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Release: Sept. 26, 2002

'Experiments From Musical Lab' Will Be Featured Oct. 8

Horn player Jeffrey Agrell from the University of Iowa School of Music faculty will be joined by pianist Evan Mazunik to present an eclectic program, ranging from world premieres of new pieces by both performers to a bebop standard by Charlie Parker, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, in Clapp Recital Hall on the University of Iowa campus.

The recital will be free and open to the public.

"Evan Mazunik and I have worked together for two years," Agrell noted. "Since we are both composers as well as performers, our sessions are often the musical equivalent of a chemistry lab -- imagine bottles of mysterious reagents and test tubes strewn everywhere -- where we try to stretch our imaginations as composers and musical abilities as performers in concocting new and unusual creations.

"Except for the Charlie Parker piece, this entire program arose from recent experiments in our musical lab."

Agrell and Mazunik will begin with a pair of premieres, Agrell's "Haiku for Horn and Piano" and Mazunik's "Diminished Intelligence for Horn and Piano."

Agrell said that the brevity and wit of the traditional Japanese three-line poem serve as the model and inspiration for "Haiku," which comprises four short movements, each based on a specific haiku. The four poems are:

-- "A frog" by Issa: "A frog!/Quietly and serenely/He gazes at the mountains";

-- "Autumn Tempest" by Basho: "Everything is blown away/Even wild boars and I:/Autumn tempest.";

-- "Two Winters" by Basho: "You go/I stay/Two winters"; and

-- "Waterdrops" by Buson: "Waterdrops from the bamboos/Flashed/In the lightning."

In "Diminished Intelligence," three melodic motifs or fragments serve as both a background and as a source for improvisation. "Toe-tapping is encouraged," the composer said.

Forming a kind of centerpiece of the recital will be Agrell's "September Elegy" for piano and the natural horn without valves. Written last year as an expression of grief from the tragic events of Sept. 11, the composition "takes advantage of the powerful expressive capabilities of the classic era natural horn in a contemporary musical setting," Agrell said. It was performed at the UI Infinite Respect Conference in January, and was a winner in the "Beyond 9/11: Arts in Iowa" project.

The "September Elegy" will be framed by another pair of premieres: "Toys in the Attic" for horn and toy piano/piano by Agrell, a musical depiction of a young boy who lets his imagination roam free when he discovers a chest full of old toys in his grandfather's attic; and "Oddio" for horn and piano by Mazunik, which combines elements of folk music including pentatonic melodies and uneven meters with coloristic harmonies from contemporary musical practice.

To close the recital, bassist Mark Urness will join with Agrell and Mazunik for Charlie Parker's "Au Privave." "This bebop standard is the most 'classical' piece on the program" Agrell commented. "It was chosen solely to force the horn player to stretch his abilities in a new direction."

Agrell joined the UI School of Music faculty in 2000 after a 25 year career as symphony musician. At the UI he teaches horn, directs the Horn Choir, coaches chamber music and performs with the Iowa Brass Quintet. Before coming to Iowa, he associate principal horn with the Lucerne (Switzerland) Symphony Orchestra 1975-2000, playing symphonic music, opera, operetta, ballet, musicals choral music and chamber music.

Agrell began composing and arranging during his college years and played jazz guitar and electronic music in the 1980s. For the past decade he has had a steady stream of commissions from professional chamber music ensembles. His works have appeared on CD and have been broadcast on radio and television nationally and internationally.

Widely respected as performer, teacher and composer, Agrell was a guest artist/clinician at the Midwest Horn Workshop in 2002. During the summer of 2002 he was a featured artist and clinician at the Juneau Jazz and Classics Festival and a coach for the Asian Youth Orchestra in Hong Kong. He was on the editorial staffs of two brass journals, writes two regular columns for Horn Call, and has some 60 published articles to his credit. He is currently working on a multi-volume method that integrates traditional technique with aspects of improvisation, jazz, and contemporary music.

Mazunik's broad experience as a pianist, composer, and improviser includes work with distinguished musicians including Carla Bley, Bob Mintzer, Bobby Shew and Steve Swallow, as well as scoring the documentary "Checker King," which will air on Cinemax in 2003.

In 2002 he served as musical director and arranger for "In Sarajevo," a musical that received its premiere as part of the Iowa New Play Festival. Most recently, he recorded an album of original compositions for jazz sextet. Evan conducts Gamut, a sound painting ensemble, and has been a member of the New York City-based Walter Thompson Orchestra since 2002.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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