It happens every spring: UCSD music grads showcase their work with cool, cutting-edge concerts set for April 11-18 in La Jolla
By Will Bowen
There are nine cutting-edge music concerts coming up that will be performed in acoustically excellent facilities with freshly written material by some of the best local emerging musicians — and eight of these concerts are free!
The sole exception is the concert mixing sea and sound at the Birch Aquarium, where the cost is $10.
It’s all part of the annual UCSD Music Department’s graduate student showcase called, “Springfest,” April 11-18, and it promises to be an interesting, funny, illuminating and sometimes wild event with a wide range of approaches to the composition and presentation of musical sound.
Adam Tinkle, a fourth-year Ph.D. student in the Integrative Studies wing of the music department, organized the program. “There will be a great diversity of new music — all of it cutting edge,” Tinkle explained. “This is a big coming-out party for the music graduate students and it will feature their biggest and most daring ideas.”
Graduate composition student Bob Pierzak, who sings and plays the piano, added, “This is the largest contemporary music festival in the San Diego area. What is very special is the collaboration of different artists from different disciplines who will create multimedia events.”
Voice student Bonnie Lander noted, “People will get to see more of the personalities and personal interests of the music students rather than just seeing the usual departmental academic requirements preformed.”
One of the most promising concerts is called, “Pop Suckets.” It’s a hilarious and irreverent adult-themed puppet play with the musicians playing the puppets, pushing the extremes of computer-enhanced vocal expression.
Computer music student Joe Margilio will play the part of the bee. “We have been preparing all year for this play and I have finally embraced the submissiveness of my character,” joked Margilio.
Another concert that should not be missed is called “Springfest@Birch Aquarium.” Composition student Richard Johnson created an electro-acoustic tape of water mediation music based on the sounds of Japanese tunes that will be played in the aquarium hallway during the show. “The event is modeled on what composer John Cage called a Musa-circus,” Johnson said. “In a Musa-circus, different pieces are played at the same time, creating a synergistic musical experience, something like visiting a three-ring circus.”
There will be taped music piped into the aquarium hallways, while live acoustic performers play in front of the main kelp forest tank. Improvisational music will sound at the shark tank.
Patrons will be able to stroll around in the dimly lit grotto-like space of the aquarium gallery, watching the pulsations of strange orange-colored jellyfish or trade peering looks with large-jawed fishes of the deep, while listening to music inspired by the sea.
Carolyn Miller, a first-year composition student, who is interested in the finding an intersection of evolutionary marine biology and music, is curating the event.
Other contributors include Yvette Jackson, who has created a pre-recorded piece of music composed with environmental sounds and inspired by old radio shows like “Fibber McGee and Molly”; and, Jeff Trevino, who has an installation sound piece that mixes actual underwater sounds, such as dolphin chatter, with instrumental music.
The other “Springfest” shows will take place in the Conrad Prebys Concert Hall, considered to be one of the finest small concert venues in the world; the nearby Experimental Theater, which is wired for high-level lighting and computer-generated special effects; and, The Che Cafe, an old wooden building colorfully painted with portraits of social activists, like Angela Davis and Ceasar Chavez, where music is traditionally performed loud.
Some nights will feature two concerts in a row with a reception in between, and patrons are encouraged to attend all three events.
April 11: 7 p.m. concert hall, “Songs in Ulterior Time,” vocal chamber music, reception, 9 p.m. “Pop Suckets,” experimental theater
April 12: 8 p.m. concert hall, “Posing Nothing,” pianist Todd Moellenberg, with visual artist Matt Savitsky
April 14: 6 p.m. “Springfest@Birch Aquarium,” $10; 8 p.m. “Springfest@Che Café, DJ, noise and punk music
April 16: 7 p.m. concert hall, works by Harrison Birtwistle and Ryan Welsh; 9 p.m. “Maiden Voyage,” pianist/composer Kyle Adams Blair presents world premieres
April 18: 7 p.m. concert hall, “Language as Music,” six marginal pretexts for composition, Benjamin Boretz’s seminal 1978 text/music work, reception, 9 p.m. “Devotion of Union, Collapse of Purpose,” Clint McCallum’s Ph.D. presentation, part cabaret, part sound installation, part religious ceremony.
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