New Music Festival Preview: Cezary Duchnowski

Cezary Duchnowski

Editor’s Note: This post is part of series previewing the 2014 New Music Festival at the University of Louisville School of Music.

Cezary Duchnowski (b. February 25, 1971; Elbląg, Poland) is an avid composer and performer of contemporary electroacoustic works. He studied at the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in Wrocław with Leszek Wisłocki, where he later facilitated in the creation of their Studio of Computer Composition. Currently, he serves as a lecturer at his alma mater.
Duchnowski began his musical studies primarily as a performer, studying violin, cello, organ, trumpet, and piano. He now focuses on performing as a pianist and improviser, mostly in electroacoustic genres. As someone who collaborates with other artists, Duchnowski performs in various ensembles. Along with Marcin Rupociński, he helped found the interdisciplinary artistic group Morphai. As an enthusiast of improvisation, Duchnowski has collaborated with jazz musicians in the creation of live improvised music. One of his most important partnerships is with the composer and soprano Agata Zubel in Duo ElettroVoce, for voice and electronics. Another notable group is Phonos ek Mechanes, of which he is a member along with Pawel Hendrich and Slawomir Kupczak. This group has implemented the concept of “human electronics,” an improvised electronic music genre in which computers are controlled by acoustic instruments.

His music has been featured at many festivals and has been performed by musicians and ensembles such as the Hilliard Ensemble, AUKSO, and the Tech-No Orchestra. Duchnowski’s “Monad 3” for Voice, Piano and Computer (2003) received First Prize at the 10th International Rostrum of Electroacoustic Music in Rome. His collaboration with Agata Zubel garnered them the Special Award at the Gaudeamus International Contemporary Music Interpreters Competition in Amsterdam. A recent project, “el Derwid” was recorded along with Agata Zubel and Andrzej Bauer and was nominated to the Fryderyk Award of the Polish Phonographic Academy. This album featured new arrangements of eleven songs by Witold Lutosławski. Duchnowski has also been recognized by the Polish Composers Association for his promotional activity of the Polish contemporary music.

His complex style originates from (or at least is strongly influenced by) his use of electronics and his fascination with improvisation. Both advanced control and spontaneity are crucial to his aesthetic throughout his solo and collaborative works. His exploration of new timbres and evolving textures create unique sound worlds that simultaneously retain a sense of form and cohesiveness.
Duchnowski will be performing his own compositions as well as works by his peers as part of his ensembles Elettrovoce and Phonos ek Mechanes during the Electronic and Improvisation night of the University of Louisville New Music Festival on Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 8:00 p.m. in the Rauch Planetarium. He will also be giving a lecture on Wednesday, November 5, 2014 from 9:00–10:30 a.m. at the University of Louisville School of Music in room LL26. Both of these events are free and open to the public. For more information about Duchnowski, please visit duchnowski.com and listen to his works at soundcloud.com/duchnowski

Jabez Co, Iara Gomes, Chris Kincaid and Ben Williams contributed to this article. They are students of Dr. Rebecca Jemian, a member of the music theory faculty at the University of Louisville.

New Music Festival Preview: Ben Sørensen

Bent Sørensen foto Lars Skaaning

Editor’s note: Over the next several days we’ll be previewing the upcoming 2014 New Music Festival at the University of Louisville, through posts on this blog. The posts were written by U of L faculty Jean Christensen and students of Rebecca Jemian: Justin Giarrusso, Andrew Maxbauer, Ian Schroeder, Jabez Co, Iara Gomes, Chris Kincaid, Ben Williams, Michelle Gilfert, Jon Hodge, Matt Wetmore and Samantha Holman.

Composer Bent Sørensen has been a noticeable figure in Danish music life since the mid-1980s. Born in 1958, he was a star student of the leading composition teachers of the day, Per Nørgärd and Ib Nørholm, and it was said that he had mastered compositional technique even before his debut concert. Already in 1988, three of his early string quartets were recorded by the highly-esteemed Arditti Quartet (Alman, 1983-84, Adieu, 1986, and Angel’s Music, 1987-88) and in 1996, he was the recipient of the esteemed Nordic Music Prize for his violin concerto (Sterbende Gärten/Dying Gardens), one of only three Danes to be so honored. In 2002, his first full-scale opera, Under the Sky, was premiered at the Royal Opera House. He has been the featured composer at the Huddington Festival in Britain, and in 2011 his piano concerto, La Mattina, was awarded the International Prize by the British Composers Awards. (The earlier winners of the prize include Unsuk Chin, John Adams and Wolfgang Rihm.)

Sørensen often gives his works interesting and evocative titles. The Fourth String Quartet is called Cries and Melancholy, and the seven movements for violin and piano is also Seven Longings. These titles refer to strong feelings of melancholy or longing, while others might evoke something that is disappearing (Deserted Churchyards), unheard (The Shadows of Silence) or intangible (Consoling in Darkness). The music often corresponds in some manner, but not always as expected. This music invites the listener into a multi-layered texture where fragmented, delicate explorations of small tonal melodies or harmonies might recall fugitive sensations of time and space as a part of the multidimensional character of the composer’s musical universe that has often been described as “romantic.”

Bent Sørensen commands the whole arsenal of modern performance techniques; every voice in the ensemble–instrumental or vocal–must be able to express elements from the full spectrum of sound, from the richest to the most refined nuances of the tonal system, as well as those that lie outside it–glissandos and quarter tones, for instance. Instrumentalists are often asked to play secondary instruments or sing while they play, vocal ensembles must be able to sing complex harmonic combinations with subtle vocal nuances. All efforts are directed toward intensifying the listening experience, the most consistent factor in this composer’s output.

The selections programmed for the Festival are The Hill of the Heartless Giant (2001) for solo string bass; Songs of Decay for solo clarinet; Fragments of Requiem (2007) for chorus; the early Trotto (1983) for woodwind quintet; and the recent Pantomine-Papillons (2014) for piano and ensemble. A highlight of the festival will be the premiere of Twelve Nocturnes, six miniatures for piano solo alternating with arrangements of the same for the University Wind Ensemble by Jakob Kullberg and Matthew Wetmore. The Danish pianist Katrine Gislinge will be featured as soloist in both Pantomine-Papillons and Twelve Nocturnes. Altogether the programs of the New Music Festival at the School of Music, University of Louisville, will provide a multi-faceted introduction to the music of the Danish composer Bent Sørensen (Photo Credit: Lars Skaaning)

Dr. Jean Christensen Jean Christensen is a retired professor of Music History at the University of Louisville.

Rachel Grimes at Green Building and Big Ears

rachel at theater de NWE Vorst

This week you’ll have two opportunities to hear Rachel Grimes play. The first is on Thursday at the Green Building (Doors open at 7pm. Limited tickets available at Guestroom Records), where she’ll play with saxophonist Jacob Duncan and cellist Helen Money, and share the bill with another Louisvillian Cheyenne Mize, and with vocalist Susanna.

For the second concert, you have to drive to Knoxville, Tennessee for the 2014 Big Ears Festival. There she’ll reprise her performance with Duncan and Money, and be part of a lineup that includes Steve Reich, So Percussion, Jonny Greenwood (composer of scores to There Will Be Blood) and more.

(Photo above by William van der Voort from her De NWE Vorst concert)

2014 Grawemeyer Winner in Music Composition

Since 1985, the University of Louisville has awarded one of the largest monetary prizes in music composition, thanks to an endowment from H. Charles Grawemeyer. Previous winners include Witold Lutoslawski, Gyorgy Ligeti, John Adams and Pierre Boulez. The winner of the 2014 award goes to Serbian-born composer Djuro Zivkovic, for his chamber orchestra work “On the Guarding of the Heart,” inspired by an ancient Christian text. It was premiered by Klangforum Wien in 2011.

Brett Dean with Elysian Trombone Quartet

brett dean

Thursday’s concert at the University of Louisville School of Music will feature the Elysian Trombone Consort and Faculty Chamber Music. Brett Dean will perform his solo viola work Intimate Decisions and The Elysian Trombone Consort will perform Dean’s Night Journey. Krzysztof Wolek gives us a preview, along with some clips of Intimate Decisions.