Faculty Concert Redefines Composition

9 April 2010

Say the word "composer."

What do you think of?

A stuffy image of music's classical past, perhaps?

What if the word "composer" instead conjured thoughts like "fuzzy," "pink," "Zut!" or "waggishery?"

On April 10, 2010 at 8pm in Convocation Hall, the University of Alberta's Department of Music will redefine the meaning of "composer." Featuring faculty composers and musicians, the Music at Convocation Hall: Music of Today concert will showcase original works composed by Department composers in only the last four years.

Featuring pieces for live electronics, saxophone, piano, clarinet, violin and computer, the evening's performances will range from the quiet and meticulously controlled to the loud and boldly brash.

"It should be a good mix of acoustic and electronic music with a wide variety of aesthetics," said assistant professor (composition), sound performer and composer Scott Smallwood. "Droney, noisy, quiet, loud, improvised, structurally complex: a little bit of everything for everyone."

Eight compositions by four composers will deliver an audience experience unlike any other.

Of his piece "Memories, Dreams, Reflections" (2010), assistant professor (composition), performer and composer Mark Hannesson said: "I'm attempting to explore the idea of individuation, the integration of the conscious with the unconscious, while still maintaining the autonomy of the conscious." A heavy prospect, but not surprising considering the title of the piece is taken from Carl Jung's autobiography.

Played by saxophonist and Associate Dean of Arts William Street, the piece gradually expands the sound of the saxophone's timbre until there is only a wash of sound.

"That wash, however, is completely under the control of the saxophone," continued Hannesson. "It's the first piece of mine in which the computer is listening to the instrumentalist and changing settings when specific points in the score are reached. This allows for a closer synchronization between the instrument and the electronics."

Dear Beethoven, the future is here.

"Still Life (Fuzzy Pink Music)" (2010) is a piece composed and performed by both Smallwood and Hannesson, and is an improvised piece for small electronic devices - most of which have been designed by Smallwood and Hannesson themselves.

"We are playing small and very quiet handheld electronic devices," explained Hannesson. "Scott [Smallwood] will play some of his solar powered electronic instruments and I will be live coding on an iTouch," live coding referring to the process of writing the sound patch while playing live music.

"The piece will probably be relatively quiet," said Smallwood. "And fuzzy. The piece will be fuzzy."

Smallwood's piece "Shadows for Maryanne" (2010) is composed for tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, violin and computer.

"It's basically a droney piece involving very subtle, disciplined actions in order to sustain slowly moving and beating patterns and textures," explained Smallwood. The piece, performed by William Street (tenor Saxophone), Don Ross (bass clarinet), Guillaume Tardif (violin) and Scott Smallwood (computer), is dedicated to the sound artist and composer Maryanne Amacher who passed away in October 2009.

Dr Andriy Talpash - composer, conductor, saxophonist and instructor (composition, theory, orchestration) - will present the piece "Zut!" (2009), which concerns a curious character named Mr. Z.

"Zut! typifies the incoherent ramblings of Mr. Z.," explained Talpash. "Invariably, he babbles to himself incessantly, curses disjointedly, and rambles continuously at an alarming rate. The streaming outbursts are occasionally broken by brief silences, only enough time to take a breath before….Zut!"

Two pieces by professor (composition, theory, orchestration), Associate Chair (Graduate Studies) and composer Howard Bashaw feature movement titles like "Zing" in the piece "Music for Alto Saxophone and Piano" (2006) and "Off-Tick Groove" or "Waggishery" in the piece "Loops: Five Shorts" (2010).

With titles like that, you have to hear it to believe it.

Music at Convocation Hall Series: Music of Today

New music for violin, saxophones, bass clarinet, piano, computers, and electronics.

Recent works by Howard Bashaw, Mark Hannesson, Scott Smallwood and Andriy Talpash

Featuring performances by:

Guillaume Tardif, violin
William Street, saxophones
Don Ross, bass clarinet
Roger Admiral, piano
Mark Hannesson, electronics
Scott Smallwood, electronics

Saturday April 10, 2010
University of Alberta Campus: Arts and Convocation Hall, 8:00 pm
Tickets available through InfoLink | 780.492.4212
General $20| Seniors $15| Students $10
Event info: music@ualberta.ca |780.492.3611