posted 2011-05-11 12:00:36

CUNY New Music Festival a Success

CUNY New Music Festival a Success

Second Annual festival featured both musical and visual art


Brandon Hall

Contributing Writer

On May 1, composer and director Amir Shpilman, with support from Grammy-winning pianist Ursula Oppens, Queens College percussion professor Michael Lipsey and renowned composer Jason Eckardt, presented two 90-minute concerts at the Engelman Recital Hall at Baruch College for the second edition of the CUNY New Music Festival.

The pieces exhibited at the festival were selected from a highly competitive field of student and faculty entrants from across the CUNY community, including those from Lehman College, Brooklyn College, Queens College, Hunter College and the CUNY Graduate Center, in addition to the music of established composers Dimitri Terzakis and Eric Lyon.

Members of Brooklyn College’s conTempo ensemble performed Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Refrain, which exemplifies the “Art and Chaos” theme of the festival.

"It's wonderful to have these young virtuosi representing five different CUNY Schools," said Ursula Oppens in a press release.

The festival also included visual art exhibits from Brooklyn College MFA students and faculty. The exhibits were curated by Brooklyn Master of Arts student Sam Farnsworth, who also directs the Repetti Gallery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

Three graduate students represented Hunter College: Ashley Murtha, David Pearson and Thomas Deneuville. Murtha, a Music History major, performed John Chittum’s “Dance of Disillusionment and Despair” on the flute. Her performance utilized aleatory sections and improvisations to continue with the festival’s theme of creating chaos.

Fellow Hunter graduate student Pearson played Dimitri Terzakis’ challenging piece, Der Hölle Nachklang I, on the alto saxophone. Inspired by the composer’s rough childhood in Greece during WWII, the piece’s composition makes fluent use of microtones and draws on the musical tradition of Greece, and the Eastern Mediterranean. Pearson’s beautiful timbre served the expressiveness of the piece admirably, and his command of the highest range on the alto saxophone made for an exciting performance.

Outer Boroughs Songs by Hunter composer Thomas Deneuville made its world premiere at the event. Performed by Hunter alumnus soprano Amanda Hick and guitar player Evan Flath, the cycle is based on D. Nurkse’s poetry. The three poems, set to the music, use New York City’s outer boroughs as frames for both the narrative and the characters. Soprano Amanda Hick brought the poetry to life with ease and spontaneity, and delighted the crowd with a subtle yet powerful voice.

Sounding like a mash-up of opera and indie rock, the musical idiom of Deneuville’s piece had no definite borders. Evan Flath showed remarkable craft on the electric guitar with an attention to sound that is rare among rock musicians.

The second edition of CUNY’s New Music Festival was a success and a wonderful opportunity to showcase the musical talents of CUNY students and faculty members alike, while uniting schools in a collaborative spirit.