of it! As described in the program notes, “ARCHIMEDES is an opera designed for performance in a Planetarium. The multi-channel music that creates the audio sense of space and depth is composed to interact with the three dimensional depth video, produced by the new computer controlled planetarium technology, which surrounds the audience as much as does the sound. The planetarium people refer to this as full immersion, and it is this sense of full immersion that is an integral part of the theatrical conception realized in ARCHIMEDES.”
In conclusion, the program was, in my opinion, a success. The audience, albeit consisting of fellow composers and a modest number of enthusiasts, seemed to have enjoyed the program. The order of the program was skillfully presented, providing an enjoyable auditory and visual experience. The works presented were varied, interesting, often engaging, and well constructed. Congratulations to the University of Iowa Electronic Music Studios!
For more information regarding the history of Electronic Music Studios at the University of Iowa as well as future performances and events, please visit the following websites:
Synopsis of individual composer biographies follows:
James Dashow – has had commissions, awards and grants from the Bourges International Festival of Experimental Music, the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, Linz Ars Electronica Festival, the Fromm Foundation, the Biennale di Venezia, the USA National Endowment for the Arts, RAI (Italian National Radio), the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the Rockefeller Foundation, Il Cantiere Internazionale d’Arte (Montepulciano, Italy), the Koussevizky Foundation, Prague Musica Nova, and the Harvard Musical Association of Boston. In 2000, he was awarded the prestigious Prix Magistere at the 30th Festival International de Musique et d’Art Sonore Electroacoustiques in Bourges. A pioneer in the field of computer music, Dashow was one of the founders of the Centro di Sonologia Computazionale at the University of Padova, where he composed the first works of computer music in Italy; he has taught at MIT, Princeton University, the Centro para la Difusion di Musica Contemporanea in Madrid and the Musica Viva Festival in Lisbon; he was invited by the Convervatorio di Musica Benedetto Marcello in Venezia to teach an intensive series of workshop/masterclasses in digital sound synthesis techniques applied in particular to compositional practices, and to various aspects of the spatialization of sound.
For further information and downloadable software relative to the Dashow’s Dyad System and MUSIC30 are available at his website: www.jamesdashow.net.
Miran Noh (b. 1990) – Born in Korea, Miran Noh has been studying music composition since 2008 with Professor SungJoon Moon at ChuGye University for the Arts and her piece “New Change” for Fixed Media was performed at Fest-M, Electronic Music Festival sponsored by Korean Electro-Acoustic Society, in 2010.
Timothy Roy (b. 1987) – is a composer whose music seeks to illuminate both the beautiful and sacred in the world. Timothy is a graduate of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University, where he studied with Martin Sweidel, Kevin Hanlon, and Simon Sargon, piano with Alfred Mouledous, and orchestral conducting with Paul Phillips, director of the Meadows Symphony Orchestra. He has composed music for a wide variety of ensembles and media, including Missa SMU for two soloists, choir, and orchestra, which was written to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Catholic Campus Ministry at Southern Methodist University. In October 2007, Timothy premiered a sound installation commissioned to celebrate the 100th year anniversary for the Neiman Marcus Corporation. Recently his music was selected for performance at Denison University’s 4th Tutti New Music Festival and Heidelberg University’s New Music Festival. He is currently a graduate student at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, studying composition with Chen Yi, Paul Rudy, and James Mobberley.
Sang Mi Ahn – is a doctoral student in composition at Indiana University, where she studies with Claude Baker and serves as an Associate Instructor in Music Theory. She is studying electronic music with Jeffery Hass, John Gibson, and Alicyn Warren. Ahn’s music encompasses a wide range of styles including tonal, contemplative, jazz-influenced, atmospheric, miniaturist, and electronic styles. As Ahn constantly seeks new approaches to her compositions, her recent works are inspired by the music of Unsuk Chin, Saariaho and Rands. Ahn believes that music is capable of affecting the listener directly, regardless of whether it is written in a simple or complex musical language. In her recent experiments with electronic music, she has become more interested in the interaction between intrinsic qualities of electronic and acoustic music and using their unique aspects to express the intricacies of mixed emotions. Ahn has been awarded as a winner of the 2011 Women Composers Festival of Hartford International Composition Competition, and second prize in the Sixth International Musical Composition Contest held by the Long Island Arts Council at Freeport. Her Hwae Sang and Psalm 30 for Chamber Orchestra received honorable mention for the Libby Larsen Prize at the 2011 and 2009 Competitions of The International Alliance for Women in Music (IAWM).
Post by: Ernest Jennings