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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 20, 2006

Duo Will Present Percussion/Theater Music On Oct. 5 UI Guest Performance

The Sylvia Smith Percussion Duo will present "The Percussion/Theater Music of Stuart Saunders Smith," a guest performance at the University of Iowa School of Music, at 8 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, in Harper Hall of the UI Voxman Music Building.

Founded in 1998, the Sylvia Smith Percussion Duo is made up of Sylvia Smith and Ayano Kataoka. The duo has a special interest in percussion with spoken text and percussion theater. Their theatrical pieces are sober and thoughtful, sometimes spiritually oriented.

For the Oct. 5 program, the duo will percussion-text-theater pieces by Stuart Saunders Smith, an American composer, editor and poet who teaches composition and percussion and is director of the New Music Ensemble at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Sylvia Smith and Kataoka perform dual roles for the performance, as both percussionists and singer/actors. The program, all composed between 1994 and 2002, will include "When Music is Missing, Music Sings," "The Xylophone Poems," "Thinking About Anne Sexton," "Hearing Links" and "Family Portraits: Delbert (great- grandfather)."

The program will conclude with ". . . And Points North," a solo percussion "opera" in three scenes. Using music, singing, storytelling and theatrical props, it tells the story of a Native American woman in search of her spirit.

In the first scene, she looks for her spirit in the city. The instruments for this scene are mostly made from metal: a small gong, metal pipes, a metal bucket other metallic instruments, and cast-off urban trash. She doesn't find her spirit here.

In the second scene, she looks for her spirit in the forest. The instruments for this scene are trees, rocks and logs. She looks a long time, but her spirit is not here either.

The third scene, "Above the timberline," uses pod rattles, a woodblock and bird calls. The performer speaks a poem in Passamaquoddy language, a Native American language still spoken in Eastern Maine, as she walks on a pathway of dry leaves. Finally, she finds her spirit in silence.

Sylvia Smith is the founder, owner and editor of Smith Publications/Sonic Art Editions, publishers of American art music. As a percussionist she has performed at Merkin Hall in New York, the Percussive Arts Society International Convention and with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Her performances are recorded on O.O. Discs and Eleven West Records. She received the American Music Center Letter of Distinction in 1988. 

Kataoka recently became the first percussionist to be accepted into the Chamber Music Society Two residency program in New York. She has appeared with Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble at Carnegie Hall, given a debut recital at Tokyo Opera City Recital Hall in Japan and performed with Emanuel Ax at Lincoln Center. She gave the US premiere performance of ". . . As If time Would Heal By Its Passing" by Stuart Saunders Smith at the 2005 Percussive Arts Society International Convention. She is recorded on Respect Records.

Stuart Saunders Smith has written a diverse and unusual body of musical and literary compositions and his style is unpredictable from piece to piece. His interest in notation and in indeterminate composition has developed into pieces that will work for any performer, including an actor or a dancer.

His music is performed throughout North America, Western Europe and Asia. His music is recorded on O.O. Discs, Capstone Records and on European labels in Austria, France and Germany. He has received the East/West Artist Award, the Maryland State Artists Fellowship, the Pittsburgh Film Forum Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts Composer's Fellowship and the Atlantic Center for the Arts Master Artist Award. Smith's music is published by Sonic Art Editions.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. You may visit the UI School of Music web site at

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

MEDIA CONTACT: Peter Alexander, 319-384-0072,