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December 2016 UC Berkeley Music Newsletter

photo of cindy cox

Cindy Cox, Department of Music Chair

From the Chair:

Dear Friends of Music,

As we wrap up the fall semester, I cannot help but marvel in the efforts and accomplishments of our students, faculty, and staff. In fall of 2016 the UC Berkeley Department of Music offered 128 courses to over 2,500 students, presented 32 concerts which spanned across musical genres, and continued our mission of offering Cal students the best of musical scholarship, performance, and composition opportunities possible. This is truly a special community, and we are privileged to be members.

Looking forward to Spring 2017, we will commence the 64th year of our Noon Concert Series. UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra’s 2016 co-concertmaster Lucia Petito will headline our first Noon Concert on January 18th performing works from Beethoven and Franck on violin. We will also be watching UCBSO prepare for their trip to Spain in summer 2017. The Orchestra will play four concerts across Spain, showcasing exciting pieces from their standard repertoire, as well as new musical works and technologies developed by UC Berkeley’s own composers and researchers.

Your help is crucial for the Department of Music to thrive. Donations to the department support students performances, improve facilities, maintain instruments, and provide countless hours of instruction. Please consider making a gift to Music.

Wishing you a happy holidays and wonderful new year,

Cindy Cox
Music Department Chair


Nicholas Mathew

Nicholas Mathew

Mathew’s 2016 includes Townsend Fellowship and Takács Quartet Residency

UC Berkeley Associate Professor of Music Nicholas Mathew’s schedule is pretty full most semesters. Between teaching a range of research and performance courses, maintaining a schedule of piano performances, and continuing to publish new research on late eighteenth-century music there is not much time for anything else in his professional calendar. But this year Mathew added more to his plate: a fellowship at UC Berkeley’s Townsend Center, helping to curate a series of concerts and lectures dedicated to the Mendelssohn family at the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, and designing a program of special events with the Takács Quartet, hosted by Cal Performances.

“It’s been a busy year intellectually and musically,” said Mathew “but I’ve enjoyed the chance to engage the public in different ways.”

Mathew has been researching across disciplines for some time, so a fellowship at the Townsend Center was a natural fit. Founded in 1987, the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities encourages interdisciplinary scholarship, awarding fellowships annually to researchers whose academic interests traverse multiple disciplines. Mathew’s first book, Political Beethoven, was an interdisciplinary study that combined thickly textured material history and political theory alongside close music analysis. This year, his Townsend Fellowship will support a new project that focuses on music-making and commercial life in the expanding metropolitan centers of late eighteenth-century Europe, particularly with respect to the music of Beethoven’s most famous teacher, Joseph Haydn.

When Cal Performances announced that the Takács Quartet would be performing the complete cycle of Beethoven quartets in Berkeley, they approached Mathew, along with the Takács’ first violinist Edward Dusinberre, to discuss how they might design new ways of engaging with these well-known works.  The first installment of this high-profile collaboration took place in October.

“Ed and I already knew each other a little, because he had been completing a fantastic book about the Beethoven quartets and the compelling history of the Takács Quartet itself — so a stimulating collaboration was practically inevitable,” said Mathew.

The Takács Quartet returns to Berkeley in March and April 2017, when Mathew will be joined by Mark Ferraguto (Penn State) and Mary Hunter (Bowdoin College) to talk — appropriately enough, in the Bay Area — about the “new media” of the early nineteenth century, and their consequences for Beethoven’s string quartets.

So what will Mathew do to follow up his dizzying 2016-17?

“Well, I’m on leave — and I hope to return waving a brand new book in the air. Fingers crossed.”


Zhoushu Ziporyn Noon Concert performance in September 2016

Zhoushu Ziporyn Noon Concert performance in September 2016

Music Major Spotlight: Zhoushu Ziporyn

Zhoushu Ziporyn was drawn to the UC Berkeley Department of Music for a number of reasons. The open and very friendly atmosphere, a holistic academic approach, an extensive library collection, and an amazing and open-minded faculty all drew Ziporyn to UC Berkeley.

“I ended up in Cal because I like what it stands for. I was intrigued by the diversity of ensemble groups offered at the music program,” noted Ziporyn.

Ziporyn started his musical career early, learning the violin as a child. He later found inspiration in the works of an eclectic collection of artists: Bach, The Beatles, Bill Evans, Prokofiev and Japanese traditional Gagaku music. As Ziporyn grew older he began playing in jazz and rock bands in his high school years and frequently jammed with his friends.

Since coming to Cal, Ziporyn has amassed an impressive academic and musical record. He won the 2016 Alfred Hertz Memorial Traveling Scholarship, allowing him to visit Japan and study traditional Japanese instruments, as well as learning from the masters of the Nō Theatre tradition. He also was a winner of the Department’s Nicola de Lorenzo Prize for composition in 2015-16. This semester, he opened the 2016 Fall Noon Concert series with an original solo piece for electric violin titled “The Absurdity of Now and Then.”

The University Baroque Ensemble performed a piece titled "Une teinte de jaune bleuatre qui fait plisser les yeux" by Music major Zhoushu Ziporin

The University Baroque Ensemble performed a piece titled “Une teinte de jaune bleuatre qui fait plisser les yeux” by Music major Zhoushu Ziporin at Director Davitt Moroney’s final performance at Hertz Hall before his retirement

Ziporyn is also a gifted composer. He’s penned original works such as “Gimme Some Context,” “Sleep’s Tree,” and “If Only You Were Cool” while he served as an Emerging Artist with The Sheldon Brown Quartet at the Emerald Tablet in San Francisco. He also worked collaboratively as musical artist in “Cine/Spin,” creating the music for the feature film “Valerie and Her Week of Wonders” (Jaromil Jires, 1969) at UC Berkeley Art Museum Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). Ziporyn also authored a collection of “Poetry Fugues for Seekers” in collaboration with UC Berkeley Astronomer Alexei Filippenko and Mycologist John Taylor.

Most recently Ziporyn wrote a piece titled “Une teinte de jaune bleuâtre qui fait plisser les yeux” which was premiered and performed by Director Davitt Moroney at the final University Baroque Ensemble concert before the Director’s retirement from UC Berkeley.

With graduation on the horizon on spring 2017, Ziporyn plans on returning to Japan to spend a year furthering his studies with the masters in the traditional arts of Japan. As a culmination of his studies in Japan last June, he will be premiering a segment of his musical theatre, “Tomorrow’s Sound,” with the Theatre of Yūgen in San Francisco May 2017. He’s also working with a special group of musicians and actors to materialize “Star Wars Palimpsest: Luke as A Pagan Hero,” an original musical theatre work that pits the parallels between the cosmology of the Star Wars movies with the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Bible, as a kind of postmodern cantata that aims to provoke further flexibility of thought.

“I honestly can’t believe that it’s already been four years. It has truly been a blast,” noted Ziporyn summing up his time at UC Berkeley. “As I face a future unknown to me about to unfold, one thing I do know is that I will always cherish my time at Cal and think back to it as a solid foundation to my future self and endeavors.”


Credit: Rick Peckham

Alexander Kahn ’08

5 Questions: Music Alumni Alexander Kahn ’08

Alexander Kahn graduated from UC Berkeley Music with his Ph.D. in 2008. After a stint at Gettysburg College, Kahn now serves as Director of Orchestral Activities at Sonoma State University.

1- You note your father Eugene was a big influence on your passion for music. How did he and your family nurture your interest?
I come from a long line of musicians. My father was a professional violinist and high school orchestra and youth orchestra conductor. His father was a violist in the Philadelphia Orchestra, under Eugene Ormandy. Other relatives include the composers Erich Itohr-Kahn and Roy Harris (by marriage), and the cellist Julian Kahn, who fled Nazi Germany and played in the Hollywood film studios.
2- You studied French horn as an undergrad (as well as comparative lit) at the University of Indiana. How did your background in performance influence your scholarship once you started working on your Ph.D. at UC Berkeley?
Like many college students, I changed my mind regarding “what I want to be when I grow up” many times. As an undergrad I first leaned towards French horn performance, than towards comparative literature, and finally towards musicology. By the end of my college career I realized that I could combine my knowledge about music with the critical theory and analysis skills that I gained as a student of comparative literature. At Berkeley, I continued to perform on French horn and studied conducting with David Milnes; these activities kept me grounded in music as a living, breathing art form.
3- How did your time serving as Assistant Conductor for UCBSO under David Milnes influence your approach as an Orchestral Director/Conductor?
David Milnes was quite simply the best conducting teacher I have ever had; although I went on after graduating from UC Berkeley to study with more “big name” conducting teachers I owe David an incredible debt of gratitude for giving me a rock-solid background in musicianship, aural skills, score study, rehearsal technique, and rhythmic acumen.
4- You’re active as a scholar as well as a conductor, and your thesis at UC-Berkeley focused on a community of musicians who fled to L.A. during World War II. Where has your research taken you lately?
These days my professional life is mostly focused on conducting; while during graduate school I had intended to have a career as a scholar-performer I find that I simply don’t have time to pursue both scholarship and performance at a professional level in addition to my heavy teaching load and the demands (and pleasures) of family life. However more and more I am in demand as a lecturer on the benefits of mindfulness meditation for musicians, and am hoping to write a book on the subject when the time is right.
5- What drives your passion for music?
The desire to connect with others through beauty.