Empyrean Ensemble: “Rzewski’s ‘Coming Together’”
Sam Nichols, director
Chris Castro: New Work WORLD PREMIERE
Rzewski: Coming Together
with Christian Kiefer, voice
Yu-Hui Chang: Germinate WEST COAST PREMIERE
Sarah Hennies: Growing Block
Reich: Pendulum Music
with Alysa Banks ‘21
About the Program
The title piece of this concert was inspired by the 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility. Composed for a flexible number of collaborative performers, Frederic Rzewski’s Coming Together was written in response to the uprising. Our performance of Coming Together will feature both undergraduate and graduate student instrumentalists, playing alongside the professional musicians of the Empyrean Ensemble. The performance will feature Christian Kiefer (Ph.D. American Literature, UC Davis, ‘06) reciting a text written by Sam Melville that reflects the conditions at Attica during his incarceration there. Kiefer is now director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing at Ashland University, and the author of five novels as well as works of poetry, short fiction, and drama. His latest novel, Phantoms (2019, Liveright/W.W. Norton), was included in the Kirkus Reviews shortlist of the best historical fiction of 2019.
Sarah Hennies’s Growing Block (2019) is also a work for collaborative performers; it asks each musician to curate 14 different sounds. These different sound objects then unfold gradually, as the piece progresses. The composer writes “Growing Block is based on the scientific theory of the same name that theorizes that past and present time exist but future time does not.”
Two recent works on the program are by composers with deep ties to our department. We’re excited to present the West Coast premiere of Yu-Hui Chang’s Germinate. A former UC Davis faculty member, Professor Chang now teaches at Brandeis University. And Chris Castro (Ph.D. Music ’18), a lecturer in the music department here at UC Davis, has written a new piece for clarinet, piano, percussion, and double bass. Castro will perform the double bass part himself, as well as joining the ensemble for several other pieces on the concert.
The program ends with Steve Reich’s Pendulum Music (1968) in a performance staged by Alysa Banks (B.A., human development, with minors in music and sociology ’21), in the lobby of the Pitzer Center. Pendulum Music makes use of multiple microphones swinging, pendulum-style, over loudspeakers. Featuring dramatic squawks of feedback, the piece concludes when the inertia of the swinging microphones naturally come to rest. Sharp rhythms gradually wind down into a sustained drone piece. The composer writes, “If it’s done right, it’s kind of funny.”
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