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Last modified: Monday, February 19, 2007

New music to get big treatment on IU New Music Ensemble’s East Coast tour

Program will feature premiere of new work by one of nation’s top young composers

Feb. 19, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Featuring 20 musicians who deftly glide through new solo, chamber and large ensemble works, the Indiana University New Music Ensemble expects to make a sizeable impact on the East Coast music scene next month when it tours the area with a concert titled "New Music from Indiana."

The Indiana University New Music Ensemble

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Representing the best of composition and performance from the IU Jacobs School of Music, the concert features compositions by notable faculty, as well as a premiere by Joseph Sheehan, two-time winner of the William Schuman Prize, the top award given at the annual BMI Student Composer Awards in New York City.

"Our group has 20 members, and four of the five works on the program are for large ensemble, so this kind of concert is a bit unusual," said acclaimed composer and New Music Ensemble director David Dzubay.

The concert will include recent works by Dzubay and fellow IU faculty composers Claude Baker and P.Q. Phan, as well as Toru Takemitsu's Rain Coming. The world premiere of Sheehan's Suspended in Perpetual Ascent was commissioned for the ensemble by the IU Jacobs School as part of Sheehan winning the 2006 "Dean's Prize" composition contest.

From left to right: Indiana University Jacobs School of Music composers David Dzubay, Claude Baker, P.Q. Phan and Joseph Sheehan.

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All of the IU-related works were composed in the last three years, Dzubay said, adding that the pieces "show the diversity of music created by our faculty and students, each having quite distinct musical aesthetics and approaches. We feel that our composition program is one of the strongest in the country, not least because of the high quality of performer that attends IU."

The ensemble will present performances March 10 through 12 at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center in College Park, Md. (March 10), the Perelman Theatre in Philadelphia (March 11) and Miller Theatre in New York City (March 12). All performances begin at 8 p.m.

Founded in 1974, the New Music Ensemble is dedicated to performing a broad spectrum of contemporary music, focusing on works from the past 30 years. Though there are a few groups similar to the ensemble, such as the critically acclaimed Alarm Will Sound, most big-city new music ensembles are smaller, consisting of five to 10 members, said Dzubay.

While Dzubay, Baker and Phan are all established composers with many national and international honors to their credit, Sheehan is fast making a name for himself on the East Coast and nationwide for his eclectic compositions influenced by his love of jazz, African music, popular music and the pulsing dance beats of techno. The Pittsburgh native's music has been performed by numerous ensembles in the Bloomington, Ind., and Pittsburgh areas, and read by the American Composers Orchestra in New York City. He won the Schuman Prize, presented to the composer whose work is judged most outstanding in the annual BMI Student Composer Awards competition, in 2003 and 2005.

Joseph Sheehan is the two-time winner of the William Schumann Prize, the top award given at the annual BMI Student Composer Awards in New York City.

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Sheehan was a finalist in the 2004 Alea III International Composition Competition, resulting in a performance of his techno-influenced Dance Dance Revelation by the Boston University contemporary music ensemble.

He said the initial ideas for Suspended in Perpetual Ascent arose from listening to and studying Vivaldi's The Four Seasons and J.S. Bach's three famous violin concertos. "These pieces, as well as other Baroque music, exhibit a certain quality of expression -- the brightness of the sound, the vigor of the rhythm, the sheer joy conveyed in the music -- that I wanted to capture in my piece."

To learn more about the New Music Ensemble, visit For notes on its upcoming East Coast tour and the compositions that will be performed, go to

For more information on the IU Composition Department, visit