Category Archives: Steve Dembski

Violinist debut this Friday; Alumni composers return, in photos; An All-Holiday holiday concert

News and Events from the UW-Madison School of Music – November 9, 2015
Soh-Hyun Park Altino, new faculty violinist, performs first Madison concert Nov. 13

Hearing solo Bach in concert is a rare treat, and next Friday, at 8 PM in Mills Hall, Madison will get a chance to do just that when our new assistant professor of violin, Soh-Hyun Park Altino, performs for the first time in town.  Her full program includes J.S. Bach’s Sonata No. 3 in C major for solo violin, Brahm’s second violin sonata, the Romance by Amy Beach, and the Sonata No. 2 by Charles Ives, accompanied by Martha Fischer, professor of piano. While she is a stellar violinist, Prof. Altino is a dedicated teacher, deeply committed to her students. “My greatest joy as a teacher is the up-close witness of the journey that each student takes throughout the course of his or her study,” she said in an interview last summer. “As we discuss and explore countless ways to communicate a story through the sound of a violin, sooner or later students face challenges that would push them beyond the familiar and the manageable. I love seeing my students grow to the point of taking steps of courage and giving generously from their hearts in spite of the difficulties presented in their pieces. The confidence gained by these experiences remains with them for the long haul.”

In an article in Isthmus, Prof. Altino’s former teachers commented on her teaching style. Read it here.

Freshman violinist Lydia Schweitzer in a lesson with Soh-Hyun Park Altino, assistant professor of violin. Photograph by Michael. R. Anderson.
Freshman violinist Lydia Schweitzer in a lesson with Soh-Hyun Park Altino, assistant professor of violin. Photograph by Michael. R. Anderson.

Adult tickets are $12; students of all ages are free. You can buy ahead of time or at the door the night of the show.

Violinist Soh-Hyun Altino rehearses with pianist Martha Fischer at a recent "Music in Performance" class, held every Weds & Fri in Mills Hall.
Violinist Soh-Hyun Altino rehearses with pianist Martha Fischer at a recent “Music in Performance” class, held every Weds & Fri in Mills Hall. “MIP” is a one-credit class that introduces non-majors to classical, jazz, percussion and all kinds of contemporary music. Many older attendees enjoy the class as well.


A “family reunion” feel to Alumni Composers Celebration, Nov. 5-6

Last week’s two-day Alumni Composers Celebration shined a light of our long-standing composition program, reuniting alumni who hadn’t seen each other in decades. It also gave our audience a taste of their unique compositional styles and introduced a lot of contemporary music. Not only did alumni meet with current composition students, they also met with high school students at Memorial and East in Madison.  Separate sessions on marketing and publishing music were held by an alumnus, Bill Rhoads, who is now the vice president of marketing and communications at the Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York City.

The Thursday concert featured alumna Paula Matthusen‘s of whole movements and migrations, a work for oboe, percussion, clarinet, piano, and computer that was premiered in 2013 by the Glass Farm Ensemble at Symphony Space in New York City. Paula writes: “of whole movements and migrations explores the resonance of instruments and how they may be manipulated to create variances in the perception of an acoustic space. Two tam-tams located at the front of stage create reverberations of the acoustical sounds, which are then amplified and fed back into the piano.”

“Numina” by alumnus Kevin Ernste also featured electronics, with flute, viola and harp, and “is an allegory for the authoritative abuses of Rome’s current divine authority, the Vatican,” Ernste writes. Nothing Personal was a premiere, a five-movement work of duos paying homage to composer Bill Rhoads‘ mentors at UW-Madison and elsewhere. In the Zone is a two-movement  work, written by alumnus Andrew Rindfleisch, for brass quintet that recalls Renaissance counterpoint, imitation, and polyphony found in early canzones. Lastly, Enticements (Canons), by alumnus Jeff Stadelman, is a “pre-atonal song for voice and piano from Arnold Schoenberg’s decadent period, featuring a cartoonish cat-and-mouse tale.”

Musicians included the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and many faculty, friends and students. A second concert of new music took place on Friday night with the UW Wind Ensemble.

A “Musical Homecoming” – Review in Isthmus

New music is best heard in person, to more fully appreciate the unusual pairings of instruments and creative sounds emanating from them. In a review of the first night’s concert for the weekly paper Isthmus, Jay Rath wrote: “Music — live music — is always performance art. That’s why we go to concerts, after all. The performers’ movements, their manners —in many ways they satisfy as much as the music. When we go to concerts, we bring our eyes as well as our ears. The UW’s professor Stephen Dembski should be congratulated for helping to organize the composers’ visits. Hopefully, we can look forward to similar events in the future.” Read the review here.

Says Bill Rhoads, of his experience last week: “Returning to Madison… gave me an opportunity to reflect on individuals here at the University who played an important role in my personal and professional development, and who helped chart my trajectory over the past two decades through their support, teaching, and inspiration. Equally inspiring was experiencing the compelling, beautiful, and extremely diverse work of fellow alumni, working with the current music students and faculty at UW, and sharing my music with kids at Memorial High School. It was an experience I will cherish and I hope my presence and contributions during my residency in some small way allowed me to give back to those individuals who were (and are still) responsible in many ways for defining who I am and how I view the world around me.”
Photographs by Katherine Esposito.


Upcoming “Light in the Piazza” play peppered with School of Music student/alumni performers and artistic staff

Alumna Sarah Marty writes: “Four Seasons Theatre is excited to collaborate with Director David Ronis (our visiting opera director, who recently directed UW-Madison’s Marriage of Figaro) on our upcoming production of The Light in the Piazza at The Playhouse at Overture. The show runs from Dec. 4-13.

“Featured in the cast are current UW-Madison School of Music voice students Kenneth Lyons (Fabrizio Naccarelli) and Dennis Gotkowski (ensemble), voice professor Paul Rowe & Cheryl Bensman Rowe (co-artistic directors of the Madison Early Music Festival), and School of Music graduates Tamara Brognano (Margaret Johnson) and Christina Kay (ensemble). School of Music alums Sarah Marty (Producer, FST Producing Artistic Director) and Thomas Kasdorf (Music Director) join David Ronis in leading the production.”


‘Tis the Season for Student Recitals!

Cello, trombone, piano, saxophone, percussion, horn, and many more. Please check our calendar for times and dates. Free concerts.


“It’s a Jolly Holiday” Concert ushers in an-all holiday spirit
Bruce Gladstone and choir.
Bruce Gladstone and choir. Photograph by Michael R. Anderson.

On November 21, at 8 PM in Mills Hall, the UW Chorale will present a concert of holiday music. All kinds!  They’ll celebrate President’s Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Earth Day and so on, with a variety of great music that will leave you wondering why you only think about hearing a choir sing at Christmas. Free concert. Read more.


 

Faculty News

James H. Latimer, Emeritus Professor of Music (1968-1999) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will be granted the distinction of honorary doctor of Humane Letters from Florida A & M University, to be awarded at their December 11, 2015 fall commencement. Read more here.

The School of Music offers a smorgasbord of performances each year; we invite you to visit our website and click on our events calendar. We also publish a season brochure that is mailed every August.


Personalize your calendar view! Click on the “view as” link on the right of our calendar page.

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Meet Filippo Santoro, composer and new music DMA

Before coming to UW-Madison in 2009 as a recipient of a University Fellowship to study composition with Prof. Stephen Dembski, Filippo Santoro studied with renowned Italian composers Luciano Pelosi and Boris Porena and was inspired by teachers Franco Donatoni and Bruno Maderna. A native of Rome, Santoro received a master’s in composition as well as diplomas in piano performance and chamber music from the Conservatory of Santa Cecilia in Rome in 1998 and 2007; holds a master’s degree  in music and semiotics from the University of Bologna (2002); and a master’s degree in composition from the State University of New York, Binghamton (2009).  His work Arioso Mistico for soprano and orchestra was a winner of the 2010 UW-Madison Concerto Competition.

Filippo Santoro
Filippo Santoro

Last week, Filippo received his DMA from UW-Madison, with a dissertation project that included writing a collection of new chamber works that engage nearly every corner of the School of Music.  We asked him to talk a bit about his life, his work, and his plans for the future.

Tell us about your dissertation project.
My dissertation is a collection of five works, one hour of music, that I call Modules. They can be seen as a whole or as independent works.

In these works I explore four different notions of modularity that I refer as “dynamic modularity,” “static modularity,” “interactive modularity,” and “on-stage modularity.” The concept of “dynamic modularity” appears in Per Quattro, my work for flute, clarinet, bassoon and double bass, comprised of sections that performers arrange in a different order each time they perform it. In my two pieces entitled Duplum for two cellos and two percussionists (see video below), I use “static modularity” in that there are also unique sections but these sections are performed in a fixed order that creates the overall form of the piece. “Interactive modularity” appears in Re-mote for solo bassoon and applied technology, in which the order of the sections of the piece is determined by the audience in real time through the aid of interactive web-based technology. Finally, I engage “on-stage modularity” in Cleave, a work for two percussionists, flute, bass clarinet, viola, double bass, trumpet, tuba, harp, mandolin, which combines the concepts of static and dynamic modularity.

What inspired you to become a composer?
Becoming a composer was a slow but natural process for me. I started as a performing pianist and I played a lot of chamber music in Italy. I think I became interested in writing music while I was playing with other musicians.

Tell us about a piece or project you have worked on recently.
I have been fortunate to collaborate with several fantastic performers here in Madison. I have been collaborating with Clocks in Motion, the School of Music alumni percussion ensemble and was one of the first composers to be commissioned by the group. It is beautiful to see how truly devoted they are to performing new music and to promoting new works. The commissioned piece is named Duplum and will be featured on their debut album “Escape Velocity” to be released in June. I also had a terrific experience working with Marc Vallon, professor of bassoon here at UW-Madison. I wrote him a long piece in which the audience participates in the performance through the aid of live technology. I am also writing a work for Kostas Tiliakos, visiting professor of oboe, and I am particularly excited since four other faculty professors will participate in this project.

How do you approach the process of starting or writing a piece?
I like to use a metaphor to describe it: imagine that an architect is commissioned to design a building. A good architect will begin by observing the architectural style of the surrounding buildings, the nature of the soils at the building site, how the space is currently used and the building’s proposed purpose. Similarly, a piece of music always develops from a small idea, like a seed, that you may want to take care of even long before it becomes a piece. I strongly believe that the music I write now reflects a biological process and that it somehow resembles the way plants grow. Sometimes I wait until I feel an urgency to write the piece I have in mind. After that, the most interesting part is the collaboration with the performer in which we determine how to convey musically complicated ideas within the score.

Who have been your influences as a composer and why?
Initially everybody! In my years in Rome at Santa Cecilia Conservatory, I had multiple interests. Of course, late Italian music played a role in my understanding of new music such as that of Berio, Sciarrino, Nono and Maderna. I was lucky to study with teachers who believed that there was no understanding of new music without an understanding of composers like Ravel, Bach and even Monteverdi.

How has your work as a composer influenced other parts of your life or vice versa?
Writing music is what I do and therefore I may have the tendency of seeing and finding music in other parts of my life. I think it is called “professional deformation.”

You are not only a composer but also a composition teacher. What is your approach to teaching composition?
I tailor my approach to the needs of the particular student I’m working with. Regardless of who the student is, however, I believe that clarity and transparency are critical components to teaching composition. This is particularly true for the teaching of young students who are looking for models to begin with. With students who are more advanced, I always think of myself as an active observer, who helps the student to find what he/she is looking for. A renowned Italian teacher, Franco Donatoni, said once that composition cannot be taught and that therefore one should strive only to stimulate in the student an attitude of inventiveness. I embrace this fully and I think that stimulation for a composer often means to search for ideas within the scores of other composers.

What do you see as the most important skills for a composer to have?
I’d say the ability to nurture curiosity in the listener. The role of a composer/artist is always to reveal something beyond what we already know.

What do you want your students to take away?
I want my students to understand, first and foremost, that what they do as composers should express something of who they are as individuals. All the rest should come naturally.

What do you hope to achieve through your music?
Basically, my music reflects the way I see the world, but I hope that it can also reflect and/or enhance the way others see their own.

Why do you think people have difficulty in understanding contemporary music?
This is something that has always sounded paradoxical to me. Understanding contemporary music shouldn’t be more difficult than understanding contemporary painting or architecture. The question for me is how to make new music available to be “explained” in the same way other form of arts are. If more so-called “classical” concerts programmed contemporary works alongside other less recent works, the audience would begin to see contemporary music as the product of a natural musical evolution. Doesn’t that happen to anybody who goes to a museum and walks from one historical island to another? Naturally, this person will begin thinking about connections and relationships between different artistic eras. I think performers and composers have a moral responsibility to encourage such an approach in their audiences. I believe new music should be “by definition” more interesting than any other music since it depicts where we are coming from, who we are in the moment and where we are possibly going in the future.

What are your plans now?
I intend to continue to work with ensembles and performers who are engaged in my music language and I am keen to explore and promote new avenues for composer and audience interaction through technology. Based on the concepts described in my dissertation, I plan to start working on a book that describes the integration of compositional methods and theories of natural systems. I also plan to publish analyses of the late works of Franco Donatoni to further explore the concepts of figura and growth.

 

 

Meet winning “Showcase” composer; violist Goldstein to solo at Carnegie Hall

Meet the mystery composer behind “Poema for Saxophone and Orchestra,” to receive its premiere Feb. 8

We’re happy to finally present Daria Tennikova, the Russian-born composer at the School of Music whose new work will be premiered (with sax soloist Erika Anderson) on February 8, 7 pm in Mills Concert Hall, along with the other winners of the annual concerto competition. This year’s recital has a name, Symphony Showcase, and will be followed by a ticketed reception at at the Memorial Union’s Tripp Commons for all students, parents, faculty, alumni, board members, and the community. Please help us celebrate the fine work of our students and join us for both! Proceeds will help fund student scholarships. Buy your tickets here: http://www.arts.wisc.edu/

Daria Tennikova, the winning composer in this year's concerto competition. Photo by Katherine Esposito.
Daria Tennikova, the winning composer in this year’s concerto competition. Photo by Katherine Esposito.

“Daria’s an unusual woman,” says composition professor Stephen Dembski. “She came up through the Russian conservatory system, and has gradually adapted to the American system while keeping a fierce intensity in her work, which is quite striking.”

Here’s Daria’s bio, from an earlier announcement:

“Daria Mikhailovna Tennikova was born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1989. She began taking composition lessons from Natalia Karsh of the Composers Union of Saint Petersburg, but initially chose to focus on piano rather than pursuing a career in composition, receiving an associate degree in piano performance and pedagogy from St. Petersburg’s Mussorgsky College of Music in 2008. Her work received its first public performance at the college when her “Three Lilies” for soprano and piano was played as part of a final accompaniment exam. Daria moved to the United States in 2009 and began devoting more time to composition. In 2010 she began pursuing a bachelor’s degree in composition at UW-Madison, studying with professors Laura Schwendinger and Stephen Dembski. Poema for Saxophone and Orchestra is Ms. Tennikova’s most recent composition, and her very first work for orchestra. She says, ‘I began thinking about writing a piece for soloist and orchestra last spring. Originally I wanted it to be for a piano soloist, and I wrote the main theme with something “Russian” in mind. Later in the spring of 2013, I heard Erika Anderson play Anthony Caulkins’ saxophone piece at a concert. I was moved by her wonderful performance to write my piece for saxophone soloist. I wanted Erika to play it, so I asked her if she would be interested in collaborating and, being both a wonderful person and a great musician, she agreed to play without even hearing the music! I am very grateful to her for giving my piece a beautiful performance!”

March residency to feature singers and music from Finland

(L to R): Aulikki Eerola, Pertti Eerola, and Eija Jarvela.
(L to R): Aulikki Eerola, Pertti Eerola, and Eija Jarvela.

Three revered Finnish musicians from the faculty of the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland, will be in residency at the School of Music during the first week of March to present master classes, workshops, and discussions on Finnish music education. The week will be capped by a concert at Luther Memorial Church on Saturday, March 8th, at 1 pm. All events are free and open to the public. Read more here.

Clocks in Motion profiled in the Wisconsin State Journal

New work to be premiered this Saturday, Feb. 1

UW-Madison’s newest resident musical ensemble was profiled in last Sunday’s Wisconsin State Journal. “The UW-Madison-based percussion ensemble is breaking ground by reviving rarely performed works, commissioning new music and even inventing its own instruments,” wrote reporter Gayle Worland. “Self-run, ambitious and highly talented, Clocks in Motion is also a group in motion, with a schedule that in the next four months includes seven performances in Madison and a Midwestern tour.  ‘What this group is doing is something that’s quite inspiring, and tremendously unique,’ said UW percussion professor Anthony Di Sanza, who is teaching or has taught each of the young musicians who make up Clocks in Motion.” Read the full story here.

On Sunday at 7:30 pm in Mills Hall, the group will present “Earth and the Great Weather,” a collaborative multi-media performance depicting the Arctic landscapes of Northern Alaska, to include percussion, strings, chorus, digital delay patterns, spoken texts, and pre-recorded nature sounds. The work was composed by John Luther Adams.  Performers will include Chelsie Propst, Sarah Richardson, Cheryl Rowe, and Paul Rowe will comprise the vocal chorus, and Carol Carlson, Max Fisher, Spencer Hobbs, and Mikko Utevsky will serve as the string quartet. Steve Gotcher, audio engineer for Audio for the Arts, will control the complex electronic component of the performance. Matthew Schlomer will conduct.

Alumnus Elias Goldstein to solo at Carnegie Hall

Elias Goldstein and Roxana Pavel
Elias Goldstein and Roxana Pavel

Viola professor Sally Chisholm informs us that her former student Elias Goldstein, a former Collins Fellow, will perform works of Haydn, Mozart, Boccherini, Paganini, and others at a recital on February 19 at Carnegie Hall. He will be accompanied by Ieva Jokubaviciute on piano and Roxana Pavel Goldstein on violin. Goldstein received his DMA in 2011 from the School of Music and is now professor of viola at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.

Pianist Christopher Taylor profiled in Madison Magazine

ChristopherTaylor
Christopher Taylor. Photo by Noah Willman, courtesy Madison Magazine.

Writer Greg Hettsmanberger interviewed UW’s globetrotting pianist Christopher Taylor in a story published in the January issue of Madison Magazine.

What do you tell your students is the most important thing about being a pianist—especially not a professional performer? “I rarely try to boil this craft down to one overriding principle, but obviously I consider it a basic prerequisite for a student to be motivated by love of the art and curiosity about understanding its multifaceted glories. Provided those ingredients are present, then the student will thrive musically, regardless of his or her professional ambitions or prospects,” Taylor answered. Read the full story here. And catch Christopher Taylor in his only Madison appearance this year, performing Prokofieff’s Sonata No. 6 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E flat, as arranged by Franz Liszt, at Mills Hall on February 28, 8 pm.

Tuba prof John Stevens kicks off a pre-retirement semester of concerts

John Stevens
John Stevens

Read about the life of John Stevens in this story by writer Paul Baker, which includes an image of him sporting a tuba at the 1980 Tony Awards. Stevens presents a wide variety of concerts this spring, starting February 11 with a faculty recital. Download the complete schedule here: Spring2014_Stevens_concerts

A Hilldale Award helps a student design an instrument — and a career

Alumnus Jeff Snyder, a 2002 School of Music graduate in composition who studied with Professor Steve Dembski, later earned a doctorate in music composition from Columbia University and is now an Associate Research Scholar of Electronic Music at Princeton University with a CV about two miles long. He teaches courses and seminars in sound art, computer music, and sound synthesis, and advises students on their own research projects that range from computational musicology to human/computer interface design.

Jeff Snyder
Jeff Snyder

While at UW as an undergrad, he received a $3,000 Hilldale Award to further his interest in new tuning systems and create a new instrument using a new type of tuning system.

His story is a another excellent example of how your gifts to UW-Madison and the School of Music specifically have made a large difference in the lives of our students. We asked Jeff to talk about what the Hilldale Award meant to him.

“The grant provided the funds needed to buy both books for my research and the materials for the instrument, and also allowed me some time to focus closely on the project. I ended up producing both an instrument and a research paper, and the work was incredibly important in the formation of my current career.

The "anole," an instrument designed by SOM alumnus Jeff Snyder.
The “anole,” an instrument designed
by SOM alumnus Jeff Snyder.

“The instrument I built was called the Anolé, after the color-changing lizard. I wanted to design a stringed instrument that had removable fretboards so that it could perform music written in multiple tuning systems besides equal temperament. I was strongly influenced by Harry Partch’s “Genesis of a Music,” a classic text in the field which was actually written at UW-Madison in 1947. Since my wood and metal-working skills were lacking at the time, I formed a collaboration with Visual Arts MFA student Don Miller (now an Associate Professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia). This collaboration taught me woodworking skills that have been incredibly useful in my professional life since. The instrument turned out to be very successful, and I used it in performance for the next two years. There were several problems with its design, however, and searching for solutions to these problems eventually led me down the research path I follow to this day.

“The paper I wrote was related to the same research, but focused on the tuning of bar percussion instruments. It was called “Development of a Useful Scale Based on Inharmonic Bar Partials.” The research for the paper was primarily inspired by ideas presented in the book “Tuning, Timbre and Scale,” by William Sethares, a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at UW-Madison, and I am still quite proud of the results. My advisor on the whole project, Professor Dembski, was supportive and insightful from the very beginning all the way through the process, and I am incredibly thankful that he gave me the guidance and encouragement I needed to discover my passion that year.

“After graduating from UW-Madison, I applied for doctoral programs in music momposition. I was accepted into almost all the programs I applied for, and I credit the work under that Hilldale research grant as the primary reason I was accepted. I accepted the offer from Columbia University in New York City, and my advisor there at one point told me that arguing to accept me as a student was easy; after they had listened to my musical examples (and read my research paper as a writing example), he pointed at the photograph of the instrument I had made and said “who else has done anything like that?”. In 2011, I received a doctorate with distinction from Columbia, and my dissertation was essentially a logical continuation of the work I had begun at UW-Madison. My dissertation, titled “An Exploration of an Adaptable Just Intonation System”, includes a chapter called “Early Experimentation”, which discusses the things I learned from building the Anolé.

“Now, in addition to teaching and advising at Princeton, I have a thriving performance career in NYC playing the new instruments I continue to imagine and invent. Without the Hilldale Undergraduate Research Grant at UW-Madison, I would not have had the freedom and resources to start myself on this trajectory when I did, and I may not have found my way to the creative and exciting field I work in today.”

UW-Madison’s fall fund drive, “Share the Wonderful,” is now underway. Your donation matters. Please contribute today!

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