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University of Iowa News Release

Feb. 13, 2003

UI Center For New Music Explores 'Music and Space' Feb. 23

The University of Iowa Center for New Music will present "Spatial Music/Music and Space" on a free concert at 8 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

A flexible organization devoted to the presentation of the music of the past 100 years, the Center for New Music (CNM) currently performs under interim director Amelia Kaplan. Part of the 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 program for "Spatial Music/Music and Space" comprises five works that incorporate the concept of space in very different ways: "Fluvience" for multiple trumpets by UI alumnus Mark Weber; "Obsession" for oboe and piano by Makoto Shinohara; "Quartetto" for flute, violin, viola and cello by Mario Davidovsky; "Jardin Secret II" for harpsichord and four-channel tape by Kaija Saariaho; and "Horizontals Extending" for large ensemble by Harry Brant.

"The word 'space' has been applied to music in many different ways," Kaplan explained. "As an art form primarily concerned with organizing sound in time, most references to space are metaphorical -- but not all. During the past 50 years, the spatial arrangement of the performers, or speakers in the case of electronic music, has become an important parameter for many composers.

"The Feb. 23 concert explores the idea of 'space' in music as conceived by a variety of composers. All of the pieces are ones in which the composer consciously used an idea of space to help organize or add expression to his or her composition."

Kaplan said there are two reasons that composers use physical space in musical composition: separating the performers into distinct groups or areas, so that the sounds that otherwise would be blended together are heard as separate strands that come from different directions; and changing the physical relationship between the performers and the listeners.

The first piece, Weber's "Fluvience" for multiple trumpets, uses both reasons. As the composer explained, "first and foremost, placement of the performers is a crucial aspect (of the piece) -- the audience is meant to be surrounded by these very directional instruments, hearing similar material coming in and out from all directions. Also important to the work is the interaction of the performers; there are hinge-points throughout, where those who arrive early wait for 'stragglers' before continuing, and sections where various ensemble members cue each other to enter or quit.

A different use of space occurs in Shinohara's "Obsession." Instead of the usual musical notation in which notes have specific durations, they are placed on the page so that the space between them represents length. In other words, shorter distances represent less time, and longer distances represent more time. "'Obsession' is a piece most about emotions," Kaplan said, "and the use of this flexible notation gives the performers more control to communicate that central idea."

Brant is considered a pioneer of music in which the spatial arrangement of performers is a crucial feature. Many of his works use separate and loosely coordinated groups of players to express in musical form the chaos of modern urban life in a multicultural world.

For the CNM performance of "Horizontals Extending," two ensembles will play from the front and rear balconies of Clapp Recital Hall, each with its own conductor, along with a drum set on stage. The ensemble in the front balcony has high winds and percussion, and moves in triple meter; the ensemble in the back balcony has low brass and timpani, and moves in duple meter. The percussionist on stage cues and is cued by the first conductor, and improvises between and during the two ensembles, which progress in an uncoordinated manner until the very end of the piece, when the on-stage drummer sets a tempo that the two conductors must follow.

Kaplan completed her doctorate in composition at the University of Chicago as a Century Fellow, where her primary teachers included the distinguished composer/teachers Shulamit Ran, Marta Ptaszynska and Ralph Shapey. She was the recipient of a Whiting Dissertation Fellowship, which she used for study at the Milan Conservatory. She also received a diploma of merit from the Accademia Musicale Chigiana and diploma from the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau. Her music has been performed around the United States. and in Europe at contemporary music events, including the Gaudeamus Festival, Darmstadt Festival, Klang, Sandpoint and others.

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. Today, the Center for New Music is supported by the UI Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

For information on UI arts events, visit on the World Wide Web. You may visit the CNM web site at To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <>.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500.

CONTACT: Media: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072, Program: Amelia Kaplan at (319) 335-1626,