Cellos and pianos collided with synthesizers and heavy feedback on Nov. 9, bringing the Eastman School of Music’s musical innovation and its students into a realm of unexplored musical landscapes.
The music startled the audience in Kilbourn Hall with rhythms and textures that varied from the techno-chaos of Radiohead and Sigur Ros, to the dark and hostile sounds of Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.”
The most striking performance was of Eastman alumnus Kaija Saariaho’s piece “Amers” – a concerto piece brought to life by the intentionally unmelodic and violent cello playing of graduate student Lauren Rodnofsky. Through computerized manipulation, the group created sounds that never could have been expected from a conservatory.
For conductor Brad Lubman, the concert represented an exciting new direction for Eastman.
“Eastman has always led the way for progress and new ways of creating music,” Lubman said.
He continued by pointing out that Eastman pioneered innovations in classical music such as the wind symphony and was among the first few music schools to offer a degree in jazz music.
Lubman proudly expressed hopes that Eastman would continue its trend in pushing the envelope by being the first institution of its kind to incorporate computer-driven innovations in modern music into its performances. The campus already has a computer music center, but this is not enough for Lubman.
“We should be the first music school to combine the benefits of a top-notch student ensemble with the resources of a top-notch computer music center,” Lubman said.
During the intermission, Lubman humbly offered a simple proposal for a new performance hall that would allow frequent use of the capabilities of the computer music center in conjunction with traditional orchestral work.
In his view, and possibly that of others like him, this could truly bring Eastman’s incredible resources into the 21st century.
Rodnofsky agreed with the statements Lubman made.
“As of this concert, the technology at Eastman has been brought up to the year 1993,” she said, laughing.
She pointed out that the technology required for the music played on stage that night had already existed 12 years ago.
Musical innovations are taking place that would have baffled musicians 20 years ago, just as the electric guitar would have baffled Beethoven.
In an age when student musicians are sitting in their dorm rooms with their instruments plugged into computers, downloading software to manipulate sound and pioneering new techniques and musical genres, music conservatories around the world are realizing the overwhelming potential of new ways of creating and performing music.
Both Lubman and Rodnofsky agree that Eastman should stretch music’s boundaries by creating a performance space that would allow modern technology and conventional orchestral performances to share the same space or, perhaps, to overlap.
“This would also benefit the Eastman Computer Music Center,” Lubman said.
He explained how a new performance space would allow the Computer Music Center to function at its full potential. It is easy to imagine why older performance spaces simply cannot house all of the necessary electronic and computer equipment to fulfill such a task.
Speaking with a kind of humility and confidence that accented his obvious musical genius, his words were well received by audience members. When he turned around again to conduct the orchestra through the final piece, the overwhelming feeling in the room – aside from a feeling of awe from the music – was one of hope for Eastman’s future.
Indeed, such a stunning display of technology and musical innovation as Wednesday’s concert, combined with knowledge of such dedicated and visionary faculty, could not have left audience members feeling otherwise.
Fuentes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.