New Music Concert

6:30pm on April 27, 2018, Galvin Recital Hall, RCMA, Northwestern University


Program Notes

QOWOOOPO​ by Benjamin Zucker (Northwestern University)

QOWOOOPO takes part of its name from Bennett Foddy’s game QWOP, in which all the limbs of a runner are controlled with multiple keys. Purposefully frustrating and complex, the nuance of independent limb control inspired this piece, where the cellist attempts several gradual circular bows (the Os of the rest of the title) while engaging in various other activities of variable musicality. While perhaps amusing on a surface level, the multiple streams of action require an alternative embodied virtuosity on the part of the performer, and seeks to foreground the assumptions and limits of full-bodied ability inherent to cello playing in the classical music tradition writ large. Struggle is encouraged, as it brings us closer to ourselves and that which we cherish by function.

from the signal​ by Christine Burke (University of Iowa)

from the signal is a piece for two simultaneously existing trios, where Trio 1 is comprised of clarinet, trumpet and percussion, and Trio 2 of violin, viola and ‘cello. The ideas of identity and concealment are central to the piece, as each trio embodies a set of timbral characteristics that are respectively unique but exposed in different ways. Trio 1’s material is an orchestrated amplification/extension of the slow progression of an EBow down the string of an acoustic guitar (played by the percussionist), while Trio 2’s softer sounds explore notions of space and closeness as they relate to pitch. This piece may raise questions about power dynamics, relationships and balance, but is in no way an attempt to make a conclusion about these things. My intent is rather to create a musical situation where listeners are invited to consider the meaning of these ideas for themselves (drawing their own conclusions, or not).

lens flare from Alpha Centauri​ by Joshua Hey (University of Pennsylvania)

lens flare from Alpha Centauri​ is comprised of 5 short movements, each played attacca to form one continuous whole. The title conjures a symbolic web associated with the cinematographic technique as applied to the closest star system to our sun: dislocation, darkness, infinity, cold, the expressivity of distortion, space, light, weightlessness.

Viscosity & Segmentarity​ by Jacob P. Simmons (University of Iowa)

The title of this work was inspired by Arun Saldanha’s ethnography ​Psychedelic White: Goa Trance and the Viscosity of Race​, in which he presents a philosophy of the mechanics of race and social structures that accounts for the complexities of viscosity (the degree of fluidity/non-fluidity of racial/social identity and perception) as well as segmentarity (fixed machinic divisions into binary, but also more complex, social structures). As Saldanha’s text explores the functions of these concepts in social structures, this piece likewise explores the their complexities and interactions within the realm of sound as timbral, harmonic, textural, and gestural structures interact with varying degrees of viscosity and segmentarity.

yunitə​ by Liza Sobel (NorthwesternUniversity)

yunitə was written for the Société de concerts de Montréal and was performed in March 2018 in Montreal. The 2018 Midwest Graduate Consortium performance is the American premiere of yunitə. When composing for such an unusual combination of instruments, I attempted to subvert the stereotypical performing identities associated with each instrument. Instead, I combined the unique timbres of each instrument to create a musical hybridity. The piece begins from a single gesture, the breathing gesture of the tenor saxophone that is continued by the muted circular bowing in the viola. The saxophone and viola’s gesture grows until it morphs into a canon between the viola and marimba on one pitch. The gesture continues to climax to a frenzied loud multiphonic in the saxophone, a heavy scratch sound in the viola and a loud glissando in the E-flat clarinet. The second half begins with a high and quiet melody in the clarinet that is sustained in the instruments. Gradually the melody morphs in range and timbres until the one note canon from earlier in the piece is reintroduced, along with the multiphonics in the saxophone.

About MGMC 2018

The Midwest Graduate Music Consortium was founded over two decades ago to promote collegial among the best emerging researchers from the Midwest and around the country. MGMC is hosted each year in rotation between the University of Chicago, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Northwestern University. Each year the conference is organized and funded from scratch, by a program committee consisting of advanced doctoral students from the host school and representatives from the other schools. For our twenty-first year, we have chosen the theme “Music and Intersectional Thought” to reflect on how music is always produced and heard at the intersections of political and institutional contexts, gender and race identities, and specific cultural and performance traditions.

MGMC 2018 is funded in part by a Catalyst grant from The Graduate School at Northwestern University. This event is co-sponsored by the Buffett Institute for Global Studies, the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, Northwestern’s Gender and Sexuality Studies Colloquium, and Graduate Leadership and Advocacy Council.