Concert Descriptions

Concert 1

8pm Friday, February 16

Alouette 1
Amelia Marzec, composer-performer
Serena Stucke, performer
Alouette 1 is a performance project named for a derelict satellite that originally transmitted information on radio waves in the upper atmosphere. The project uses salvaged technology and instruments, objects, and the human voice to create sustained tone soundscapes and unexpected harmonic relationships. The performers experience hearing loss in daily life. Their perception of noise during the performance will illustrate the precarity of the body and its systems, alongside the vulnerabilities present in the electronics. Alouette 1 explores methods for making music in a dystopian future- what equipment and instruments we will have access to, and in what condition they will be. It uses electronic waste as part of the improvisations, welcoming the sometimes uncertain sounds they produce. It exists outside of the international supply chain, using materials from the local community, and often involving the audience in the performances in order to strengthen relationships and have meaningful moments in an otherwise changing world. It acknowledges singing as a pre-language communication system with a potential for forming connections.

imprint (partial world premiere)
Camila Agosto, composer-performer
Leia Slosberg, flute
Thea Mesirow, cello
imprint is a reflection on human fragility, vulnerability, and raw emotional experiences. It focuses specifically on how we perceive those who do not fit the ideal image that our societal standards have created in this late capitalist environment. The two musicians represent two characters who shed their self-imposed, easy-to-digest packaging, in order to expose their true natures to one another, while exploring the idea that all of our experiences are in some way imprinted on our skin in the way we lead our lives, and in our interactions with others. Throughout the work, the two characters explore extremely fragile and unpredictable sounds that expose the intricate natures of their instruments, while revealing the negative impacts of their experiences on their emotional, psychological, and physical states. Within the work there are elements of subtle theatricality in both the recitation of text by the performers and their physical gestures throughout the piece. The texts explore themes of the precarious and vulnerable nature of relationships that play into our everyday lives and how they impact our psychological welfare. This staging is intentionally designed as a commentary on the way in which people interact in society. Two people, looking at one another, interacting over a brief period of time, without truly seeing the other person.

ruby & the unsounds
Thessia Machado, composer-performer
improvised set for performer, light-sensitive synthesizer, electro-magnetic fields, projection
ruby is a handmade, 3-oscillator synthesizer whose frequencies are modulated by the light levels of a harvested CRT baby monitor (with wireless camera). Adding a harmonic/drone element is a set of voltage-mismatched power supplies and a transformer (the unsounds), whose electromagnetic frequencies are amplified and processed. In a nod to Steve Reich’s pendulum music, letting a microphone swing by the buzzing power supplies provides a simple physical sound-processing technique. Two photocells attached to the screen of the black and white monitor are connected to two of the synth’s oscillators. By dynamically adjusting the brightness, contrast and, thanks to its analog nature, the vertical hold of the monitor, changes in pitch and rhythm are triggered in the synth. A third photocell/oscillator is available for direct stimulation and is mounted on the synth’s case. The set up for the live performance includes a web cam that focuses on the screen of the monitor so the image/sound relationship is projected in the space.

Leah King, composer-performer
Sarah Chien, dancer
mixed__ is a multilayered performance of continually improvised art by a soul vocalist/electronic musician and a contemporary dancer specializing in floorwork. Drawing from their shared experiences as Jewish women of color actively involved in socio-politically reflective work, the two artists create a multisensory live performance uniting sound, visuals, and interactivity inspired by words and reactions from the audience. In real time, the two women explore the parameters of precarity while ultimately finding joy in each other’s expression.

Nesting – BUILD
Terri Hron, composer-performer
Nesting is Terri Hron’s third Bird on a Wire solo project. In 2010, Terri began clearing brush and cleaning a small stand of forest on Île Audet, a small island on a lake in the Appalachian hills of Quebec, in an effort to improve the health and accessibility. As a way to deal with the deadfall and refuse material, she started making nest-like structures in the woods, as invitations for wildlife both real and mythical. In 2013, she invited a number of artists to come and interact with these structures, recording and collecting these activities. Finally in 2016, she collaborated with three choreographers – Lina Cruz, Hannah Fischer and Adam Kinner – to create a set of pieces woven together with the strands and memories that had been collected, bringing the wild life of the forest onto the stage. While there is no narrative, the pieces connect through their roots on the island, each highlighting a different physical and emotional connection to the environment, to our stewardship of it and the inspiration it brings.


Concert 2

7pm Saturday, February 17

d4mn_k!d: intelligence boils down to curiosity
Dorian Wallace, composer-performer
We live in a surveillance state. This particular era began on October 26, 2001 with the Patriot Act, an Act of Congress that was signed into law by President George W. Bush. With its ten-letter acronym (USA PATRIOT), the full title states “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001”. This work is a critical attack on Capitalism and intellectual property, inspired by the writings of left-wing internet activist Aaron Swartz. The work exploits the presence of cell phone surveillance to deliver a message of distrust to “anybody who is listening.” The audience is asked to dial in to a conference call while on speakerphone, and the pianist connects their cell phone through a sound system. The resulting feedback transforms the room and its ambient sounds into an instrument. Everyone with a cell phone is now a participant in a protest directed at those who are listening.

In Nacht und Eis by Olga Neuwirth
Ben Roidl-Ward, bassoon
Isidora Nojkovic, cello
An important work in the admittedly small bassoon and cello repertoire, Olga Neuwirth’s “In Nacht und Eis” is inspired by the plight of the Jewish people during the holocaust, a people whose precarious existence mirrors the precarity of many groups in our time. The inspiration for the piece, which also exists in versions for solo bassoon with tape or ensemble and bassoon and accordion, came from a visit that Neuwirth paid to the Libeskind building at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Constructed in a zig-zag shape, this building features several “voids,” spaces with bare concrete walls and no heat or air conditioning, that disrupt the exhibition. Daniel Libeskind explains the purpose of these spaces as a call to awareness: “Only through acknowledgment of the erasure and void of Jewish life can the history of Berlin and Europe have a human future.” Neuwirth composes this concept of the void into each version of the piece: in the solo and solo/ensemble versions, the tape plays field recordings Neuwirth made in Liebeskind’s voids while the bassoon holds a long, low note. In the version for bassoon and cello the low sustained tones are also present and the cello sound is processed through a ring modulator, creating an ominous and uncomfortable sound.

For the 2018 Conference will research “In Nacht und Eis” further in order to build a reference on the origins and inspiration for the piece for future performers. We will also explore the concept of the “void” as a sonic, structural, and extramusical technique in In Nacht und Eis. Our presentation would include a ten-minute talk on our findings and a performance of the piece.

Age of the Deceased (Six Months in Chicago) by Drew Baker
Bryan Hayslett, cello and voice (NYU Steinhardt)
Gun violence is a major problem in the United States, and greater numbers and coverage of mass shootings has begun to normalize gun violence and desensitize many Americans to the horrible toll this epidemic is taking on the country. With lawmakers who refuse to take action on gun control, many Americans do little more than post their condolences on Facebook after a shooting. Drew Baker’s work Age of the Deceased (Six Months in Chicago) for speaking cellist exposes the ignorance and normalization of gun violence in contemporary American society by focusing on all of the gun deaths in Chicago within a six-month period. The piece reflects the dehumanization of the victims by reciting only their ages rather than their names, just as the victims are reduced to statistics after their deaths. Many of the victims are between 16 and 35, and the musical work mirrors the stark environment in which gun violence is presented. By experiencing society’s devaluing of gun violence victims, the audience feels and understands the gravity of the problem. I propose a performance of this piece, given the current prevalence of gun violence as a social issue in the United States.

Age of the Deceased recites in chronological order the ages of gun violence victims between January and June 2014. Each age is calmly intoned and immediately followed by the cello holding or plucking notes, and the pacing of the recitations is directly proportional to the timeline of the shootings. The piece is constructed in three sections based on three geographic points on the north, south, and west sides of Chicago. The pitches in the cello are derived from the distance of each shooting from the three points; the further a shooting occurs from the point, the higher the pitch and the softer the dynamic level, and closer events are represented as louder and lower. Often, Americans do not feel the effects of gun violence if they are separated by distance. The correlation of pitch and dynamic to location underscores the issue of proximity as a factor of ignorance. Hopefully, this piece will bring renewed awareness and action to the problem of gun violence.

Stress Position by Drew Baker
Marilyn Nonken, piano (NYU Steinhardt)
Stress Position, by Drew Baker, was composed in 2008, the wake of the atrocities at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. All elements of the work are intended to address the topic of torture. The title  refers to a general technique whereby all or most of one’s body weight is directed toward a particular muscle group. There are many possible configurations and the resulting strain can cause grotesque swelling. Throughout the duration of Stress Position, the pianist plays a relentless series of repeated notes at opposite ends of the instrument, which extends the arms for the duration of the work. Each hand is stretched to further extremes, as pitches are slowly added. The pianist is required to gradually increase the dynamic level; when that is no longer possible via human effort, amplification is employed to raise the volume to near-oppressive levels. The final moments of the work are performed in total darkness. The work ends when the performer is overcome.

Stress Position explores the vulnerability of the subject/performer, and the complicated relationship among the suffering and their witnesses. Audience members assume roles that range from listener and critic to accomplice and voyeur.  Stress Position presents an opportunity to consider if musical performance can effectively confront a subject of this moral complexity. It also brings questions music’s efficacy as a medium for communication and commentary. We must consider the extent to which aesthetic pleasure and performance virtuosity dilute or distract from any political “message.”

…and darkness was upon the face of the deep.
Erich Barganier, composer-performer (NYU Steinhardt)
Elizabeth A. Baker, composer-performer
“My Father, How Long?” – A key piece in the repertoire of the Baker-Barganier Duo, “My Father, How Long?” centers on a century-old melody sung by slaves in the American South. The ensemble brings the piece into the 21st century through the use of experimental electronics and extended instrumental techniques to highlight the strife bound within the original work. The piece shifts between the verse and chorus while improvising new sections in between to expand the narrative into the voice of the ensemble and revitalize a powerful song that few remember.

“I Want To Go Home” – Like “My Father, How Long?”, “I Want To Go Home” draws its source melody from a century-old slave song from the American South. The starkness of the original’s text is brought to life using extended mandolin techniques mixed with the unique timbre of the toy piano, while evoking fiddling traditions through unexpected ways.

Kasaysayan Ng Pagdurusa (History of Suffering)
Divino Letada Dayacap, composer-performer
Jon Miguel Acosta, lead guitarist
An educated Filipino, well aware of the country’s history, may argue that oppression has always been a part of Philippine culture. For centuries, before gaining independence from the USA on 1946, the Philippines were always been under some kind of foreign rule. Thus, the country never blossomed a distinct national identity. With the prevalence of foreign culture, Filipinos developed a sense of dread and an inferior outlook on their own culture. Sadly to this day this day, colonial mentality prevails in their subconscious minds. This culture of oppression was sadly inherited by the subsequent local governments that governed the modern Philippine islands. This piece is a 15-20 minute song cycle, similar in vein to popular song cycles and albums, such as Marvin Gaye’s ever relevant political album “What’s Going On (1971)”. Each song is a representation of a time period in Philippine history when landmark events of oppression took place. This encompasses the 16th century conquests of Spain, the revolution against the Spanish, the American occupation, the Japanese occupation in World War II (where much rape and war crimes were committed), Martial Law under Marcos, The oppression of the Muslim communities in the south and the massive prevalence of extra-judicial killings brought by the war on drugs by the current government. This song cycle is a reflection to the most unforgiving histories of the Philippines as seen through the eyes of a Filipino dreamer, travelling in a time machine to acknowledge these horrible atrocities. This piece employs audible sound to transport the listener to these once forgotten realities, in the hope that through the awareness of the precarious sounds of the past, comes a new enlightenment on how to create sounding sanctuaries for the present, regardless of country or nationality.