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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 16, 2004

UI Center For New Music Will Open 2004-05 Season Sept. 26

Works by University of Iowa faculty will share the program with other recent music and two significant works of the 20th century when the UI Center for New Music presents its first concert of the 2004-05 season, at 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 26, in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

The concert will be free and open to the public.

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

Faculty performers on the Sept 26 concert will be Anthony Arnone, cello, and Tamara Thweatt, flute.

The Sept. 26 program reflects the CNM's tradition of presenting both the very new, including many premieres, and 20th-century works that have entered the repertoire as acknowledged masterpieces.

Among the very new on Sept. 26 will be "4 Mod 4" for flute, clarinet, violin and cello by Lawrence Fritts, director of the UI Electronic Music Studios; and "Point of No Return," written in 2003 by Michael Eckert, faculty in the music theory and composition area of the School of Music.

"4 mod 4" treats the four instruments as individual elements that unite in a whole. From the beginning of the piece, open textures created by silence and wide registral spaces allow individual instruments to freely develop their own voices. As the work progresses, the voices begin to compete, becoming more angular and rhythmically non-conforming.

"Point of No Return" is a single movement scored for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion. The title alludes to the absence of literal repetition in the music, and indirectly to the psychological effects of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the crash of the space shuttle Columbia on Feb. 1, 2003. It was written between November 2002 and February 2003 in fulfillment of a project funded by a University of Iowa Arts and Humanities Initiative.

The program will also include the premiere of "My End is Dissolution" for chamber orchestra by Andrew Struck-Marcell, a UI undergraduate student in music and psychology. A student of Gompper and Fritts, Struck-Marcell has composed music for theater and dance, and his works have been performed at the Florida Electroacoustic Music Festival and the Midwest Composers Symposium.

The other new piece on the program will be the Sonatina for saxophone and piano by John MacDonald, professor of music at Tufts University. Inspired by images gleaned from the extraordinary work of physicist Stephen W. Hawking, the Sonatina, subtitled "Big Crunch," was commissioned by Tufts to celebrate Hawking's appearance on campus in the autumn of 1999. Composed in three interconnected movements, the Sonatina progresses from a volatile, explosive opening to a brief musical representation of "the uncertainty principle." It closes with an imagined "singularity at the end of the universe" -- a "big crunch."

George Crumb was among the most influential and recognized American composers after World War II, known for his meticulous notation, delicate timbral effects and atmospheric musical compositions. His "Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale)" for flute, cello and piano, composed in 1971, became quite well known for both its source of inspiration and its unorthodox performance requirements.

The composer explained, "The work was inspired by the singing of the humpback whale, a tape recording of which I had heard two or three years previously. Each of the three performers is required to wear a black half-mask (or visor-mask). The masks, by effacing the sense of human projection, are intended to represent, symbolically, the powerful impersonal forces of nature (i.e. nature dehumanized)."

The oldest of the 20th-century works will close the CNM program: "Integrales" by Edgar Varese, composed in 1925. Written for an 11-player ensemble that extends from two piccolos to contra-bass trombone, plus a four-person percussion battery, "Intergrales" illustrates the characteristics that made Varese influential in the early 20th century. His extensive use of percussion, his emphasis on pure sound rather than traditional melodic and harmonic elements, and his use of sound blocks that are juxtaposed and varied in surprising ways were pioneering approaches that later became common compositional techniques

The Center for New Music was founded in 1966 with a seed grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The center promotes the performance of new music by providing a core group of specialists in contemporary performance techniques. Its programming has included world premieres as well as acknowledged contemporary masterworks.

In November, 1998, an east-coast tour by the Center included a performance at Merkin Hall in New York City and by invitation at the final performance of the Region I Conference of Society of Composers, Inc., at Connecticut College in New London. Critic Paul Griffiths opened his New York Times review of the Merkin Hall 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."

In 1986 the center 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.

Gompper joined the music theory and composition faculty of the UI School of Music in 1991. He 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.

Gompper has 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 United States Information Agency in Kwangju, South Korea.

Lawrence Fritts has been director of the Electronic Music Studios at the UI School of Music since 1995. He has composed for a wide variety of electronic and computer media, including concrete tape, instruments and tape, voltage-controlled and MIDI-controlled analog and digital synthesizers, and digitally processed instruments. His recent works for tape and instruments utilize real-time computer sound transformation technology. His music has been performed at festivals and conferences in the U.S. and broadcast in the U.S., Canada, South America and Europe.

Eckert has taught music theory, counterpoint, and composition at the UI School of Music since 1985. His awards for composition include the Bearns Prize from Columbia University, a Charles E. Ives Scholarship from the National Institute of Arts and Letters, an NEA fellowship and the Music Teachers National Association Distinguished Composer of the Year Award. He is also active as a scholar, having published analytical articles on the music of Johnannes Ockeghem and Luigi Dallapiccola.

The School of Music and the Center for New Music are 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.