Eastman Musica Nova performed its last concert of the season in Kilbourn Hall on April 14. The ensemble featured five very different pieces written between 1954 and 2004. The concert opened with Harrison Birtwistle’s “Silkhouse Antiphonies” for two trumpets and a snare drummer. This piece required an unusual performance staging. It had four sets of stands placed in a circle around the stage, with the drums situated in the middle. At the work’s opening, the three performers were lined up one behind the other, with the percussionist in the middle. Throughout the piece, the two trumpeters walked slowly around in a circle, keeping a fixed distance between each other, and playing while facing each other from different places on the stage. At the beginning, senior Dan Rosenboom, the far-sided performer, was playing muted echo-like imitations of the front line trumpeter, graduate student Jason Price. Both players utilized a variety of mutes when performing from the sideline stands. The composition had a definite shape, emphasized by the movement of the performers. Before the end, Rosenboom and Price reversed the direction and closed the work with switching their opening placement on stage. The work featured conductor Brad Lubman in the unusual employ of percussionist. His part was providing rhythmical fillers in ostinato patters for the silences associated with the trumpeters’ movement on stage. The musical and enactment structures of “Antiphonies” worked especially well together, and were influencing each other throughout the piece. The staging, walking directions and clear sectionalising of the musical material confirmed a loose-like palindrome structure of the work. The only aspect which tired the audience in “Antiphonies” was the usage of a single snare drum technique. The performance was well prepared and executed, and did justice to the piece. The second piece on the program was “Lines of Communication” by Ben Hackbarth, for violin, trumpet, piano and computer-generated sounds. “All of the electronic sounds in ‘Lines of Communication’ are made with samples taken from each of the three instrumentalist,” Hackbeth said. “This premise encapsulates much of what I have been thinking about compositionally for the past few years. It’s not necessarily using computers to create ‘new’ sounds, but rather to extend the sonic resources of an instrument. Refining these ideas has led me to coordinate the computer part so that it changes sound sources based on the acoustic activity – instrumental gestures ‘stimulate’ the electronic result. He continuted “I feel as though pairing the acoustic and electronic elements in this way produces music that sounds live – even though half is live and the other half pre-made. In “Lines of Communication,” the drama that results from this carefully coordinated dialogue is the main force that propels the piece forward.” The piece is dedicated to Lubman and includes the appearance of a copy of the United States Patriot Act, which gets symbolically torn by the performers. “Lines of Communication” includes a conductor who follows a headphone-prompted click track to assure maximum coordination between the live and the pre-composed parts. Hackberth said, “Nowadays there are no boundaries as to what the electronics can do. Before the composers were limited to their machines. Today this problem doesn’t exist any more, so the composer has to use his or her own judgement and find their own voice.”With “Lines of Communication,” Hackbarth proved that he had found his compositional voice. His work was probably one of the best electronic pieces performed in Eastman this season. The acoustical and computer sounds blended logically to result into a masterfully created work of art, coherent and musically exciting in every way. The composer received two rounds of well deserved applause and cheers. Gyorgy Ligeti’s String Quartet No. 1, “Metamorphoses Nocturnes” was performed next. Written in 1954, it reminds one of Bartok’s music a lot. The first movement begins with a fast build up on a four note chromatic cluster and features rhythmical ostinati and some quasi-tonal moments. The second movement is a sarcastic waltz in ABA form. Wonderfully composed and performed, “Metamorphoses” closed the first half of the concert. The second half opened with Milton Babbitt’s five-minute work “Phonemena” for soprano and synthesized tape. As usual, soprano Heather Gardner sang brilliantly. The composition itself is a very old example of electronic music work, dating back to 1975. The sound texture is consistently pointillistic and switches between a couple of different sounds. The piece is short enough for the lack of contrast not to bore the listeners. The concert closed with the string orchestra version of “Shaker loops” by John Adams, conducted by Clay Greenberg. “Shaker loops began as a string quartet with the title ‘Wavemaker.'” Adam said, “I was essentially unaware of the nature of those musical materials I had chosen for my tools. I gradually developed a scheme for composing that was partly indebted to the repetitive procedures of minimalism and partly an outgrowth of my interest in waveforms. ‘Wavemaker’ crashed and burned at its first performance. The need for a larger, thicker ensemble and for a more flexible, less theory-bound means of composing became very apparent. Most importantly, the quartet became a septet. I held on to the idea of the oscillating patterns and made an overall structure that could embrace much more variety and emotional range.” Adams succeeded in creating a convincing musical structure. Although the four movements are connected, the beginning of a new movement and the types of development of different ideas were exceptionally clear. Adams makes a very good use of register by slowly expanding it downwards in every movement. He maintains the musical tension by not allowing any of his patterns to be repeated continuously without an orchestral variety. “Shaker loops” is an excellent example of how the tasteful combination of style, structure and craft produces a piece of music which can convince every audience in its doubtless merit. Musica Nova’s new project for its next season consists of producing a concert each semester with Eastman student composers’ works. Fol can be reached at afol@campus.times.org.

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