Bringing to light the latest generation’s approach to music, a few courageous folks recently set out to show us all what today’s music is really like and just how expansive it can be. Showcasing over 100 composers from six continents (all age 40 and under), 16 ensembles, and dozens of premieres, the SONiC Festival—which ran October 14-22 in venues all over New York City—brought the sound of the 21st century to life.
Recently, the Center for American Architecture and Design, The School of Architecture, and The Sarah and Ernest Butler School of Music hosted Music in Architecture • Architecture in Music, an international symposium to “explore the connections between architecture and music through research, composition, design, installation, and live performance.” The four-day event featured papers and presentations from an international gathering of artists and scholars, plus a collaborative composition/architecture competition.
Although some two dozen performances had already happened by that point, the official opening concert of the 2011 Ostrava Days—a biennial new music festival in the Czech Republic founded by the Czech-born, U.S.-based composer and conductor Petr Kotik—began with a massive orchestra on the floor, a pair of percussionists on the stage, and disembodied voices intermittently echoing through the hall, a meditation interrupted by brash, ritualistic themes and romantic interludes combined with an unusual pathos, moderating between militance and stillness.
I recently saw two shows in as many nights that were presented by a couple of fantastic arts organizations in Austin: Ballet Austin and the Austin Classical Guitar Society. They both featured something old and something new, though refreshingly (and surprisingly, given that these are not new music groups) there was more of the latter in both shows.
Given the bigness of Texas, and in the interest of giving a sense of what’s going on throughout the region, I’m going to occasionally travel outside of Austin to explore other offerings. Among the heavy hitters in Houston is Musiqa, a new music organization run by professors from Rice and the Moores School at the University of Houston.
Today, the Milwaukee noise scene is a tight-knit community of creative individuals exploring an expansive range of sonic methodologies. Many performers use a table filled with gear or a suitcase packed with electronics as the physical canvas for realizing their music. The diversity of sound sources is impressive.
Today, however, it seems we are all chameleons. Certainly many of the early-career composers I heard last month during the Pharos International Contemporary Music Festival, a generation that has grown up under globalization, with the internet at its fingertips, might be described in this way. Identity, origin, and authenticity have taken on whole new twists in just ten years or so.
Maybe it’s the city’s surplus of heritage, maybe it’s autumnal reminiscence, or maybe it’s just a coincidence, but the start of the season in Boston brought a bumper crop of new music deliberately glancing off older music and/or styles. That’s part and parcel with contemporary music—the past is always present, even if only as something to deliberately ignore—and the new-old juxtaposition is practically orthodox in mainstream classical programming.