Rensselaer Contemporary Music Ensemble

Rensselaer Contemporary Music Ensemble

EMPAC, Studio 2

November 19, 2008 7:30 PM - 10:00 PM


iEAR Presents! will host the debut performance of the Rensselaer Contemporary Music Ensemble on Wednesday, November 19, 2008 at 7:30pm in the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC) on the campus of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York.   The ensemble, directed by cellist and RPI clinical professor David Gibson, consists of Rensselaer chamber music instrumentalists.  The evening's program will include works by Frederic Rzewski and Pauline Oliveros, and will feature several guest artists including Kevin Craig West, Linda Montano and C. Ryder Cooley.  The concert, part of the Out of Time series, is free (ticket required) and open to the public. This event made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts.  For reservations or more information, please visit or call (518) 276-4829.

The performance is FREE, but seating is limited.  Reservations recommended.  Call (518) 276-4829.


VENUE CHANGED!  The performance will take place in the EMPAC, Studio 2, and not in Academy Hall as printed on the season postcard. 

*Program subject to change.

Click here for directions to EMPAC  

Unable to make the event?  It will be broadcast live via webstream.


About the Performance:

The centerpieces of the iEAR concert at EMPAC on November 19, 2008 are two works of music-theater composed in the1970s.  Frederic Rzewski's "Coming Together", from 1971 , evokes an era of bitter social strife in America; "Spiral Mandala", composed by Pauline Oliveros in 1979,  recalls a decade when concert music reached out to embrace theatre and ritual.  Both works combine literary sources with their composers' distinctive instrumental imaginations.

"Spiral Mandala" sets the stage with a spiral path to be traversed by chanting performers, played here by a group choreographed by performance artist and 2008 Rensselaer MFA graduate, C. Ryder Cooley.   The text is chosen by the performer on the basis of its "universal significance" Her  location cues an arrangement of slowly rising drone sounds and drum sounds.  Spiral Mandala's sonic world elaborates the natural overtones of the clarinet and the crystalline tones of resonant glass, over the slow rise and fall of the bass drum. Following a series of innovative early works for choir, instrumental ensembles, live electronics and tape, composer Pauline Oliveros explored further artistic territories in the 1970s, including theater, improvisation, ritual, and sonic meditation. Joining Ryder Cooley in this performance are long-time Oliveros collaborator and influential performance artist Linda Montano, and two current students in Rensselaer's Electronic Arts MFA program, Stephanie Loveless and E. E. Miller.

Rzewski's minimalist score is notated as a single long pentatonic melody, building up additive melodic cells with shifting accents that never repeat literally.  Each player selects which notes to play, and how long to sustain them, while keeping strictly to the notes of the melody.  This creates a shaped, yet in part improvised texture that is  subtly different in each performance.  The text is drawn from letters written from Attica State prison, in upstate New York, by the anti-war protestor and member of the Weathermen underground, Sam Melville, during the first months of his incarceration in 1971. We follow his increasingly disturbed thoughs, starting always with a reflection on the relativity of the "speed of the passing time", through descriptive details of prison life and ultimately the intolerable chaos of its "incessant noise..indifferent brutality...[and] the ravings of lost, hysterical men".   Melville was one of dozens of prisoners and inmates killed in the Attica riot of 1971.  The spoken part is performed by noted Capital District actor Kevin Craig West, and the ensemble, directed by cellist and RPI clinical professor David Gibson, consists of instrumentalists in the Rensselaer chamber music class.

Opening and closing the concert are instrumental works by Tenney,  
Webern, and an anonymous 14th century Italian composer.

About the series OUT OF TIME

In this era of convergence between computers, networks and new media software, we bear witness across diverse fields to a newly intensified obsession with how time passes. In this context, we may speak of being "out of time", in at least three senses:  that of an ever-present countdown toward environmental disaster; the everyday sense of being behind, of lacking the capacity to concentrate and contemplate; and, to the contrary, of escaping the lockstep regimentation of clock time to find renewal or even redemptive hope in experiences of an expanded present, of an enlivened sense of the possible. The iEAR series for Fall 2008 presents a tour d'horizon of thinking and creating about being out of time, in all these senses, and more.

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