Indiana University

News Release

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Last modified: Tuesday, October 16, 2007

IU New Music Ensemble opens cutting edge season Oct. 20

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Oct. 17, 2007

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University New Music Ensemble (NME) will break musical boundaries with its new season that features some of the most imaginative and adventurous electronica ever heard, with a unique twist -- it will be arranged for chamber ensemble.

The NME season opens on Oct. 20 at 8 p.m. in the Jacobs School of Music's Auer Hall. Guest Director Alan Pierson, director of the New York-based 20-member band Alarm Will Sound -- which has taken U.S. audiences by storm in the past few years -- embarked on a project in 2003 to arrange British electronica star Aphex Twin's work for chamber ensemble.

"It has been an incredibly challenging project," said Pierson, "struggling to figure out how to make the hard core drum beats, bizarre sounds and insanely fast tempos of music never intended for live performers work with a chamber orchestra. And it's made a very strong statement in the concert music world about the seriousness and sophistication of some great commercial music."

Founded in 1974, IU's 20-member New Music Ensemble has always been dedicated to performing a broad spectrum of contemporary music, focusing on works from the past 30 years. This season, it sharpens its cutting edge status even further. The Oct. 20 repertoire includes Aphex Twin: "Cock/ver 10," Aphex Twin: "Gwely Mernans," Freund: "Unremixed," Antignani: "Il viaggio di Humbert" (world premiere), Webern: "Five Pieces, Op. 10," and Reich: "Tehillim."

David Dzubay, who has directed the ensemble since 1992, is on a leave of absence this academic year and two guest directors/conductors have been chosen to carry on in his stead -- Pierson and Akira Mori. Pierson will conduct the first and last concerts of the season (Oct. 20 and April 17), with Mori directing the middle three (Nov. 29, Feb. TBA and Feb. 28).

In planning his first program for IU, Pierson "wanted to cast as wide a net as I could and bring together a broad cross section of the most imaginative and engaging music from this repertoire," he said. "I also wanted a hot kick-off to the year: programming music which would be fresh and exciting here at IU, stuff which would jump off the concert poster as music which couldn't be missed. The Aphex Twin and Reich pieces most obviously fit this bill. (Stefan Freund's 'Unremixed' is a reworking of the Aphex Twin music we're playing.)"

Freund is the son of renowned IU Professor of Composition Don Freund, as well as cellist and composer for Alarm Will Sound, in Rochester, NY.

Pierson continued, "Reich made a huge impact in the 70s and 80s with a rich, new idiom which appealed to a much broader audience than the usual new music crowd, and Aphex Twin is part of a generation of electronica artists who have reached back into the concert music crowd, writing successful commercial music which draws on the work of folks like Reich, Varese and Xenakis to create something incredibly sophisticated and imaginative."

Even though he was a little nervous about programming "Tehillim" on his very first concert here because it is such a huge project, Pierson took a leap of faith and plunged in because "it's an extraordinary piece and a great experience for young musicians, plus there was no other chance to do it this season," he explained. "It's also just very close to my heart; 'Tehillim' got me through some tough growing-up years." Vasiliki Tsouva will be the choral director for this piece.

"Although Webern isn't a name with the kind of contemporary cachet that Reich and Aphex carry, I knew that his beautiful '5 Pieces' would be great foils for the Reich and Aphex works and give the program a little space to breathe. The kind of driving pulse which pervades Reich's and Aphex's music is the complete opposite of the flexible, expressive use of time in the Webern pieces," he said.

The concert will also feature the world premiere of the 2006 Barlow Prize Winner Commission, Luca Antignani's "Il viaggio di Humbert."

Pierson's April 17 IU program will build on his first one, with the Midwest premiere of John Adams: "Son of Chamber Symphony," Schoenberg: "Chamber Symphony," Don Freund: "Soft Cells" and Clint Needham: a newly commissioned piece.

Pierson has been praised as "a young conductor of monstrous skill" by Newsday, "commanding" by The New York Times and "gifted and electrifying" by the Boston Globe. He is artistic director and conductor of the acclaimed ensemble Alarm Will Sound and principal conductor of Dublin's Crash Ensemble.

Mori, Jacobs alumnus, visiting assistant professor and co-director of the New Music Ensemble this year, is thrilled to come full circle with the NME, having directed the ensemble when he was a student here.

"When I came back to my alma mater, I felt immediately comfortable again," he said. "When I walk through the halls of the music buildings and hear the practicing, the sounds tell me I am home. The quality of Jacobs students is amazing. After I left, I was sometimes shocked at the caliber I heard elsewhere, in comparison."

Mori has chosen a Nov. 29 program with several IU ties. "You can see my love for IU with this program," he said, smiling.

Among the works is "City Life" by Jacobs Professor Jeffrey Hass. Mori not only conducted its premiere but also recorded it in 1990. The program also includes "Axis Mundi" by Cindy Cox, who was an IU student at the same time as Mori.

After presenting a chamber program at the University of Louisville in February, Mori will direct the ensemble's Feb. 28 concert back in Auer Hall. Guest Conductor Cliff Colnot will return to Jacobs to share duties and conduct Gunther Schuller's "Chamber Symphony" that evening.

"The Jacobs School realizes the importance of living composers. There is a vibrant life of 21st-century music here, which is very rare," enthused Mori. "The quality of composers here is so high; that's why they are supported. Sometimes people ask for money to do something well. Here they are already good and thus supported. Good things happen very naturally here."

Mori has been an assistant professor at Louisiana State University, the University of Minnesota and the University of Evansville, as well as assistant conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Click here to learn more about the IU New Music Ensemble:

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