Tuesday, February 20 , 2018, 2:41 am | Fair 39º


UCSB’s Ensemble for Contemporary Music Capping its Season

The program for Tuesday's finale features works by Scott Johnson and George Crumb.

UCSB’s Ensemble for Contemporary Music, under the inspired direction of Jeremy Haladyna, concludes its year with a concert at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall in the UCSB Music Building.

Composer Scott Johnson’s magnum opus, ‘How It Happens,’ will be performed by UCSB’s Ensemble for Contemporary Music.

The concert will showcase the work of Scott Johnson, ECM composer-in-residence, and a guest artist, violinist Philip Ficsor.

The program includes: Soliloquy from How It Happens by Scott Johnson, performed by the ECM strings, accompanied by I.F. Stone’s recorded narration; Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues by Frederic Rzewski, played by duo-pianists Natasha Kislenko and Margaret Halbig; Suite for Solo Violin by William Bolcom, rendered by guest violinist Philip Ficsor; the premiere of Scott Tooby’s Phase Shift played by electric guitarist David Shere, with an ECM ensemble; the premiere of Andrew Reed’s Points, with Jeremy Haladyna doing the honors on the piano; and George Crumb’s Night of the Four Moons, settings of poems by Federico García Lorca, with Allison Bernal, mezzo-soprano, Calisa Hildebrand, alto flute and piccolo, Hilary Clark, electric cello, David Shere, adapted banjo, and Tim Beutler, percussion.

Born in Madison, Wis., in 1952, Johnson has devoted his career to integrating the “classical” tradition with the popular culture surrounding it. Starting in the early 1980s, he has exerted a powerful influence through his quest to incorporate rock-derived instrumentation with traditionally scored compositions. Not surprisingly, he soon attracted the attention of the celebrated ensemble the Kronos Quartet, on whose commission How It Happens was composed. (There is at least one other connection between the ECM program and the Kronos: the work by U.S. composer George Crumb. Kronos founder David Harrington once said he had put the group together initially, in 1973, in order to play Crumb’s Black Angels).

How It Happens is based – as subject matter and as sonic content – on a speech delivered more than 20 years ago by the late journalist I.F. Stone. “When David Harrington suggested I.F. Stone’s voice … as a topic,” the composer says, “I was at first uncertain that I would find enough points of contact with a life devoted to the world of policies and politics: a field which often strikes me as a peculiar combination of hardball and air guitar.”

However, after immersing himself in Stone’s writings and in recordings of his voice, he was quickly won over to the idea of such a composition. “The desire to convince someone of something seems to create a clear musicality in human speech, both in moments of personal persuasion and in public rhetoric,” Johnson says. “In his work as a Washington journalist/polemicist/political philosopher, Stone was the insider’s outsider, able to discuss the state of the emperor’s clothing while still commanding the respect of those who preferred not to. His idealistic and democratic vision of the advancement of the human race as a whole was kept sharp by a no-nonsense reporter’s eye and an intellectual’s sense of history. Add a delight in humor, outrage and hyperbole, and the combination is as irresistible as Sam Spade casing a Supreme Court justice.”

Tickets to Tuesday’s performance are $15 for general admission and $7 for students, and may be purchased at the door.

For more information about musical events at UCSB, call 805.893.7001 or visit the Music Department online at www.music.ucsb.edu.

Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor.

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