Mizzou New Music Summer Festival: First Impressions

Columbia, Missouri. You may have driven by this small city in the midst of the green rolling hills of central Missouri just off I-70. Perhaps you are a MIZZOU Tigers fan, or maybe you have passed through Columbia on your way down to the Ozarks. There is not much about this location, however, that screams NEW MUSIC, and it may seem an unlikely place to host a vibrant festival with headlining names such as Roger Reynolds or Alarm Will Sound. However, Columbia, Missouri, is now home to a burgeoning new music scene in which the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival plays an important part. This festival, run through the University of Missouri at Columbia and currently in its second year, gives resident composers the opportunity to compose a work for Alarm Will Sound, which will be premiered and recorded during the festival. Resident composers learn from invited guest composers through lessons and lectures. This festival also serves the very important role of presenting new music to the central Missouri community.

resident composers
Resident composers with our new friend the MIZZOU Tiger. Kari Besharse, Yotam Haber, Steven Snowden, Patrick David Clark, Michael-Thomas Foumai, Clint Needham, David Biedenbender

I flew into Columbia, Missouri, on Sunday afternoon and after being taken to the dorms and meeting up with the other resident composers, we were all whisked off to the Sinquefield Reserve, the gorgeous home of Jean and Rex Sinquefield, the generous sponsors of the festival. At their estate, we were treated to an excellent dinner and were then introduced to just about everyone involved in the festival, including Alarm Will Sound, guest performer Susan Narucki, guest composers Roger Reynolds and Anna Clyne, and other interested and involved parties. This evening was a great way to immediately establish connections between the performers and resident composers. Close to the end of the evening, Roger Reynolds and Anna Clyne called for a meeting of the resident composers during which we were invited to voice our “concerns” as composers and to state what we wanted to get out of the festival and the guest composers. I thought this was an interesting concept, and several important ideas which have since become themes of the festival were initiated. It also helped us to immediately begin talking about serious issues and helped to create an atmosphere of close exchange.

stimulating conversation
Stimulating conversation with Roger Reynolds over Lunch on Monday.
Patrick David Clark, Steven Snowden, Roger Reynolds, David Biedenbender, Michael-Thomas Fumai, Clint Needham

It has been extremely hot this week in Missouri, in the upper 90s and very humid. Resident composer Steven Snowden even reported seeing someone frying an egg on the sidewalk outside the Fine Arts Building. So, it is probably a good thing that so much of Monday and Tuesday were spent indoors in a long series of presentations, meetings, and rehearsals. The schedule has been absolutely intense. Monday morning I had the privilege of kicking off the festival by giving a presentation on my music, followed by presentations by five other resident composers. Additionally on Monday, several performers from Alarm Will Sound made a presentation on instrumentation and we also had evening presentations by Anna Clyne and Stefan Freund.

Composers at rest
Just chillin’ outside the dorm. Steven Snowden, Ed Paulsen, Patrick David Clark

Tuesday proved to be similarly busy. The remaining three resident composers presented their music Tuesday morning. Tuesday afternoon, half of the resident composers had their first rehearsal with Alarm Will Sound, while the other half of us had lessons with Roger Reynolds and Anna Clyne. Despite barely having time to catch my breath so far this week, it seems like this level of activity has been great for fostering relationships. I feel like we have already established our own little new music community. I now know some very important things about my fellow-resident composers’ music and have established relationships with them, as well as with Anna, Roger, and several of the members of Alarm Will Sound. Because it has only been two days, there is a lot of time left for these relationships to develop even further.

And finally, a concert.

Tuesday evening, members of Alarm Will Sound presented the first concert of the festival titled “Another World’s Rapture Remix: An Electroacoustic Chamber Recital,” which featured solo performances with and without electronics. All of the pieces were quite virtuosic and were expertly performed by AWS soloists who were obviously enjoying themselves, which made me very happy to be a part of this program.

Composers in the Anheuser-Busch Natural Resource Building
Perusing the collection of stuffed ducks, pheasants, and geese at the Anheuser-Busch Natural Resource Building at UM

2 thoughts on “Mizzou New Music Summer Festival: First Impressions

  1. Clint Needham

    Mizzou is really great! AWS is amazing, Anna & Roger are both terrific and the fellow resident composers are all fantastic people and composers… but, Yotam Haber is the worst roommate EVER!!! He is SO loud when he sleeps and the gas is incredible (I have resorted to camping out at night in the Anheuser-Busch building with the stuffed ducks). Beware if you ever find yourself stuck in a room with him! Bonne nuit from Mizzou!!!

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  2. David Biedenbender

    This festival has been an absolutely incredible experience. Alarm Will Sound’s dedication, precision, and energy has been very inspiring. All of the concerts this week were so engaging, exciting, and diverse, and their attitude toward working with composers is marked with great generosity and patience.

    As you can see from Clint’s post, the resident composers have all gotten to know each other really well. Clint, Yotam, Michael Foumai, and myself all share a dorm suite together, and have had fun coping with the gastro-intestinal repercussions of dorm food, in addition to discovering the amazing collection of stuffed birds in the Anheuser-Busch Natural Resources Building. We came across the bird collection while trying to find a convenient and air-conditioned(!) shortcut on our daily walks in the hot and humid Missouri weather from the dorms to the Fine Arts Building. Kidding aside, all of these experiences have brought us closer together, which, ultimately, has lead to a lot of fun and a lot of good discussions. I consider all of these composers to be my friends.

    I am incredibly grateful for the time I’ve spent here in Missouri. I found the other resident composers’ work to be remarkably diverse and creative, yet beautiful, compelling, and captivating. The discussions, rehearsals, and seminars this week were very intense, enlightening, and heartening. And Alarm Will Sound capped it off with an absolutely breathtaking performance of our work. I owe a big thank you to our mentor composers Roger Reynolds and Anna Clyne and to the festival organizers Stefan Freund, Thomas McKenney, and Billy Lackey for this opportunity and for cultivating a truly supportive, edifying, and unique environment in which to listen, learn, and make music this week. New music is alive and well in Columbia, Missouri!

    Reply

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