Tag Archive for Music Department

Graduate Student Blasser Hand Crafts Analog Instruments

Graduate student Peter Blasser tunes one of his hand-crafted analog instruments. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Graduate student Peter Blasser tunes one of his hand-crafted analog instruments. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

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In this Q&A, we speak with Peter Blasser, a music graduate student. 

Q: What was your first experiences with music? When did you decide that music would be your life work?

A: I was in elementary school in the 1980s when music programs were still part of the public school curriculum. I remember that those music classes were not very noteworthy at the time. In middle school I took a wood shop class and liked working with the tools. After taking classical civilization classes, I started to triangulate all three — I wanted to work with wood to make ancient Greek instruments to see what they sounded like. The first instruments I decided to recreate were ancient stringed instruments.

Blasser changes where the transistors are connected in order to tune the instrument.

Blasser changes where the transistors are connected in order to tune the instrument.

Q: Where did you complete your undergraduate studies?

A: I went to Oberlin College. I initially went as a classics major, but still had a passion for making classical instruments. Oberlin had a conservatory for music, and they offered introductory courses in electronic music. I started to use electronic music to model and tune classical instruments. I also was able to take a course in analog music, learning about transistors and electronics, and how they could be used to make music. This caused me to combine wood and analog electronics, which is all about the flow of the transistors.

Q: What did you do after graduating?

A: I purchased a home in Baltimore about 10 years ago as a space to work on my art. Fixing up the house was an artistic experience in of itself. I also started my own business where I sold analog instruments. I wasn’t making much money, so I spent a lot of time working on poetry, thinking of ideas for my business and exploring my philosophy. I also toured with my instruments, but didn’t like how much I had to promote myself and push my brand.

Q: Why did you choose Wesleyan for your graduate school?

Blasser likes to work with wood, which is frequently used in his instruments.

Blasser likes to work with wood, which is frequently used in his instruments.

A: I decided to attend Wesleyan after developing a friendship with Ron Kuivila, chair of the Music Department. After graduating from Oberlin I never thought I would return to school, but I found that I enjoyed giving lectures and helping other students make their instruments. I also like how Wesleyan’s music program, and art program in general, is experimental — there are no prejudices from students about what music should “be” like. The different departments are porous, there is mixing between different mediums and styles. This enables me to sit with undergraduates and help them make a piece that the student will own, with a shared experience. This made me realize that I enjoy teaching, and in order to become a professor, formal education is required.

Q: What are your plans after Wesleyan?

A: Right now my analog electronics business,

Former Artist-in-Residence Redpath Remembered for Teaching Folklore

Jean Redpath (Photo courtesy of http://www.jeanredpath.com/)

Jean Redpath (Photo courtesy of http://www.jeanredpath.com/)

Jean Redpath, a Scottish-born singer who delighted audiences worldwide and was described by The Boston Globe as “something very close to Scotland’s folk singer laureate,” died Aug. 21 at age 77. She brought her musical talent and extensive knowledge of Scottish history to Wesleyan and the Middletown community as an artist-in-residence in the 1970s.

According to her official website, Redpath arrived in the United States in 1961 with $11 in her pocket.

Matthusen Honored with Fellowship from American Academy in Rome

Paula Matthusen, assistant professor of music, has won a prestigious Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome. The prize will allow her to spend the next academic year in residence as a Fellow of the Academy. At Wesleyan, Matthusen teaches the course, “Laptop Ensemble,” which promotes knowledge and skills in live electronics performance and cultivates new musical repertoire for the group.

Paula Matthusen, assistant professor of music, has won a prestigious Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome. The prize will allow her to spend the next academic year in residence as a Fellow of the Academy. At Wesleyan, Matthusen teaches the course, “Laptop Ensemble,” which promotes knowledge and skills in live electronics performance and cultivates new musical repertoire for the group.

Assistant professor of music Paula Matthusen has won a prestigious Rome Prize from the American Academy, which will allow her to spend the next year in the Eternal City working on the compelling compositions that distinguish her career.

Matthusen is a composer of acoustic and electronic music who, among other things, teaches Laptop Ensemble at Wesleyan, and records sound in historic structures and architecture. The resulting work reflects the character of these spaces, which include the Old Croton Aqueduct in New York. As an American Academy fellow, she will visit the paths of the Roman aqueducts.

“I’m elated,” Matthusen said. “It’s a very great honor and a wonderful opportunity.”

Each year, through a national competition, the Rome Prize is awarded to approximately thirty individuals who represent the highest standard of excellence in the arts and humanities. The American Academy in Rome provides extended time and support (room, board, stipend, work space, and freedom from every-day cares) for each fellow to pursue his or her own work and to live among other artists and scholars.

“The Rome Prize in composition has been awarded to such musical luminaries as Samuel Barber, Elliot Carter, and David Del Tredici,” said Dean of the Arts and Humanities Andy Curran. “We are extremely proud that Paula, who reflects the strength of Wesleyan’s music program, has been admitted to this select group.”

Her Old Croton Aqueduct work, developed by working with the Friends of the Old Croton Aqueduct, was called “eden’s arch of promise bending,” after a line in an ode composed at the opening of the waterwork in 1842.  The Aqueduct was closed in the mid-20th century, but for more than 100 years, it brought water from Westchester to Manhattan and enabled New York City’s enormous growth. The composition explores the nature of the aqueduct through field recordings and samplings of its resonant frequencies. Go here to listen to an excerpt.

The New York Times has praised Matthusen’s “creative vitality” and “vivid imagination.”

The Academy is a leading American overseas center for independent studies and advanced research in the fine arts and humanities. Founded in 1894, the Academy was chartered as a private institution by an act of Congress in 1905. On the occasion of the Academy’s centennial, the President of the United States signed a joint resolution of Congress in recognition of the Academy’s contribution to America’s intellectual and cultural life.

Pictured below are photos taken at Paula Matthusen’s “Laptop Ensemble” class on April 7. She also teaches a class on “Total Harmony.” (Photos by Ryan Heffernan ’16)

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Wesleyan Orchestra Performs Fall Concert

The Wesleyan Orchestra performed Nov. 16 in Crowell Concert Hall for their annual fall concert.

The Wesleyan Orchestra performed Nov. 16 in Crowell Concert Hall for their annual fall concert.

The orchestra was lead by conductor, Nadya Potemkina, who is the university's adjunct assistant professor of music and is currently nearing the completion of her doctoral degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Memphis.

The orchestra was lead by conductor, Nadya Potemkina, who is the university’s adjunct assistant professor of music and is currently nearing the completion of her doctoral degree in orchestral conducting from the University of Memphis. A native of St. Petersburg, Russia, she began her music studies at the age of 5 as a violinist.

Under Potemkina, the Wesleyan Orchestra showcased a wide variety their symphonic repertoire.

Under Potemkina, the Wesleyan Orchestra showcased a wide variety their symphonic repertoire.

The Wesleyan University Orchestra has been an integral part of the University’s Music Department for many years. The completion  of the Center for the Arts in 1973 allowed the orchestra to begin a regular annual series of concerts

The Wesleyan University Orchestra has been an integral part of the University’s Music Department for many years. The completion of the Center for the Arts in 1973 allowed the orchestra to begin a regular annual series of concerts.

The Wesleyan Orchestra performs frequently throughout the year and they encourage students to come enjoy their music.

The Wesleyan Orchestra performs frequently throughout the year and they encourage students to come enjoy their music. (Photos by Ryan Heffernan ’16)

For more information on the Wesleyan Orchestra, visit the organization’s website.

 

Ishiguro Receives Grant from Society for Asian Music

Maho Ishiguro

Maho Ishiguro

Music Department doctoral student Maho Ishiguro received a $2,300 grant from the Society for Asian Music in October 2013. Ishiguro will use the grant for her research on the booming popularity of Achenese dance traditions among high school girls in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Ishiguro, of Tokyo, Japan, moved to the U.S. when she was a junior in high school. This is her second year studying ethnomusicology at Wesleyan.

Grant Applicants must be full-time graduate students enrolled in U.S. institutions and may use these funds to supplement other grants.  Grants are to be used for research, including fieldwork, pre-dissertation research, travel, language study, and other related activities.

The Society of Asian Music aims to cultivate, promote, foster, sponsor, develop and disseminate among its members and to other interested persons an appreciation, understanding, interest, taste and love of the music, and arts ancillary to music, of Asia; to create a center for the advancement of such purposes and to maintain the same to secure the interest of patrons of these arts; to encourage the composition of such music so as to provide social and aesthetic activities, and provide entertainment and amusement and the exploitation of such talents.

Aaron Paige, also a doctoral student in music, received the grant in 2012.

Culture of India Celebrated at Annual Navaratri Festival

The Center for the Arts presented the 37th annual Navaratri Festival, celebrating the traditional culture of India with performances by some of the country’s leading artists on Oct. 10-13. One of India’s major festival celebrations, Navaratri is a time to see family and friends, enjoy music and dance, and seek blessings for new endeavors.

“For us Indian musicians traveling all over the world and especially in the U.S., this campus has been a place of great respect and wonder because of its ability to sustain this program for over 30 years,” said tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, who also performed during the 2010 festival. “It is a privilege and a blessing to be a part of this incredible environment.”

The 37th annual Navaratri Festival was supported by the Music Department, the Center for the Arts, the Jon B. Higgins Memorial Fund, the Madhu Reddy Endowed Fund for Indian Music and Dance at Wesleyan University, the Raga Club of Connecticut, the New England Foundation for the Arts, Middlesex Community College, Haveli Indian Restaurant and individual patrons.

On Oct. 11, vocalist B. Balasubrahmaniyan, adjunct assistant professor of music, performed "Vocal Music of South India" as part of the festival.

On Oct. 11, vocalist B. Balasubrahmaniyan, adjunct assistant professor of music, performed “Vocal Music of South India” as part of the festival.

Balasubrahmaniyan was joined by David Nelson, adjunct assistant professor of music on mridangam and violinist L. Ramakrishnan and Sriram Ramesh on kanjira.

Balasubrahmaniyan was joined by David Nelson, adjunct assistant professor of music on mridangam and violinist L. Ramakrishnan and Sriram Ramesh on kanjira.

Carbone MA ’07 to Perform at Zappanale Music Festival

With Tim Palmieri, Bill Carbone and Beau Sasser.

Z3 features Tim Palmieri, Bill Carbone MA ’07 and Beau Sasser.

Private lessons instructor and music Ph.D. candidate Bill Carbone MA ’07 will cap off a busy summer of music festival performances with a trip to perform at the 24th annual Zappanale Music Festival in Bad Doberan, Germany.

The festival invited his trio, The Z3, which performs the music of Frank Zappa rearranged for a trio of Hammond Organ, guitar, and drums (Carbone’s instrument), with all three members singing, to headline the second day of the festival and host the jam session on the third day.

The festival also features more than a dozen alumni of the bands Zappa led between 1967 and 1992.

For more information see:

Braxton Honored with Prestigious Doris Duke Artist Award

Anthony Braxton. (Photo by Jason Guthartz)

Anthony Braxton. (Photo by Jason Guthartz)

Anthony Braxton, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, has been honored with the 2013 Doris Duke Artist Award, one of the country’s most prestigious awards for individual artists. It comes with a $225,000 honorarium.

Braxton is a composer, saxophonist, teacher and philosopher with a career spanning half a century. He is also the founder of The Tri-Centric Foundation, a nonprofit that cultivates and inspires the next generation of creative artists to pursue their own visions with the kind of idealism and integrity Braxton has demonstrated throughout his long and distinguished career. The foundation also documents, archives, preserves and disseminates Braxton’s scores, writings, performances and recordings.

According to Mark Slobin, the Winslow-Kaplan Professor of Music, the Doris Duke Artist Award “complements Prof. Braxton’s earlier ‘genius grant’ from the MacArthur Foundation [in 1994], and serves as an ongoing recognition of his unique and long-lasting contribution to the performing arts in America and internationally.” At Wesleyan, Braxton is known for his close mentoring of students, many who have gone on to become prominent figures in the New York music world and abroad, said Slobin.

“As Braxton has signaled that he will retire in December, it seems a particularly timely moment to salute both his current standing and his more than two decades of University service,” he added.

The Doris Duke Artist Awards “invest in exemplary individual artists in contemporary dance, jazz, theatre and related interdisciplinary work who have proven their artistic vitality and commitment to their field,” according to the award website. In addition to an unrestricted monetary award, recipients are also given access to special goal assessment tools, financial and legal counseling, and conferences with peer-to-peer learning opportunities

Artists may not apply for the award. Candidates are selected from a pool of artists who have won at least three national grants, awards, accolades or fellowships in the past 10 years. An anonymous panel of performing arts professionals then review eligible candidates, assessing “the quality of the artist’s work, the maturity of the artistic voice, the value of a grant at this moment in their careers, and the dedication of the artist to continue to move forward with creativity and curiosity.

West African Dance, Drumming Classes Prepare for CFA Performance

Join students enrolled in West African Drumming and West African Dance courses for an invigorating performance filled with the rhythms of West Africa. Choreographer Iddi Saaka and Master Drummer Abraham Adzenyah will perform with their students in a West African Drumming and Dance performance at 3 p.m. May 10 in the Center for the Arts courtyard. The rain site is Crowell Concert Hall. Free!

Pictured below are photos of their practice on April 17:

West African Dance and Drumming.

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Sumarsam Panelist at Puppetry, Playwriting Symposium

Sumarsam and symposium organizer John Bell, director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut, spoke on “Puppets and Texts: Global Perspectives."

Sumarsam and symposium organizer John Bell, director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut, spoke on “Puppets and Texts: Global Perspectives.”

Sumarsam, the University Professor of Music, discussed Indonesian puppetry during the Playwriting, Puppets and Dramaturgy Symposium March 9 at the University of Connecticut Puppet Arts Complex.

The symposium brought together playwrights, puppeteers, dramaturgs, students and puppetry enthusiasts to share ideas and experiences about the practice, theory, and history of puppetry’s uses of text in performance.

Experts discussed ways the visual dramaturgy of puppetry’s sculpture in motion works in tandem with dramatic and narrative texts.

Sumarsam and symposium organizer John Bell, director of the Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry at the University of Connecticut, spoke on “Puppets and Texts: Global Perspectives.” This was Sumarsam’s third time speaking about puppetry at UConn. Wesleyan’s Theater Department has invited Bell and his colleagues to perform and speak at Wesleyan.

“We at Wesleyan Theater and Music Departments have a good connection with the puppetry program at UConn,” Sumarsam said.

View more photos of the event in this Facebook gallery.

Sumarsam also will take part in the “Indonesian Performing Arts and Public Life” event,  April 25-27 at Wesleyan.

Nelson Honored for Contribution to Carnatic Arts

David Nelson

David Nelson

David Nelson, artist in residence at Wesleyan and accomplished musician specializing in Indian music, has been honored with the title of Kala Seva Mani by a prestigious music festival.

The Cleveland Aradhana, said to be the largest annual Carnatic music festival outside India, bestowed the title on Nelson during the festival March 27-April 7.

The Aradhana describes the title on its web site: “The title of Kala Seva Mani is bestowed upon individuals who have made a lasting contribution to the Carnatic arts through their propagation and demonstration in the United States and Canada.”

Nelson, who has performed internationally and written extensively about Indian music, has been an artist in residence at Wesleyan since 2001. He teaches South Indian Percussion and other courses and performs during the annual Navaratri Festival at Wesleyan, a celebration of Indian music and dance that draws visitors and participants from throughout New England.