Thursday, April 3, 2014

Last Pendulum of the '13-14 School Year (by Nathan Hall)

This coming Wednesday will be the last Pendulum concert of the school year. It promises to be chock full of premieres of new works by our student performers. Though by no means is the last of the performances from CU composers for the year--there are lots of upcoming concerts, independent projects, and preparations going on that keep our students busy year-round, and the fall concerts will be here before you know it!

As this is my last blog post for the Pendulum New Music site before I hand the blogger torch to someone new, I thought I'd take a moment and reflect on the many Pendulum concerts I've heard in my last three years here at CU.

I started off blogging here talking with Cole Ingraham about his use of alternate tuning systems and writing for the saxophone. Cole's music was a great introduction to my colleagues' work while at CU. I really gravitated toward his beautiful multimedia pieces, and he gave excellent presentations about challenging musical topics like micropolyphony and difference tones. I also discovered that there was a lot to learn from his writing styles and his use of technology in his music, which were radically different than my own.

I talked early on about form in music, and electroacoustic music. I went on to interview 18 composers and performers, including Metro State University faculty Leanna Kirchoff and Pendulum director Hsing-ay Hsu. Along the way, CU hosted a John Cage festival, the JACK Quartet came for a residency, and I wrote about writing for the organ. I've heard so many different perspectives about how composers write music, and each perspective is a variation on a need to create new work.

I've noticed a few things about Pendulum concerts over the course of three years. One is the constant striving for better and better performances by the composers. We've come up with more fluid communication between composers, performers, and the faculty that help guide it all. We've seen performers grow from curious students to advocates for contemporary music. I've noticed that composers continue to explore their personal connections to music, whether it be in finding inspiration from the classical era, delving into the depths of the unconscious, revisiting past memories and places, or simply enjoying the sounds that a chamber ensemble can produce.

The Pendulum New Music series is also one of the most forward-thinking new music series I've seen. Not only do we actively think about the works we perform in the larger context of entrepreneurship, but we make sure we present our works to the audience in an accessible way and document the performances well, stream them live (now with multiple camera angles, which blows my mind), and upload the videos to social media. Best of all, we have ample social time after to talk with other composers and performers about what we just heard. I'm delighted to see so many Boulder community members come out to support the concert.

I didn't know what to expect from the musical styles of my colleagues, but surprisingly, it didn't involve as much reference to popular music as I would have thought. There is still a passionate interest in classical forms and acoustic music at CU, along with electronic work, multimedia, and theatrical pieces. Not a whole lot of Yoko Ono-style performance pieces  made their way to the stage either, though we did get a piece involving an actual bicycle, and a piece of mine creating the sounds of a roller coaster...well, there's still time for more out-of-the-box music. You never know what you might hear at a Pendulum concert, and that is quite refreshing.

Wednesday's concert is April 9 at 7:30pm in Grusin Hall, Imig Music Building. Free reception to follow! Thanks all!

-Nathan Hall