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November 16, 2000

UMBC NEW MUSIC ENSEMBLE CELEBRATES ITS 25TH ANNIVERSARY

The UMBC New Music Ensemble will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a free concert on December 6 at 8 p.m. in the Fine Arts Recital Hall. For more information, call (410) 455-MUSC.

The program will feature three works by Herbert Brün, best known as the father of electronic/computer music, who died on November 6, 2000. One of the concert's world premieres will be Moody Moments, which Brun wrote for Sylvia Smith, artistic director of the Ensemble. Also on the program are Per Contra: Serenata: bassa and Five Pieces for Piano by Herbert Brün; The Xylophone Poems and Light a Dew (world premiere) by Stuart Saunders Smith; For 1, 2 or 3 People by Christian Wolff; The Children's Hour and At the River by Charles Ives; Progression by Ben Johnston; Toccata for Piano by Robert Erickson; Not Far Apart (world premiere) by UMBC student Zachary Fischer; and Pacific Sirens by UMBC student Robert Erickson.

The New Music Ensemble not only provides undergraduate students with an unparalleled experience in performing new music, but does so under the direction of Stuart Saunders Smith, an internationally known composer. At least 250 musicians have benefited from this opportunity since 1975, when Stuart Smith first created a new music group comprised of students and faculty. The next year, the ensemble evolved into a for-credit course for students and has been offered at UMBC ever since. The current lineup includes eight students.

Stuart Smith credits the uniqueness of the Ensemble's program with its staying power. "We have focused on literature that is rarely done on an undergraduate level - the horizons of music, from 'older' music of Charles Ives, to recent John Cage. Other schools focus on history, which is useful, but not complete. When our students go on to graduate school and take a seminar in 20th-century music, they not only know of the compositions being discussed, but can often perform them as well," says Smith, who adds that performing a piece is often the key to truly understanding it.

"Most people don't realize how rare it is for undergraduates to play new music," says Sylvia Smith. She adds that students are attracted to the Ensemble because she and Stuart try to mix a variety of styles and experiences. There's always a piece performed by the entire group, but students also get the chance to perform as a soloist and as part of a duo or trio. They learn to read graphic or other new methods of notation, and gain exposure to incorporating electronics, or playing against a tape. "This is the only place students can get this variety of performing experience," she explains.

Music department chair Linda Dusman says the Ensemble is making an important contribution to new music history. "UMBC has a great heritage in its history of the promotion of contemporary compositions. Stuart Smith's founding of the New Music Ensemble provides UMBC with a legacy of support for contemporary work of which it can be very proud."

Posted by dwinds1 at November 16, 2000 12:00 AM