When considering new directions in music education, examining how students are taught is important, but so to is developing ways to reach students who otherwise might not have the opportunity at all. Through El Sistema, hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan musicians have been educated over the past three decades; El Sistema USA is now providing ensemble music lessons to thousands of underserved students throughout the US as well.
For Iron Composer, an aural takeoff on the famed Japanese television cooking show, five finalist composers were each assigned a different form of audience participation as a “secret ingredient” and then were given a studio, an ensemble (a brass trio of double bell trumpet, horn, and trombone), and only five hours to compose a new work.
Born and raised in Austin, Travis Weller came up playing violin and listening to all sorts of music, eventually gravitating to sounds and instruments that were well outside the norm. We’ve talked about composition, performance, and curation, but I’d never taken the time to speak with him about the instruments he builds. To remedy that, we sat down and talked about three of his creations: The Owl, The Skiffs, and The Steel Bells.
The conference is among the old guard of summer composer institutes and will celebrate its 70th anniversary next summer. Headed by Mario Davidovsky for nearly 40 years, the primary goal of the conference is to provide emerging composers with an opportunity to work with some of the best players from New York and Boston and to have their works performed and professionally recorded.
What was most striking about the PARMA Festival was its diversity; diversity within musical styles and event types, its combination of local, national, and international artists, and also its audience, which included a wide variety of locals–even some passersby who happened to see a poster on the street.
Pianist Sarah Cahill’s engaging solo recital last Friday included an advance look at a program of music by Henry Cowell she’s planning to perform at San Quentin State Prison next month. Though nearly all of the Music@Menlo’s programming is traditionally in the Bach/Beethoven/Brahms vein, one concert this year’s stood out for its programming of Nancarrow, Cage, Reich, and other 20th-century composers.
Lou Harrison translated the Mahāyāna Buddhist Heart Sūtra into Esperanto for his choral setting, La Koro Sutro—a universal wisdom in a universal language. And then, paradoxically, he set it in a way that guaranteed that performances would be few, far in between, and heavily dependent on where you were.