This past weekend PARMA had the opportunity to attend the Society of Composers Inc. Region III Conference at Christopher Newport University. A&R Representatives Mike Juozokas and Jonathan Upchurch attended the conference, which included two days of performances and paper sessions, all held at the University’s Ferguson Center for the Arts.
PARMA artists Alejandro Rutty, Paul Osterfield, Bruce Mahin, Judith Shatin and James Paul Sain, and PARMA Advisor Richard Brooks were among those with works on the weekend’s program.
Bruce Mahin’s piece Of Mice and Men captures the feelings of unease and paranoia experienced by a homeowner with a rodent problem. The vibraphone part—played by Brian Peters at the conference—is echoed by a semi-intelligent synthesizer capable of following and imitating the performers every move. After failing to outwit the computer, the vibraphone eventually aligns with the synth, perhaps representing the development of a “live and let live” attitude between mouse and human.
Piano Sonata No. 1: “volant” by James Paul Sain is an exploration of jazz-inspired harmonies written in three movements, each with its own distinct identity and feel borrowed from traditional jazz forms and styles. The opening movement, “blues,” transitions into a beautiful second movement, “song,” which calls to mind the phrasing and sensitivity of Billie Holiday or Dinah Washington. The piece culminates with “swing,” an exciting, up-tempo boogie-woogie constructed around a descending blues riff.
Paul Osterfield’s saxophone quartet ?! (Interrobang) was written in Fall 2008. The piece’s mood shifts constantly between calm curiosity and unrestrained excitement, offering a sectional highlight for each member of the quartet—a perfect match for the piece’s unusual title. ?! ends abruptly and unexpectedly, helping to further affirm the impression of a musical interrobang.
The final concert of the weekend opened with Rotunda, a collaboration between sound artist Judith Shatin and filmmaker Robert Arnold. The film was assembled from a collection of 300,000 stills taken over the course of a year by a camera placed outside of Shatin’s University of Virginia office. The central focus of these photos is the University’s Jeffersonian rotunda and the surrounding lawns. Rotunda opens in the spring, at dawn and moves steadily toward evening and winter, with the changing of the seasons all compressed into a single day. Shatin’s score develops in concert with the quickly passing year and serves to highlight both the ever-present dome, as well as the spectacular visual effect of weather on fast-forward.
American Elegy by Richard Brooks is a piece for string orchestra written by the composer in the year after the September 11th terrorists attacks. “American the Beautiful” is the instantly recognizable backbone of Brook’s piece, with bits and pieces of the melody appearing throughout. While Brooks was at first hesitant to employ the well known melody, its presences helps to establish a strong sense of reverie and nostalgia.
The conference concluded with the CNU Wind Ensemble’s performance of Alejandro Rutty’s Las Vegas Raga Machine. This piece is based on an earlier song that Rutty wrote for a South American folk group in 1995. Rutty took the group’s recording, looped specific sections and applied various other computer-generated effects, which he later transcribed and recomposed for orchestra. Las Vegas Raga Machine draws its inspiration from a wide range of musical styles and compositional techniques and was the perfect cap to impressive variety of music performed over the course of the weekend.
PARMA would like to thank the Society of Composers, Inc. and all the involved composers and performers for the excellent new music on the conference’s four concerts.
We would also like to extend a special thanks to Professors Christopher Cook and Mark Reimer, along with all their students, for the hard work they put into hosting the conference. The CNU orchestra, choir, wind ensemble and student soloists did an outstanding job with all the composers’ music.
For more information about SCI and upcoming conferences, visit their website at www.societyofcomposers.org
Navona and Ravello Records releases featuring SCI, Alejandro Rutty, Richard Brooks, Judith Shatin, and Paul Osterfield