New Music Seeks New Audiences at RED NOTE Festival At ISU

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Many people might think of classical music as a genre largely filled with works popular with audiences hundreds of years ago, or difficult to access current music hard for non-musicians to ‘get.’ Illinois State University hopes to dispell that misconception next week in the “RED NOTE New Music Festival.

One of the groups performing is NOW Ensemble, a group of Yale trained musicians. They began more than 15 years ago. Now Ensemble commissions new works for their players: flute clarinet double bass, electric guitar, and piano.

Pianist and Manager Michael Mizrahi said that instrumentation can be very cool.

“There are other genres present in this culture and we can seamlessly move between them. There is the presence of the melodic instruments, the flute and the clarinet; and then the more rhythmic instruments, piano, bass, and electric guitar. There are possibilities of inverting those expectations. We have played several pieces where composers have given the double bass the main melodic line and maybe flute and clarinet have a more rhythmic groove,” said Mizrahi.

One of the signature works they plan to play, said Mizrahi, is Sean Friar’s ‘Before and After.’ Friar explores different timbral effects, specifically with the electric guitar, but also with different pairs of instruments.

“If you have, say flute in a low register and a single piano line, single notes, no chords, playing a melody exactly together; or a clarinet in its highest register with electric guitar piercing chords together, he explores a lot of those different combinations,” said Mizrahi.

NOW Ensemble plans to record ‘Before and After’ a little after the RED NOTE New Music Festival.

Even Mozart, Beethoven, and Aaron Copland were once considered ‘new music.’ Mizrahi said there is not yet consensus on a defining style of music in our time.

“Our role is to get the music out there and to record it and to play it repeatedly. Some of it will fall by the wayside and some of it will be canonic, and there is a whole gray area in between,” said Mizrahi.

“In the case of NOW Ensemble, I would say we are particularly a lot of American composers sound. There is that kind of spaciousness present. There is also the rhythmic drive and some of the concept of repeated cells of music that come out of minimalism. But we are absolutely not a minimalist group,” said Mizrahi.

The group has been together long enough, Mizrahi said that they are no longer firmly in the post minimalist camp and are playing music of a lot of different styles.

The RED NOTE New Music Festival next week at Illinois State University has a variety of performances from Monday to Wednesday.

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