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The late Henry Brant of Santa Barbara won a Pulitzer, orchestrated the 1963 movie Cleopatra and was the first American composer to win Italy’s Prix Italia.

As T. S. Eliot would have said, “In my end is my beginning.” It is the end of fall quarter at UCSB, but it is also the beginning of the 2008-09 season for the UCSB ECM, Ensemble for Contemporary Music, which will offer its first performance at 8 p.m. Tuesday in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall.

ECM Director Jeremy Haladyna calls the concert “One-of-a-Kinds” — “a program of curious new music stand-alones.”

Among the works offered for our entertainment and edification are a case of Stravinsky “doing Bach,” musical interrogators in white coats and a “beat” drawn from the humble armadillo. Two works of Santa Barbaran Henry Brant show the more intimate, solo and/or chamber side of this recent immortal: Four Traumatics for piano and An Era Any Time of Year, sung by guest artist Emil Cristescu.

The neo-classical Stravinsky is represented by what is arguably the most enjoyable and attractive of all his compositions, the Dumbarton Oaks Concerto in E-Flat. As if that weren’t inducement enough, who could fail to be curious about Tom Johnson‘s “clinically existential” Music and Questions, Jeremy Haladyna’s intriguingly titled Only Armadillos They Danced or Bernadetta Matuszcak’s Musica da Camera?

Stravinsky wrote the “Dumbarton Oaks” Concerto in 1937 on a commission from Arthur Woods Bliss and his wife, and it was premiered at a concert on their Washington, D.C., estate, Dumbarton Oaks. Eric Salzman says the work is “like many such works of the composer, a kind of concerto to the second degree, a concerto about the experience of concertos.” At 16 minutes, it is over too soon.

Brant (1913-2008) lived in Santa Barbara from 1980 until his death April 26. He wrote in many styles, but was probably best-known for what he called “acoustic spatial music.” As early as the 1950s, Brant decided that “single-style music … could no longer evoke the new stresses, layered insanities and multidirectional assaults of contemporary life on the spirit.” The whimsical Four Tramatics dates from 1942, when he was 29. The more serious An Era Any Time of Year was composed in 1987, for UCSB‘s stellar baritone, Michael Ingham.

Johnson, a composer and critic (Village Voice), is probably the only American minimalist who admits to being one — he may have even coined the term in one of his columns. Greg Sandow said of him: “In many of Tom’s works, theory and practice are identical.” Music and Questions is a kind of audience participation number — you’ll see what I mean.

Haladyna’s wonderfully titled new work is for scratch turntable and string quartet and treats a cartoonlike story from the Mayan sacred book the Popol Vuh. Enough said.

Matuszczak is a figure from the Polish avant-garde. Her Musica da Camera of 1967 is a wild, stark and occasionally violent essay for three flutists (one doubling on piccolo) and two drummers.

Tickets to the ensemble’s concert are $15 for general admission and $7 for students. They will be available at the door of Lehmann Hall beginning about one hour before the performance. For more information, e-mail the department at

Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.