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Release: Nov. 17, 2000

UI Center for New Music features music by visiting faculty member Amelia Kaplan Dec. 3

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa Center for New Music will feature the work of Amelia Kaplan, a visiting faculty member in composition and music theory at the UI School of Music, on a free concert at 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

A flexible organization devoted to the presentation of the music of the past 100 years, the Center for New Music (CNM) is directed by David Gompper, a faculty member in the UI School of Music. Part of the new UI Division of Performing Arts, the center supports its own performing ensemble, including both faculty and students of the School of Music.

The program for the Dec. 3 concert will include two of Kaplan’s recent compositions, "Romantique: Six Bagatelles for String Quartet" and "The Tower of Babel" for an ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano.

"Both of these pieces represent experiments with quotation and use of multiple styles of music, but in very different ways, and from different periods," Kaplan said. "The first, ‘Tower of Babel,’ represents my first such attempt, while the string quartet is a more recent work."

"The ‘Tower of Babel’ is my attempt to write a coherent ‘post-modern’ piece. Since the 1970s, the idea of quotation has come into vogue, especially the quotation of popular music or jazz. In my opinion, many of these works are not successful. At the same time, I have always loved the sensation of juxtaposing two very different types of music and having to sort them out or make some sense of the combination.

"I decided to explore the idea of using ‘gestures’ and rhythm, rather than harmony, to define different musical styles. These ‘gestures’ are taken from jazz, rock and roll, 19th-century salon style (Chopin), 20th-century Italian modernism and homophonic chorale-style.

"The title derives from the biblical story of the Tower of Babel, which describes the creation of the different languages -- or musics, in this case -- in the world, and the subsequent inability of the different peoples, or musicians, to understand each other.

" ‘Romantique’ is a set of character pieces for string quartet and uses 19th-century topics, or stylistic principles, with a 20th-century twist, for its characters. These topics include exoticism, the artist as individual, nationalism and so forth. The gestures are all overly large, while the durations of the individual pieces are overly small."

In addition to the two works by Kaplan, on Dec. 3 the CNM will perform "The Viola in My Life III" for viola and piano by Morton Feldman, and "Leo" for a mixed ensemble of 10 players by Roberto Gerhard.

Gerhard was born in 1896 in Valls, Catalonia, where he achieved local recognition in his early 20s. After studying with Schoenberg in Berlin he returned to Barcelona, becoming the leading figure in contemporary music there. With the onset of the Spanish Civil War, Gerhard left to live in Cambridge, England. In exile, he made a living writing incidental music for radio and the theater and his reputation grew throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, leading to commissions for substantial works.

In the early 1960s, he became known in the United States, and he taught at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and Berkshire Music Centre, Tanglewood. At this time, his music began to be published and recorded, coming to the attention of a younger generation of musicians.

Following his death in 1970, his music was neglected until a wave of new recordings and publications appeared in celebration of the centenary of his birth in 1996. This has re-awakened enthusiasm for Gerhard’s music, not least in Spain where, during the Franco regime, his music was officially ignored.

Commissioned by the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College and first performed there in 1969 by the Festival Orchestra, "Leo" (The Lion) was Gerhard's final completed work.

Kaplan received her doctorate in music composition from the University of Chicago, where she also received a master’s degree in composition and in music history and theory. She was the recipient of a Whiting Dissertation Fellowship, which she used to study at the Milan Conservatory in Italy. Her music has been performed in the United States and Europe. She is currently working on pieces for the ensemble Pinotage in Chicago and UI bassoonist Benjamin Coelho.

The CNM was founded in 1966 with a seed grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The center has received the Commendation of Excellence from Broadcast Music, Inc., the world’s largest performing rights organization, and it recently received grants from the Aaron Copland Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts. Today, the Center for New Music is supported by the UI Division of Performing Arts.

In November, 1998, an east-coast tour by the Center included a performance at Merkin Hall in New York City. Critic Paul Griffiths opened his New York Times review of the concert by observing that "an ensemble of faculty and graduate students from the University of Iowa performed strongly Tuesday night," and he praised Gompper for "the concert’s clarity and directness."

Gompper joined the music theory and composition faculty of the UI School of Music in 1991. Gompper has received numerous awards for his academic and musical achievements, including the Charles E. Ives Prize for composition from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters and a Composers Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Recently, Gompper traveled to Thessaloniki, Greece, and the University of Auckland in New Zealand to lecture on current American musical trends in composition. In May, 1999, he performed a concert of his works and lectured at the Moscow Conservatory of Music in Russia. He has also served as a cultural specialist for the U.S. Information Agency in Kwangju, South Korea.

Information on the UI Center for New Music, including complete program notes for Dec. 3 concert, is available on the World Wide Web at http://www.uiowa.edu/~cnm. For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <deborah-thumma@uiowa.edu>.