‘One Breath’: NIU New Music Festival begins Nov. 3

NIU New Music Festival posterThe fifth NIU New Music Festival offers something for everyone.

This year features guest artist ensemble the nief-norf Project, founded by NIU alumni Andy Bliss (2004) and Kerry O’Brien (2006).

They are joined by incredibly talented colleague ensemble members Erin Walker Bliss, percussion; Ashley Walters, cello; and Christopher Adler, piano and composition.

Adler’s music will feature prominently in each of the concerts throughout the festival, alongside masterworks by Steve Reich and a host of other remarkable works.

The nief-norf Project is a contemporary music ensemble that is devoted to performing, studying and commissioning imaginative and adventurous musical works.

Its members offer a tireless commitment to contemporary music performance and its surrounding scholarship, creation, and presentation. The ensemble embraces the unknown and pursues the improbable, always searching for opportunities to expand and grow musical thought.

On each day of their visit, all five members will be available to meet with NIU students to discuss music performance, composition and/or career-related topics.

Three concerts will be presented nightly from Tuesday, Nov. 4, through Thursday, Nov. 6, in the NIU School of Music’s Boutell Memorial Concert Hall. In addition, a host of masterclasses, lectures, convocations and one-to-one visits with guest artists make up this year’s festival events.

Performers and audiences will enjoy multiple opportunities to celebrate the richness and diversity of contemporary music making while students and the community have the opportunity to interact closely with successful NIU alumni and other notable guest artists in performances of extraordinary music.

Christopher Adler
Christopher Adler

All concerts and related events are free and open to the public.

  • At 10 a.m. Monday, Nov. 3, Adler will offer a lecture in Room 202 of the Music Building on his involvement with Southeast Asian musical performance practice and its effect on his own compositions.
  • At 11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, Walters will present a cello masterclass and new music workshop for members of the NIU cello and composition studios in the Recital Hall of the Music Building.
  • At 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 4, the first festival concert presents Reich’s “Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices, and Organ” (1973), “Piano Phase” (1967) – in a version for solo harp – and his more recent “Double Sextet” (2008), both performed by the NIU New Music Ensemble. Classical saxophone instructor Jessica Maxfield will present Jacob ter Veldhuis’ “The Garden of Love” (2001). Adler’s percussion quintet, “Pines Long Slept in Sunshine” (2009) rounds out the program.
  • O’Brien, a noted scholar on Reich’s music, will present a lecture titled “Machine Fantasies into Human Events” on Reich’s work with technology in the 1970s. The talk begins at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, in Room 202 of the Music Building.
  • At 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, the nief-norf Project will take the Boutell stage to perform music by a host of young voices, including Icelandic composer Anna Thorvaldsdottir and America composers Nicholas Deyoe, John Supko, Evan Ziporyn and, of course, Adler.
  • At 11 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, Bliss and Adler will offer an all-school convocation in the Boutell that will include a short performance of Adler’s solo percussion music and a discussion of entrepreneurship in the arts.
  • The final concert begins at 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 6, and will feature a short solo work for toy piano/percussion by David Lang; an original composition by NIU bassist/composer Wesley Morgan, presented alongside a guitar/bass/drum trio by Brooklyn’s Dawn of MIDI; Adler’s homage to Terry Riley, “Ecstatic Volutions in a Neon Haze” (2005); and Reich’s undisputed masterwork, “Music for 18 Musicians” (1974-6).

“The breath is the measure of the duration of their pulsing,” Reich said of his landmark composition. “This combination of one breath after another gradually washing up like waves against the constant rhythm of the pianos and mallet instruments is something I have not heard before and would like to investigate further.”

For more information, contact Gregory Beyer at (815) 753-7981 or gbeyer@niu.edu.

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