Bringing the NOISE: soundON fest offers contemporary works at La Jolla's Athenaeum, Jan. 4-7

The 11th annual soundON Festival of Modern Music, themed “Voyages,” will take concert-goers on a four-day excursion through workshops, panel discussions, open rehearsals and chamber music concerts, Jan. 4-7 at Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St.

The title, said San Diego New Music (SDNM) executive director and trombonist Eric Starr, could not be more appropriate. NOISE is the ensemble-in-residence for SDNM, and NOISE performers were originally all San Diego-based, but now span the globe, traveling from far and wide each year for the festival.

“Festival curator Mark Menzies lives in New Zealand and travels to California every year because he wants to continue working with these people,” Starr said. “So he comes back every year during his summer break, which is winter here. There are also composers from Southern California, one from Ecuador and another based in Mexico. The concert is going to be diverse and excellent.”

Performers include the NOISE ensemble: flutists Rachel Beetz and Michael Matsuno, guitarist and conductor Colin McAllister, violinist Mark Menzies, cellist Franklin Cox, clarinetist Robert Zelickman, pianist Christopher Adler and percussionist Morris Palter; along with guest artists: harpist and composer Anne LeBaron, tenor and composer Juan Pablo Contreras, composer Juan Campoverde Q., and violinist Mona Tian.

Said Starr: “The ensemble playing is virtuosic, talented and dedicated. As a musician and an artist, it’s hard to cultivate a career, but these performers all have other musical jobs. For contemporary musicians, it is even more challenging, but they do it.”

According to press material, this year’s festival features works by international composers, including LeBaron, Katharaina Rosenberger, Toshio Hosowaka, Contreras, Liza Lim, Roger Reynolds, Samuel Holloway, Adam Greene, Glenda Keam, and Antonio Gervason; and a world premiere commissioned by the Athenaeum and composed by Campoverde Q.

“We want audience members to engage with music that is different, that they haven’t heard before … because people get comfortable with what they are familiar,” Starr said. “We promote open-mindedness and exploration of music. For me, these are great things to promote in general. I tell people coming to the festival for the first time to not have any preconceived notion of what the instruments will do. One student last year said it was ‘like yoga for your ears,’ in that it stretches them out.”

Amalgamating in different combinations, NOISE and its guest performers take to the stage 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 4 with “Exotic images from an inner journey”; 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 6 with “… to serenade even the celestial paths”; and 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 7 with “It matters not the destination …” SDNM will also present a workshop concert at noon, Saturday, Jan. 6 to provide local student musicians with the opportunity to engage with and perform contemporary music.

IF YOU GO: All soundON concerts take place at Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, 1008 Wall St. Festival passes: $70 for non-Athenaeum members, $55 for members and $25 for students. Individual concerts: $25 for non-members, $20 members and $10 for students. (858) 454-5872. ljathenaeum.org/sound-on

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