A China-Oregon connection: UO’s Jeffrey Stolet bridges the Pacific through music

Electroacoustic concert enriched by cross-cultural influences concludes an intensive University of Oregon workshop for visiting Chinese composers


It is a long journey from Beijing to Eugene, but each July for the past eight years, a cadre of Chinese conservatory students and faculty has been making the 5,000-mile trip to participate in the University of Oregon’s Summer Academy for Computer Music directed by Dr. Jeffrey Stolet, professor of music and head of Future Music Oregon.

Jeffrey Stolet and assistant Chi Wang with Summer Academy students.
Photo: FMO/symbolic sound 2012.

On July 29, the 2017 Summer Academy will culminate in a final concert of new music influenced by the crossing of a cultural bridge between China and Oregon. For some listeners, with an ear tuned to traditional instrumental music, the experience of hearing a soundscape of acoustic effects and driving rhythmic patterns from suspended speakers around the concert hall may seem unfamiliar, distant, and sometimes unsettling. Yet an attentive ear will hear electroacoustic performances rich in compositional practice and musical forms.

The music will be forged in an intensive two week workshop involving Chinese and Oregon student and faculty musicians, a continuing collaboration almost a decade in the making.

Best known in Oregon for his long-time direction of the University of Oregon’s electronic music program, Future Music Oregon, Stolet has a long history in the building of a bridge between Oregon and China through his teaching and performing of electroacoustic music overseas. He has been recognized for his efforts with an induction into the prestigious DeTao Masters Academy, a program that brings international scholars to China who share their knowledge and expertise as recognized leaders in their field.

He’s also received honorary professorships at both the Xinhai Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou (2014) and the Sichuan Conservatory of Music in Chengdu (2013). In 2014 Stolet was given a lifetime achievement award at the Musicacoustica Festival in Beijing for his ongoing commitment to teaching and sharing his art throughout China.

Stolet’s years of teaching and performing efforts in China inspired Professor Zhang Xiaofu of Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music, a leading figure in electroacoustic music, to ask Stolet to develop a summer academy for students.

Stolet (second from left) received honorary professorship from Sichuan Conservatory of Music. Photo: Future Music Oregon 2013.

After its 2009 debut, news of the summer academy spread rapidly. Now, nearly every prestigious Chinese music conservatory and university with an electronic music program has sent student and faculty representatives to participate, Stolet told ArtsWatch.

Principles and Practice

The intensive two-week academy takes place in the basement of the UO School of Music and Dance (SOMD), where students and faculty in the renowned Future Music Oregon’s suite of studios use innovative computer technology to create fixed media electroacoustic compositions, real-time interactive performances, and pieces that combine sound and video. Academic study includes principles of sound design, sound synthesis, and electronic composition, with special emphasis on the Kyma visual programing computer language and techniques for sound design. Stolet’s book, published in Mandarin Chinese, Kyma and the SumOfSines Disco Club provides the foundation for workshop instruction.

Student collaboration facilitates learning in two week academy. Photo: FMO/symbolic sound 2012.

Student collaboration facilitates learning in two week academy. Photo: FMO/symbolic sound 2012.

This summer about 40 undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students and faculty arrived on campus from China’s top conservatories and universities including the Central Conservatory of Music (Beijing), Peking University (Beijing), the Sichuan Conservatory of Music (Chengdu), Wuhan Conservatory of Music, Shenyang Conservatory of Music (Shenyang), and the Communication University of China.

With limited space for participants, competition to attend the academy has grown. Academy assistant Chi Wang says one of the attractions is the “pure admiration for Dr. Stolet. His breath-taking concert performances throughout China, his extreme kindness to the Chinese composers, his sincere and generous offer of opportunities to students who have music dreams and who want to enrich their music composing/ learning experience.”

Jeffrey Stolet with academy students Yang Fan and professor Yang Wanjun. Photo: FMO/symbolic sound 2013.

Continuing Connections

Long after the Oregon experience, Chi Wang told ArtsWatch, the friendships established in Eugene continue. Many who have attended in the past have gone to earn Ph.D degrees in electronic music composition and now four, from the earliest years of the academy, are in tenure track teaching/researching positions in top conservatories including China and Zhejiang Conservatories of Music and other universities, often forming collaborative relationships between their institutions across the country.

Li Quixiao

Two of the many former participants who have gone on to careers in music after attending an academy session include Li Qiuxiao and Feng Jinshuo. Dr. Li is now a faculty member of the Music Engineering department of Zhejiang Conservatory of Music. Her music has been presented in various major music festivals, including the Musicacoustica-Beijing. She has suggested readers may be interested hearing her Wu Song fights the tiger for clarinet and fixed media and her Speak Softly Water. 

Feng Jinshuo

Dr. Feng recently received his Ph.D in computer music composition from Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music. His current research and composition interests include interactive music, sound synthesis and design of data-driven instruments. Besides being an award winning composer, he is also works as an arranger for TV shows and a composer of film music. He recommends his Dance of three folk singers to readers.


Coming Soon

Stolet’s work continues after the workshop. From March 29-31, 2018,  the UO School of Music and Dance hosts one of the top events in the field of electronic and computer music, the annual National Conference for the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States (SEAMUS). Under Stolet’s supervision, a diverse range of electro-acoustic music will be presented including fixed media electroacoustic works, real-time interactive performance compositions, and works that combine sound and video.

The University of Oregon’s Summer Academy for Computer Music presents its closing concert at 1 pm Saturday, July 29, in room 163 of the UO Music Building.

Gary Ferrington is a Senior Instructor Emeritus, Instructional Systems Technology, College of Education, University of Oregon. He is an advocate for new music and serves as project coordinator for Oregon ComposersWatch.

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Want to learn more about contemporary Oregon classical music? Check out Oregon ComposersWatch.

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