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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB’s Ensemble for Contemporary Music Lassos Spring Bouquet

Tuesday concert fashions modern/contemporary performance with a pair of world premieres

Director Jeremy Haladyna leads UCSB’s Ensemble for Contemporary Music (ECM) on a good-natured sortie to stake out an advanced position inside the coming spring. At 8 p.m. Tuesday in Lotte-Lehmann Concert Hall, ECM will present a concert it calls “Rustlin’ up Spring!” which will, in effect, launch the campus-wide celebration known as “Primavera.”

Composer Lou Harrison and his partner, Bill Colvig, in 1997.
Composer Lou Harrison and his partner, Bill Colvig, in 1997. (Jim Hair photo)

Haladyna has fashioned an evergreen program of modern — modern-slash-contemporary — music, including two world premieres and two masterpieces from the heroic age of American modernism.

“This program has weighty chunks of music by two great Americans — John Cage and Lou Harrison,” Haladyna said. “With the Cage, it’s a question of an acknowledged monument of American music. With the Harrison, it’s a genial work too little known.”

Selections from Cage’s “Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano” (1946-1948) will be played by the superb composer and pianist, Joel Feigin. Cage had made a journey to the East and absorbed Hindu philosophy well in anticipation of the widespread interest of the 1960s, and the pieces express the eight “rasas” or mental-emotional states of mind, that are the wellspring of Indian classical dance and theater.

Harrison, too, was famous for introducing non-Western elements into his music. His dates are 1917-2003. Born, like John Reed and James Beard, in Portland, Harrison was in many respects a quintessential cranky-Yankee, a cross between Charles Ives and Walt Whitman. Violinist Dimitry Olevsky and pianist Kacey Link will play “Movements I (Prelude), III (A Round) & V (Polka)” of Harrison’s five-movement “Grand Duo for Violin and Piano” (1988), a delightfully accessible romp for the musicians, and a brilliant showcase for them.

The concert will open with the premier of Joann Cho’s atmospheric “Golden Winter State,” conducted by Haladyna, who will also conduct the evening’s other premiere, David Gordon’s “The Distant Sound.” Completing the program are Australian Peter Sculthorpe’s “Sonata for Viola and Percussion” (1960) — performed by Gentry Hill, viola, and Dylan Morrow percussion — and Polish composer Henryk Górecki’s “Muzyczka 3 for Three Violas” (or any multiple thereof) — played by Hill, Rachel Galvin and Shannon McCue.

Admission to “Rustlin’ up Spring” is $15 (general) and $7 (students), with tickets sold only at the door. Click here for information, or call 805.893.7001.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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