Tonight, at 8 p.m., where will you be? In Kilbourn Hall, the student-run new music group Ossia will be performing its annual orchestra concert. The program consists of two student-composed pieces and a concerto by the famed composer Ellen Taaffe Zwilich.

Although unintentional, the concert has the underlying theme of presenting new music in an understandable and organized way. Instead of just music for music’s sake, it’s music with meaning that many people can relate to.

The program opens with “Sailing to the Horizon for Orchestra,” by Eastman composer Ming-Hsiu Yen, conducted by Philip Palmer. The title originates from the idea that life is like sailing the ocean. There is no predicting what may happen along the way, but the final destination — the horizon — is what one should strive for.

Written shortly after the September 11 attacks, this piece focuses on a devastating earthquake in Taiwan in September 1999. It is about coping with disaster.

Another goal of the piece is to evoke memories of the beauty of what once was and also the conviction that we must keep going afterwards. This is brought about by sections of “unpredictability” where the bass drum plays a prominent role. Sections of suffering with high-pitched glissandos of the violins show the cries of people and a section of memories take on a more tonal aspect. In the end, the hope on the horizon exists when the music becomes full of sound and energy. Yen writes, “Regardless of the time that passes by, the feeling of hopelessness and fear does not recede.”

Yen believes that the audience wants something to grasp onto when they listen to music, as opposed to just notes that seem deprived of organization.

“It’s not really atonal, I don’t like to write very atonal music,” said Yen. “If it is atonal, it has to have meaning behind it and be understandable.”The next piece on the program is a double concerto called “Om,” by Caleb Burhans. Anyone who is a fan of Herman Hesse, Tool or Bach will enjoy this piece.

Burhans’s interest in rock and improvisational jazz is obvious from the start of the concerto, which is for an electric guitar and an upright bass. During his childhood, Burhans was influenced by rock music and is a fan of a large range of musical styles. Sounds of Eastern music, especially the gamelan, show through in this concerto in its odd meters.

Inspiration for this piece came from Herman Hesse’s book “Siddhartha” and the movie “Dune,” which both have themes of unity. This piece depicts unity with only a few lines of music that keep the piece together in the minimalist style.

Burhans’s connection to Bach and the baroque era is also visible in the rubatos and stylized articulation.

The performance will be conducted by Clay Greenberg. Colin Chatfield will play the upright bass and Grey McMurray will play the electric guitar. Both Chatfield and McMurray are good friends of Burhans and have helped influence his musical taste. Chatfield and McMurray have performed improvised jazz together for the past three years, and the piece was written with McMurray’s playing in mind. With the influence of Chatfield, Burhans has been influenced in the techno world, and the two have been collaborating while writing techno music.

The last piece on tonight’s pro-gram is an oboe concerto written Zwilich, in celebration of John Mack’s 25th anniversary as the principal oboist of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra.

Zwilich attempts to connect to the audience by presenting the concerto as a drama with analogies to the theater. There is the solo “voice” of the oboe at times, but also the interaction of characters, an essential part of theater.

The piece is orchestrated for oboes, oboe d’amore and English horn, forming a “family” with which the solo oboe converses.

Along with being the first woman to receive a Pulitzer Prize in music, Zwilich has received four Grammy nominations. She has been inducted into Florida’s hall of fame and was named Musical America’s composer of the year for 1999.

Senior Sonja Thoms will be performing on oboe, with Brian Russell conducting.

If you’re looking for a night of original new music by inspiring talented composers, then tonight’s Ossia concert is definitely worth checking out.

Reguero can be reached at

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