New Music Festival features fresh take on old sounds
Accordion, pipa and electronica in concert
Published: Thursday, February 2, 2006
Updated: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 15:01
West meets and melds with East in a unique blend of classical music in this week's "New Music Festival," featuring world-renowned composer and special guest, Chen Yi.
On Wednesday, Santa Clara's Music at Noon launched the festival with a performance of Chen Yi's original music by the Firebird Chinese Youth Orchestra of San Jose. The festival, funded in part by the Center for Multicultural Learning, will continue on Friday night in the Center of Performing Arts' Recital Hall with a continuation of the celebration of Chen Yi's compositions.
A prominent Chinese-American composer, Chen Yi is well-known for her ability to create music "in the classical western tradition with strong Chinese influences," said Teresa McCollough, music professor and the festival's director.
At Friday night's performance, Santa Clara's chamber choir will sing a piece in the Mandarin dialect. The unique sound of the pipa, a tall Chinese lute, will be added to the musical melange by Min Xiao-fen, who, according to McCollough, is "perhaps one of the most famous pipa players in the world."
The festival will culminate on Saturday night with a variety of works by composers such as Samuel Pluta ('01), Alvin Singleton, resident faculty composer Pamela Quist and Alex Shapiro. From the Los Angeles Flute Quartet's performance of Shapiro's work to the new electronic sounds introduced in Pluta's piece, the music on Saturday night will be anything but monotonous.
McCollough herself will be playing a free jazz and beat-based electronica piano piece composed by Samuel Pluta.
Fellow composer Pamela Quist described Pluta's work as "a fusion of a young person's aesthetic with traditional compositional techniques." She said that because his music crosses over into the realm of "rock-type sounds," even rock music fans will be able to appreciate the music at this festival.
Alvin Singleton, who was the principle composer at this festival three years ago, returns this year with his work, "Say You Have This Ball of Meaning," which premiered last April in New York City. The composition features Santa Clara student and harpist Ruthanne Adams ('06), baritone Thomas Buckner ('64) and an accordion.
"This festival is growing nationally in reputation and deserves the support of all students and faculty," noted Singleton. "What makes this festival unique is its hard working director, Professor Teresa McCollough. She creates an interesting program, invites a stylistically diverse group of composers to participate, commissions new work and chooses fantastic performers."
McCollough also records the works premiered at each festival and compiles them on CDs.
McCollough, however, feels that most extraordinary part of the festival is that it "celebrates the work of living composers." The composers are visiting various upper division music classes this week and are available before and after the concerts for personal interaction. "It's no less important," said McCollough, comparing late composers to contemporary artists, "but you can't talk with Mozart."
The festival is intended not only to honor special guests like Chen Yi, but also to feature Bay Area composers and musician's within our own community.
Faculty member Quist will hear the Santa Clara University choir premiere her "Requiem for the People," led by conductor Thomas Colohan, as a preview of its June debut.
She began writing her first movement of the requiem in 2002 to honor the victims of Sept. 11. "Each movement of the requiem is geared toward a certain category of person," said Quist, "so it means something different to everyone who listens."
Quist especially noted the female presence in this year's festival. "Three out of five of the composers are female," she said, a record number compared with previous years.
"This new music is not boring classical stuff," argues Quist, but "truly a synthesis of cultures" in which students will have "a chance to hear something they've never heard before."
Contact Maggie Beidelman at (408) 551-1918 or firstname.lastname@example.org.