BU New Music Fest 2012

Sarah Usick / The Quill

Thursday night in the Lorne Watson Recital Hall, the Brandon University New Music Festival 2012 concluded on a decidedly successful note. Featuring some of the School of Music’s talented students, the BU New Music Ensemble and guests treated audiences to an evening of lively, thoughtful and challenging art music, all written within the last three years.

Beginning the evening was a jazzy duet improvisation on two pianos by Luis Ramirez and Jesse Plessis. Next up was Discrete Strains by Canadian composer Brent Lee, performed by the full BUNME, conducted by Meg Masaki. BUNME is a group of undergrad and graduate music students in various programs of study who perform a diverse array of works by living composers. In their excellent performance of Discrete Strains, a sad contemplative melody played above dissonant harmonic crunches. A video created in real-time ran during the performance, using imagery of mainly urban settings which changed as the music changed in sound and colour. After that was Subtranslucence by Jeff Presslaff, a piece commissioned by Dr. Catherine Wood. Energetic and quirky, the piece was performed for its world premiere by the BU Clarinet Choir.

During the intermission, the audience wandered over to the video installation DRAWN by Ben Davis, featuring the cello played by Leanne Zacharias, who wrote the score as well.

Returning to the Hall, the full ensemble played Ocean by Kjartan Olafsson, who composed at BU last year, and who has invited BUNME to perform in a prestigious New Music festival in Iceland in 2013. Concluding the night was Homages by BU’s own Chris Byman. Featuring eerie vocals, a blue pocket trumpet (a condensed version of a regular trumpet), and the striking keytar (a guitar with a keyboard), this gorgeous and stirring piece had an unexpected emotional and ambient feel, like something out of a film score. Byman stated before BUNME premiered his work that much influences of the piece come from his love for electronica, techno, and the music of Daft Punk and MUSE. Deftly stepping between its pop influences and is well-written art music style, fully utilizing an ensemble such as BUNME, Homages held appeal for the whole range of the audience.

While new music festivals aren’t always the type of concerts you walk away humming a catchy tune, they are the type of experiences that make you feel a deeper appreciation of the arts. The BU New Music Festivals offer rare chances for both the musically-educated and the average concertgoer alike to experience the diverse edge of experimentation and exploration in contemporary classical music, as well as hear initial premiers of composers’ works and collaboration of BU music students and guests, all in unconventional mediums. This finale concert was certainly no exception.

The BU New Music Ensemble will be hosting a social at The 40 on January 4th at 9:00 pm. Tickets are $10 and will be available at the School of Music. Door prizes, a DJ and other fun things await. All proceeds go towards funding the New Music Ensemble’s trip to Iceland.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 15, December 11, 2012.