African Music EnsembleAfrican Drumming and Dance, Music 148, is a popular course offered each semester, bursting to the seams with students wanting to learn rhythms and traditional dance moves (hint: shoulder movement is key). Twice weekly class meetings culminate in a spring concert with professional Bay Area African ensembles sharing the stage. Coming from Ghana 40 years ago, Ladzekpo was supposed to stay for a year but ended up staying for a lifetime. In 2013 long-time instructor C.K. Ladzekpo received the Isadora Duncan lifetime achievement award (the “Izzie”) honoring his considerable contributions to the Bay Area Dance community. See the summer 2013 article in California Magazine.
University Baroque Ensemble
The University Baroque Ensemble has continued expanding its activities. Two very fine eighteenth-century instruments have been loaned to the Ensemble by Paul Hoch: a fine Italian violin possibly dating from about 1730, and a cello dating from about 1700. The violin was superbly restored to the appropriate eighteenth-century condition by Devin Hough of Davis, CA; this involved considerably “surgery” to remove all the changes that had been made to the violin during the nineteenth century. It was inaugurated by Carla Moore on October 24, 2012, at a Hertz Hall Noon Concert devoted to Bach sonatas.
Thanks to generous donations to the Baroque Music Endowment Fund, all students in the UBE are now able to receive private lessons on their instruments. Every dollar donated to the fund helps students! I would like to thank here our many donors, who have directly enriched the musical experience of Berkeley students by broadening their musical horizons and helping them explore the wonderful repertoire of music from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
– Davitt Moroney, director
Berkeley New Music Project / Eco Ensemble
The Eco Ensemble, founded in 2011 by Edmund Campion and David Milnes, both professors of music at the University of California, Berkeley. It is a group of experienced, highly-skilled Bay Area musicians at the forefront of contemporary music performance. Its mission is to enrich and serve the Bay Area’s cultural life through the creation, performance and dissemination of new music by composers from Berkeley and around the world. In addition to performing works by established composers, the Eco Ensemble is dedicated to working with graduate student composers at the University of California, Berkeley to produce concerts of stunning complexity and originality. In fall 2014, Eco Ensemble was invited to perform at the 58th International Festival of Contemporary Music of La Biennale di Venezia. Read more about the Eco Ensemble performances in Venice: http://www.labiennale.org/en/music/news/10-04m.html
What does “Eco” stand for? Like other art forms, new music doesn’t exist in a vacuum — it is part of the fabric that makes up our cultural landscape. The San Francisco Bay Area generally (and Berkeley in particular) plays an essential role in the Eco Ensemble’s formation: our musicians, composers, media and audience are all part of the region’s vibrant cultural scene. We are both influenced by — and exert influence on — the artistic ecology within which we exist. The name Eco acknowledges this ecology and locates our work as part of the Bay Area’s abundant cultural community. —RY
Gamelan Sari Raras
Members of Gamelan Sari Raras performed three concerts at the Ojai Festival this past June, playing compositions by Lou Harrison — one of the four composers featured by guest artistic director Mark Morris — as well as traditional Javanese gamelan and and Balinese gender wayang pieces. The Harrison concerto for piano and gamelan was the concluding piece of the festival, performed with pianist Colin Fowler. Two additional concerts featuring much of the same repertoire were performed the following week at UC Berkeley for the Ojai North festival.
Jazz & Improvised Music
A few minutes prior to the first of a weeklong series of workshops on the concept of “Conduction”, J.A. Deane went to each musician in the ensemble and showed them an impossible picture: an acrobat, walking a tightrope over a vast canyon at night. After everyone had a chance to individually examine the picture, he stated “this is where we are going”. Metaphors, especially musical ones, rarely come more accurate than that.
The series of workshops, which began on December 2nd with an introductory session in Hertz Hall, and concluded on December 6th with an evening concert in the same venue, was facilitated by Professor Myra Melford, and the ensemble included undergraduate and graduate students from her classes, as well as professional musicians. The workshops explored a method of directing improvising musicians called “Conduction”. The practice of “Conduction”, created and developed by Lawrence “Butch” Morris, involves the use of physical gestures and signs as a means of conducting a group of musicians, without the use of any notated music or predetermined material: the music is created entirely in the moment. Rehearsals consisted of J.A. Deane thoroughly and methodically familiarizing the ensemble with the vocabulary of gestures and signs, as well as reminding the ensemble of the three key rules of Conduction: 1. Always watch me (the conductor), 2. Listen to everything, and 3. Stay out of your own head. While the first two rules are important, the last one proved the most difficult and consistently challenging: Deane clarified this rule by emphasizing that this music is about being in the moment, and that it requires musicians to avoid constant analysis, and instead follow their instincts. Deane helped the ensemble reach this mindset by assuring us that our first choice was always the appropriate one, and that the only real mistake one can make in an ensemble participating in Conduction is to be tentative.
The signs and gestures of Conduction convey clear and concise musical instructions: making sustained and short sounds, repeating musical fragments, designating tempos, as well as gestures for extended techniques, and duets within the ensemble. These gestures allow for structurally complex and sophisticated music to be composed in real time, often creating a piece that would be nearly impossible for modern musical notation to record. Conduction, though, is less about the potential for complexity, and more about music as a process of discovery. Each time the ensemble played, none of us knew what piece we were about to play, and what direction it was going to take- neither did J.A. Deane. The constant negation between the conductor, who provides the context and structure, and the musicians, who provide the content, means that each note or sound made could significantly alter the direction of the music. This is what makes Conduction, and improvised music as a whole, exciting and vital: it reminds us that music thrives and moves forward as a result of experimentation and discovery. Conduction is about music as exploration, rather than recitation. Though this process is at first intimidating, taking that first step into the unknown and walking the musical tightrope proves creatively freeing, and changes one’s perception of how music can be created.
Submitted by Landon Bain, student in Myra Melford’s Jazz and Improvised Music program and participant in the Conduction workshops and concert in 2013.
University Chorus & Chamber Chorus
The University Chorus sang concerts under three Berkeley conductors in academic year 2013–2014. In November, they were led by Li-Wen Kuo Monk (class of 1991) in a concert that included the Duruflé Requiem; then they sang Part I of the Handel Messiah in December and a concert of Brahms and Stravinsky in April under Marika Kuzma; finally they joined the UC Alumni Chorus and the UC Symphony in performances of Mahler Symphony No. 2 in May. So many musical styles! In fall 2014, the chorus sang Orff’s Carmina Burana and in Spring 2015, performed the Bach Mass in B Minor on April 10–11 the Mozart Requiem with the Berkeley Symphony in Zellerbach Hall on April 30.
The University Chamber Chorus enjoyed a banner year. After raising some $30,000 in concert revenue, raffles, Christmas caroling, etc. the singers traveled to New York City to perform in a sold-out concert at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall.
The concert, called “a cappella Next” and organized by Distinguished Concerts International, featured three acclaimed U.S. choirs: Notus from Indiana University, Ad Astra Singers from Wichita, Kansas, and our chamber chorus. After the concert at Carnegie Hall, they sang at The Church of St. Luke in the Fields to a full house and also at Memorial Church on the Harvard campus. For some of the singers, it was their first time traveling in New York, for some their first time in Boston, for all their first time singing at those prestigious venues. In spring 2015, the Chamber Chorus performed the Bach B Minor Mass on April 10 and 11 and choruses from John Adams Death of Klinghoffer with the Berkeley Symphony in Zellerbach Hall on April 30.
UC Berkeley Symphony OrchestraThe UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra worked diligently to raise money to go on its first European tour in its 90-year history. Under the direction of conductor David Milnes, they performed in Prague, Vienna, and Budapest to enthusiastic audiences. See their tour scrapbook, with photos and blog posts: link: http://orchestra.berkeley.edu/category/tour-2014/