September 2017 eNewsletter

From the Chair:

Hello from Morrison Hall and the UC Berkeley Department of Music. We have an exciting schedule planned for this semester. Join us as we celebrate the 65th year of the free Noon Concert Series in Hertz Hall, a Music Department project that has brought high-quality live music performances to hundreds of thousands of appreciative listeners from across the campus, the community and the larger Bay Area.  This fall, our Department of Music will offer a splendid array of musical styles ranging from Orchestra and Choirs, to Jazz, and Gamelan, to the newest composition creations.  We do it all, and we continue to thrive in the midst of tough financial times, thanks to the wonderful generosity of our many supporters.  

A quick look at the programming reveals the incredible University Symphony, just returned from a tour of Spain under conductor David Milnes, the choral programs with Nikolas Nackley and Magen Solomon directing, the Gospel Choir led by Dr. Mark Wilson, and Gamelan with famed Javanese Gamelan master Midiyanto.  It is all excellent music, with over 25 concerts this semester! Get to your seats early for the large ensemble concerts as these events will fill the hall.

At the core of everything we do is the dedication of our Hertz Hall staff and the hundreds of talented and devoted musicians who give their lives to the rich traditions of music making.  Nothing is really free, but together with the support and encouragement of our esteemed audiences, we make it happen.  Our key message will always be that live music, small and large, and from every point on the globe, indicates good social health and contributes to a richer and more peaceful community.  Help us if you can with any level of donation.  Or feel free to reach out to the Chair for more information and conversation.

Department Welcomes Delia Casadei

Delia Casadei, a musicologist specializing in 20th-century Italy has joined The UC Berkeley Department of Music as an Assistant Professor. A native of Italy, Casadei completed her undergraduate and Master’s degree at King’s College London. She earned her Ph.D. from University of Pennsylvania, where she was awarded a Hopkinson Graduate Research Fellowship, a Mellon Humanities Fellowship, and Alvin H. Johnson AMS 50 Dissertation Completion Fellowship. Casadei spent the last year at Jesus College in Cambridge where she completed a Junior Research Fellowship.

“I am honored to join the music department at Berkeley, a place I have long admired from afar” said Casadei. “Since arriving a couple of months ago I have had many exciting conversations with historians, ethnomusicologists, performers and composers, and most importantly students. This is a strange and sometimes frightening time to be in the U.S. and I feel privileged to share the campus with people who are passionate and ask difficult questions about the world that surrounds them.”

Casadei’s research focuses on the politics of the voice’s relationship to language, particularly in the Italian twentieth century. Her thesis examined this relationship by way of Milan in the 1950s-70s, and she is currently researching her first book, which will examine key political theories formulated in Italy between the 1950s and today and the manner in which these approaches are tied to the use of recording technology. Aside from her research on 20th century Italian musicology, Casadei also studies the historical relationship of music and laughter in the twentieth century.

Carillon Marks Centennial in November; Looks Toward Future

On Friday, November 3 the carillon bells located in Sather Tower (the Campanile) will mark their 100th anniversary. Although originally cast in 1915 by the John Taylor Bell foundry of Loughborough, England, the bells were not installed in Sather Tower until 1917 due to delays caused by World War I. The bells were first played for three hours on November 3, 1917, joined by all the bells and whistles of Berkeley.

“The bells of Berkeley are so strongly integrated into the daily life of the campus community that they are the aural icons of Berkeley,” noted University Carillonist Jeff Davis.

To celebrate the 100-year mark of the carillon, Davis will be inviting a variety of carillonists and composers to collaborate on performances throughout the year. The festivities will culminate in the summer with the 2018 UC Berkeley Carillon Festival. These activities will also seek to raise awareness and funds for much needed repairs to the instrument.

Although the UC Berkeley Carillon enjoys fame well beyond the Bay Area, long overdue maintenance threatens to silence the bells.  Crucial improvements were made in 1983, but significant repairs are still needed. For example, the transmission mechanism on any carillon generally needs to be redone every twenty years, a length of time that we have long-since surpassed.  At Berkeley, routine upkeep is exacerbated by the location of the instrument directly across from the Golden Gate, a location that, while beautiful, is extraordinarily rough on the instrument.  The result is that rust and other mechanical problems caused by the uninterrupted action of salt air and wind, have made the instrument increasingly difficult to play.

We appeal to everyone in the Berkeley community, past and present, to help renovate and rejuvenate this true treasure of our shared life.  

The UC Berkeley Carillon has enjoyed incremental progress over the decades. The original twelve bell chime did not have enough notes to play pieces such as the National Anthem. So in 1978, the Class of 1928, as a fiftieth anniversary gift to the University, decided to raise funds to add a few bells so more tunes could be played. The improvements to the instrument sparked interest throughout the world, and in 1983, thanks to a generation donation by Jerry and Evelyn Hemmings Chambers, the carillon expanded to 61 bells.

In the decades since, Berkeley’s carillon has only grown in international stature.  The acquisitions of the carillon library include rare recordings, manuscripts and books. The carillon instructional program has grown to the point where it is now one of the largest in the world.  The professional playing staff is one of the largest in North America, and the equal to any in the carillon centers of Europe.  The compositions and arrangements that have been created at Berkeley represent a great flowering of carillon music, and are played constantly on practically every carillon world-wide.

The centennial of Sather Tower was celebrated on February 3, 2015 and featured a special installation and performance including a unique composition of bells (both recorded and live) and lighting modulated in real time by data from the UC Berkeley seismometer adjacent to the Hayward Fault. The composition performed on the carillon was written by Music Chair and faculty member Edmund Campion.

5 Questions: Jimmy López Bellido

Jimmy López Bellido Ph.D. ‘12 is currently serving as Composer-in-Residence for the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

You studied at the National Conservatory of Music in Lima, and the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki prior to UC Berkeley. How were the conservatories different from your experience in Berkeley?

All those places are incredibly different from each other. In Lima I acquired a solid base, especially in regards to harmony, counterpoint, and music theory in general. All of this especially thanks to my mentor and -as I like to call him- my “personal Yoda”, Enrique Iturriaga, a 99-year-old composer who has made an indelible mark in Peruvian musical life. The Sibelius Academy reinforced that base but it provided me with great exposure to Finland’s (and by extension, Europe’s) rich contemporary music scene. It also gave me plenty of opportunities to explore my fascination for the symphony orchestra, not only because Finland, a country of 5.5 million, boasts 25 professional orchestras, but also because the Sibelius Academy itself has a very strong orchestral conducting department, a fact that allowed me to try a few of my compositions in rehearsal. What I took from Berkeley was creative freedom. Europe has strong traditions and it is hard for Europeans to let go of them sometimes. California, in turn, is fertile ground for innovation in many areas, the kind of innovation and openness that allowed the birth of Minimalism, for example. It is here, at Berkeley, where I was able to distill my language and find my personal voice.

Edmund Campion was your advisor at Cal. What was the most significant thing you took away from him?

Ed believed, and still believes, in me and my music. He had real faith in that, as competitive as it is, I could make it in the music industry. He guided me through my transition from the world of academia to the hard realities of being a freelance composer. He recognized my strength,s and weaknesses and helped me carve the path that I have carved for myself. Ed recognized my talent and had faith in me right from the start. I will be always grateful to him for that.

You’re debuting a concerto at the end of the month titled “Guardian of the Horizon.” Can you tell us about it?

The Sphinx Organization, which has done a fantastic job supporting black and Latino musicians, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and they commissioned me to create the Concerto Grosso for Violin, Cello & Strings to celebrate the occasion. They are taking the piece on tour throughout several cities in the US, including their annual Gala Concert at Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium on October 13th. The work has been co-commissioned by the Sphinx Organization, with the support of Linda and Stuart Nelson, Carnegie Hall, and New World Symphony, and it is dedicated to my father’s memory, who passed away in December of last year. This work is also a part of Carnegie Hall’s “125 commissions” project, celebrating the famed institution’s 125th anniversary.

You’ll be composer-in-residence at the Houston Symphony for the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons. What are your goals/aspirations for your time in Texas?

During these two upcoming seasons I will be focusing on three major projects: a violin concerto, a symphony, and a mentorship program with young composers that will culminate on a concert consisting of new works by student composers from the Houston area. The violin concerto’s premiere has, sadly, had to be postponed in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, but it will certainly take place during the 2018-19 season. The symphony will be premiered during the 2018-19 season and it will pay homage to Houston’s special contribution to space exploration. The mentorship program will be developed in conjunction with Professors from Rice University and University of Houston, and it will consist in the creation of new works, workshops with Houston Symphony musicians, interdisciplinary cooperation, and a final presentation at a special venue where the newly created works will be presented. In addition to all this, I will participate in talks, lectures, and chamber music concerts, plus other existing works of mine will be featured during the orchestra’s upcoming seasons.

In the Denver Post, Ray Mark Rinaldi says “Lopez doesn’t sound like the other composers currently at work. His influences are broad, but he has a distinct voice and it is adventurous and winning. He’s making opera that sounds like him, rather than trying to emulate others.” How did you find your voice in terms of composition?

During my time in Lima my eyes and ears were pointed toward Europe, so I didn’t pay much attention to my own country’s rich musical tradition. All of this changed when I moved to Finland because there I realized that in order to develop a distinct voice I could not continue ignoring my geographical origins. After coming to the US I continued to explore the Avant-garde scene, especially in Germany (Darmstadt and Donaueschingen), as I continued to delve into my geographical roots with works such as “Perú Negro”, which is entirely inspired by Afro-Peruvian music. These two parallel roads were not at odds with each other, but they were not necessarily interacting with each other, so in my mid thirties I made a conscious (and sometimes also unconscious) effort to integrate them into a single mode of expression. Nowadays I feel perfectly comfortable employing the tools I have learned from both of them and the result is a more unified and distinct personal voice that I think will continue to be shaped as I enter my forties.