The University of Iowa
The University of Iowa News Services Home News Releases UI in the News Subscribe to UI News Contact Us

University of Iowa News Release

April 30, 2004

New Version Of Old Group Plays New Versions Of Old Music May 14

The Duende Trio -- a new version of an old performance group at the University of Iowa School of Music -- will play new versions of some old music on their debut performance, at 8 p.m. Friday, May 14 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The concert will be free and open to the public.

The Duende Trio is made up by horn player Jeffrey Agrell and pianist Evan Mazunik, who have performed several concerts at the UI, plus cellist Gil Selinger. Agrell is on the faculty of the UI School of Music, where Mazunik is a graduate student in the jazz area. Selinger is based in New York.

This group is so new, they have yet to hold their first rehearsal together. Instead, they have been holding what Agrell calls "distance rehearsals," exchanging music and tapes, until they can get together on campus the week of the performance.

Over the past three years, Agrell and Mazunik have collaborated in a unique approach to creating music that includes improvisation not directly based on jazz tradition. They have regularly offered concerts and workshops nationwide in this type of classical improvisation, as well as teaching the Introduction to Improvisation course at UI last semester. A 2002 School of Music grant funded their recent recording of a CD entitled "Repercussions."

"With this recital, we are taking a step farther in several directions," Agrell commented. "First, instead of our own compositions, we have chosen early music from the medieval and Renaissance as sources for musical development. Second, we are adding another voice -- Selinger."

"The addition of a new, contrasting timbre and third voice to the duo opens up significant areas of tonal possibilities. But the greatest attraction of this unique group is the uniting of three improvisers/composers who are blazing new trails in the almost unknown field of modern classical improvisation -- creating complex and fascinating new music from a wide variety of sources extemporaneously."

Agrell also explained the significance of the trio's unusual name. " 'Duende' is a Spanish word that is difficult to translate exactly," he said.

"Included in the feeling of the word in English would be the concepts of magic, inspiration, dark spirit -- as in goblin or elf -- and a kind of chilling charm. The great Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, in a lecture on 'La Teoria y Juego del Duende' (The Theory and Play of Duende) said, 'Duende is a power and not a behavior, it is a struggle and not a concept... It is not a matter of ability, but of real live form; of blood; of ancient culture; of creative action. According to Lorca, duende is the primal inspiration of the creative act, a visceral rather than contemplative experience."

"For its inaugural concert, the Duende Trio will explore new musical territory with this instrumentation, taking early music and transforming it with improvisation and modern sensibilities to experience the old anew. Future programs will use as sources original compositions, jazz tunes, folk music from all over the world, Hispanic and Latin American music, African music and so on."

The Medieval and Renaissance works scheduled to be interpreted by the Duende Trio on the May 14 concert are:
-- "Sol Oritur," an anonymous song from the 13th century;
-- "Santa Maria," an anonymous Spanish solo song from the 13th century;
-- "Bergeronnete" by the 13th-century composer Adam de la Halle;
-- "L'Homme Arme" (The armed man), an anonymous 13th century song that was widely used as the basis for composed music in the late middle ages;
-- the chant "O Euchari" by Hildegarde von Bingen;
-- "Tant ai ame or me convient hair" by Conon de Béthune;
-- "Passamezzo Antico," a bass line that was used for both composition and imporivation in the Renasissance; and
-- "Consonanze Stravaganti" (Extravagant consonance) by the early 16th-century composer Giovanni Macque..

A week after the May 14 concert, the newly formed Duende Trio will record their first CD, based on the same material as the concert program.

In addition to its unique programming, the Duende Trio offers another unusual feature: just as Agrell and Mazunik have offered in concerts the past several years, the trio is capable of realizing complete pieces from information provided on the spot by the audience: note patterns, rhythms, familiar tunes, emotional states, visual images, adjective/noun combinations, and so on. Based on the experience of all three members, Duende will also offer workshops in improvisation for classical musicians, and Agrell indicated they will seek opportunities to perform and give workshops at universities and national and international music festivals.

Jeffrey Agrell joined The University of Iowa School of Music faculty as assistant professor of Horn in 2000 after a 25 year career as associate principal horn with the Lucerne (Switzerland) Symphony Orchestra. He has won awards as both a composer and a writer, with some seventy published articles to his credit and many compositions published, recorded, and performed worldwide on concert stages, at festivals and competitions.

Widely respected as performer, teacher and composer, Agrell has performed and given clinics and lectures at regional, national, and international workshops. Outside of the UI, he is on the faculty of the Asian Youth Orchestra and is a member of the Advisory Council of the International Horn Society. He has also done training in Soundpainting with Walter Thompson and performed with the Walter Thompson Orchestra. Agrell is very interested in creativity in music, frequently giving concerts and workshops as well as recording.

Mazunik's broad experience as a pianist, composer, and improviser includes work with distinguished musicians including Carla Bley, Bob Mintzer, Bobby Shew and Steve Swallow. He i has been a member of the New York City-based Walter Thompson Orchestra since 2002. In 2001, he founded Gamut, Iowa City's first ensemble based on Soundpainting -- a system for conducting an improvised performance pioneered by Thompson's ensemble -- and he continues to serve as the group's artistic director and conductor.

He has written the score for the documentary "Checker King" screened at the 2002 DOCtober Film Fest in Santa Monica, California, and aired on HBO2. He has served as musical director for "In Sarajevo," a musical that received its premiere as part of the 2002 Iowa New Play Festival, and a collaborative production of Charles Mee's "Trojan Women." He is currently completing a master's degree in jazz performance at the UI.

Selinger specializes in improvisation within classical music. He has appeared in concert as a soloist with orchestra, and in chamber music and improvisational settings throughout the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. He has also served as principal cellist of several New York City orchestras.

He recently released a CD together with Walter Thompson and the Modern Chamber Orchestra entitled "Deconstructing Haydn," presenting the Haydn Cello Concerto in A major, in both an original and an improvisational form. Major artists he has worked with include Thompson, Archie Shepp, Richard Davis, Sonny Murray, Marilyn Crispell, Assif Tashar and Mark Feldman. Selinger studied at Ithaca College with post graduate studies at Moscow Conservatory in Russia. He plays a cello made by Richard Tobin in London around 1810 and a bow made by Eugene Sartory in Paris in 1924.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For information on UI arts events, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa on the World Wide Web. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at http://www.uiowa.edu/~music/. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <ur-acr@uiowa.edu>.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072, peter-alexander@uiowa.edu.