Ensemble for Contemporary Music (ECM): "The Thing Possessed"

Event Date: 

Wednesday, May 30, 2018 - 5:30pm

Event Date Details: 

Event Location: 

  • Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall (UCSB)

Event Price: 

Tickets: general ($10), non-UCSB students with ID ($5), UCSB students with ID (FREE), children under 12 (FREE). Tickets may be purchased at the door, at the Associated Students Ticket Office window (UCEN Room 1535, across from Corwin Pavilion), online at the link below, or by calling the Associated Students Ticket Office at (805) 893-2064.
 
Youth and UCSB student tickets may be reserved in advance by visiting the Associated Students Ticket Office window on the UCSB campus (UCEN Room 1535, across from Corwin Pavilion) or by contacting the Associated Students Ticket Office at ticketoffice@as.ucsb.edu or (805) 893-2064.
 

 

Event Contact: 

Adriane Hill
Marketing and Communications Manager
UC Santa Barbara Department of Music
(805) 893-3230
Ensemble for Contemporary Music (ECM). Photo by Eric Isaacs.
Photo by Eric Isaacs.
 
Directed by Jeremy Haladyna, the UCSB Ensemble for Contemporary Music (ECM) will present its annual spring concert on Wednesday, May 30, 2018 at 5:30 pm in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall on the UCSB campus. Titled "The Thing Possessed", the program will feature works by Hans Werner Henze, André Jolivet, Stephen Hartke, Katherine Hoover, William Bolcom, Richard Orton, Henri Dutilleux, Alvin Lucier, and two world premieres of works by UCSB graduate composition students Scott Perry and M.D. Owensby.
 
UCSB’s ECM is making news with its season finale, as it takes on both a new theme and a new start time: 5:30pm, moved in order to ease parking concerns for those seeking out the ECM venue, Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall. Its concert, titled “The Thing Possessed”, unfolds Wednesday the 30th of May and presents a whole spirited cast of young musicians.
 
The theme wraps this concert in the spirit world, with exotic traditions tied to spirits from Japan, Guatemala, Southwestern pueblos and Polynesia all playing roles. Unique as well is the way single pieces on the concert reflect different aspects of spiritualism: spirits that are seasonal; spirits in service to, or inimical to, humankind; and even spirits inhabiting both animals and things.  
 
Bird Spirits, a piano set by William Bolcom, is a good case in point. When composer Bolcom was gifted a set of monochrome prints, all sketches of crows by Frank Boyden, with the crows assuming many different aspects and postures, he resolved to “answer back” with a piano set interpreting the “bird spirit” of each sketch. A healthy measure of these delightful pieces will be offered up by pianists Jarod Fedele and Keith Sibal on the concert.
 
Mana, the 1935 piano classic by André Jolivet is another perfect example. Here is a rare Santa Barbara opportunity to hear this masterpiece, in which the composer felt moved to react, Polynesian-fashion, to six fetish objects he had been given, including anthropomorphic dolls and animal figurines. In each short piano piece he sought to capture the hidden spirit which the object possessed, its “mana.” French pianist Marie-Agathe Charpagne does the honors here.
 
Gyges, by the British composer Richard Orton, translates into music the old Greek legend of the magical ring that cloaks its wearer with invisibility: it is “possessed” with this power. For that reason it is much coveted by a shepherd, who finds it in a cave and removes it from the finger of a sleeping giant. The musical version, too, does a good disappearing act in what amounts to duo-play for oboe and piano. Lexie Callaway-Cole and Jarod Fedele will share the fun.
 
Director Jeremy Haladyna will offer portions of his new Organ Sonata: Maximón.
 
So very unlike other organ works inspired by saints, this one celebrates a Guatemalan folk saint who-- while cast in a Catholic role-- actually represents Mam, the Mayans’ ancient grandfather figure. Curiously, this spirit predating the Conquest is nowadays manifested in a colorful manikin dressed like a modern, prosperous cowboy. It was this modern-day twist that inspired Haladyna to twin the pipe organ to the scratch turntable, so as to create a musical syncretism of his own.   
 
A trio of shorter works rounds out the spiritualist portion of the concert.
 
Katherine Hoover’s Winter Spirits of 1997 is dedicated to the seasonal observances of Southwestern pueblo people of the United States, specifically rites involving kachinas and totems. Graduate flutist Cynthia Vong is the very capable interpreter.  And talented young pianist/composer Evan Losoya steps forward to hopefully nullify the ancient prejudice against the “evil” left hand, as he plays Hans Werner Henze’s La mano sinistra, for left hand alone! This was a work written for the stricken pianist Leon Fleisher, who for a long period was crippled and forced to play concerts one-handed: the left, of course.
 
Finally, the set Netsuke by California composer Stephen Hartke yields two movements particularly spiritualist in tone.  Overall, this is a work for violin and piano, with the violinist called on to offer all sorts of non-standard tone from the instrument. That is no doubt owing to the terror in the titles of the music: both “Baku, the monster that devours nightmares,” and “Demons carrying a rich man to Hell” figure on this ECM program. Violinist Sara Bashore and pianist Evan Losoya cooperate in the rendition. Netsuke were often intricate, sculptured receptacles that served as elaborate sash closures for Japanese nobility of yore. Many survive today as true masterpieces of miniature three-dimensional art.
 
Two signal premieres occupy a featured space on this season finale, both by composers finishing their doctorates in the composition program. From Scott W. Perry comes Movement for Viola and Piano, a rhythmic tour-de-force demanding tortuous dialogue between the musicians, who throughout its roughly ten minute duration are ironically never that far from unity, even tonal unity, into which they finally reconcile in the last bars of the piece. M.D. Owensby, whose generous viola will hold forth in the Perry, himself contributes the other new premiere. His Mockery Pursuit for violin and cello explores a new dialectic of microtonal string counterpoint in which the participants (violinist Sara Bashore and cellist Katherine Carlson) are in open competition towards an objective. Their trajectory is a challenging one over a landscape of quarter-tones and non-tempered intervals. Their decision to join forces comes late in the work, when they together offer a detuned version of a medieval estampie entitled “La Rotta,” a delightful and unexpected surprise.
 
Quite apart from its possession theme, ECM’s May 30th concert also contains a heady dose of musical lagniappe, in the form of very short works by modern composers of great import. This includes Ligeti’s Passacaglia Ungherese for harpsichord from the late 1970’s (Keith Sibal), Marcel Chyrzynski’s Quasi Kwazi for clarinet alone (Hiroko Sugawara), Dutilleux’s Choral, Cadence et Fugato for trombone and piano (Nick Mazuk, Jarod Fedele), and Alvin Lucier’s Bar Lazy J, for clarinet and microtonal trombone (Hiroko Sugawara, Nick Mazuk). There is also an item brought straight from Slovenia by graduate pianist Petra Peršolja: Dimensions, a lively showpiece in 3 short sections by noted Slovenian composer Bojan Glavina. Sharing the single keyboard will be the “One-and-a-Half Slavs,” that is: Petra Peršolja and Jeremy Haladyna.

 

 

 

Ensemble for Contemporary Music (ECM). Photo by Eric Isaacs.