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Cultural experiences change composer’s musical tune

Composers discussed the influence of their travels and experiences behind their work at this week’s installment of the Brown Bag Series. (Ashley Long / Photo Editor)

Three composers from around the world came together to talk about their musical experiences at the latest edition of the Brown Bag series. “The New Generation of Contemporary Composers: World Premieres from Composers from Four Continents” discussion was held Friday, March 16 in the Mildred & Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall.

Composers Mahir Cetiz, Paul Clift and Michel Galante spoke about their latests tracks, which would make their world premiere in “Music from Four Continents” that night in Mayo.

Galante — an American conductor — spoke about his latest work as a Columbia University doctoral candidate in composition.

“As a grad student at Columbia, every year over 120 people apply but only two or three get in,” he said.

The atmosphere of the university made it possible for the various candidates in the program to use Columbia as a gathering place for creating music, explained Galante — who also served as the assistant conductor of the Columbia University orchestra.

Now as the lead conductor of the Argento Chamber Ensemble — a musical ensemble that performs and tours all over the world, — Galante noted the latest influences he’s found impacting music.

“The influence of electronic music is very important for 2012 as well as the influence of other types of art forms, like video,” he said.

However, the Austrailian composer Clift explained that it was not video electronics, but rather poetry.

“I spent a year in Turkey studying poetry and it was the most relevant thing for my piece tonight, which has a singer singing my favorite poems,” he said.

Clift also previewed one of his tracks for the audience — a piece that featured 16 instruments that included everything from a clarinet and violins to an electric guitar.

Turkish composer Cetiz said his music steers away from the electronic influences mentioned by Galante and instead is based off of the structure of the sounds.

“I started to hear things differently as a composer like the music of my country,” he said. “Cultures (influence) the music of musicians.”

The composers also spoke about the latest developments they are making in music through the deconstruction of traditional instruments.

Carol McGonnel — a clarinetist for the ensemble and an Ireland native — demonstrated this deconstruction. By using a unique technique of drumming her fingers against the keys of the clarinet, McGonnell was able to play the clarinet to produce a sound that was far from traditional.

McGonnel’s husband, Galante, explained that this way of playing the clarinet was inspired by videotaping sound effects.

“The clarinet wasn’t meant for this purpose, but the keys are what’s being used to make this sound,” he said. “Deconstructing allows us to use instruments in a way that they weren’t originally meant to be used.”


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