Ova Novi Ensemble

ArtsWatch guest post: Tomorrow’s music today

Gary Ferrington reviews the University of Oregon's Music Today Festival.

Alyssa Tamayo alto saxophone, and Ednaldo Borba, piano perform Brandon Scott Rumsey's "Sacred Spaces" at the Music Today Festival. Photo: Gary Ferrington.

Alyssa Tamayo alto saxophone, and Ednaldo Borba, piano perform Brandon Scott Rumsey’s “Sacred Spaces” at the Music Today Festival. Photo: Gary Ferrington.

By GARY FERRINGTON

The second half of the closing concert in the University of Oregon’s biennial Music Today Festival opened with a film clip depicting nature recordist Gordon Hempton’s search for one square inch of silence in the Olympic National Park. As the camera pulled back, listeners could clearly hear the forest soundscape of birdcall and natural sounds. Composer Andrew Stiefel used those sounds as a theme in his composition, “Echoes of a Sonic Habitat II,” creating the sense of a dense reverberating forest by spatially placing flutist Sarah Pyle and Jacob Walls, trumpet, in different locations within the darkened auditorium. Commissioned by Crater Lake National Park, the multimedia work was based on field recordings Stiefel had recorded there.

Stiefel’s work exemplified Monday evening’s theme, “Signal in the Noise,” featuring music focused on the influence of the natural soundscape, performed by the Eugene Contemporary Chamber Ensemble (ECCE) with guest artist Estelí Gomez, soprano and created by emerging composers David Eisenband, Diana Rosenblum, Jacob Walls, Nicole Portley and Robert Chastain, as well as prominent composers John Luther Adams, Tristan Murail and Emily Doolittle.

Held at venues at the UO music school, the biennial Music Today Festival was founded in 1993 by UO composition professor Robert Kyr. This year it offered over 40 premieres of new music – mostly by young composers born after 1985 and who are completing their undergraduate or graduate studies in the UO School of Music and Dance.

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