Cal Performances :: Music, Dance, Theater :: University of California Berkeley

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New Music, Eco Ensemble, David Milnes, conductor, January 21, 2012, February 11, 2012, March 24, 2012


Three concerts. Eleven composers. A stunning exploration of some of the most exciting, innovative musical creations from world-class composers. In their second season appearance at Cal Performances, David Milnes conducts the spectacular Eco Ensemble, Berkeley's professional new music ensemble-in-residence, in this three-concert survey of the sounds of today and the future. Traveling the leading edges of contemporary composition, this remarkable journey begins with the unique utterances of Gerard Grisey, continues with the powerful, heartfelt creations of Magnus Lindberg and Kaija Saariaho, and concludes with the visceral, evocative music of Franck Bedrossian and Nico Muhly.

Jan 21: Grisey: Talea Murail: L'Esprit des dunes Campion: Flow. Debris. Falls Dalbavie: In advance of the broken time
Feb 11: Saariaho: Ballade, Prelude Lindberg: Corrente Bedrossian: Swing Saariaho: Trios Rivieres
March 24: Matalon: Tunneling Muhly: Clear Music Lim: Songs Found In Dream Einbond: What the Blind See

Full March 24 Program

Aaron Einbond (b. 1978) What the Blind See (2009)

Peter Josheff, bass clarinet
Ellen Ruth Rose, viola
Naomi Hoffmeyer, harp
Ann Yi, piano
Daniel Kennedy, percussion
Aaron Einbond, Yotam Mann, Gregory Kuhn, electronics

Liza Lim (b. 1966) Songs Found in Dream (2005)

Kyle Bruckmann, oboe
Peter Josheff, clarinet, bass clarinet
Kevin Stewart, alto saxophone
Ari Micich, trumpet
Daniel Kennedy, percussion 1
Andrew Maguire, percussion 2
Leighton Fong, cello
Richard Worn, double bass

Nico Muhly (b. 1981) Clear Music (2009)

Leighton Fong, cello
Meredith Clark, harp
Ann Yi, celesta

Martin Matalon (b. 1958) Tunneling (2009; rev. 2012)

Stacey Pelinka, flute, bass flute
Matt Ingalls, clarinet, contrabass clarinet
David Goldklang, horn
Ari Micich, trumpet
Daniel Kennedy, percussion
Leighton Fong, cello
Richard Worn, double bass
Martin Matalon, Yotam Mann, Gregory Kuhn, electronics

Jan 21 Program Notes

Gérard Grisey (1946–1998)
Talea (ou la machine et les herbes folles) (1986)

"We are musicians and our model is sound not literature, sound not mathematics, sound not theater, visual arts, quantum physics, geology, astrology or acupuncture." This famed utterance by Grisey highlights the importance of the acoustics of sound as a new source of compositional inspiration. With scientific research into the world of sound as a central interest, Grisey's ideas as well as his music have been taken to heart by a still-growing number of composers in his native France and abroad. He remains one of the most influential French composers of the generation after Pierre Boulez.

Like much of Grisey's work, Talea highlights colorful transitions between different sounds. In the composer's own words on the piece: "By including not only the sound but, moreover, the differences perceived between sounds, the real material of the composer becomes the degree of predictability, or better, the degree of 'preaudibility.' ... It is no longer the single sound whose density will embody time, but rather the difference or lack of difference between one sound and its neighbor; in other words, the transition from the known to the unknown and the amount of information that each sound event introduces."

Read the full program notes... [PDF]

Tristan Murail (b. 1947)
L'Esprit des dunes (1993–1994)

In a recent interview on his Winter Fragments (2000), Murail discusses his compositional goals in the following way: "Finally, my ultimate aim would be to create and master an entirely personal 'language'—which is not a very precise term but I use it because there's nothing better—which I could use to communicate, a language which would be as flexible and versatile as, for example, the musical idioms of the end of the tonal period, a language that would rediscover certain universal and permanent categories of musical expression, without wading through some sort of nostalgia, or taking one of the 'postmodern' paths with which we are bombarded today..."

In L'Esprit des dunes, the composer reflects on different sounds he associates with the desert to create musical material for the piece. Murail uses brief extracts from melodies originating from Mongolian diaphonic singing (or throat singing) and from Tibetan chants as one type of source material...

Another type of material exploited in this piece comes from electronically synthesized elaborations of sounds made by certain objects, including rain sticks, maracas, the friction of polystyrene and the tearing of paper (among others). After collecting and analyzing these sounds, Murail was able to put them into a compositional context using his own software "Patchwork" to explore how these sounds could be transformed. We will hear all these various sounds interact with the piece's melodic material. This interaction is at times spiritual, confrontational, or organic, expressed with an engaging continuity that is so characteristic of Murail's work.

Read the full program notes... [PDF]

Edmund Campion (b. 1957)
Flow. Debris. Falls (2010)

Dr. Campion writes of the work on the January 21st program: "Flow. Debris. Falls might be the musical equivalent of a B-movie developed under the radar of the censor-prone larger Hollywood studios. In these B-movie scenarios, stories that on the surface appear to be genre conforming, become subversive vehicles, sites for the creator's imagination to run without censure. It would please me if David Lynch liked the title, as it is meant to invoke a location in America where normality exists mostly as an ornamental feature masking a more sinister underbelly...

In the end, I try to use raw imagination, shaped with a fine-toothed mill of discipline, to produce organized sound that is an honest reflection of my experiences in life and art—experiences that are simultaneously hilarious, tragic, unseemly and beautiful."

Read the full program notes... [PDF]

Marc-André Dalbavie (b. 1961)
In advance of the broken time (1994)

Can a sound be experienced as having direction? Dalbavie's In advance of the broken time opens with an extended reflection on the characteristics of one note, which, as it is passed among various instruments in the ensemble, is perceived as being in directional transformation. Here Dalbavie presents a musical line not in melodic terms, but rather spatially, while exploring its thickness, shape, balance and direction...

Dalbavie speaks to his music's affective potential: "I'm deeply convinced that art is the explosion of meaning," he says. "Each person finds his own meaning in music. I don't want the public to understand what I wanted to do for myself. If they find a different meaning I am happy."

Read the full program notes... [PDF]

Explore the program further! [PDF]

Feb 11 Program Notes

Kaija Saariaho
"In 2000 Kaija Saariaho solidified her reputation as one of the most important composers of her generation with her opera L'Amour de loin ("Love from Afar") premiered at the Salzburg Festival under the baton of Esa-Pekka Salonen and directed by Peter Sellars...The opera won her much public acclaim, as well as the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 2003."

Magnus Lindberg
"Magnus Lindberg has shown himself capable of reaching wide audiences in a number of different styles throughout his compositional career and has become one of the most widely heard composers of his generation....Along with Kaija Saariaho and Esa-Pekka Salonen, he was instrumental in the founding of the Ears Open! (Korvat auki!) society, which provides one of many examples of Lindberg's actions as a contemporary music advocate...

Also having spent time in Berlin, Lindberg developed an interest in punk rock, which served as an inspiration for Kraft (1985), a work whose rhythmic punch and abrasive sonorities broke with his earlier styles of composition and propelled him onto the international stage..."

Throughout the various styles in which he has composed, Lindberg has maintained his electric ability to speak to an audience. He has taught composition at UC Berkeley and is currently the composer in residence at the New York Philharmonic."

Franck Bedrossian
"One of Franck Bedrossian's main compositional interests is the sonic phenomena that categorize our modern audio culture. He has often mentioned influences coming from outside the realm of contemporary composition, including jazz, rock and various oral traditions. He also has been heavily influenced by the sound world made possible by electronic technology, and how that technology can be used to manipulate natural acoustic sounds, such as the human voice in particular..."

Bedrossian's works have been performed in Europe and more recently in the United States by a number of prestigious new-music ensembles, including l'Itineraire, 2e2m, Ictus, Cairn, the Ensemble Intercontemporain, the Orchestre National de Lyon, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and the Danel and Diotima string quartets. In September 2008, Bedrossian joined the music department at UC Berkeley, where he has since served as Assistant Professor of Composition.

Full Program Notes. [PDF]

Mar 24 Program Notes

Aaron Einbond (b. 1978)
What the Blind See (2009)

After interviewing Aaron Einbond for The Garrett in March 2010, Alizah Salario remarked the following in relating to the composer's style: "Today, as live experience is recorded and replayed almost as quickly as it's created, Einbond's idea of 'real time' sound being in conversation with recorded and reconstructed sound is not just music, but social commentary." This notion of real time refers to the blending of certain sound sources and their presentation to audiences. Einbond's work puts instrumental composition in contact with other sound sources including noise and field recordings, and with other performance spaces. He has presented numerous works as sound installations at exhibits and festivals in the United States and in Europe.

What the Blind See (2009) asks its audience to rethink conventional notions of perception as it musically explores how humans feel distance and closeness through sight and sound. The piece begins with intricately dense sounds that are closely examined and broken down into their smallest possible parts. These minute sounds stem from short and subtle instrumental gestures and seem to mark their space in the surrounding silence. These gestures, flanked by periods of silence, become longer and larger in scope as the piece progresses. The poignant absences of sound become shorter and shorter at the same time, and this process is revealed to be a motor for the piece.

Liza Lim (b. 1966)
Songs Found in Dream (2005)

In an interview with Andrew Ford of the Australian radio program The Music Show, Lim expressed her interest in exploring the sensual experience of her music's perception. "The sensory experience of sound as a vibration that you make contact with through not just your ears, but your whole body, I think has always been pretty central to how I think about sound and composition, that it is about the flow of vibrations and energies, and very much the sort of physical, or on the one hand the physicality of performance for the performers, but also this idea of physical sensation, you know, as a listener it's been really important to me."

Songs Found in Dream (2005) expresses certain aspects of song in its small ensemble medium. Almost antiphonal in nature, solo instruments in this piece spark similar activity in the rest of the ensemble. The opening gesture, which the cello presents, playing expressively in a high register, can be thought of as a call that the rest of the ensemble then responds to. At various points in the piece, other instruments present their own gestures as calls for response; this antiphonal relationship between voices in the ensemble reveals itself to be one convincing way of understanding the piece's form.

Nico Muhly (b. 1981)
Clear Music (2009)

Nico Muhly is an exciting and charismatic young composer whose music reaches a large diverse audience due in part to its exuberance and stylistic accessibility through intelligent and strongly witty writing. Muhly has been largely influenced by his own experiences as a performer, most notably his long career as a choral singer which he began as a young boy. He has composed extensively for choir, including commissions from the Clare College Choir, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus and New York's Saint Thomas Church.

Clear Music (2009) references Muhly's personal connection with performing a choral piece by English Renaissance composer John Taverner. In the composer's own words: "Clear Music is an extended exploration of a single measure in John Taverner's (1490–1545) motet Mater Christi Sanctissima. I have structured the piece into a series of peaks featuring the highest registers of the treble voice here, the cello. I remember very vividly performing this piece and being struck by how distant the treble was from the other voices (sometimes, there are spaces of over an octave between the treble and the alto) and I attempted to recreate the somewhat terrifying and exposed contours of these lines. The end result is, I hope, a prolonged and transparent recollection of the Taverner which exposes not only my appreciation for the music itself but also my response to performing it."

Martin Matalon (b. 1958)
Tunneling (2009; rev. 2012
"I want to work with real-time technologies, which are a perfect synthesis between performing and using the possibilities of computer music. This allows us to keep everything that is valuable in the art of performing—all that is human—and at the same time to expand and extend the instrument and its capacities beyond our imaginations. At a moment when the harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic languages seem to have arrived at a sort of dead end, there is a boulevard that is just open in front of us with parameters such as spatialization, timbre transformation, and time expansions."

Tunneling (2009) was originally part of a multimedia production at the Voix Nouvelles festival entitled Chute(s), with video art by Paolo Pachini. Composed for a seven-piece ensemble with interactive electronics, Tunneling explores the complex relationship between certain concepts and their opposing forces, namely weightlessness and the idea of falling, and lightness with that of density. Tunneling's form stems from considering how these premises oppose each other, as well as how they complement one another.

Full Program Notes. [PDF]

Articles & Interviews

New York Times, Bay Area section: A Digital Touch in Eco Ensemble's New Season

UC Berkeley College of Letters and Sciences Arts Ideas: Eco Ensemble Delivers the World


Podcast: Composer Ed Campion and Matías Tarnopolsky on the Eco Ensemble's January 21st concert
Composer and Professor of Music at UC Berkeley, Ed Campion talks about his piano concerto that was performed at Hertz Hall as well as the legacy of contemporary music. As a member of CNMAT and one of the founders of the Eco Ensemble (with David Milnes), he is a force shaping the future of music. He is interviewed by Matías Tarnopolsky, Director of Cal Performances.


Pictured (l to r): Ed Campion and David Milnes address the Eco Ensemble during a rehearsal.

Purchase Tickets

Sat, Jan 21, 8 pm
Sat, Feb 11, 8 pm
Sat, March 24, 8 pm
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