Concert #1: Resonate Bodies (Fri. February 18)

5 Feb

"Waver" by Carl Testa and Rachel Bernsen / photo: Taylor Ho Bynum

The first concert in the Hartford New Music Festival includes music about resonance, space, and physicality. This program takes place on February 18 at 7:30pm at The Studio@Billing’s Forge, 563 Broad St, Hartford, CT 06106. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door:

Restless Guitar Sextet: Scott Comanzo, Adrian Knight, Matt Sargent, Thomas Schuttenhelm, Jesse Stanford and Joel Weik

  • crossing/rising for cello, percussion, oboe and saxophone by Matt Sargent

HSA Ensemble: Sheri Brown, saxophone, Charles Huang, oboe, Katie Kennedy, cello, Bill Solomon, percussion

  • Arpeggios for solo guitar by Tom Johnson

Thomas Schuttenhelm, guitar

  • Waver for dancer, electronics and lights by Carl Testa and Rachel Bernsen

Rachel Bernsen, dancer

  • Les sons des guetters for three percussionists by Georges Aperghis

Ludovico Ensemble: Jeffrey Means, Bill Solomon and Nick Tolle, percussion

Artist & Composer Biographies

Georges Aperghis was born in Athens, Greece, on December 23, 1945. His father Achilles, a sculptor, and his mother Irene, a painter, gave him a rich artistic background in post-war Greece and allowed him great freedom, providing the basis for what has become a highly original, independent career as a composer. Mainly self-taught, Aperghis divided his interest between painting and music, which he discovered through radio and the occasional piano lesson from a family friend. In Athens, he knew little about the European avant-garde but he read scores from the repertoire and heard some Schoenberg, Bartók and Stravinsky. The first experiments in musique concrete by Pierre Schaeffer and Pierre Henry came as a revelation. By 1963, he had decided to give up painting and settled in Paris to continue studying music. There, he discovered the world of new music through the Domaine Musical and concerts at the Maison de la Radio. His earliest works; Antistixis, for three string quartets, Anakroussis for seven instruments (1967) and Bis for two orchestras (1968) show the influence both of serialism and of Xenakis’s research. He himself described these pieces as studies; pursuing a need to develop a freer, more personal language, he gravitated towards the work of John Cage and Mauricio Kagel and towards the theatre, which he discovered through his wife, the actress Edith Scob. In 1971, Aperghis composed La tragique histoire du nécromancien Hieronimo et de son miroir, for two women’s voices, speaking and singing, lute and cello. It was his first attempt at music theatre, demonstrating a fascination with the relationship between music, words and the stage, which he continues to explore today. For the Avignon Festival, he composed La tragique histoire… (1971), Vesper (1972),Pandaemonium (1973), and his opera Histoire de loups (1976). Since 1976, he has divided his time between three central passions. After founding the Atelier Théâtre et Musique (ATEM), based in Bagnolet for 15 years, now in Nanterre, he completely changed his approach to composition. He began creating performances that used both actors and musicians; he based works; created gradually in the rehearsal process; on everyday events transported to a poetic, often absurd and satirical world. He treated voice, instrument, movement, text and staging equally, eschewing standard theatrical and orchestral hierarchies. Between La bouteille à la mer, in 1976, and 1990, he worked with the ATEM on some 20 productions, the most recent being Conversations (1985), Enumerations (1988), Jojo (1990) and H, litanie musicale et égalitaire (1992). His second passion lies in developing chamber and orchestral music, vocal and instrumental works, for a wide variety of combinations. He has made an extensive series of pieces for solo instrument, composed for particular performers and often containing theatrical aspects, sometimes simply in the form of movement. His taste for experiment and provocation; for example, in Die Wände haben Ohren for large orchestra (1972); is always apparent but, unlike his music theatre, this work is not specifically theatrical. Everything is determined by the writing. It is rhythmically complex and always full of a vigorous energy that springs from extreme registers, dynamics and virtuosity, and from combinations such as voice and instrument, strings and percussion, sound and noise. His third love, opera, brings together all these concerns, where the words are the vital unifying element and the voice the principal means of expression. Apherghis has written six operas, based on Jules Verne (Pandaemonium, 1973) Diderot (Jacques le fataliste, 1974), Freud (Histoire de loups, 1976), Edgar Allan Poe (Je vous dis que je suis mort, 1978), a letter from Bettina Brentano to Goethe (Liebestod, 1981) and Alain Badiou (L’Echarpe rouge, 1984). He is currently writing his seventh, a version of Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes tropiques. A prolific and unfailingly inventive composer, Aperghis has produced over 100 works, highly personal and unclassifiable, serious but not lacking in humour, following tradition but free of institutional constraints. For interpreters of Aperghis, the composer allows vast horizons of vitality and ease; for audiences, he skillfully reconciles musical experience for the ear and the eye. webpage

Saxophonist Sheri Brown has earned recognition as both a soloist and chamber musician.  She has performed and competed at the Adolphe Sax International Competition, the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, the World Saxophone Congress, and numerous North American Saxophone Alliance regional and national conferences.  In 2006, Miss Brown was the winner of The Hartt School’s wind ensemble concerto competition and a finalist in the North American Saxophone Alliance national classical competition.  She holds a Master of Music in saxophone performance from the Hartt School where she studied with Carrie Koffman and Rob Wilkerson, and a Bachelor of Music Education from Michigan State University where she studied with Joe Lulloff, Eric Lau, and Andrew Speight.  Miss Brown is a founding member of the 016: New Music Ensemble.  She teaches privately in the greater Hartford area.

Scott Comanzo is an unemployed New York projectionist and aspiring monologist who in attempting to travel to Winnipeg was told to stop in Hartford.He’s studied composition principally with Rocky Reuter, Michael Schelle and Robert Carl and is currently the Electronic Studio Fellow at the Hartt School.  He has also studied in New York with electronic composer Douglas Henderson and in Fort Collins, Colorado with IDM artist “Less than One”. Comanzo has won awards and commissions from the Percussive Arts Society and the American Pianists Association. Scott is immersed in modern jazz, electronic music, traditional concert music and the neo-experimental abstruse-garde. He currently has three self produced, self released albums available at CDbaby.com, itunes and other web locations as he is also a multi-instrumental/vocal recording artist and recording/mix engineer. Comanzo is interested in exposing the cracks between this variety of genres, exploring the margins in often unsettling ways.

Tom Johnson, born in Colorado in 1939, received B.A. and M.Mus. degrees from Yale University, and studied composition privately with Morton Feldman. After 15 years in New York, he moved to Paris, where he has lived since 1983. He is considered a minimalist, since he works with simple forms, limited scales, and generally reduced materials, but he proceeds in a more logical way than most minimalists, often using formulas, permutations, and predictable sequences.
Johnson is well known for his operas: The Four Note Opera (1972) continues to be presented in many countries. Riemannoper has been staged more than 20 times in German-speaking countries since its premier in Bremen in 1988. Often played non-operatic works include Bedtime Stories, Rational Melodies, Music and Questions, Counting Duets, Tango, Narayana’s Cows, and Failing: a very difficult piece for solo string bass.
His largest composition, the Bonhoeffer Oratorium, a two-hour work in German for orchestra, chorus, and soloists, with text by the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, was premiered in Maastricht in 1996, and has since been presented in Berlin and New York.
Johnson has also written numerous radio pieces, such as J’entends un choeur (commissioned by Radio France for the Prix Italia, 1993), Music and Questions (also available on an Australian Broadcasting Company CD) and Die Melodiemaschinen, premiered by WDR Radio in Cologne in January 1996. The most recent radio piece is A Time to Listen, premiered by the Irish national radio in 2004.
The principal recordings currently available on CD are the Musique pour 88 (1988) (XI), An Hour for Piano (1971) (Lovely Music), The Chord Catalogue (1986) (XI), Organ and Silence (2000) (Ants), and Kientzy Plays Johnson (2004) (Pogus).
The Voice of New Music, a collection of articles written 1971-1982 for the Village Voice, published by Apollohuis in 1989, is now in the public domain and can be downloaded at http://www.tom.johnson.org. Self-Similar Melodies, a theoretical book in English, was published by Editions 75 in 1996.
Recent projects include Tilework, a series of 14 pieces for solo instruments, published by Editions 75 in 2003, Same or Different, a piece commissioned by the Dutch radio in 2004, and the Combinations for String Quartet, premiered in Berlin on the MärzMusik festival in 2004. As performer he frequently plays his Galileo, a 45-minute piece written for a self-invented percussion instrument.
Johnson received the French national prize in the victoires de la musique in 2001 for Kientzy Loops.

Cellist Katie Kennedy enjoys a varied performing career. She resides in West Hartford CT and performs with the Hartford Symphony and Orchestra New England in New Haven. Recently she has performed on the chamber music series at Trinity College (Hartford), was featured in the premier of Steven Bathory-Peeler’s Chamber Symphony and performed concertos with I Giovanni Solisti and the Connecticut Doctors Orchestra. She is a member of the performer-composer collective the Hartford Sound Alliance and the cello-percussion duo The Uncanny Valley and has solicited and premiered numerous new works. As a member of the Island Chamber Players at the Loomis Chaffee School, she regularly performs standard classical repertoire as well. She is on faculty at Loomis, Bethwood Suzuki School and Community Music School Springfield. This August, she will teach at Music Adventure Chamber Music Program in Siena, Italy.
Katie has spent spent the past four summers performing as a member of the esteemed New Hampshire Music Festival Orchestra. She has performed at Sebago Long Lake Chamber Music Festival, as a soloist with the New Hampshire Bach Festival, at Tanglewood and other summer music festivals. Her performances have been broadcast on NPR Performance Today and Maine Public Radio’s Maine Stage and In Tune by Ten. Katie gave a recital at Smithsonian Institute in D.C. on the collection’s Axelrod Strad cello during a month-long residency in 2000. Her collaborations with singer songwriter Laurent Brondel will be commercially released in 2010.
A graduate of Oberlin College Conservatory with a degree in cello performance, Katie studied with Peter Rejto on a full scholarship and was a featured performer at commencement. She continued her studies at the Liszt Academy in Budapest, Hungary with Csaba Onczay. While living in Europe she performed in Denmark, Germany, Hungary, Sweden and Switzerland. Originally from Maine, Katie has performed concertos with the Bangor Symphony and several other ensembles and was twice grand prize winner of the Bay Chamber Concerts Young Artists Competition. She returns to Maine frequently to perform as has been featured on guest artists recital series at the Portland Conservatory, Trinity Church Portland, University of Maine-Farmington and the Arts Institute of Western Maine. In 2005 she was guest artist in residence in a rural Maine school district and explored various musical idioms and contemporary compositional techniques with students of all grade levels.

The Ludovico Ensemble was founded in 2002 by Nicholas Tolle and currently serves as Ensemble in Residence at the Boston Conservatory. Its mission is to dually promote rarely heard works of the European and American avant-garde as well as to foster the development of new American repertoire for mixed chamber ensemble. The configuration of the group varies as required by the repertoire. Its performances have been enthusiastically received by composers such as Helmut Lachenmann and Jonathan Harvey. The group takes its name from the fictional medical treatment featured in the Anthony Burgess novel and Stanley Kubrick movie “A Clockwork Orange,” in which the protagonist is subjected to a classical conditioning regimen that induces nausea at the sight of violent or exploitative acts, but also, inadvertently, to the music of Beethoven. webpage

Jeffrey Means has been hailed as a musician displaying “outstanding gifts and accomplishments”by the Boston Globe, and as a “sure conductor, his hand seemingly unfazed” by Seen and HeardInternational. Means pursues a parallel career as a conductor and percussionist in the Boston area.He is a ubiquitous presence in Boston’s contemporary music community, and regularly leads the Firebird Ensemble, Ludovico Ensemble, Callithumpian Consort, and Xanthos Ensemble. Means isArtistic Director of Sound Icon, a large ensemble dedicated to contemporary music. As a percussionist,Means has performed with the Boston Philharmonic, Atlantic Symphony, Emmanuel Music, Back BayChorale, and many others. In 2009, Means was one of two conductors selected to study with PierreBoulez in Lucerne, Switzerland. In 2008, Means led the opening concert of the Ditson Festival ofContemporary Music, a four-day festival featuring Boston’s finest new music ensembles. This season,he led the opening concert of Boston’s Celebrating Boulez festival – the program featured Boulez’sseminal Marteau sans Maitre. Means was a fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center in 2005. He holdsa BM and MM from New England Conservatory. At NEC, he received the 2005 John Cage Award ,the 2006 Tourjee Alumni Award, and the 2008 Gunther Schuller Medal. He has recorded for Mode,Albany, New World, and Navona records.

Matt Sargent is a composer, guitarist, and laptop artist based in Hartford, CT. He is a graduate of theHartt School of Music (MM in Music Composition, 2008) and St. Mary’s College of Maryland (BA in Music and English, 2006). His principal composition teachers include Robert CarlIngram MarshallKen Steen, and David Froom. He has also studied classical guitar with Orlando Roman and Andres Hidalgo. His composing grows out of an appreciation of natural resonances, acoustic spaces, field recording, and outdoor listening.  His recent works have involved notating found processes (aural, visual, or structural), generating found processes out of notation, and assembling music from points in between. In addition to the documented spaces and environmental recordings heard in much of his electroacoustic work, these influences also enter his acoustic music in tangible ways: pine sap drops as melodic material in his Soft Song (for solo cello), river stones lightly scraped on wood in his solo percussion work, Riverbed. Matt frequently collaborates with musicians, choreographers, filmmakers, and visual artists. Since 2007, he has directed the Hartford Sound Alliance, a CT-based performer/composer ensemble that presents concerts, installations, improvisations, and workshops at universities and art spaces across New England.  Along with collaborator Bill Solomon, he organized the ensemble’s residency at the Studio at Billings Forge art space, and co-curated the Hartford New Music Festival. In June of 2010, he was in residency at the Goldwell Open Air Museum in the foothills of Death Valley, where he developed manmade mountains + underground river, a six-channel generative sound installation which was presented at the Goldwell site, as well as the Machine Project (Los Angeles, CA) and the Art Factory (Las Vegas, NV) in July 2010.  In early 2010, he completed a tour of his of his concert-length solo percussion work, Ghost Music, performed by percussionist Bill Solomon, which included six performances at art spaces and universities across the East Coast. In the upcoming season, Matt will be a resident artist at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in February 2011, where he will be studying with master artist David Behrman, while creating a new set of sound art pieces based on field recordings and tidal algorithms generated at the Florida site.  In May 2011, he will be returning back to the desert as a composer-in-residence at University of Nevada Las Vegas, where he will be presenting a solo concert of new laptop-based works, as well as a series of lectures and workshops on computer music composition and interactive media. In addition to composing, Matt maintains a busy schedule as a performer and educator. He is an adjunct professor at Capital Community College (Hartford, CT), where he teaches music production technology and music composition, while directing the school’s recording studio and co-curating the Concerts@Capital music series. He is also on the faculty of Hartford Conservatory (recording arts), Hebrew High School of New England (instrumental music), and Middlesex Academy for the Performing Arts (classical guitar). He also regularly performs with singer-songwriter Kat Mulvaneyand the Hartford-based band Sunspots.

Thomas Schuttenhelm is an American composer and guitarist. His compositions can be heard on numerous recordings and have been performed throughout the country and abroad by such artists as: the Adaskin String Trio; the Alturas Duo (guitar and viola); classical guitarists: Eliot Fisk, Jason Vieaux, Alex Walker, Daniel Salazar and the Hartford Festival Orchestra; pianist Paul Bisaccia, the Goldspiel-Provost Classical Guitar Duo, bassist Robert Black from Bang on A Can All-Stars, bassist Volkan Orhon, the Connecticut Trio, and the Connecticut Yankee Chorale. His piano music was featured on the PBS (WGBY- Springfield, WGBH-Boston) special “The Great American Piano.” In addition to composing for some of America’s top soloists and ensembles, he is an experienced performer and scholar. He has performed electric guitar with the FIREWORKS Ensemble, a contemporary music ensemble; collaborated with the Wellspring Dance Company, a performance art company based in New York; toured with Purple Rock Productions, a diverse theater group, performing on guitar and balalaika; and was a composer-performer member of the Boston Public Works Contemporary Music Series held at Harvard University. He has given lectures at Cardiff University (Wales, UK), University of Newcastle (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK), University of Sussex (UK), University of London (UK), and at the Mannheim Hochschule for Music. His publications include “The Selected Letters of Michael Tippett”, published by Faber, and he is the contributing author to an edition on Fernando Sor. He has also authored numerous articles and reviews for the journal Soundboard. In addition, he has contributed to various BBC Radio programs. In 2007 he was the recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship to the U.K. (London). In 2008 he was a British Music Studies fellow at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. He is currently completing a monograph for Cambridge University Press on ‘Meaning and Identity in the Orchestral Music of Michael Tippett’. webpage

Bill Solomon is a Hartford, CT-based percussionist specializing in solo and chamber contemporary classical music performance, mentioned as “a stand out among unfailingly excellent performances” in the Boston Globe.  Performance credits include the solo vibraphone part for Pierre Boulez’s Répons in collaboration with the Lucerne Festival, IRCAM, Ensemble InterContemporain and Mr. Boulez; a member of the ensemble SIGNAL with composers Helmut Lachenmann and Steve Reich, including a fall 2011 tour to Europe; a soundtrack by Philip Glass for the 9/11 documentary “Project Rebirth”; and a sound installation at Yale-Haskins Labs Gallery in collaboration with composer Matt Sargent.  Other performance highlights include June in Buffalo, Sebago-Long Lake Chamber Music Festival, Percussive Arts Soceity International Conference, Bang on a Can Marathon, HOT!Fest NYC, Pixelerations, Hartford Symphony Orchestra, Miami String Quartet, Full Force Dance Theater, Yale Repertory Theatre, Brattleboro Music Center, EXILKABARETT, Luduvico Ensemble, Island Chamber Musicians, as well as recitals at universities and galleries throughout the northeast with cello/percussion duo The Uncanny Valley and the new music collective Hartford Sound Alliance (which he co-directs).  Current and forthcoming recordings can be heard on Mode, EUROArts, Naxos, Capstone, Tzigane and Equilibrium labels.  Bill currently teaches at The Loomis Chaffee School and is a doctoral candidate at The Hartt School where he studies with Benjamin Toth.

Described by the New York Times as “virtuosic” and by the Albany Times-Union as “amazingly skilled,” percussionist/cimbalomist Nick Tolle recently performed the solo cimbalom part in Pierre Boulez’ Repons in Lucerne, Switzerland with the composer conducting. As a percussionist, he has performed with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Nederlands Radio Kamer Philharmonie, the Boston Pops Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Boston Lyric Opera, Collage New Music, Cantata Singers, and is a core member of the Callithumpian Consort. Nicholas is also a founding member of Ensemble XII. In 2009, Nicholas won an Encore Grant from the American Composers Forum. He has attended the Tanglewood Music Center, the Lucerne Festival Academy, the Carnegie Hall Professional Training Workshop, and the Aspen Music Festival. Nicholas has been a guest teacher at the Hochschule fur Musik in Detmold, Germany and the Arnhem (NL) Conservatorium. He attended the Boston, Amsterdam, and New England Conservatories. webpage

Inspired by Don Ross, Alex de Grassi, Preston Reed, Laurence Juber, Michael Manring and the late Michael Hedges, Joel Weik began experimenting with alternate guitar tunings and two-hand fingerstyle techniques in his early teens.  Rarely seen without his instrument, Weik practiced incessantly.  Although he lacked formal training, a daily regimen of listening to and dissecting the songs of his Fingerstyle Guitar Heroes served as his primary tutelage.  Soon, Weik felt restricted playing in conventional guitar tunings such as “Standard” and “Drop D.”  In order to rekindle creativity and inspiration, he would arbitrarily detune his guitar strings.  Then, by forcing himself to “re-learn” the guitar in these newly invented foreign tunings, compositions would arise… Fast forward to 2011; Weik composes and plays lead guitar for the Hartford-based instrumental World Fusion trio String Theorie, which he formed in the summer of 2009 with Berklee Graduate Karl Messerchmidt – bassist, and world percussionist – Jordan Critchley.  Within its first year, the band achieved milestones such as an interview by WNPR’s Where We Live and the completion of a successful self-recorded/produced/mastered 5 track EP.  String Theorie has become virtually a household name in Connecticut, boasting an eclectic venue resume including the Mark Twain House, La Paloma Sabanera, 125 Riverside Drive, WNPR, the Lyceum, Firebox Restaurant, The Studio at Billings Forge, Capitol Community College, The Space, Stella Blues and the Pond House Cafe in Elizabeth Park, to name a few!   Performing relentlessly (twice a week on average since the band’s inception) Weik has continued to compose and innovate. Weik continuously collaborates with local musicians such as Matt Sargent (Sunspots) and Jesse Stanford (Heirlooms), and plays lead guitar for John Parson while also co-writing with singer/songwriter April Street.   2011 will see the release of String Theorie’s full length album of all new original material, as well as Weik’s debut solo fingerstyle guitar album.  For more information on Joel Weik and String Theorie: webpage

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