The Oberlin Review
<< Front page Arts February 8, 2008

Faculty Composers Showcase New Sounds

The Conservatory’s Contemporary Music Ensemble performed the set from its Winter Term tour in Warner Concert Hall on Friday, Jan. 25. Each piece was for a different instrumentation, and most were composed by Oberlin faculty in the Contemporary Music Division, representing the departments of jazz studies, TIMARA and composition.

Wendall Logan’s Moments was a set of three movements, each creating its own sonic imprint by using various textures and exploiting various elements of the piece’s ensemble. The title was especially appropriate, because of the repeated occurrence of unique musical timbres and gestures that rose and fell.

Moments was followed by Peter Swendsen’s Bright Days of Little Sunlight, which created a “cinematic” musical world by using a combination of live instruments and electronics. This work, along with Tom Lopez’s later work, displayed the finesse of not only Oberlin’s composers, but their willingness and expertise using electronics both here and in unfamiliar venues.

After intermission, world-famous percussionist Steve Schick performed Bone Alphabet, a work by non-Oberlin composer Brian Ferneyhough, a riveting stomp through timbral shifts and changing motifs. Incidentally, Schick performed the work at Oberlin only a few years ago in the same venue as part of a solo concert.

Schick’s showstopper was followed by Lopez’s Immaculata Erotica, which contrasted with earlier pieces in its Experimentalism and almost traditionally dramatic staging. Here the musicians caressed, massaged and otherwise molested their instruments, but despite the lewdness of the piece, it found striking musical moments to present to the audience.

The concert closed with Lewis Nielson’s AXIS (sandman), a focused, rhythmic percussion solo and ensemble piece. Schick once  again took center stage and led the ensemble through the tough, but clearly articulated landscape of the piece.


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