Blogging ISCM WNMD Days 4 and 5: All Kinds of New Music

The last 24 hours have been another relentless roller coaster ride of music and ideas. Once again, starting at 4 p.m., there were three consecutive concerts. The first was devoted to three new works scored for a Baroque period instrument ensemble—mostly wooden flute, strings, and harpsichord, although Turkish composer Erman Oydemir threw in some brass as well, which created a fascinating cross-century clash in his Music for Baroque Orchestra. Ante Knesaurek’s Four Croquis showed how effective period instruments can be in conveying counterpoint, even if the counterpoint is not based on standard tonal harmonies. But I was totally transported by Hugi Gudmindsson’s utterly surreal Handelusive which twisted Baroque dance forms into very 21st-century sounding music.

At 5:30 p.m., the participants of ISCM WNMD had an opportunity to rock out with a concert of works for electric guitar with or without string quartet. Three guitarists, including one appropriately named Elvis, were on hand to perform works by five different composers. The pieces of Nicolo Colombo and the aforementioned Daniel Matej (in an electric guitar solo dedicated to Elliott Sharp), revelled in distortion, as did I as a listener to it, while Mauricio Pauly weaved the electric guitar into the fabric of the string quartet sonorities contrapuntally. Claude Ledoux’s guitar solo was an hommage to Steve Vai, and Marcel Wierckx added a fascinating video of twisting hands to the performance of his frenetic solo piece. Taiwanese Chiu-Yu Chou was the only composer who wrote for string quartet without electric guitar, but her String Quartet No. 1 was a deeply moving and intellectually provocative sonic experience—strains of the third movement are still running through my brain more than 12 hours and as many pieces later!

The third concert of the night was devoted to jazz big band and featured six works, two by Americans: Randy Bauer’s Wide-Eyed Wonder and Steve Wiest’s Kurt Vonnegut inspired Ice-Nine (one of the soloists even vaguely resembled Vonnegut, but maybe my imagination was starting to get the better of me by that hour). Here’s what the piece sounds like (in a previously recorded performance by an American ensemble).


Ice-Nine by Steve Wiest
Performed by the University of North Texas One O’Clock Lab Band
Steve Wiest, Conductor

I need to rush off now to meet the mayor of Zagreb so there’s not enough time to describe the other pieces just yet, but I did talk to Randy Bauer, who came to Zagreb for the performance, so you can watch him talk a bit more about his music.

This morning at the General Assembly, the president and vice president of ISCM—John Davis from Australia (who also runs the Australian Music Centre) and Peter Swinnen from Belgium—were unanimously re-elected to a second term by the delegates. While they were both deeply moved by everyone’s support, both encouraged others to get more involved in the leadership of the organization.

Following the elections, I went around the room recording brief comments from many of the delegates who are here. Stay tuned for many interesting comments about music scenes on six continents in upcoming installments.

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