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Gerald Carpenter: UCSB’s Week-Long 12th Primavera Festival Is ‘Textual, Tactile, Astoundingly New’

UC Santa Barbara carillonist Margo Halsted will ring in the opening of the university’s 2014 “Primavera” Festival at 7:45 a.m. Monday with a concert of three works by UCSB composers Emma Lou Diemer, Alexis Crawshaw and Halsted herself.

The unique annual festival was established in 2003 “to highlight the work of UCSB faculty, staff and students in the performing, visual and media arts.” As Jeremy Haladyna has pointed out, Primavera was originally designed on the model of an acoustic musical festival, but each one, like a crystal, has always kept several edges growing toward whatever creative ideal is sacred to the heart of the individual participant, be it acoustic, electronic, multimedia, dramatic, graphic or any other creative medium. No two of the festivals are alike, no one of them is ever boring. This year’s Primavera runs through Saturday.

The festival continues at 8 p.m. Tuesday with a concert in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall called “Text Me” by UCSB’s Ensemble for Contemporary Music (ECM), under the direction of Haladyna. As the somewhat tongue-in-cheek title suggests, the theme of the concert is the written word, especially poetry, and the program features new, text-based works by Leslie A. Hogan and Cristina Lord. Hogan’s Suite for the Senses distills her pianistic responses to poems of Californian David Shaddock (read by Jeff Mills of the UCSB Department of Theater and Dance), while Lord’s Songs of American Women (world premiere) are settings of poems by Emily Dickinson, Louise Bogan, Sylvia Plath and others, with the composer at the piano and mezzo-soprano Alice Chung will perform, with the composer at the keyboard.

The program also includes Diemer’s powerful Psalms for Organ and Percussion, selections from Peter Racine Fricker’s Diversions for Solo Piano, Opus 95, and the provocatively titled Gooseberry Pie for Liszt and Me by Haladyna. Tickets are $10 general admission, $5 students, and are available at the door.

 The remaining events, as described by their creators, are as follows:

Creations 2014 by the Center for Research in Electronic Arts Technology (CREATE)

8 p.m. Wednesday, Lotte Lehmann Hall (Free)

“Creations 2014 features two esteemed guests, New York-based composer Elizabeth Hoffmann, and Cologne-based composer Markus Schmickler. A special presentation is a world premiere of a new electronic work by UCSB faculty composer Joel Feigin, in collaboration with Ron Sedgwick. UCSB’s Corwin Chair of Composition, Clarence Barlow, will present a new audiovisual composition. In addition the CREATE Ensemble, a band of laptop/tablet musicians led by Matt Wright, will premiere their latest experimental interactive work live in concert.”

Des Gestes Touchants by Crawshaw, with guest artist Maud Watel-Kazak, mime and dance, and the CREATE ensemble, directed by Wright.

6-7 p.m. Thursday in the Music Bowl (Free)

“Touching Gestures is an interdisciplinary, collaborative improvisational performance with the computer music of the CREATE Ensemble led by Matthew Wright, comic mime and dance performance by guest artist/actress Maud Watel-Kazak and a vibrotactile music component by Alexis Story Crawshaw. This work will explore different rapports of ‘mapping’ and ‘feedback’ between the domains of theater and electroacoustic music. It will also investigate the musicality of touch using vibrotactile actuators, thereby inviting synaesthestic associations through gesture across three modalities: sonic, visual and tactile.”

Made in California by the Now Hear Ensemble (Federico Llach, double bass-artistic director; Jonathan Morgan, viola; Anthony Garcia, percussion; Joel Hunt, saxophone; Amanda Kritzberg, clarinet)

8 p.m. Thursday in the Old Little Theater (Free)

“The Made in California project is an exciting collaborative concert series with 11 composers throughout the state. Now Hear Ensemble believes that collaboration is a tremendously useful mode of creation for new music. The landscape of Californian music is rich and diverse, and as a part of this artistic realm, NHE seeks to create an accessible, uniform medium for the interchange of ideas between composers, performers and audiences. Made in California will be presented in San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Francisco.” The Primavera concert includes works by Todd Lerew, Eoin Callery, Kevin Zhang, Carolyn Chen, Iván Naranjo and Dan Van Hassel.

La perception transamplithéâtrale by Crawshaw, Watel-Kazak and Marcos Novak.

4 p.m. Friday in transLAB, 2615 Elings Hall (Free)

“This transdisciplinary installation/performance explores the ideas of fractured perception, multiphrenia (after psychologist Kenneth J.Gergen, that one personality becomes fragmented into many as a symptom of the demands of modern society and the sometimes conflicting roles that we must play within it), apophenia (the tendency of the mind to construct meaning or agency in otherwise meaningless data), and how our experience of the world is shaped by context and environment. A collaboration between Alexis Crawshaw, guest artist Maud Watel-Kazak and Marcos Novak, this work is an investigation, through diverse modalities, into the contiguous relationship between performance/artistic gesture (by the artists), perceptual gesture (by the audience member), and contextual gesture (by the manipulation of space in the venue of performance).

“Present in the work is the use of 3D-generated masks expressing multiphrenia and inviting multiple interpretations on the part of its perceiver. It will feature original poetry in ‘Franglish’ that develops author Raymond Roussel’s method of procédé and psychologist Diana Deutsch’s study of ‘phantom words.’ Virtual art projections will develop how one can approach and thus perceive the same physical space in multiple ways, depending on the point of focus and the context, also as a function of accumulated memory. There will equally be a study of the psychosomatic influences of the installation on audience members through vibrotactile infrasounds, using feedback from a heart-rate sensor.”

Electronic CounterpointLucia Mense, recorder

8 p.m. Friday in Karl Geiringer Hall (Free)

“New compositions for recorder and electronics, including works by Clarence Barlow, Ori Barel (World Premiere) and Anthony Paul Garcia (World Premiere).”

and Loxodroming III with Ignition Duo (Ramon Fermin and David Gonzales)

7 p.m. Saturday in Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall (Free)

“Ignition Duo, the Bay Area guitar duo, will return to Santa Barbara to perform an entire program of works from UCSB composers for the Primavera Festival. Close to 10 works from UCSB students and alumni were specially written for the duo and will be premiered in the festival. Ignition Duo has gained a significant experience with programs and repertory specially composed for them as their commitment to new music is very exciting and inspiring. Their project ranges from performance with acoustic classical guitars to electric guitars and also includes interaction with fixed media and live electronics. The concert will feature works from Barel, Cho, Crawshaw, Evans, Garcia, Gordon, Jette, Norton, Rolle, Taylor and Yoon.”

Click here for a full schedule of Primavera 2014, with event times, venues and admission charges.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributing writer. He can be reached at [email protected]. The opinions expressed are his own.

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