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Musica Nova, one of Eastman’s premier “new-music” ensembles, gave another fantastic performance this past Monday, Feb. 11. Associate professor of conducting and  ensembles and director of Music Nova Bradley Lubman gave us the inside scoop about the history of the group, his experience as the director, and where the group is headed.

How and when did the group start?

Musica Nova started in the mid-1960s as the Musica Nova Wind Quintet. At first, it was a student-run initiative, started by James Undercofler, a french horn student at Eastman who was to later become one of the school’s directors and deans. By the late ’60s, it had become one of the school’s ensembles, bearing the name, Musica Nova.

Syd Hodkinson directed the ensemble from 1973 until 1997 when he retired and I was hired as his successor.

What are your goals for the group?

When I took over in 1997, my main goal was to build an ensemble modeled after some the finest European ensembles for “new-music” with whom I regularly guest conduct: Ensemble Modern (Frankfurt) and the London Sinfonietta to name but two of the many ensembles and orchestras with whom I regularly work. Our focus in Musica Nova is the second half of the twentieth century, and one or two classic works from the early 1900s.

I also like to offer repertoire from various schools of thought, in order to offer experience to the students in a wide range of repertoire. In this way, the ensemble acts as training ground for contemporary music and at the same time, gives students an overview of styles that have evolved since the 1950s.  Additionally, we often invite composers as special guests so we can work with them directly.  In the past, we have had Reich, Birtwistle, Andriessen, and Lachenmann here, all of whom are very important composers of our time.

Do students in Musica Nova continue with new-music after graduation?

It is interesting to note that amongst some of today’s new leading ensembles for contemporary music, many of the members were students at Eastman some years ago and played in Musica Nova under my direction.  Besides my own Ensemble Signal, there is the JACK Quartet, Alarm Will Sound, Mivos Quartet, and Deviant Septet, to name a few.

How do you see the future of the group? Any upcoming projects?

Musica Nova’s upcoming concerts this season include some special guests. Musica Nova will be joined by several guests from Ensemble Signal as we collaborate on a project with OSSIA featuring the music of Helmut Lachenmann. In April, we will have guest composer Hans Abrahamsen from Denmark visit for a week-long residency. Our concert on April 8 will feature three of his works: “Märchenbilder,” “Winter Nacht,” and “Piano Concerto.”

I feel very lucky in all that I do.  I get to guest conduct some of the best orchestras and ensembles in the world — I conducted at the Musikverin in Vienna for the first time; what an amazing experience — but I also get to work with some of the brightest and most talented students here at Eastman who will shape the future of music.

Saguinetti is a member of the class of  2015.

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