Monthly Archives: October 2011

An Evening of Sacred Music: the Students of Katherin Eberle with Pianist Christine Tithecott

Solo vocal works with keyboard accompaniment have a long and rich history, and in keeping with that theme, Trinity Episcopal Church provides a perfect venue for such an occasion. The hushed creaking of the hardwood floors and pews, the glowing stain glass windows, and the high-reaching ceiling arch all contributed to a historical ambience. The students of Katherin Eberle, the pianist Christine Tithecott and obligato flutists fittingly join the throng of musicians which represent the medium.

The concert began with Domine Deus by the well-known composer Antonio Vivaldi. Celia Brockway sang with solid intonation and tender tone. Tithecott followed the singer flexibly and with good taste. Although the piano was not apart of the instrumental arsenal, the harpsichord or organ substitute brought this work closer to the whole group of songs sung that evening, again, reinforcing a reception of all the works. Bach’s revered Agnus Dei was sung beautifully by Kathleen Rosenberger. Her phrasing showed a loudness pallet that included a true pianissimo, affording a nuanced and tempered dynamism reflective of the nature of the text and the era. Completing the representation of Baroque music was Sarah Lovell singing Handel’s (1685–1759) Oh Lord, Hear My Prayer. At the beginning of the work, the composer sets up the work with a typical introduction, but breaks from convention subtley with a tacit keyboard in the first few measures of the solo singer’s line; Handel was catching the listener’s attention in a very powerful way. The singer seized this moment and sang wonderfully.
Representing an age standing between our own and the of the Baroque musical period was Samuel Sebastian Wesley’s (1810–1876) Jesu, the Very Thought of Thee. Sung by the only male singer of the evening, Ben Alley sang with solid intonation and convincing demeanor. The strophic work was decidedly tonal, as would be expected, but it was not without variation in the accompaniment. The idiomatic piano part was wonderfully executed by Tithecott.

I am the Rose of Sharon by Curtis Bryant (b. 1949) was the first to represent a living composer’s music. Despite its youth among the throng, the music itself was not as musically foreign as one might suppose. The beautiful melancholic gestures of many of the pieces on this concert appear to be a historical constant, and was evidenced in Bryant’s song. Ciara Thompson with flutist, Katie Schabillion, performed a fluid melodic line. Bryant uses diatonic planing along with quartal and quintal harmonic structures. From the same generation, J. Halvor Benson’s (b. 1953) Hear My Song exhibited a definite triadic, tonal quality. Avery Thomason and Clarice Miller managed unison passages with finesse, not an easy task.
Taylor Woods sang Jay Anthony Gach’s (b. 1953) version of the hymn All Creatures of Our God and King. Tasteful agogic accents in the piano sufficiently modernized the popular him without estranging it from tradition. The traditional American song Amazing Grace was sung by Bobbi Halfhill in a jazz inspired rendition. Of note was Tithecott’s ability to convincingly change in style character to the singer’s wonderfully relaxed and pure singing. A Wreath by David Evan Thomas (b. 1958) exhibits a composerly style with ideas of motivic saturation of a three note figure. The working out of these figures did not take away from the melodic line. Lauren Davies sang admirably with a brilliant, resonant upper range.

Originally scored for voice, organ, and trumpet, David Heller’s arrangement of He touches the Broken Hearted by Alan Hovhannes (1911–2000) was one of the highlights of the evening. Penelope Makeig’s tone and projection were extremely satisfying. “If I,” from Four Dickenson Songs by Lori Laitman (b. 1955) employed a half-step motive in the pieces construction; Amelia Seidl sang beautifully the flowing melancholic lines. Ronald R. Williams’s (b. 1929) But the Greatest of Them All is Love: I Corinthians 13 was sung with genuine affectation by Meghan Schwab. The piece uses recitative like passages in articulating some of the text, and it was contrasted by moving triadic harmonies and lyrical lines.

In the penultimate work, an excerpt from Libby Larson’s Missa Gaia: Mass for the Earth was performed by Kaitlin Shewmake, who sung with a strong and a lively vibrato. The music in the piano introduction had a melodic contour of consonant leaps of fourths and fifth. This was immediately follow by major and minor sixth motives. Although on paper this appears abrupt, aurally it creates effective movement and contrast in the piece. During the course of the work Kaitlin navigated with ease a myriad of intervalic challenges.

The event ended with Katherine Eberle singing On Christmas Night by Emma Lou Diemer (b. 1927). Eberle sang the up-tempo piece with artistry, holding the audiences attention for every moment of the piece. Very engaging. The composition itself was splendid in its exploration of more driving rhythms within the solo song context. In addition to her singing that evening, the overall program was thoughtfully sequenced. This is no small feat, and the listeners seemed to be considered at many points in the concert; thank you Katherine Eberle!

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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 and Winners from the University of Iowa EMS Call for Student Works

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

and

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:

 

http://theremin.music.uiowa.edu/history.html

 

http://theremin.music.uiowa.edu/events.html

 

http://theremin.music.uiowa.edu/staff.html

 

http://theremin.music.uiowa.edu/MIS.html

 

http://performingarts.uiowa.edu/electronic-music-studio-4/

 

http://performingarts.uiowa.edu/electronic-music-studio-lawrence-fritts-director/

 

http://theremin.music.uiowa.edu/alumni.html

 

 

 

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

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Concert Band and Symphony Band Concert at the IMU Ballroom

University of Iowa School of Music

presents

Concert Band and Symphony Band Concert

             On October 11, 2011, School of Music at the University of Iowa has presented a concert of its wind ensembles, Concert Band and Symphony Band at the Iowa Memorial Union Ballroom.
Both ensembles’ performances featured two University of Iowa Faculty Conductors, Prof. Kevin Kastens and Prof. Richard Mark Heidel, as well as a Guest Conductor, Ray E. Cramer, and a Doctoral Student Conductor, Ernest Jennings. In addition, Martyrs for the Faith, by David DeBoor Canfield, featured a guest soloist, saxophonist Kenneth Tse.

             The Symphony Band has a long history. It was formed out of only 13 cornets in 1880’s and has expanded ever since, currently incorporating 500 students, both music majors and non-music majors. The ensemble has enjoyed much recognition throughout its lifetime and has performed in various venues and conventions, including Carnegie Hall, Music Educators National Conference, as well as College Band Directors National Association. In its Tuesday’s performance, Symphony Band has showcased 54 of its most talented members.

             Prof. Kevin Kastens serves as an Associate Director of Bands and as the Director of the Hawkeye Marching Band at the University of Iowa. The hall was nearly filled with the enthusiastic audience, seemingly comprised both of students and outsiders. The audience’s expectations were not betrayed, when Prof. Kevin Kastens opened the concert’s thrilling program of modern and contemporary music, with The Symphonians (1960) by Clifton Williams. This work is reminiscent of a classical graduation march, thanks to its fanfare opening, tonal structure and development of its simple melodic and rhythmic content. It was commissioned by the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America and is dedicated to the fraternity’s former president– Archie N. Jones. It is well structured and idiomatically orchestrated for a wind ensemble, and thus it serves it’s purpose of an Alma-mater song very well, particularly because it also employs an easily recognizable theme Hail Sinfonia, Come, Brothers, hail! The chorus sang, accompanied by the Concert Band, the text of the melody. The voices carried well through the texture of the wind ensemble, despite the loudness of the instruments involved.

             Fantasy on Sakura Sakura (1992) is a dramatic arrangement made by the guest conductor Ray E. Cramer, as a result of his Honorary Professorship at the Musashino Academy of Music at Tokyo. Sakura is a famous Japanese folk-song about cherry blossoms in a springtime. It employs a non-anhemitonic pentatonic scale [0,4,5,8,10]– very unique to Japanese folk music. Dr. Cramer’s arrangement was particularly interesting and dramatic, as it played with a wide range of dynamics. As there is much repetition in the melody itself, the original phrases were first featured in thickly orchestrated fortissimo while repeating phrases were in pianissimo, creating an effect of an echo or a shade. In combination with the tritone-oriented melody, this created profound drama in the piece.
             Ray E. Cramer is a nationally and internationally recognized conductor of wind ensembles, and is a recipient of many honors and awards, such as the Outstanding Bandmaster Award (1988), The MENC Lowell Mason Fellow medallion (2003), Bands of America Hall of Fame (2006) and Lifetime Achievement Award (2006). He has served as a tenure professor at Indiana University for 36 years, 24 of which he was the Director of Bands.

             Cleverly programmed Festal Scenes (1988) by a Yasuhide Ito, matched and contrasted well with the preceding piece, as both its composer and aesthetics are Japanese. The work employs four Japanese folk melodies, Jongara- Jamisen, Holai-bushi, Tsugaru-aiya-bushi, and Nebutaf-festival. The composer further enhances the folk-song material of the piece by adding two Japanese folk percussion instruments, the tebiragane and the nebuto-daiko to the instrumentation of the work. The piece is through composed with three general sections, thus having an ABC form. The work is well blended together by sustained phrases and harmonies, as well as by its expanded use of the [0,4,5,8,10] and other pentatonic scales. C-section of the piece is particularly dramatic, as its texture thickens in a creative array of exotic sounds. The ending of the piece is unusual and original, as the last note of the piece is a fortissimo strike of the bass drum, preceded by a number of closing chords. The work was skillfully conducted by a Doctoral student at the Music School, Ernest Jennings. Mr. Jennings is an experienced band conductor and educator, as he served as an Assistant Director of Bands at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as well as in various public schools.

          Footsteps (2010) by Dana Wilson plays around with an intriguing concept that footsteps could stand as a metaphor for various concepts. In her own words, “it can suggest everything from gently walking to mysterious uncertainty, to massive marching”. The piece is comprised of a melody played over and over the repeating percussive patterns, mimicking footsteps. The melody is developed through motivic counterpoint, but is always restated in the same way with the same orchestration, accompanied by the same rhythmic pattern, thus making the piece unnecessarily repetitive. Moreover, the intervalic content of the melody is somewhat limited, as it is comprised mainly of [0,1,3] and [0,1,3,5,7] cells, always realized with the same pitches. I wish to have heard and inversion or a modulation of the melody, so as to hear it break away from the same shape and mood.

          Moving Parts (2003), by David Sampson, explored the colorful palette of a wind ensemble through its orchestration by superimposing the melodic lines. Each melodic line was assigned to (a) specific instrument(s), thus by varying the texture, the composer was able to achieve colorful effects. The piece could have been more dramatic and original if it did not feature a type of a musical material which one can so frequently hear in many Holywood movies, as it elicits cheap emotion due to its static harmonic content. Much of the beginning employed this static and uninteresting sound, best characterized by a major seventh-chord-sonority. In its ABA’B’A form, part B was a beautiful and colorfully orchestrated melody, though way too short. The composer has corrected this shortcoming in the B’-section– it was just the right length, featuring low trombones and triadic harmonies in this sorrowful moment in the piece.

          Rest (2010) by Frank Tichelli, is and orchestral adaptation of a choral piece Mr. Tichelli wrote in memory of the victims of 9/11 attacks. Although the piece opens with cliche heroic American movie music, it develops into a dramatic and captivating climax, marked three times by the suspended cymbals during three consecutive sustained chords. Mellow orchestration of the piece holds the structures together, while long developed phrases create a sense of expanded time in this work.

             A concerto for saxophone and a wind ensemble, Martyrs for the Faith (2003), by David DeBoor Canfield, was arguably the strongest piece on the program. It is programatic and depicts three biblical/historical events that drove people to sacrifice their lives for their Christian faith. Although programatic, the music works well in isolation, featuring creative and thorough development of its thematic material, varied and captivating harmonic content and virtuosic writing for a saxophone. While it is not formally tonal, all three movement of the work are held together by pitch centricity and jazz- influenced triadic harmonies. The unusual feature of the orchestration in a wind ensemble– a contrabass– adds well to the dark colors and low-register counterpoint of the first movement. The second and third movements are comprised of captivating rhythmical patterns superimposed over the romantic melodic content and jazzy harmonies. The proportions of the piece are just right, providing enough time for the material of the piece to fully develop. The programatic element of the piece is evident throughout the work, particularly in the third movement, as it makes use of 7/8 and 9/8 rhythmic patters, mimicking the pilgrimage of the Martyrs. The multiphonics of the saxophone used in the climax resonate well with the pain of dying, which the music attempts to describe. Mr. Kenneth Tse, a renowned saxophonist and a winner of the New York Artists International Competition, played the work with much energy and character, and his command of the instrument is very impressive.

          Peterloo Overture (1968), by Malcolm Arnold, is a programatic work, too. It attempts to describe the tragic shooting of many innocent people among the thousands who met to hear a speech on political reform in 1819, in St. Peter’s Fields, Manchester. The rounded binary form of the piece opens with a romantic melody accompanied by a harp– an unusual instrument in a wind ensemble. However, the cheapness of the melodic content in the A-section, compared with the complex and well-developed musical material of the B-section is a disappointment, because it renders the piece somewhat imbalanced, as if two composers of a different stature have composed it. I wish to have heard more unexpected harmonic and timbral changes in both A and A’ sections.

             Overall, the concert was a success. It was exciting to see that a large ballroom was almost completely filled with audience throughout the concert, and to have seen quite a high level of young talent among the performers. The concert received a standing ovation, and one of the composers whose work was performed, David DeBoor Canfield, has joined the stage.

For more information about the musicians, please visit the following links:

For more information about the Wind Ensembles at the University of Iowa

http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/ensembles/

For more information about Prof. Kevin Kastens, please visit:

http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/faculty_staff/profiles

For more information about Prof. Richard Mark Heidel, please visit:

http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/faculty_staff/profiles/heidel.shtml

For more information about Dr. Ray E. Cramer, please visit:

http://www.unobands.com/conference2008/raycramer.htm

For more information about David DeBoor Canfield, please visit:

http://www.daviddeboorcanfield.org/

For information about the upcoming concerts at the University of Iowa, please visit:

http://performingarts.uiowa.edu/current-season/


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Randall Hall

The Center for New Music

 presents

 Randall Hall, saxophone

 University Capitol Centre Recital Hall        October 10, 2011   7:30 p.m.

            This past Monday the Center for New Music of the University of Iowa presented a concert by Dr. Randall Hall, one of the foremost interpreters of contemporary music for saxophone.  Dr. Hall, known for his talent with both traditional and new music styles, impressed the crowd with dynamic displays of musical progress, utilizing both an alto and a tenor saxophone as well as electronic music.

            As the audience entered the recital hall, a surprising sight greeted them from the stage.  Rather than just a music stand or piano there were two large speakers on either side of the stage, two music stands on the stage, and a table which housed a laptop and multiple cables, leading off the stage to the speakers and an unknown power source.

            Dr. Hall is a composer of new music as well as a performer.  He is also well-known for his “slap tongue” work, his improvisational playing, and his multiphonic abilities, in which he plays multiple tones at once.  In fact, extended techniques were used in every piece on the program, including those written by Dr. Hall himself.

 For more information on Dr. Hall, please click the following link:

 http://www.randallhall.net/

            He did not disappoint his listeners as he began the first piece, entitled 24 Multiphonic Etudes, composed by Dr. Hall himself in 2008.  Dr. Hall chose to begin the program with Nos. 21 and 24 of this work.  While No. 21 was interesting in its use of multiphonic trills and long musical phrases, No. 24 was definitely a show-stopper.  In No. 24, Dr. Hall interspersed loud, high, multiphonic interjections with smooth, clear lines of solo saxophone melodies.  The resulting effect was one of dual saxophones.  It was also clear to the audience that Dr. Hall was used to playing this kind of music, as he looked perfectly at ease on stage during what must have been a difficult number.

            Though I could give a detailed account of every piece I enjoyed in this concert, I will only give you the highlights of some of my favorites.

 For a complete program, program notes, and specific concert information, please visit:

 http://www.uiowa.edu/~cnm/46.111010.html#top

              Apparition was the fourth piece played on the first half of the recital.  This piece, written by Ed Martin, combined alto saxophone and electronics for a unique aural experience.  The piece began with a rough, ethereal sound coming in a short but intense sigh, immediately conjuring up the idea of an apparition, or “ghost saxophone”.  The electronic music continued to build, using percussion to set the mood of the piece.  The piece continued to build and then the saxophone entered, playing multiphonically, adding to the intensity and driving rhythm of the piece.  As the piece continued, a great swell of sound filled the room with a wash of musical color, which was suddenly broken by a high range, piercing sound from the saxophone.

              After this dramatic climax, the song slowly wound down as the rhythm slowed and the notes again became more distant.  During the end of the piece the audience also got to experience the “slap tongue” talents of Dr. Hall, in which he uses the mouthpiece of the saxophone as a percussion instrument, sending air through to clearly articulate rhythm but not add actual pitches to the music.

             The second half of the program was also remarkable because, unlike the first half, it was difficult to distinguish specific songs.  In the first half of the program, some music was solo alto saxophone and some was saxophone with electronics, and the audience clapped after each piece.   The second half felt as though it truly started with the third selection, ite bakkhai, part I, written by Dr. Hall.  Spoken poetry in a foreign language, possibly Asian, was pumped through the speakers toward the audience.  Though it would have been nice to have had a translation of the text during the performance, the text is included in the program notes which can be found on the Center for New Music website.

               Heavy reverb was used on the saxophone, giving the texture of the music a dream-like feeling.  Dr. Hall became involved with the speaking as he murmured in time with the electronic music.  He also sang into his saxophone, producing a unique buzz and sound combination.  The tenor saxophone doubled throughout the piece as both percussion instrument and melodic instrument, as it was frequently slapped and the keys noisily tapped by Dr. Hall, always in perfect rhythmic symmetry with the electronics used.  This set ended after Dr. Hall walked off the stage, allowing the electronic music to fill the room; he re-entered the stage for his well-deserved bow.

            If you have never heard extended techniques brilliantly played on a saxophone or have any interest in how new music can be combined with traditional instruments, Dr. Randall Hall is a performer you would enjoy watching and listening to!

            I could not find any videos of Dr. Hall performing pieces from the concert.  However, the following link is a good example of Dr. Hall’s skill combining saxophone performance and electronic music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dpmfoPGC68

For more information on The Center for New Music mission and concert series, please visit:

http://www.uiowa.edu/~cnm/#3

For more information on extended saxophone techniques, please visit:

http://004500e.netsolhost.com/saxophone_extended_technique.htm

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Orchid Ensemble

On October 2, the Orchid Ensemble presented a concert in one of the most aesthetically pleasing venues in Iowa City. The Old Capital senate chamber was filled with sounds of ancient Chinese instruments, including an ehru, a zheng, and a variety of percussion instruments including marimba, dumbek, def, Tibetan bells, Turkish bells, Thai gongs, Buddhist temple bowls, Beijing opera gongs, cymbals, crotales, and Chinese temple blocks. The concert presented a fascinating opportunity to see, touch, and hear instruments that have been a part of Chinese music for nearly 3,000 years.

The Orchid Ensemble has been making a big impact in the contemporary music scene since they formed in 1997. Based in Vancouver, Lan Tung, Yu-Chen Wang, and Jonathan Bernard formed an ensemble that blends the use of ancient Chinese instruments and musical traditions with contemporary compositions. The ensemble frequently commissions composers from Canada and the United States to create new works based on ancient music and cultures.

The Orchid Ensemble was an exceptional trio and it was a pleasure to watch the players and the variety of instruments in motion. Concert order was thoughtfully planned with a balance of tempo, mood, and cultural influences. The group has made a conscious effort to study and learn various Asian musical traditions and apply these traditions to new contemporary works. They are highly respectful of the musical cultures they blend into their own repertoire. They have spent a considerable amount of time traveling and studying in Asia to learn many musical traditions.

Concert Repertoire

Maqam: Prelude and DanceZhou Ji, Shao Guangchen and Li Mei, arr.: Mei Han

Maqam means mode in Arabic, and it is a collection of notes with rules defining its melody and mood. The prelude begins with a zheng solo in rhapsodic fashion followed by solos by marimba and erhu before joining together in an upbeat dance.

Xiao He Tang Shuiarr. Lan Tung (2010)

Traditionally a folksong from southwest China, this piece featured a large vocal range and showcased lyric and legato lines mixed with improvisation for singer, zheng, and marimba.

The Winged Horses of HeavenMoshe Denburg (2001)

This piece was inspired by the tale of mythical and magical ancient Chinese war horses. Polyrhythm is featured prominently in the piece and creates an exciting and steady unifying device.

Endless Sands of the Taklimakan – Moshe Denburg

This was an unexpected addition to the concert program, showing a contrasting piece from composer Moshe Denburg. This piece was inspired by the idea of a caravan moving slowly through the desert when as storm suddenly occurs and eventually the desert returns to calm.

Dancing Moon – Lan Tung (2009)

The text of this piece is from another Chinese folksong, but the only thing original in this composition are the words. Tung’s arrangement features polymeter, themes, and rhythmic variation. The vocal style featured a limited range and more modal voice quality.

From a Dream – Dorothy Chang (2010)

This sectional composition was inspired by film footage from China’s Yellow Mountain. The sectional style of this piece represents the various states of the mountain and seasons of the year. This piece was originally presented while showing images and videos of Yellow Mountain so that more of the senses were engaged during the performance.

The Gallop – traditional arr. Lambert Lum, Orchid Ensemble

This crowd favorite imitated warriors and their horses returning from a victorious battle.

Ya Ribon – traditional arr. R. Raine-Reusch, M. Denburg and Orchid Ensemble

A group of Persian Jews traveled the Silk Road and made their home in China and eventually assimilated into Chinese culture. The Jewish musical influence still survives and is featured in this arrangement of the folksong. The ehru sounds more like a gypsy violin than a traditional Chinese instrument in this piece.

Bengalila – J. Michael, R. Raine-Reusch & Orchid Ensemble

This piece is a Bengali folk song and displays Indian musical influence. The piece again was in two sections, an opening improvisatory section followed by a fast rhythmic dance.

For more information about the Orchid Ensemble, individual ensemble members, and information about traditional Chinese instruments, please see this link: http://www.orchidensemble.com/.

For more detailed program notes from Sunday’s concert, please see this link: http://www.uiowa.edu/~cnm/46.111002.html.

For more upcoming events from The University of Iowa’s Center for New Music, please see this link: http://www.uiowa.edu/~cnm.

 

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