Humanities Corridor Presents ‘Music and Spectacle’ Series

February 20, 2009

Mellon CNY Humanities Corridor Presents ‘Music and Spectacle’ Series at Eastman and Syracuse, March 2-5

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Musicology/Music History Cluster of the Mellon Central New York Humanities Corridor–a large-scale partnership with Syracuse University, Cornell University and the University of Rochester sponsored by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation–is presenting a series of regional events titled “Music and Spectacle: Music As Text/Text As Music.” The series runs March 2-5 and features performances of new music by Sequitur, an award-winning contemporary ensemble from New York City.

Rochester’s Eastman School of Music will host two of the events: a concert on Monday, March 2, at noon, featuring works by Andrew Waggoner, Donald Crockett and Harold Meltzer; and an open rehearsal and colloquium on Tuesday, March 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with works by Mellon Humanities Corridor student and faculty composers. SU will present more music by Crockett and student composers on Wednesday, March 4, at 8 p.m. in Setnor Auditorium. The Redhouse, 201 South West St., Syracuse, will conclude the series on Thursday, March 5, at 8 p.m. with a repeat of the March 1 program. All events are free and open to the public.

The series title is a nod to Aristotle, who wrote in “Poetics” that good storytelling consists of music and spectacle, in addition to plot, character, thought and diction. “Each piece that we’ll present contains all six of these elements, in one form or another,” says Waggoner, who is the event organizer and chair of the composition and theory department in the Setnor School of Music in SU’s College of Visual and Performing Arts. “Instrumental works based on text push the question of what music means, if anything. Works with narration create a kind of half-light, where speaking becomes musical. Art songs explore the ever-changing terrain of singing, itself.”

“Music and Spectacle” is both cross-disciplinary and cross-institutional, in that the series draws on the academic and creative strengths of SU, Cornell and Rochester. Since last fall, student-composers at all three institutions have been setting texts by well-known poets and by their peers in creative writing, under the careful guidance of faculty members in composition and English.

The result, says Waggoner, has been a kind of pluralistic music culture. “The series serves scholars by providing opportunities to address questions arising from the changing nature in music drama. Students, in turn, are exposed to a wide range of musico-dramatic genres,” he says, adding that delayed radio broadcasts and on-demand Web streaming of events will likely drive listenership into the hundreds of thousands.

In addition to several notable premieres, the presence of Sequitur is bound to draw audiences. The 20-piece ensemble, co-founded by Meltzer and pianist Sara Laimon in 1996, is renowned for its adventurous, “smartly integrated programs” (The New Yorker). The award-winning group is at home in virtually any musical setting in New York City, from Merkin Concert Hall and Theatre 80 St. Mark’s to Joe’s Pub and the Knitting Factory. Sequitur frequently makes headlines by mixing concert programs with multimedia and theater, as demonstrated by recent performances of music by George Crumb, David Del Tredici, Luciano Berio and Judith Weir.

“We’re thrilled to be partnering with Sequitur and with world-class composers from Eastman and Cornell,” says Gregg Lambert, co-director of the Mellon Humanities Corridor, as well as Dean’s Professor of the Humanities and founding director of the Humanities Center at SU. “This series speaks to the importance of the public humanities, in general, and to the breadth and depth of Scholarship in Action at Syracuse University.”

The Mellon Central New York Humanities Corridor is an interdisciplinary collaboration of three regional Association of American Universities (AAU) universities with vigorous humanistic scholarly traditions: Syracuse University, Cornell University, and University of Rochester. The Mellon CNY Corridor initiative is generously supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through a four-year $1 million dollar award designed to raise the public engagement with and visibility of the humanities in the Central New York region and to enhance the productivity and connectivity of its key scholars, students, and community members.