November 2, 2009

40 years of electronic music

A free multimedia concert by the Peabody Computer Music Consort on Tuesday, Nov. 3, will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Electronic Music Studio at the Peabody Conservatory. The concert, 40 Years of Looking to the Future, will take place at 7:30 p.m. in Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall.

The highly unusual, even daring, event will feature surround sound, dance, video projection, improvisation, live computer interaction, interactive light sculpture and Speakeroids (two-way acoustical transducers) in combination with the virtuoso instrumentalists and singers for which the Peabody Conservatory is known.

“When Dr. Jean Eichelberger Ivey founded the studio in 1969, it was the first to be located in an American conservatory,” said Geoffrey Wright, Peabody’s director of Computer Music and the concert’s artistic director. “Though much has changed in the field, chiefly because computers have evolved from huge mainframes to far more powerful and portable instruments, the spirit of visionary innovation continues.”

The concert features alumni of the Master of Music degree program in Computer Music, which was launched 20 years ago. All the composers and many of the performers are Peabody alumni who have gone on to highly successful careers and are returning for this anniversary performance.

One of the most ambitious works on the program is Windcombs/Imaq by Matthew Burtner, a University of Virginia faculty member. Inspired by the native culture of Alaska, Burtner’s home state, this dramatic piece features a nine-piece instrumental ensemble, a male vocalist, dancers, video, interactive computer music and a light sculpture called The Wind Tree, which responds to the dancers’ movements.

Ivey, to whom the concert is dedicated, will be represented by her score for the 1965 film Montage V: How to Play Pinball. For this experimental film by Wayne Sourbeer, Ivey manipulated sounds recorded from vintage pinball machines by using techniques then considered cutting-edge. A new digital print of the film with restored sound has been created for this performance.

The concert will also include the world premiere of notmare by Chris Mandra, one of the first graduates of Peabody’s computer music master’s program. Mandra, a former National Public Radio webmaster, is known in the Baltimore area for his performances with the experimental rock band Telesma. In this new piece, he collaborates with another alum, soprano Bonnie Lander.

McGregor Boyle, a Computer Music faculty member who chairs Peabody’s Composition Department, will present his piece As It Was for violin, piano and computer, with faculty member Courtney Orlando on violin and alumnus Michael Sheppard on piano.

Margaret Schedel, an alumna now teaching at SUNY Stony Brook, will offer her haunting Only the Beautiful Lack the Wound, performed by alumnus David Brooke Wetzel on basset horn and multichannel electronics.

Other works by alumni are Ichos, a video by Charles Kim, whose compositions were performed at Peabody’s New Year’s Eve 2000 project in New York’s Times Square, and Matt Diamond’s Errata, a setting of a Charles Simic poem to be sung by Lander. Diamond was the first student to receive, in 2008, Peabody’s new bachelor’s degree in computer music.

As if the department’s creativity could not be contained within the concert hall’s dimensions in space and time, two installation pieces will be on view: Sketches, a video installation by Wright and pioneering computer graphic artist Michael O’Rourke, in Friedberg Hall, and Speakeroids 3: The Relabi Wave, by Empty Vessel, in the Bank of America Lounge, site of the post-concert reception. Empty Vessel consists of John Berndt and alumnus Samuel Burt, who are known for their work with Baltimore’s annual High Zero Festival of experimental and improvised music.