future music oregon

Future Music Oregon: triangle of artistry

University of Oregon's music technology program shows that instruments aren't the only evolving aspect of music -- so is the composer's role

 by DANIEL HEILA

At first glance, the stage at the University of Oregon’s Thelma Schnitzer Hall looks like any other chamber music recital. A violinist and pianist sit/stand ready to perform Neil Rolnick’s Deal with the Devil. Look closer, though and you’ll see controllers (devices that trigger sound generators) mounted on violinist Jennifer Choi’s violin, resting on her music stand, and at her feet. New York new music star (and Portland native) Kathleen Supové’s piano is wired for treatment, as well. The composer is also on stage, facing a bank of mixers, black boxes, and a laptop.

Neil Rolnick’s Deal with the Devil starts out a lightly swung, jazzy duo with minimal electronic elements, but it swells into an expansive sonic canvas of interchange and interaction between acoustic instruments, their affected sound, and modulated sound samples. It is powerful, engaging music. Ten minutes in, however, I ask myself, “Why is the composer on stage?”

As the instrumentalists dig in to their virtuosity, a warped string orchestra of electroacoustic sounds emerges: a whorling cacophony that whips around the hall’s eight-channel speaker system, causing heads to swivel. In contrast, Rolnick’s performance is mundane. He pushes faders, twists knobs, wiggles his mouse, and peers at the laptop. He makes intermittent, quasi-conducting motions, without ensemble eye contact. Put simply, he appears out of place. Next to the impassioned gestures of the musicians, his presence is a distraction.

Jennifer Choi, Kathleen Supové, and Neil Rolnick perform Rolnick’s ‘Deal with the Devil’ at Future Music Oregon’s fall quarterly concert on November 17, 2018. Photo: Daniel Heila.

Nonetheless, with its crowd-pleasing, whiz-bang ending, the piece is a success. But my question remains: Why is the composer on stage? Luckily, I find answers in the program’s remaining pieces and during a later interview with longtime FMO director Jeffrey Stolet.

Continues…

A China-Oregon connection: UO’s Jeffrey Stolet bridges the Pacific through music

Electroacoustic concert enriched by cross-cultural influences concludes an intensive University of Oregon workshop for visiting Chinese composers

by GARY FERRINGTON

It is a long journey from Beijing to Eugene, but each July for the past eight years, a cadre of Chinese conservatory students and faculty has been making the 5,000-mile trip to participate in the University of Oregon’s Summer Academy for Computer Music directed by Dr. Jeffrey Stolet, professor of music and head of Future Music Oregon.

Jeffrey Stolet and assistant Chi Wang with Summer Academy students.
Photo: FMO/symbolic sound 2012.

On July 29, the 2017 Summer Academy will culminate in a final concert of new music influenced by the crossing of a cultural bridge between China and Oregon. For some listeners, with an ear tuned to traditional instrumental music, the experience of hearing a soundscape of acoustic effects and driving rhythmic patterns from suspended speakers around the concert hall may seem unfamiliar, distant, and sometimes unsettling. Yet an attentive ear will hear electroacoustic performances rich in compositional practice and musical forms.

The music will be forged in an intensive two week workshop involving Chinese and Oregon student and faculty musicians, a continuing collaboration almost a decade in the making.

Continues…