Cal Performances has added two distinct concerts of contemporary music by UC Berkeley’s in-residence Eco Ensemble to its calendar on Saturday, January 26 and Saturday, February 23, both at 8:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall. The Eco Ensemble, “a dream team of local musicians who embody a new high point in the Bay Area’s vibrant contemporary music scene” (New York Times), is led by David Milnes, who also serves as music director of the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. Eco Ensemble, which takes its name from the vibrant artistic ecology within which it works, is closely connected with the UC Berkeley Center for New Music & Audio Technologies (CNMAT), an interdisciplinary research center at the university focused on the creative interaction between music and technology.
The January 26 program highlights two works that share a theatrical angle. The concert will open with Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s (b. 1934) Secret Theatre, written in 1984 for 14-piece chamber ensemble. Called by its British composer a work of “instrumental role-playing,” Secret Theatre alternates between solo instruments presenting monologues and multiple instruments simultaneously playing conflicting voices. It will be followed by La Chute de la Maison Usher, written in 1995 by Italian composer Ivan Fedele (b. 1953) as a soundtrack to French filmmaker Jean Epstein’s landmark 1928 silent film of the same name. The Eco Ensemble will play the work live as Epstein’s film is shown, and Fedele will be in attendance. The composer will be on the UC Berkeley campus as a 2013 Regents’ Lecturer.
On February 23, Eco Ensemble will open a technology-infused concert with a world premiere of a new piano concerto by pianist and UC Berkeley composition professor Cindy Cox (b. 1961). Cox’s post-tonal musical language is derived from acoustics, technological innovations, harmonic resonance and poetic allusion. The concerto will feature Grammy-winning pianist, UCLA faculty member, and 2012 UC Berkeley Regents’ Lecturer Gloria Cheng. Next is a second world premiere, by UC Berkeley doctoral graduate and former CNMAT musical systems designer John MacCallum (b. 1976). MacCallum’s works rely on technology in both composition and performance; they often employ carefully constrained algorithms that evolve differently yet predictably. Staub – Assonance IIIb by Swiss composer Michael Jarrell (born 1958) follows; written for seven musicians and video (though the video will not be shown for this performance), the 2009 composition’s reliance on electronics will demonstrate the relationship between Eco Ensemble and CNMAT. The final work of the concert, Ikons 14’ by trombonist, composer and Columbia University professor George Lewis (born 1952), was created with Canadian artist Eric Metcalfe in 2009 for a sculptural-sonic installation and premiered at the 2010 Vancouver Cultural Olympiad. Lewis, who will be in attendance for the performance, is the Spring 2013 visiting Bloch Professor in the UC Berkeley Department of Music.
Eco Ensemble is a dynamic group of high-caliber professional and academic musicians. The group itself is built to expand and contract in size based on the works it performs. With a mission to bring exciting contemporary music both to experienced audiences and new listeners, the Eco Ensemble performs concerts, gives public lectures, and provides demonstrations and workshops. The ensemble’s work is informed and inspired by its relationships with CNMAT and the UC Berkeley Department of Music. David Milnes, conductor of the UC Berkeley Symphony Orchestra and professor in the department of music, serves as the Eco Ensemble’s conductor and is on its artistic advisory committee with composer Edmund Campion and Cal Performances Director Matías Tarnopolsky. More about the ensemble can be found at ecoensemble.org.
Tickets for Eco Ensemble on Saturday, January 26 and Saturday, February 23 at 8:00 p.m. in Hertz Hall are priced at $30.00 and are subject to change. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall; at (510) 642-9988; at www.calperformances.org; and at the door. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. UC faculty and staff, senior citizens, other students and UC Alumni Association members receive a $5.00 discount (Special Events excluded). For select performances, Cal Performances offers UCB student, faculty and staff, senior, and community rush tickets. For more information about discounts, go to http://calperformances.org/buy/discounts.php or call (510) 642-9988.