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July 22, 2010 Volume 31, No. 4

Summer sounds

Stephan Feund

Stefan Freund, associate professor of music, composes for and plays cello with Alarm Will Sound, a 20-piece ensemble that performs nationally and internationally and highlighted the Mizzou New Music Summer Festival July 12 to 18. Freund and Tom McKenney, professor of music, spent hours listening to recordings submitted by 120 young composers from several countries to select the festival’s eight resident composers. Rob Hill photo

Emerging music

International field of new composers forge fresh sounds for music festival

Take this as sound advice. You could hear the history of music being made at the inaugural Mizzou New Music Summer Festival, an event that promises to position Columbia and MU as a center for new compositions.

Ten world premieres highlighted the weeklong festival, July 12 through 18, presented by the MU School of Music and the Missouri Symphony Society. Four concerts featured innovative artistry and the scores of emerging and established composers.

Audiences heard how music is gravitating toward blends of jazz, pop, rock, world and modern styles. They can watch and listen as rising-star composers finish new works under the guidance of distinguished composers and during rehearsals.

“We expect this festival to become one of the elite programs in the country,” says Robert Shay, director of the School of Music. “It will be a dynamic environment, something special for Mizzou and Columbia.” Established new-music festivals are held annually at the University at Buffalo in New York, the University of Cincinnati and other locations.

Festival planning began in earnest when a field of 120 young composers from several countries submitted music samples — three original scores and recordings — to win spots as resident composers. The chosen eight composers then began writing new scores for a large ensemble.

After a week of fine-tuning at Mizzou, those pieces made their premieres at the July 18 performance by Alarm Will Sound, an ensemble internationally known for innovative recordings.

MU’s link to Alarm Will Sound is Stefan Freund, associate professor of music, who composes for and plays cello with the 20-piece ensemble that performs nationally and internationally for appreciative audiences. A New York Times reviewer says the ensemble is “the future of classical music” and “as close to being a rock band as a chamber orchestra can be.”

 “This is the type of music that can bridge the gap between people who listen to rock and those who listen to classical music,” MU music Professor Tom McKenney says of the featured festival compositions.

McKenney and Freund, who teach MU music theory and composition classes, selected the resident composers after reviewing submitted music scores and recordings for hours.  

“The winners jumped out at us with fresh ideas,” Freund says. “What they were doing was very interesting to listen to. There are eight very different styles and an eclectic collection of music.”

Each will receive private lessons and mentoring from distinguished composers Martin Bresnick, a member of the music faculty at Yale University, and Grammy-nominated Derek Bermel, composer in residence of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.

Quite possibly, the two area residents who enjoyed this festival the most are music patrons Jeanne and Rex Sinquefield, whose charitable foundation supports the program and the Mizzou New Music Initiative.