Next week I’ll be performing in several concerts for the inaugural season of the New Music on the Bayou Summer Festival. This event will involve numerous composers and performers from throughout the region and across the country, and I’m really looking forward to it! Here’s a brief description of the festival from its website:
The New Music on the Bayou Summer Festival is a chance for contemporary composers to work with professional performers during the rehearsal process and to have their new works performed by professional ensembles and musicians in an intense four-day festival. The festival features concerts at traditional and non-traditional venues. All submissions will be eligible for the Black Bayou Composition Award monetary prize.
Concerts will take place in several different venues, including concert halls on the University of Louisiana-Monroe and Louisiana Tech University campuses, a local art museum, an art crawl, and even a national wildlife refuge! The festival promises to be not only a great venue to hear new music, but also a tour of the area’s many attractions. You can peruse the festival website for more details on the above.
The festival’s organizers, Dr. Mel Mobley and Dr. Gregory Lyons, have done a fantastic job coordinating all of the various elements: composers, performers, venues, rehearsal space, etc. With rehearsals set to begin next Tuesday and the first concert on Wednesday, individual preparation by the musicians is imperative. I personally like the challenge of preparing new and unfamiliar works, and feel that all of the works our group will be performing are high quality (though sometimes quite difficult). Here’s a listing of the composer, title, and instrumentation of the works I’m involved with next week. You can follow the links to each composer’s website for additional information and audio/video samples of their music.
- Mel Mobley, Covering (piano, horn, electric guitar)
- Allen Molineux, Soulful Songs (brass quintet)
- Daniel Farrell, Dante’s Journey (brass quintet)
- Nickitas Demos, Two Tapestries (brass quintet)
Each work presents some unique and rewarding challenges, but here are a few general observations.
- Range/Endurance: New music can sometimes be unreasonable in terms of range and endurance requirements, but the above pieces are actually very playable. They aren’t simplistic by any means, but they do take into account the actual possibilities of the instruments. As a performer, this is much appreciated! Believe it or not, after playing lots of brass trio music brass quintet is a bit easier on the face.
- Rhythm: This has probably been the most challenging (at least for me) in terms of individual preparation. A few of the pieces have lots of mixed/asymmetrical meter, and in past experiences I’ve found that rhythms which seem clear cut during individual practice can become much more difficult to “feel” during ensemble rehearsals.
- Dynamics/Articulation/Timbre Spectrum: As one might expect with new music, composers often want to break away from the traditional sounds of a particular instrument or ensemble. None of these works calls for any unusual or rare extended techniques, but they do make full use of the dynamic and articulation spectrum, as well as multiple timbres (everything from ff flutter tongue to pppp stopped horn).
Other than Covering, which I’ve performed multiple times, all of these pieces are brand new to us, and we look forward to rehearsing them for the composers as well as performing them during the festival. If you are in the area and looking for something to do after Memorial Day, check out one or more of the concerts on the New Music on the Bayou Festival. On a larger note, if you are a performer, consider seeking out and advocating for new music. Working with living composers can give you a fresh perspective as a performer, which will carry over into other areas of your musical career.