We’ve announced this before, but here’s a reminder: Our annual concerto winners solo recital (a/k/a “Symphony Showcase”) takes place at 7:30 PM on March 18 in Mills Hall.
Our 2018 winners are Kaleigh Acord, violin (Beethoven, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D major, first movement); Aaron Gochberg, percussion (Keiko Abe, Prism Rhapsody); Eleni Katz, bassoon (Mozart, Bassoon Concerto in B flat major); Eric Tran, piano (Bach, Concerto No. 4 in A Major); and Mengmeng Wang, composer (premiere: “Blooming”).
Tickets are only $10 for adults, free to students, and there’s a free reception after the show in Mills Hall. Buy tickets here or at the door.
Meet Satoko Hayami, graduate pianist
Satoko, a doctoral student in Professor Martha Fischer‘s studio, is a member of Sound Out Loud, a recent winner of The American Prize. Here’s an excerpt from our recent Q&A with Satoko:
“The idea of starting a contemporary chamber music ensemble came to me in searching for ways to better connect with more diverse audiences. I felt that the diverse musical language in contemporary repertoire might have as much or even more potential to be relevant to the different kinds of audiences including young people and non-classical music fans than older repertoire, if presented in appropriate ways. I wanted to team up with people who are open to different, sometimes unconventional ways to present music, and was lucky to find people who share the similar interests, openness and enthusiasm right away.”
Emeritus Professor of Percussion James Latimer won aLifetime Achievement Award at annual Wisconsin Days of Percussion event, January 27, 2018 in Milwaukee. While at UW-Madison, Latimer spearheaded a Duke Ellington Festival, started the Madison Marimba Quartet, initiated the first of 300 Young Audience Concerts held in public schools from 1969 to 1984, and hosted the Wisconsin Percussive Arts Society “Days of Percussion.”
Shain Woodwind/Piano Duo winners concert
3:30 pm, Sunday, March 4, Morphy Hall
A competition and recital sponsored by former UW-Madison Chancellor Irving Shain
Winners were announced on Tuesday, February 27. They include: Juliana Mesa-Jaramillo, bassoon and Satoko Hayami, piano; Anna Fisher-Roberts, flute and Eric Tran, piano.
“University Opera’s “La Bohème” proves a complete success on all counts – from the staging and the costumes to the singing and the orchestra” Larry Wells,The Well-Tempered Ear, Feb. 27.
“Ronis’ able hand was evident in the players’ acting. The cast was consistently believable, and consequently I was drawn into their world and suffered along with their despair over love’s inconsistencies and death’s sting. Using my acid test for a performance’s success, I never glanced at my watch either night. I was fully engaged.
“The orchestra was a marvel. Conductor Chad Hutchinson let it soar when it was appropriate, but the orchestra never overshadowed the singers. In fact, the key term that kept occurring to me both evenings was balance. The acting, the back-and-forth between the singers, and the interplay between the orchestra and the singers were consistently evenhanded.
“As for the singers, the primary roles were double cast. Friday’s Mimi was Shaddai Solidum whose first aria “Mi chiamano Mimi” was a lesson in the mastery of legato. Saturday’s Mimi was Yanzelmalee Rivera who possesses a bell-like voice of remarkable agility.”
University Opera Offers a Gem in a Bejewelled Setting
Greg Hettsmanberger, What Greg Says, 2.27.18
“Again we have been given much to look forward to; certainly it is unrealistic to see University Opera in Shannon Hall every season, but we can hope that it becomes a semi-regular occurrence. The greater lesson from Sunday’s performance however is this: wherever Ronis and his “kids” show up, the audience is in store for some memorable opera. The national awards and recognition that the program are consistently earning are richly deserved, and our town is clearly the richer for what these folks are giving us.”
“It was that combination of vision, leadership and expertise as a pianist and composer that quickly pushed him to the top of UW–Madison’s list of candidates for director of jazz studies. During [Director of Jazz Studies Johannes] Wallmann’s first year of teaching here, in 2012-2013, he sought out and performed with many local jazz musicians as a means of building relationships and moving the music program forward.
“In less than five years, Wallmann took the Jazz Studies undergraduate program from zero enrollees to 17. It’s an important part of the efforts to revitalize Madison’s jazz community.”
The American Prize first-place vocal winner coming to Madison on March 19 & 20
Vocalist Kristina Bachrach, recent winner of The American Prize in Vocal Performance and the Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Award, will perform a concert on March 20 at 7:00 PM in Music Hall. Accompanied by faculty pianist Daniel Fung, she’ll sing selections from “The Recovered Voices Initiative,” started by James Conlon and Los Angeles Opera, which focuses on musical works and musicians that were either suppressed or killed by the Nazi regime in World War II.
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. To receive the brochure, please send your postal address to newsletter editor..
Our calendar is brimming with free student recitals, and the public is always welcome. Just click our calendar link and type “recital” in the search box for November and December. Bottom: Poster for senior Eleni Katz’s bassoon recital with pianist Kangwoo Jin, Friday, November 3 at 6:30 PM in Morphy Hall.
Steve Miller jets into Mills Hall
Our recent “Careers in Music” session with rocker Steve Miller – who also guest conducted the UW Marching Band at the Homecoming game on October 21 – drew about 40 young engaged music students, a few old-timers, and a few young wannabe rock stars, too. Miller described his unique path to stardom – starting in his parents’ Milwaukee living room visiting with famed guitarist and family friend Les Paul – fielded questions about music streaming, and exhorted students to be independent and to own their own work.
Steve Miller with UW Marching Band conductor Mike Leckrone. All photographs by UW Communications.
Steve Miller addresses student in Mills Hall, October 20, 2017.
Praise for performances
Recent productions of the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra, UW Strings with David Kim, University Opera’s “Kurt Weill” Cabaret, and the Pro Arte Quartet & Wingra Wind Quintet collaboration each garnered enthusiasm from local writers. Scroll down to read excerpts and click on full reviews.
New faculty conductor Chad Hutchinson makes an impressive and promising debut with the UW-Madison Symphony Orchestra. “The ambitious program that Hutchinson put together says a lot about his priorities and instincts, and about his confidence in himself and the abilities of his student players, who performed superbly.” Read the review in The Well-Tempered Ear, a classical music blog.
David Kim Bares His Heart and Soul (Musically and Otherwise). “The UW players exhibited tremendous alertness and shading of phrasing. Principal cellist James Waldo had numerous passages of delicate interplay with Kim, and particularly in the “Spring” concerto, first-chair first and second violinists Kaleigh Acord and Thalia Coombs respectively, also flourished in some brief spotlight moments.” We thank the UW-Madison Anonymous Fund for supporting Philadelphia Orchestra concertmaster David Kim’s visit. Read the review in What Greg Says, a classical music blog.
University Opera stages “compelling and engaging” production of Kurt Weill songs. “Throughout the evening I was unaware of the passage of time, which is one of my acid tests for a good performance. Likewise, I felt fully engaged.” Read the review on The Well-Tempered Ear.
The UW Pro Arte Quartet and Wingra Wind Quintet prove exceptional partners in a joint all-Schubert concert. They performed Schubert’s Octet with faculty bassist David Scholl. Faculty flutist Timothy Hagen opened the program with variations for flute and piano, D. 802, on Schubert’s song, Trockne Blumen.Read the review on The Well-Tempered Ear.
In alumni news, musicology PhD J. Griffith Rollefson saw his book, “Flip the Script,” published by the University of Chicago Press. He writes, “Hip hop is unique both in its directness and in the depth of its contradictions. We simultaneously laud hip hop as the ultimate politically conscious music and decry it as the most vapid commercial expression of materialism, sexism, homophobia, and violence. Something’s gotta give with this contradiction – and I think I offer some good, and potentially illuminating answers in the book.” Read our interview with Griff here.
Hunt Quartet to perform in Stoughton Opera House
The Hunt Quartet, UW-Madison’s graduate string quartet, performs nearly every week or more at area schools and venues. Next Monday, November 6, see them at the Stoughton Opera House as part of their Music Appreciation Series. 3:00 PM. The Hunt Quartet is funded by the School of Music and the Madison Symphony Orchestra as part of their “Up Close and Musical” outreach program.
Play a Theremin and a Moog Synthesizer at the Wisconsin Science Festival
Associate professor Daniel Grabois will make electro-magnetic waves this Friday from 6 to 8PM at the Discovery Building Atrium, 330 North Orchard Street, as part of the Wisconsin Science Festival. The new Electro-Acoustic Research Space, Room 2401, will also be open on Saturday, November 4 from 4PM to 5:30. Bring an instrument to play!
Below: Students experiment with a theremin at the inauguration of the EARS open house on September 15.
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. To receive the brochure, please send your postal address to newsletter editor..
As part of the worldwide commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, University Opera will present Verdi’s final masterpiece, Falstaff. Based on material from The Merry Wives of Windsor, Henry IV, and Henry V,Falstaff is a wild, comic romp. In the UW-Madison production, updated to Hollywood in 1930, Falstaff is a has-been silent movie actor, out of work with the advent of the “talkies,” holding onto his former glory and living beyond his means at the Chateau Marmont. Now a petty criminal, Falstaff puts the make on Alice Ford and Meg Page in an effort to bilk their husbands of money. The ladies, incensed at his audacity, hatch a plot to give Falstaff his comeuppance. But not before Mr. Ford, (a movie studio executive in the UW production) acting on his own ill-founded suspicions, gets involved and complicates matters. At the end, all are reconciled as both men are taught their respective lessons.
Falstaff will be presented in Italian with English supertitles for three performances, November 11 at 7:30 pm, November 13 at 3:00 pm, and November 15 at 7:30 pm in Music Hall on the UW-Madison campus. Directed by David Ronis with James Smith conducting the UW Symphony Orchestra, the production will involve over 90 UW singers, instrumentalists, and stage crew. This production opens just one week after the national traveling exhibit of Shakespeare’s First Folio arrives at the Chazen Museum of Art.
Following the success of the panel discussion before University Opera’s production of Transformations last spring, Ronis will again be assembling a panel of colleagues to discuss Falstaff on Friday, November 11 at 6:00pm in the Music Hall, admission free. Featured panelists include:
Joshua Calhoun, Assistant Professor of English, UW-Madison
Cabell Gathman, Lecturer, Dept. of Gender and Women’s Studies, UW-Madison
Steffen Silvis, Dramaturg and Doctoral Candidate in Interdisciplinary Theatre Studies, UW-Madison
David Ronis, Karen K. Bishop Director of University Opera, UW-Madison
Susan Cook, Pamela O. Hamel/Music Board of Advisors Director of the Mead Witter School of Music, Moderator
Paul Rowe, Professor of Voice at UW-Madison, will sing the title role amidst a cast featuring current students and a couple of guest alums. The principal ladies’ roles will be filled by Yanzelmalee Rivera and Sarah Kendall (Alice Ford), Courtney Kayser and Talia Engstrom (Meg Page), Emily Weaver and Claire Powling (Nannetta), Rebecca Buechel and Jessica Kasinski (Quickly). The men in the cast will be alum Brian Schnieder and guest artist Richard Schonberg (Ford), José Muñiz (Fenton), Wesley Dunnagan (Dr. Caius), Jiabao Zhang (Bardolfo) and alum Benjamin Schultz (Pistola). Assisting Maestro Smith will be Kyle Knox, assistant conductor, with musical preparation by new professor of opera and vocal coaching, Dr. Daniel Fung, Chan Mi Jean, and chorus master, Christopher Boveroux.
The physical production will be designed by Greg Silver. Costume design is by Sydney Krieger, and Hyewon Park, lighting design by Kenneth Ferencek, props design by David Heuer, and the production stage manager will be Alec Brown. The production staff include Erin Bryan, operations manager for University Opera; Jimmy Dewhurst and Daniel Lewis, master electricians; and Ethan White, lighting board operator.
Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00-5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings. Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance. The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.
University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison whose mission is to provide comprehensive operatic training and performance opportunities for our students and operatic programming to the community. For more information, please contact email@example.com. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.
From the Mead Witter School of Music
University of Wisconsin-Madison
September 13, 2016
In a marriage of the Baroque and the modern, celebrated UW-Madison pianist Christopher Taylor will debut his much-anticipated new electronic double-keyboard piano this October 28, performing J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations.”
The “Variations” is an 80-minute work once dubbed a “Rubik’s Cube of invention and architecture” that Bach wrote for a double-keyboard harpsichord.
Not by coincidence, Taylor will play Bach’s “Rubik’s cube” on a brand-new piano that could be described in much the same way.
Named the “Hyperpiano” by Taylor, it is actually three instruments – two of them ordinary concert grands, the third a special double-keyboard console designed by Taylor – connected by a riot of sensors and wires, with a mechanism that feels nearly normal for the performer but offers sonic possibilities that are unique.
Taylor developed the piano over several years in a laboratory at the Morgridge Institutes for Research, assisted by many faculty and technicians who trained him to machine new parts using computers and guided him as he designed 60-odd circuit boards that make the instrument run. In addition, Taylor wrote several thousand lines of computer code that manage sensing and communications. In 2014, Taylor received United States patent # 8,664,497 B2 for the “Hyperpiano.”
His inspiration to develop it came from another unusual instrument that he inherited shortly after coming to UW-Madison in 2000, a double-keyboard piano made by Steinway in 1929.
Johann Sebastian Bach was known as a composer who welcomed new concepts in musical instruments. Accordingly, Taylor says, Bach designed the Goldberg Variations for the most deluxe instrument of his day, a double-keyboard harpsichord with a four-and-a-half octave range. Today, musicians often perform the work on a regular piano, but must generally “resort to tricks, compromises, fudging or outright studio chicanery to play all the notes as Bach wrote them,” as writer Tom Huizenga wrote in his blog, “Deceptive Cadence.”
The Hyperpiano will allow Taylor to overcome those obstacles. “I can recreate effects more like what Bach imagined, even while producing at the same time completely novel musical results,” Taylor says.
Taylor was a bronze medal winner in the 1993 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, at which he performed the Goldberg Variations, among other works, on a standard single-keyboard Steinway. He also holds a degree in mathematics from Harvard University.
The concert will take place on Friday, October 28, at 8 PM in Mills Hall, Humanities, 455 North Park Street. There will be one intermission.
Tickets for adults are $18; for students, $5. They may be purchased at Campus Arts Ticketingor in person at the Memorial Union Box Office.
Patrons are advised to arrive early. Seating is general admission.
Mills Hall seats 700, of which 100 seats will be reserved on a first-call basis for music students, staff and faculty.
Christopher Taylor’s “Hyperpiano” Creates New Musical Possibilities
By Michael Muckian
“I would never be content as a pianist to play the same half-dozen pieces the same way year in and year out,” Taylor explained. “In piano literature, we have a vast array of great compositions, but we are always questing for new variety.”
Christopher Taylor grew up in Boulder, Colorado, where his father taught physics at the University of Colorado and his mother was a high school English instructor. The family owned a piano and Taylor initially was taught to play by a neighbor down the street.
The casual lessons didn’t last long; by age 10, the young pianist was playing Beethoven. By high school he was composing music.
While music was his first love, Taylor also proved gifted in mathematics, a field that seemed to offer a more stable career path. The young pianist chose to follow that thread, graduating summa cum laude in mathematics from Harvard University in 1992.
During those same years, Taylor also studied piano under Russell Sherman at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where he began to attract the attention of the East Coast classical music community. In 1990, at the end of his sophomore year, Taylor won the University of Maryland’s William Kapell International Piano Competition, and later that same year made his performance debut in Alice Tully Hall at New York’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts.
However, Taylor’s watershed moment came in 1993 at the age of 23, when he earned a bronze medal at the quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth, Texas, for his performances of works by Beethoven, Boulez and Brahms, as well as Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” now a standard part of his repertoire. For the young mathematician-slash-pianist, the competition win sealed his fate.
“I had sat on the fence between music and mathematics for many years, but the bronze medal made the decision for me,” Taylor said. But while his musical career had become ascendant, he kept up his math and computer studies. “I didn’t want to put the other parts of my brain on ice.”
The newly minted concert pianist, who would go on to earn critical accolades such as “frighteningly talented” (The New York Times) and “a great pianist” (The Los Angeles Times), knew that his mathematics training went far to inform and support his music.
Both disciplines draw on similar mental skill sets, Taylor explained, noting that hours of piano practice can provide the necessary rigor to solve a complex mathematical proof.
“Music performance is more visceral than math, but when I’m performing I am definitely using the logical part of my brain,” he added. “Mentally understanding a piece of music is essential to surviving a performance.”
Following the Van Cliburn competition win, Taylor became a touring musician. His new wife wanted to pursue her doctorate in musicology at the University of Michigan, so the couple moved to Ann Arbor while Taylor spent weeks on the road playing several dozen concerts per year across the U.S. and in Europe.
Life on the road proved strenuous for the young pianist, who became known for his intense, sweat-soaked, highly physical performances. Eventually, Taylor decided he might want to teach. When the University of Wisconsin offered Taylor a faculty position in 2000, his family moved to Madison.
At UW-Madison, Taylor came across a prototype that would prove the foundation for his new invention. And he can credit a little known Hungarian composer for the introduction.
Emánuel Moór, who during his life composed five operas, eight symphonies and other orchestral works, is best remembered today as the inventor of the Moór Pianoforte, a double-keyboard instrument that attempted to replicate the benefits of the harpsichord and organ in the piano format. It boasted a two-tiered keyboard, but space within the cabinet allowed for only 76 keys on the top tier instead of the usual 88. The layout of the 164 keys allowed one hand to stretch across a range of over two octaves at once, creating a richer and fuller sound.
Watch a video of Taylor describing his plan for a new piano.
Moór was a professional colleague of composer Maurice Ravel and cellist Pablo Casals, both of whom championed his work, including his pianoforte. Despite such celebrity support, many musicians considered Moór’s instrument more of a novelty and found it difficult, if not impossible, to play.
European manufacturers produced about 60 pianofortes during the 1920s, including one made in 1929 in Hamburg, Germany, by Steinway. Until very recently, that particular instrument occupied a corner of Taylor’s cramped office in the Mosse Humanities Building.
The Moór pianoforte found its way to UW-Madison after Danish pianist Gunnar Johansen became the university’s artist in residence in 1939. Enthralled with the strange instrument, Johansen lobbied university donors until they broke down and bought it for him on the condition that its ownership revert to the university upon the pianist’s death.
By the time Johansen died in 1991, interest in the pianoforte had waned. It lay in storage for 14 years until Taylor rediscovered it in 2005. He performed on the pianoforte in dozens of concerts across the country, eventually getting a feel for the instrument and gaining notoriety for his performances. In 2007, the New York Times interviewed Taylor and created a video about the piano. In 2010, while he was in Washington, D.C. for a performance, the Kennedy Center created its own version.
“It’s clever as a musical contrivance, but it’s a little unwieldy and feels strange under your fingers,” Taylor said, noting that corresponding keys on both keyboards end up striking the same string. “You have to work very hard to play the keys because of the Rube Goldberg mechanism that connects them with the hammers.”
Around 2009, having studied the levers, rods, and platforms lurking inside the Moór piano, Taylor decided there might be a better way, a way that would take advantage of 21st-century technology. He began to draw up blueprints, discussed his ideas with a number of experts, and eventually received a grant from the UW Arts Institute to pursue them further. In early 2012 he approached George Petry, a prototyping manager at the Morgridge Institute for Research, to talk about his idea, an idea that much later would be named the “Hyperpiano.” Petry thought Taylor was nuts.
“I thought Chris was crazy because I knew this was going to be so much work,” Petry said. “I have a lot of students coming in who have never built anything before who say they want to build a space shuttle. I thought this was Chris’s space shuttle.”
But Petry gave Taylor the benefit of the doubt, and also a corner in the Morgridge Institute’s Advanced Fabrication Laboratory – better known as the “fab lab” — inside the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery building on University Avenue, a home where engineers and inventors collaborate to build prototypes of their ideas. And Petry started to teach Taylor how to use all the computer-operated machines.
Another important teacher was Giri Venkataramanan, a professor in the UW-Madison Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering who served as a high-level consultant to the project. “His motivation was sky-high and it sounded like he knew what he was doing,” Venkataramanan said.
At first blush, the Hyperpiano’s double-keyboard console – what Taylor calls the “input device” – looks like a contemporary upright piano that is thicker in girth than normal. It features a two-tiered keyboard with 176 keys total along with five pedals. Hidden inside the cabinet, behind the keys, are two sets of standard mass-produced piano hammers.
But that is where similarities to a regular piano end. There are no strings for these hammers to strike, and Taylor admits that their only function is to mimic the feel of playing a normal single-keyboard piano. In fact, in the absence of strings Taylor had to create special foam bars for the hammers to strike, designed to replicate an ordinary instrument’s behavior but create as little “banging” noise as possible.
“Even building a conventional piano that works is a very difficult process in itself,” says Robert Hohf, a professional piano technician who aided Taylor. “The keyboard orientation and the alignment of parts is unbelievably complicated.”
And with the Hyperpiano, the complications only increased.
Designing an instrument that contains twice the normal number of keys and twice as many hammers, aligning everything inside a single wooden frame, took a massive amount of re-engineering, Taylor says. Each of the 176 keys in the Hyperpiano has a unique shape that had to be specially carved by a router, which got its directions from multiple computer programs written by Taylor.
To actually make music, the double-keyboard console contains electronic sensors that read the movement of the keys during each stroke, then send coded electronic impulses via wires to two player-piano mechanisms called “Vorsetzers.” (First developed in the early twentieth century, Vorsetzers were mechanical key-pressing contraptions that could be attached to the keyboards of ordinary pianos.) The Vorsetzers are affixed to any pair of pianos one has handy, which, in theory, could be some distance away. Thus the motions of the pianist’s fingers on one part of the stage are transmitted instantaneously to produce music emanating from two other parts of the stage.
Taylor plays Prokofiev
Timing everything so that the music would sound like music—not a jangle of disparate noises – was another hurdle Taylor had to surmount. Taylor’s new technology solves that problem: it senses a fraction of a millimeter of motion as soon as a key is pressed. The sensors immediately send the data to the Vorsetzers, which move the corresponding key the same amount at exactly the same time.
“It involved a lot of software jujitsu to make this happen,” he said. But in the end, “everything is choreographed to deliver the final notes in real time,” he explained.
The Hyperpiano could afford some novel performance opportunities, says Taylor: “For starters, it will be capable of everything the Moór piano can produce: far-flung chords beyond the grasp of ordinary human hands on ordinary pianos, intricate counterpoint where the hands mingle in the same register (effects that would cause impossible traffic jams on a single keyboard), and, with the aid of an extra fourth pedal, sonorities reinforced by extra tones one octave higher than the keys the pianist is actually pressing.
“But it will offer customized behaviors beyond these,” he continues. “The ability to reinforce the pianist’s keypresses with any number of additional notes, so that the motion of a single finger produces an elaborate harmony; novel hybrid sonorities obtained by combining different pedaling patterns on the two subsidiary pianos; repeated notes faster than what ordinary pianos permit; and the interesting spatial effects that will result when the two subsidiary pianos get rolled to different parts of the stage.”
Taylor is eager to produce new arrangements and compositions that take advantage of these musical novelties. “I’m in discussions with a number of composers about the possibility of their contributing to a new chapter in the piano literature,” he says.
With the end of the project in sight, the pianist says he’s pleased with the outcome of his years of work, even as he adjusts to new variations in sound and performance.
“I’m delighted to find that the final product is matching my initial vision pretty closely,” Taylor says. “There is still some tweaking that needs to take place — software refinements mostly — in order to ensure that as a pianist I have the level of musical control that I need. This work may prove challenging, but as in the past I am very determined to overcome the remaining obstacles.”
Venkataramanan agrees and also is thinking ahead to the piano’s next iteration.
Scientists, unfortunately, are never satisfied.
“As a problem-solving exercise, this has been pretty impressive,” the engineering professor says. “But he still runs wires between his keyboards. The next phase would be to do this on a wireless basis and using Cloud technology.”
Mr. Taylor is eager to acknowledge the invaluable help he received from a large number of collaborators over the past five years. Apart from piano technician Robert Hohf, machinist George Petry, and EE Professor Giri Venkataramanan, these individuals include: Rock Mackie and Kevin Eliceiri, the former and current directors of the Morgridge Institute for Research, who were amazingly welcoming hosts during his four-plus years in the Fab Lab; UW-Madison piano technician Baoli Liu; Justin Anderson at WARF and Callie Bell of Bell Manning LLC, who shepherded the patent application process; Kevin Earley, who built the wooden housing for the input console; Convenience Electronics of Madison (in particular Betsy Vanden Wymelenberg), who custom assembled the instrument’s many wires and cables; Calvin Cherry, Nate Hess, Brian Urso, and Ryan Solberg, whom Taylor employed to solder together circuit boards and who contributed greatly to his EE education; UW-Madison’s Bill Sethares, along with Terence O’Laughlin and Alberto Rodriguez of Madison College, who put Taylor in contact with the aforementioned companies and employees; and the UW Arts Institute, former chancellor John Wiley, and Paul Collins, who provided moral as well as financial support.
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.
Choral Union presents Joseph Haydn’s “The Creation”
Beverly Taylor, conductor
Mills Hall, Sunday, April 24, 3:30 PM
Haydn’s “The Creation,” written between 1797 and 1798, is considered one of the great masterworks of western music and civilization. It has beautiful and exciting choral writing, demanding, intricate and soaring solos, and some of the most inventive orchestral writing of its time, both in the opening depiction of Chaos—the pre-creation state, and in the pictorial writing about animals, water, and light, all at their beginning stages. Part I depicts the stages of creation, Part II a celebration of that creation, and Part III the new love between Adam and Eve.
“The Creation” debuted in London and was sung in English. Our production uses the Robert Shaw version of the English text, which clears up some of the original strange grammar which resulted from the Haydn’s libretto going through a German translation and back to English. The libretto mixes Biblical language with new language for the soloists.
Our soloists include alumna Jamie-Rose Guarrine, as angels Gabriel and Eve; Voice Professor James Doing as angel Uriel; alumnus Benjamin Schultz as angel Raphael; and current student Benjamin Li as Adam.
Tickets: $15 general public, $8 students. Buy online here or in person at the Memorial Union Box Office or at the door.
UW Symphony Orchestra with Guest Conductor Andreas Stoehr
Mills Hall, Friday, April 22, 8:00 PM- Free concert
Vienna native Andreas Stoehr will lead the university orchestra in performances of Overture to Der Freischütz (Carl Maria von Weber), Wesendonck Lieder (Richard Wagner), and Symphony No. 6 (Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky). With soprano Elizabeth Hagedorn.
“At first glance our program appears to be a nice bouquet of romantic pieces, but as I believe that music and philosophy share the same spiritual source, one can see that each composer tries to answer the main question: ‘Where is the exit from the burden of life?’ ” says Prof. Stoehr.
“Carl Maria von Weber’s answer: ‘There is God, there is hope, therefore good wins over evil.’ Wagner leads us to ‘unbewusst, höchste Lust’ (unaware, sublime desire; the last lines of Tristan and Isolde ) expressing his belief in uncontrollable, germinating power of love. The poetry by Mathilde Wesendonck, Wagner’s muse, reflects their profound, but impossible relationship and inspired him to Tristan and Isolde as his unique philosophy of escaping the world through an idealized love. Tchaikovsky’s ‘Pathétique’ Symphony No. 6 does not try at all to answer the question. We sense in his music his personal struggle between good and evil, right and wrong, light and darkness. Like the most famous literary works of his time by Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky, Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece comes to us as a drama, but without words. When life is over – it’s over.”
Nine area high schools to participate in final concert
April 26, 28, 29 – Various times and locations
The Jazz Studies program, led by Professor Johannes Wallmann, will present a weeklong residency with LA-based Bob Sheppard, worldwide multi-woodwind performer, recording artist, and jazz musician.
The three-day event includes master classes and two concerts. It will feature the UW Jazz Ensembles, the UW Jazz Orchestra, the UW High School Honors Jazz Band, and the Johannes Wallmann Quartet. The 2016 Honors Jazz Band, directed by UW Director of Jazz Studies Johannes Wallmann and co-conductor Eric Siereveld, is a twenty-member big band that includes top jazz students from Edgewood, James Madison Memorial, Madison East, Madison West, Middleton, New Glarus, Portage, Sun Prairie, and Waunakee High Schools.
—Free Master Class/Concert Tue, April 26, 8 PM, Morphy Hall (with the Composers Septet & Contemporary Jazz Ensemble)
—Concert Thur, April 28, 8 PM, Morphy Hall (with the Johannes Wallmann Quartet) Ticketed $15 single
—Concert Fri, April 29, 8 PM, Music Hall (with the UW Jazz Orchestra & High School Honors Jazz Band) Ticketed $15 single
$25 both Thursday and Friday shows. Students of all ages free!
U.S. Air Force “Freedom Winds” percussion/wind quintet to perform April 21 – Free concert
Music Hall, Thursday, April 21, 7:30 PM
The School of Music is honored to present the Freedom Winds, a visiting ensemble from the United States Air Force Band of Mid-America. Composed of six virtuoso Airman Musicians, the group adds percussion to the traditional woodwind quintet instrumentation to enhance standard literature and increase their musical capabilities. Repertoire includes jazz and ragtime classics along with popular themes from Broadway’s hit shows to Hollywood’s greatest films. Please join us for what promises to be a fun and memorable concert!
“Out of the Shadows” Rediscovering Jewish Music, Literature and Theater
May 1-5, 2016, Madison, various locations and times
“Piecing together lost generations of creativity”: that’s how the Wisconsin State Journal’s Gayle Worland phrased it in her news story last summer. Generations of Jewish creativity lost due to the Holocaust and the diaspora, now placed front and center in a worldwide effort to discover those that were lost, reclaim those that are forgotten, and perform those that have been neglected.
From May 1 through May 5, that creativity will be on display in Madison as part of “Out of the Shadows,” coordinated by music education professor Teryl Dobbs and faculty at the University of Leeds, England. Over five days, events ranging from cabaret to ethnomusicology discussions to chamber music to theater will be presented at various locations in Madison. Ticket prices range from $5 to $10.00. Buy tickets here.
The three-year “Performing the Jewish Archive” project involves a large number of partners, exploring archives, delivering community and educational projects, holding at least two international conferences and a series of symposia at the British National Library, as well as mounting five international performance festivals––in the United States (Madison, WI), the Czech Republic, South Africa, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
Jessica Johnson holds out hope for pianists with small hands
How big are your hands? If you aspire to be a professional pianist, that’s an important question. On average, women have smaller hands than men, and are frequently stymied when trying to stretch their fingers to reach the larger octaves written into many major concertos, such as those by Liszt and Rachmaninoff. That simple fact bears on another simple fact: There are fewer women in the top echelons of professional concert pianists. Injuries are also common.
On Sat., Feb. 20, Jessica Johnson, professor of piano and piano pedagogy, will hold a full day of all-free events to demonstrate what has been working for her: The adoption of a specially sized piano that is 7/8 of normal size. Made by Steinbuhler & Co., one of these is now owned by the School of Music, and Prof. Johnson has found that playing it has been a “life-changing” experience.
Join us on Feb. 20 at 2:30 for a workshop, master class, hands-on demonstrations, and concert, all featuring the Steinbuhler DS 5.5 7/8 piano. Learn more here. And watch for an article about this revolutionary new approach in an upcoming story by Gayle Worland, in the Wisconsin State Journal.
Trumpeter & Cuban Music Expert Mike Davison to perform with the UW Jazz Orchestra
Master class: Mon Feb 22, Mills Hall; Concert: Weds., Feb. 24, 7:30 PM, Music Hall. Read more here.
Even after a semester with Juan de Marcos, we’re still feeding on Cuban music! This month, we’re bringing Mike Davison (DMA, trumpet performance 1987) to campus from the University of Richmond, where he teaches and performs. He’ll join the UW Jazz Orchestra, the Waunakee High School Jazz Ensemble I and the UW Latin Jazz Ensemble in an evening of rousing Caribbean tunes. Davison’s bio includes concerts around the world, four recorded jazz CDs, and performances with well-known singers, musicians, and even for a pope.
UW Wind Ensemble travels to Verona and west Madison for concerts
Find the UW Wind Ensemble in your corner of Dane County! Last December, the Wind Ensemble made an appearance at the Sun Prairie High School and will continue its out of town concerts this spring. Find them at Verona High School on Feb. 19, at Oakwood Village – West (Mineral Point Road) on March 31, and of course at the School of Music as well (Feb. 20). Both February concerts will feature Tom Curry, adjunct professor of tuba, in a work titled “Heavy Weather,” by the composer Jess Turner.
Summer Music Clinic registration now underway
Registration is open through May 2 for UW-Madison’s legendary Summer Music Clinic, which offers dozens of classes in all kinds of musical skills for kids completing grades 6-8 (junior session) and 9-12 (senior session). For one week, students live in UW dorms and attend classes that they choose from a lengthy list, including band, orchestra and choir; sight-singing; jazz improvisation; opera; swing dance; yoga; and even specialized classes on subjects ranging from the music of film composer John Williams to Stephen Sondheim to rock’n roll. Instructors are all highly skilled; many are university professors or other working professionals. Taste the fun by visiting SMC’s Facebook page! For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Below: Summer Music Clinic photographs by Michael R. Anderson.
News and Events from the UW-Madison School of Music – October 20, 2015
This is what our calendar looks like right now.
We hope you will join us for all of them.
Not possible? Well, take your pick!
University Opera: The Marriage of Figaro, Oct. 23/24/25/27.
A well-loved opera with a double cast, directed by David Ronis, music conducted by James Smith and assistance by many more. Read our entire announcement. Our cast includes Joel Rathmann and alumnus Benjamin Schultz, who will split performances as Figaro; Erin Bryan and Anna Whiteway as Susanna; Brian Schneider and Gavin Waid as Count Almaviva; and Anna Polum and Yanzelmalee Rivera as the Countess. The role of Cherubino will be split between Alaina Carlson and Kirsten Larson. In supporting roles, the production will feature Tia Cleveland and Meghan Hilker as Marcellina, alum Thomas Weis as Bartolo, Dennis Gotkowski and Fabian Qamar as Basilio, Kyle Connors and Mikko Utevsky as Antonio, Emi Chen and Emily Weaver as Barbarina, Todd Keller and Jiabao Zhang as Don Curzio. Tickets are $25.00 for the general public, $20.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students. Buy tickets here.
Welcoming Five Alumni Composers back to campus for two concerts of their music
In early November, the UW-Madison School of Music will welcome back five graduates of the composition studio who have developed creative, multi-dimensional careers in a range of fields: acoustic and electronic composition, musicology, theory, audio production, conducting, education, concert management and administration, performance, and other fields as well. The two-day event on Nov. 5 & 6 will feature concerts of chamber music and Wind Ensemble music.
The composers include Jeffrey Stadelman (BM, 1983; MM, 1985), now associate professor of music composition at the University at Buffalo; Paula Matthusen (BM, 2001), assistant professor of music at Wesleyan University; William Rhoads (BM, 1996), vice president of marketing & communications for Orchestra of St. Luke’s in New York City; Andrew Rindfleisch (BM, 1987), professor of composition at Cleveland State University; and Kevin Ernste (BM, 1997), professor of composition at Cornell University.
Music will be performed by the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, the Wingra Woodwind Quintet, the UW Wind Ensemble, and other faculty and students. The works being performed by both faculty and students range from standard instrumentations (woodwind and brass quintets) to unusual combinations (piano, percussion, clarinet, and oboe) to solo works performed by some of our most accomplished students.
All five composers grew up in Wisconsin or Minnesota, and they provide a variety of career models, in both industry and academia, in both live and electronic music, for our student composers and performers. This may be the first time that a university music school has brought together the alumni of an academic composition program, from a period of several decades, for concerts of their music, workshops with current students, and public informational events.
Our SoundCloud channel contains tracks from many of our ensembles, soloists, and faculty, and now the UW Symphony Concert with Brenda Rae. It was a spectacular concert; if you missed it, here’s your chance! https://soundcloud.com/uw-madisonsom
Student Recitals are on our Calendar
We’ve modernized our workflow so that all student recitals taking place in our halls are now always listed (and obvious!) on our website. They include performances on all instruments and in many different genres. We encourage you to support our talented singers, composers and musicians. Check the calendar here.
Trombonist Mark Hetzler brings his electronic sound to Mills Hall, Nov. 3
UW-Madison professor of trombone Mark Hetzler continues his forward movement in the electronic music department with premieres of four new works, one by alumnus Ben Davis entitled $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, for quartet and electronics. With Anthony DiSanza, drums/percussion; Vincent Fuh, piano; Ben Ferris, bass; Tom Ross, percussion; and Garrett Mendelow, percussion. Mills Hall, Nov. 3, 7:30 PM. Read the program here.
Video: Mark Hetzler performs instrumental music with electronics. With Vincent Fuh, piano; Nick Moran, acoustic and electric bass; and Todd Hammes, drums/percussion.
A Delightful Comedy to Usher Out a Veteran Director
Photographs by Max Wendt
Madison, WI – Veteran director William Farlow’s final opera takes the stage in University Opera’s spring production of Hector Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict. Sung in French with English surtitles by Christine Seitz, the work will be given three performances—Friday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m., Sunday, April 13 at 3:00 p.m. and Tuesday, April 15 at 7:30 p.m. All shows will be presented at the Carol Rennebohm Auditorium in Music Hall on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus.
“My time here has been the most extraordinary and rewarding of my career,” says Farlow. “One of my greatest joys has been to help develop young singers for the professional world,” he says. Those singers include James Kryshak, Emily Birsan, and Jamie van Eyck.
For his last show, Farlow has chosen a delightful comedy, full of friendly trickery and an unlikely match made in heaven. The storyline is modeled on Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing, telling the story of a young man who scoffs at love and marriage. “Women are as “gentle as a thistle,” he thinks, but in the end, he is convinced (or is it hoodwinked?) into marrying Beatrice. “The opera ends with a duet, as Beatrice and Benedict admit their true feelings. OK, they concede, they really are in love, at least for today. Perhaps they’ll be enemies again … but not until tomorrow” (National Public Radio, 2009: read more here.)
The opera’s overture is also justly famous. In this video clip, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra is joined by conductor Peter Oundjian in Berlioz’s Beatrice et Benedict: Overture, performed in February, 2011 at the Sydney Opera House.
During his sixteen seasons with University Opera, Farlow has brought to life over thirty opera productions and an equal number of scenes performances. His career has taken him to Scotland, Mexico, Canada, and throughout the United States, and has worked with artists such as Placido Domingo, Kiri Te Kanawa, and Carlo Maria Giulini. Click here for a feature story about William Farlow.
The current show cast includes undergraduate and graduate students as well as alumni from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, supported by the UW Symphony Orchestra under the direction of James Smith. The roles of Béatrice and Bénédict will be performed respectively by Lindsay Metzger and Daniel López-Matthews, and the role of Héro will be portrayed by Anna Whiteway. Erik Larson will appear as Don Pedro, and Jordan Wilson will perform the role of Claudio. The cast will be joined by University Opera alumni Benjamin Schultz and Kathleen Otterson, whowill perform the roles of Somarone and Ursule. Schultz currently works as the assistant director of the School of Music, and Otterson is a senior music instructor at Edgewood College and also serves as music director at Christ Presbyterian Church. Her local career is marked by appearances with Madison Opera and Madison Savoyards, and she is a member of the UW Opera Props Board of Directors.
Chorus members includes Arren Alexander, Aimee Teo Broman, Emi Chen, Tia Cleveland, Kyle Connors, Meg Huskin, Jennifer Kuckuk, Kirsten Larson, William Ottow, Michael Ward, Eric Wilson, and Fred Younger.
Production and music staff includes assistant conductor Kyle Knox, costume designers Sydney Krieger and Hyewon Park, technical director and set designer, Greg Silver, lighting designer Steven M. Peterson, scenic artist Liz Rathke, vocal coach and musical preparation Thomas Kasdorf, and chorus master Susan Goeres.
Tickets are $22.00 for the general public, $18.00 for senior citizens and $10.00 for UW-Madison students, available in advance through the Campus Arts Ticketing office at (608) 265-ARTS and online at http://www.arts.wisc.edu/ (click “box office”). Tickets may also be purchased in person at the Wisconsin Union Theater Box Office Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 12:00–5:00 p.m. and the Vilas Hall Box Office, Monday-Friday, 11:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m., and after 5:30 p.m. on University Theatre performance evenings. Because shows often sell out, advance purchase is recommended. If unsold tickets remain, they may be purchased at the door beginning one hour before the performance. The Carol Rennebohm Auditorium is located in Music Hall, at the foot of Bascom Hill on Park Street.
In an effort to help patrons find parking on campus, the Campus Arts Ticketing office is offering prepaid parking permits for a guaranteed parking spot on the evenings of ticketed UW arts events for $5. Preorder your permit online at http://arts.wisc.edu/map (5 days or more in advance; $1 handling fee) or call (608)-265-ARTS (3 days or more in advance; $1 handling fee).
University Opera is a cultural service of the School of Music at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Its mission is to promote professional training and practical performing experience for student singers, conductors and pianists and, when possible, provide opportunities for student designers, actors and dancers. For more information, please contact Christina Kay at email@example.com. Or visit the School of Music’s web site at music.wisc.edu.
UW-Madison trombone professor Mark Hetzler describes himself as a “bit of a geek,” which may help to explain he’s more often now found onstage with laptops, guitar pedals, a mixing board and surround sound instead of a symphony orchestra.
He’s done that, too, of course, having served for a time as the principal trombonist of the Hartford Symphony Orchestra as well as playing with other orchestras around the country. He was a fellow at the New World Symphony and Tanglewood and for 14 years was one-fifth of the internationally-known Empire Brass Quintet. He still is the trombonist in the Wisconsin Brass Quintet, which just celebrated its 40th year (and, while not quite ready to bring laptops on stage, still plays some pretty cool new music).
But somehow he got from there to here, where “here” is “Sinister Resonance,” an experimental ensemble offering an amalgam of musical genres mixed with electronics. Sinister Resonance performed in St. Paul and Madison clubs last month and will finish out the semester with a few pieces at the upcoming “SoundWaves” presentation on May 10, at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. (See previous blog post for info on SoundWaves.) Mark will also speak for ten minutes on “The Electric Aesthetic,” about how he incorporates electronic technology into his music.
Last year, Mark received an H. I. Romnes Faculty Fellowship from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, an unrestricted grant awarded to newly tenured faculty members who show “exceptional promise.” The grant has allowed him to expand his experimental efforts exponentially: to commission composers, buy sophisticated technology, record and perform all over the country, and compose new pieces himself. Mark recently answered a few questions about this style of music and why it appeals to him.
When did you first become interested in electro-acoustic music?
I became interested in this music when I was a sophomore in college- I was exploring in the library and discovered recordings of computer music from the 1950’s and 60’s. At that time I didn’t have a computer, there was no internet and the means of making “electronic” music for me was simply playing along with a tape (a reel to reel tape back then- today we use sound files in a variety of digital formats).
One of the first electronic pieces I discovered was “Deserts,” by Edgar Varese. I was making my way through Varese’s music and was floored by Deserts. I was struck by the concept of pre-recorded sounds being inserted into the sonic fabric of live players- this music really opened my ears up. I then came across a composition by Roger Reynolds titled “From Behind the Unreasoning Mask.” This piece was for 4-channel tape (surround sound), trombone and two percussionists. When I purchased the score, the publisher sent me a 4-channel reel to reel tape. I had no machine on which to play it and had to take it to a studio in Boston (where I was going to school at the time) and have an engineer convert it into another format. It’s kind of hilarious in a way, because when I left that studio, my new tape was now playable on a machine that would be obsolete within 2-3 years.
What do you like about this kind of music; what inspires you? Are there any particular musicians whom you admire?
I’m a bit of a geek, so I’ll admit that I like the complexity of it. I like the fact that pieces I work on these days tend to require an enormous amount of preparation and technological involvement- from getting specific pieces of equipment to link and talk to each other, to software patches that need to be learned and tweaked. This music requires a level of focus and brain power that I find intellectually stimulating. Of course, I also marvel at the many ways one can express themselves with this kind of music. If I am working to shape a phrase, color my tone on the trombone or create a musical state that is either calm or excited, I find that technology can help me to get into places that are quite unexpected with regard to sound, intellect and emotion. I love making acoustic music- the feel of it and the sound of it. My approach when using technology is the same, but with digital and analog tools I feel like my musical reach multiplies- that is hard not to like.
There is nothing like spending ten to twelve hours in a studio working with sound. I love that time- it goes by WAY too fast. If I’m working on a new piece or trying to get just the right sound with my gear, or even improvising and working out a musical idea with an effects processor, I am in heaven.
Who are your musico-technological heroes?
Pat Metheny, David Tom, Nels Cline, Javier Alvarez, Terrence Blanchard–too many folks to mention all of them.
What logistics are involved in setting up for a concert?
Imagine a ton of wires and all kinds of equipment running together, machines depending on each other. It can take me up to two hours to set it up sometimes, so my pre-concert vibe can become anxious, but that is part of the thrill of this music. The logistics don’t stop there- I usually have a host of things to remember in concert as well (beyond just playing the trombone)- which fader to raise or lower, which program to turn on, which microphone to open, which effect to turn on or off. Playing this kind of music is like doing a complicated dance, in many ways similar to what percussionists do all the time.
Sinister Resonance is comprised of Mark Hetzler (trombone and electronics), Vincent Fuh (piano), Nick Moran (doublebass) and Todd Hammes (drums/percussion). On May 10, 7 p.m. at SoundWaves, in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, the four will present a program of novel music that will follow a series of short talks on the theme of tools. Mark’s tools? By now, we know.
On the program:
“They Said…” by Mark Engebretson, professor of composition at UNC-Greensboro.
“Mark composed a powerful work that uses spoken word and interactive computer technology. The piece is based on a poem that was inspired by the Abu Ghraib atrocities.”
“Murmuration,” composed by Mark Hetzler. This piece uses an 8-channel pre-recorded sound file, creating by playing the trombone through effects units. The musicians improvise with each other and the surround-sound recorded part. This work was inspired by the spontaneous formations of starlings, known as murmurations.
So this is a big university, with all sorts of smart people learning all kinds of fascinating stuff and sharing all that great knowledge with lots of others. Right?
Well, sometimes, yes, sometimes no. The truth is, it’s all too easy to remain in our silos and not trumpet what we do. Somebody will ask, eventually, right?
Maybe. But we also are learning that if we bring disparate disciplines together in attractive locations to mingle, chat, and (preferably) eat and drink a little, amazing things will likely occur. Friendships will develop. Collaboration may ensue.
That’s the case with SoundWaves, which had its roots in a small idea between UW horn professor Dan Grabois and a few others on the UW campus: to combine science talks with concert performances. One thing led to another, and before you could blow the next note, Dan was curating a series of ten-minute talks by intellectual people, always on a theme, followed by live music provided by faculty at the UW School of Music. It was a way to bridge the streets and avenues and roads and alleys that separate people on this campus. And by all accounts, it’s been a success.
Next Friday, May 10, at 7 pm, at the Town Center at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 330 N. Orchard St., the public is invited to the final SoundWaves event of the 2012-2013 academic year. (And you can have dinner beforehand, at the in-house restaurant, Steenbock’s on Orchard.) This months’s theme:
Getting the Job Done: Humans and the Tools We Use
Electricity? What is it really and how does it work? (John Booske, engineering) Can we connect emotionally with our robot helpers? (Bilge Mutlu, computer science) Do musical instruments help create musical styles? (Dan Grabois, music) How can a computer link animal sounds to linguistics? (Michael Coen, biostatistician)
Helping to answer the third question will be music from a new band called “Sinister Resonance,” comprised of Mark Hetzler (trombone and electronics), Vincent Fuh (piano), Nick Moran (doublebass) and Todd Hammes (drums/percussion). Sinister Resonance will not sound like any music any of us have ever heard before. We promise. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on that topic.
Here’s the scoop on how SoundWaves got started, from Dan Grabois:
“SoundWaves started as a small idea: what if we had an evening where we had some science lectures and some live classical music? I love learning about science, and UW-Madison is filled with scientists doing fascinating stuff. Also, I like learning about how everyday stuff works; once, meeting a civil engineer at a party, I began peppering her with questions about road construction. What is tar? What is asphalt? I don’t know much about the world I live in, and I’d love to learn more. I figured there must be other people like me, who are interested in learning science and are equally interested in hearing great music. It seemed like a good way to stitch together two very separate areas of the university, and a good way to increase the audience for each area.
“I brought the idea to [School of Music director] John Stevens, who thought it interesting enough to suggest I bring it to the Arts Institute. The Arts Institute thought it interesting enough to suggest I bring it to the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. I made an appointment to speak with Laura Heisler, who is the program pirector for WARF (if you are getting confused, so was I, but here’s an explanation: the Arts Institute is in charge of managing development for all the arts on campus. WID is the fancy new building on University Avenue right before it meets up with Johnson. WARF is the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. WARF operates WID, and WARF is the organization that provides research funding for the university).
“Preparing to meet Laura, I thought my original idea lacked punch. Bringing science and music together was nice, but we needed to do it thematically, to explore an issue from different sides. I came up with some possible themes and wrote them up. I pitched them to Laura, expecting her to say either NO or to agree to try one of them. Instead, she said we would do them all and see where it went (thank you, Laura!).
“We decided to start with the theme of sound itself, and our first SoundWaves event was entitled Music to Our Ears. I found a physicist to talk about the structure of sound, a hearing specialist to talk about how the ear works, a neuroscientist to talk about how the brain processes the signal from the ear, and a psychologist to talk about how our emotions transform brain signals into feelings. Then I performed the Brahms Horn Trio with my colleagues Felicia Moye and Kit Taylor. We held this debut event at the Science Festival, and it was a big success, with a great audience.
“After that, we didn’t have the benefit of the Science Festival’s built-in audience, and we didn’t know what to expect. But our next project, The Consequences of Sequences, had an overflow audience. For the third project, Inch By Inch, Measure for Measure (about, what else, measurement), we moved to the largest space in the WID building, and we had an audience of over 250 people. Our final event of the year takes place on May 10. Entitled Getting the Job Done: Humans and the Tools We Use, we’ll have Mark Hetzler and his band Sinister Resonance performing two pieces, plus talks by Mark himself and by electrical engineer John Booske (I always wondered how electricity works), computer scientist Bilge Mutlu (with his robots!), and biostatistician Michael Coen (he uses the computer to analyze animal vocalizations in order to understand them linguistically – he’s basically a one-man university). I’ll be speaking about how musicians’ tools, their instruments, have a two-way relationship with style, both influencing stylistic evolution and being influenced by the demands new styles put on players.
“One other thing: I am grateful to the Kemper K. Knapp Bequest Committee for awarding a generous grant to SoundWaves. We’ll be holding eight SoundWaves events next year. And we have sponsored a student logo design competition – the winning design will be revealed on May 10. As of that date, we will have brought over fifteen science departments into the SoundWaves fold, and heard a lot of great music, too.”
Listen to Dan Grabois and Mark Hetzler discuss SoundWaves with WORT radio’s Rich Samuels, May 9th, about 7 am, 89.9 FM.