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Release: Aug. 29, 2000

Duo Contour will perform on UI Center for New Music concert series Sept. 10

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The duo Contour, a trumpet-percussion duo dedicated to the promotion of music by living composers, will perform a University of Iowa guest recital at 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Their performance, which will be free and open to the public, is the first of a concert series for the 2000-2001 season to be presented on the UI campus by the Center for New Music, a part of the new UI Division of Performing Arts.

The duo Contour was formed in 1998, when trumpet player Stephen Altoft and percussionist Lee Ferguson -- a graduate of the UI School of Music -- took part in the Darmstadt, Germany, International Summer Course for New Music.

In order to achieve a new sound, Altoft and Ferguson like to work with a composer during the preparation, learning and performance of each piece. In their performances, they aim for an interdependence between the two instruments and performers. These relationships carry over into their improvisations, in which they explore the possibilities of combining their musical performance with other art disciplines, including electronics, visual arts, theater and dance.

For the Sept 10 concert the duo Contour will perform works by Christopher Fox, Giacinto Scelsi, Igor Majcen, Christian Wolff, Bryn Harrison, Ewan Stafani, James Saunders and Tim Parkinson. The majority of the works were composed in the past two years.

Ferguson currently lives in Freiburg, Germany, where he works as a teacher and freelance percussionist and is a member of the Freiburg-based new music ensemble, Suono Mobile. In addition to his many solo concerts, he has played with Ensemble Recherche, Surplus, the Basel Symphony Orchestra, and the Furstenberg Baroque Ensemble, of which he is a founding member.

Ferguson was born in Grinnell. After studying as a scholarship student of Thomas L. Davis at the UI, he received a Fulbright Grant to study in Freiburg. During his time at Freiburg, he was a member of the Freiburg Percussion ensemble which received first prize in the German Music School Competition for the category New Music in Leipzig.

A native of England, Altoft is dedicated to the creation and performance of new repertoire for the trumpet. He plays with the Cornelius Cardew Ensemble and has collaborated with Golem Theatre. He has recently returned from a residency in Berlin, supported by the Music Sound Foundation, where he worked closely with German composers and performers.

He holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Huddersfield, England, and is a recipient of the Ricordi Prize for Contemporary Performance. In 1996 and 1998 he was awarded scholarships to participate at the Darmstadt International Summer School for New Music. For two years he ran the new music ensemble "yon," and he also established the Composers’ Exchange project in the north of England.

A flexible organization devoted to the presentation of the music of the past 100 years, the Center for New Music is directed by David Gompper, a faculty member in the theory and composition area of the UI School of Music. Part of the new UI Division of Performing Arts, the center supports its own performing ensemble, including both faculty and students of the School of Music, and presents concerts of recent music by guest artists.

The Center for New Music was founded in 1966 with a seed grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The center promotes the performance of new music by providing a core group of specialists in contemporary performance techniques. Its programming has included world premieres as well as acknowledged contemporary masterworks.

In November, 1998, an east-coast tour by the Center included a performance at Merkin Hall in New York City. Critic Paul Griffiths opened his New York Times review of the concert by observing that "an ensemble of faculty and graduate students from the University of Iowa performed strongly Tuesday night," and he praised Gompper for "the concert’s clarity and directness."

In 1986 the center received the Commendation of Excellence from Broadcast Music, Inc., the world’s largest performing rights organization, and it recently received grants from the Aaron Copland Fund and the National Endowment for the Arts. Today, the Center for New Music is supported by the UI Division of Performing Arts.

Information on the UI Center for New Music, including complete program notes for the concert by the duo Contour, is available on the World Wide Web at

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