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Music Today Festival preview: Incubating and showcasing new music

April 12, 2017
Featured, Music


A concert of music by women composers, a celebration of music by one of the 20th century’s most influential American composers, Pauline Oliveros, the premiere of a new chamber opera, music inspired by the soundscape of an old growth forest, and two highly regarded festival guest artists highlight the 2017 Music Today Festival (April 19-May 13) at the University of Oregon.

Student ensembles play contemporary classics and premieres of new music at this year’s Music Today Festival. Photo: Gary Ferrington.

The biannual event, founded by UO professor Robert Kyr in 1993, has evolved from a time when the School of Music and Dance offered few performances of contemporary music to this year’s nine concerts organized and hosted by the Oregon Composers Forum. The OCF is a cadre of graduate and upper division student composer-performers in the school’s composition area who have the opportunity to collaboratively produce numerous music events throughout the year.

“Our program is one of the few in the country that gives student composers the opportunity to create and perform their own music and that of their colleagues with contemporary music performers of the highest caliber,” says Kyr, head of the UO Music Composition area. This year’s great artists include renowned soprano Estelí Gomez and clarinetist James Shields with other New York new music specialists. “We are thrilled to feature composers and performers from our student-run new music ensembles programs that focus on themes of contemporary significance and are relevant to the lives of today’s listeners.”


All concerts take place at 8 pm in Aasen-Hull Hall on the University of Oregon campus and offer free admission except where noted.

Wednesday, April 19

Sonus Domum Ensemble
Sonus Domum offers a program of cross-disciplinary and improv-based music celebrating the memory of Pauline Oliveros, who died last year, with three pieces by the late composer as well as new works in collaboration with dancers and visual artists by Jordan Jenkins, Michael Fleming, Michael Dekovich, Nikolai Valov, Luke Smith and Faith Rawson.

Friday, April 21
Oregon Composers Forum Concert IV
8 p.m., Beall Concert Hall
Three solo pieces, two duets, a quartet, and two quintets reveal the exciting diversity of instrumentations and styles that characterize the music being composed by today’s young composers, including Brent Lawrence, Paul Rudoi, Nicholas Pietromonaco, Nikolai Valov, Martin Quiroga, Trevor Thompson, Susanna Payne-Passmore, and Daniel Daly. This concert will be live streamed.

Saturday, April 22
Composing from the Old Growth Forest
Last fall, six members of the Oregon Composers Forum visited, listened to, meditated upon, and sketched musical ideas inspired by the soundscape of the old growth H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest just east of Eugene. The Music Today Festival premieres new works based upon on those experiences featuring pieces for pre-recorded soundscape, solo flute, narrator, percussion, solo trumpet, soprano, guitar, violin and steel tongue drum by composers Brent Lawrence, Luke Smith, Justin Ralls, Susanna Payne-Passmore, Michael Fleming, and Nikolai Valov. Stay tuned for ArtsWatch’s full preview.

Saturday, April 29
Ova Novi Ensemble
Ova Novi, whose mission is to present music by women composers, features music by Judith Weir, Marianna D’Auenbrugg, Sasha Kow, Susanna Payne-Passmore, Hildegard Westerkamp, Samantha Gans, Chi Wang, Kellyn Haley’s arrangement of songs by Nadia Boulanger for trombone and piano, and a selection of songs by Minnesota composers Jocelyn Hagen, Mary Ellen Childs, Edie Hill, Libby Larsen and Abbie Betinis.

Friday, May 5 – TaiHei Ensemble
The TaiHei Ensemble explores and enhances international dialogue through the creation and performance of music inspired by world music and cultures. Featured in this MTF concert is Canadian composer Claude Vivier’s Piece for Cello and Piano, influenced by non-Western musical elements, and Lied by Japanese composer Toshio Hosokawa for flute and piano. Additional music by members of the Oregon Composers Forum and the Intermedia Music Technology program will be performed. (TaiHei pronounced “tie-hey”, means “peace” in Japanese).

Saturday, May 6 – ECCE
Now in its 12th season, Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble’s MTF concert features works by its three aesthetically diverse co-coordinators. Ramsey Sadaka’s Scenes from the Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke includes an invigorating solo violin with six-person mixed chamber ensemble. Tarot / Suite of the Major Arcana by Joseph Vranas is a set of songs based on the Major Arcana of the Tarot deck, with text by Daniel Erburu Reardon. Extinction by Stephen Medlar is a 40-minute story in five instrumental movements that tells a tale of how humanity’s time on earth comes to an end. The composer notes, “It is a product of my intrinsic anger and frustration with the ever-growing trend in the celebration of ignorance and devaluing (or perhaps even disregarding) of intellectualism.”

Guest soprano Esteli Gomez premieres 8 new compositions. Photo: Kyle Scripnick.

Sunday, May 7
Guest Artist Esteli Gomez
Admission: $10 general, $8 students and seniors
Known for her interpretation of early and contemporary music with what the New York Times calls a “clear, bright voice,” soprano Esteli Gomez and fellow members of the contemporary octet Roomful of Teeth won a Grammy award for best chamber music/small ensemble performance in 2014. Her MTF program includes new music composed specifically for her by OCF composers Brent Lawrence, Michael Fleming, Paul Rudoi, Luke Smith, Cara Haxo, Ramsey Sadaka, Daniel Daly, and Emily Korzeniewski and features vocal pieces combined with a unique range of instrumentation ranging from electronic components, celesta, toy piano, to vibraphone.

Guest artist James Shields and friends premiere music by UO composers. Photo: k.mari.

Wednesday, May 10
James Shields and Friends
Kyr describes James Shields, clarinetist with the Oregon Symphony, as “one of the most electric and engaging clarinetists in the contemporary music scene. His performances are extraordinary in their virtuosity and sheer brilliance.”  Shields is bringing with him two equally inspiring musicians, Laura Metcalf (cellist) and Conor Hanick (pianist), both prominent in the New York and national new music scenes, to perform music by UO composers, two virtuoso showstoppers by Magnus Lindberg (Steamboat Bill, Jr. for clarinet and cello, and Trio for clarinet, cello and piano); Grab It! by Jacob TV; Now I by Matthias Pintscher; and Parkour by Paul Brantley.

Saturday May 13
The Banshee, a chamber opera by Daniel Daly
3 p.m., Aasen-Hull Hall
The final offering of the Music Today Festival is a semi-staged performance of a new chamber opera, The Banshee, composed by Daniel Daly. The drama revolves around the legend of the Banshee, a character from Irish legend whose keening is a herald of death. Stay tuned for ArtsWatch’s full preview.

For more information on events, call 541-346-5678 or visit School of Music and Dance Concerts and Events online.

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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