Composers Symposium

Looking Forward and Bach

Craig Hella Johnson

So many classical music festivals are mired in the past, as though composers somehow stopped writing music after the 19th century ended. If the people of Bach’s time had that regressive attitude, we wouldn’t have his music around today. Fortunately for us, UO music composition professor Robert Kyr has for many years contributed a contemporary component to the Bach Festival via the biennial Composers Symposium, which gives emerging composers a similar opportunity as that afforded the festival’s choral conducting students: the chance to develop their chops under the guidance of seasoned pros. This year’s symposium will produce more than 30 world premieres by young composers who’ll be mentored by some of America’s finest musicians:

• Craig Hella Johnson, the Austin-based director of the world-renowned Conspirare Company of Voices, which has premiered some of Kyr’s finest works as well as that of other major composers

Fireworks Ensemble

• Fireworks Ensemble, founded by UO music grad Brian Coughlin in 2000, the New York-based amplified chamber band that covers everything from Stravinsky (an electric “Rite of Spring”) to Zappa to techno to cartoon music to originals, and provides an example to today’s students of how to create a career in new music

• Beta Collide, the ensemble founded by UO faculty members Brian McWhorter and Molly Barth, who are among the finest players in the world on trumpet and flute, respectively, is dedicated to contemporary music by some of today’s top composers

• Stephen Hartke, the prize-winning LA-based composer whose eclectic music draws on various world music and other wide-ranging influences

The symposium’s American Creators Ensemble will perform the premieres and other new music in concerts on July 2 (choral), 5, 6 and 7 (instrumental music). In a festival primarily devoted to music of the distant past, the Composers Symposium provides listeners excellent opportunities to hear the music of today and tomorrow. — Brett Campbell 

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