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 WAC Newsletter, June 1998
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Christopher Frye New WAC President
Other Officers and Board Members Elected

Christopher Frye was elected the new President at the Spring Conference. Other officers elected were Al Benner the new Vice President, and David Drexler the new Secretary/Treasurer. Five board terms expired at the Spring Conference. Accepting new terms were Christopher Frye, Joseph Koykkar, and student board member Josh Schmidt. The other two board members elected were Dan Maske and Charles Young. They are replacing Gregoria Suchy and Thomas Powell.

MadWAC Benefit

MadWAC presented a concert of chamber music by member composers as a fund-raiser on May 16 at the First Unitarian Meeting House in Madison. The program featured four premieres: Joel Naumann's Capriccio for Two Violas and Wendy's Rag, and Vicky Tzoumerka-Knoedler's Epiphany and Three Blues. Other pieces performed on the lengthy program were Naumann's Three Abstract Preludes, Tzoumerka-Knoedler's Agapi, Green is for Hope, Bit of Surprise, and Good People, David Drexler's Devil's Lake, Arthur Durkee's Djogèd, and two pieces by guest composer Diedre Buckley: Le Chapeau and Song for Jim. Performers included Johanna Baldwin, Avedis Manoogian, Michael Dewey, Steve Kadlecek, Daniel Pereira, Dawn Weithe, Nils Bultmann, Tim Gruber, Buckley, and Drexler. The event raised several hundred dollars to support MadWAC programs.

Festival Choir of Madison Premieres Carter Piece

The Rainbows of Kee-mae-won by MadWAC member Ryan Carter was premiered Saturday, March 21, by the Festival Choir of Madison as part of their Wisconsin Sings! program. The program celebrated the Festival Choir's 25th anniversary as well as Wisconsin's Sesquicentennial. Ryan's piece was the first prize winner in a statewide competition for high school students sponsored by the choir and the Wisconsin School Music Association, and shared the program with Tiller of the Soil by contest runner-up Helen Exner and new works commissioned from Jean Belmont and Elam Ray Sprinkle. Jess Anderson of Madison's Isthmus described Carter as "quite a large talent" and his piece as "the strongest in the whole evening."

Sesquicentennial Carillon Concert

Lyle Anderson, University of Wisconsin Carillonneur, presented a concert of Wisconsin-related music on May 31 as part of the statewide Sesquicentennial celebration. The program included works by WAC members Bob Crane, Joel Naumann, and David Drexler, as well as compositions and arrangements by Anderson himself and many other pieces written or arranged specifically for the University of Wisconsin Memorial Carillon.

Benefit Concert for Tom Boehm

On April 30 at Saint Francis House in Madison, the Winds of Southern Wisconsin recorder society held a benefit for Thomas Boehm, who is facing substantial medical bills following surgery in the fall of 1997. Performers included WAC members Roscoe Mitchell and ellsworth snyder, the Wisconsin Baroque Ensemble, the Ed Anders Quartet, the Lucky Numbers, and Harmonious Wail. Boehm is a friend of our organization, an instrument builder, an enthusiast for microtonal and experimental music, and is active as a performer of early music in the Madison area. Having made a full recovery, he remains, as described by snyder, "one of Madison's musical treasures." His performance at the WAC conference held in Madison in March 1994 was a highlight of the Saturday morning session. Members who wish to contribute to Boehm's medical fund may send checks payable to: UW Credit Union, account 17725302. Mail to Tom Boehm Medical Fund, c/o Ian Dobson, 1633 Madison St., Madison, WI 53711.

Opportunity Letter Discontinued

James Chaudoir has resigned his position as the opportunity update editor. Because of the availability of numerous other opportunity updates and the various links through the Internet and at the WAC website, the usefulness of this update and the difficulty in compiling and mailing it in a timely manner made the production of it less than cost effective. Consequently, it was recommended that it be discontinued.

WAC Booth at the 1998 Wisconsin State Music Conference

by Dan Maske

The 1998 Wisconsin State Music Conference will take place on October 28-30 in Madison. Presentations are given throughout the day by various guest speakers on all kinds of topics related to music education. There is a large exhibit hall where music instrument companies, publishing companies, music stores, and colleges and universities are represented at their own booths. A recent issue of the Wisconsin Music Educators Journal gave attention to the fact that there are many composers in the state of Wisconsin and featured an article on "Commissioning a Composition."

WAC has applied for a booth at this Conference. I am coordinating our involvement in this matter, and am entertaining suggestions as to how we can best advertise ourselves as "Composers for Hire." I suggest that we provide a presentation on composition, commissioning, the value of having new music composed specifically for a certain school ensemble, and other relevant topics. The purpose of the booth would be to put WAC composers in touch with school music teachers, conductors, and performers. Composers interested in writing for let's say, a middle school band, would have a chance to connect with interested band directors in Wisconsin.

There are several options on how to organize a WAC booth. There should be pamphlets of composers' names, brief backgrounds, and contact information. It could also include the ensembles, ages, and levels for which each composer is most interested and/or experienced in writing for. Another useful tool to include would be a tape featuring short samples of participating composers' music. This could either be given away, sold for a small fee, or simply playing on a tape deck at the booth throughout the day. Another option would be for each composer to provide his/her own tapes. A booth at this convention cost around $450.00. Composers who are interested in participating (having their names and information in the pamphlet) would most likely be asked/required to contribute financially to the project.

Through the last several years, I have attended this convention. It is always crowded (especially in the exhibit hall) with college musicians, conductors, teachers, and others. College students who are near graduation, and close to entering the world of professional teaching, have often been active in performing the works of living composers, including composition students, at their schools. They would be of the most likely to have an interest in commissioning works for their school ensembles. I believe that participation in this event could provide some wonderful opportunities and contacts for many WAC members. There are many possibilities on how to work this project, but the important thing is that WAC be represented at this conference.

Dan Maske is a Board Member of WAC and Co-Director of the Madison chapter. For any thoughts and suggestions regarding the above, please write him at 725 W. Washington Ave., Apt. 105, Madison, WI 53715, or e-mail demaske@students.wisc.edu, or call 608-250-9365.

WAC Conference, 1998

by Jeff Klatt

Congratulations and thanks to Gary Verkade for an outstanding hosting of this year's WAC conference. Held at Carthage College in Kenosha, the conference featured three concerts, a workshop for the composer's approach to accordion, and a general meeting. Perhaps the strongest attribute of the concerts was their diversity, manifesting great many approaches to the very nature of music composition.

One thing to be heralded for certain was the inclusion of improvisation at the conference. Immediately coming to mind is a passage from E.T. Ferand's Improvisation in Nine Centuries of Western Music that addresses the critical influence improvisation has on composed music. He writes:

This joy in improvising while singing and playing is evident in almost all phases of music history. It was always a powerful force in the creation of new forms and every historical study that confines itself to the practical or theoretical sources that have come down to us in writing or in print, without taking into account the improvisational element in living musical practice, must of necessity present an incomplete, indeed a distorted picture. For there is scarcely a single field in music that has remained unaffected by improvisation, scarcely a single musical technique or form of composition that did not originate in improvisatory practice or was not essentially influenced by it. The whole history of the development of music is accompanied by manifestations of the drive to improvise.
Improvisation, especially free improvisation which does not attach itself to any genre and therefore encourages no particular language or form, is a direct and immediate representation of ones present, musical thinking. Whether engaged actively or passively, improvisation is for a composer an invaluable means of accessing the freest approaches to sonic gesture and organization, the richest reservoir of raw possibility. What Hal Rammel and Thomas Gaudynski brought to the conference was of the highest caliber indeed.

Initiating the first concert, flutist Camilla Hoitenga displayed a crucial aspect of the endless integration of evolving instrumental technique into music. That is, as she achieved by virtue of an acute sensitivity, for a performer to be able to internalize new techniques to the point where they can be employed fluently and deftly as other techniques and musically in cooperation with other techniques. The issue is not so much motor skill but the musical precedence of sensitivity to the aural result. As for the composer, as brilliantly met by Kaija Saariaho in her piece Laconisme de l'aile performed by Hoitenga, a parallel challenge exists of presenting these techniques as necessitated by sound, not merely inserted gratuitously in argument of the work being "modern." That is not to say it is never effective or appropriate to utilize a technique for its own sake, but this occasion demonstrated the beautiful composite of sonorities prevailing yet extended and given new vitality through mutual appreciation for the evolution and adept wielding of new technical possibilities. For a composer of music that requires a human performer, to imagine and desire sound depends on that performer to believe and share this sound, doing whatever is necessary to best achieve it, lest it remains imagination and desire. Without the level of aural sensitivity such as Hoitenga brought to Saariaho's desire, we are swiftly removed from that desire and our focus withdraws until we again realize that we are flesh and bone listening to sounds through time; perhaps the difference between a dream and its retelling.

Another essential inclusion on programs such as ours is that of electro-acoustic music. Daniel Hosken's Alchemy: Visions was a terrific example of what is becoming possible with sound through creative implementation of electricity. As dictated by its uses, the realm of computer software and hardware (and every other facet of the medium) is constantly moving ahead towards greater and greater flexibility and, ultimately, bringing the constructive design, manipulation, and structuring of sounds more directly to the core of the imagination. The traditional issues of time, gesture, form, texture, motion, etc. still exist in this expanding realm but the traditional discourse on these issues must eventually explode, dismantle, decompose, somehow transform and grow new vocabulary to allow us the means with which to contemplate the infinite new results. I look forward to this with profound excitement.

Beyond the concerts, the workshop given by Stanislaw Venglevski was a thoughtful addition. Especially with an instrument such as the accordion that is less common in the academic setting, it is considerably relevant to discuss its characteristics and potentials specifically to composers. Not only does this demystify some of its notational idiosyncrasies, it also encourages modern thinking about the accordion's compositional applications as a sound source.

There was so much convincing music at this conference that I thought it best not to touch on all the particulars but rather to illuminate some of the broader issues of importance presented by the program overall. I ought not mention all the fine and gracious performers as they are listed to the last in the program.

So again, thanks to Gary Verkade for his time and sincere attention to a diverse representation of music in Wisconsin. Perhaps the greatest success of this or any WAC conference, however, lies in the congregation and representation of a single, vast human endeavor.

Jeff Klatt studies composition with Yehuda Yannay, electro-acoustic music with Jon Welstead, and cello with Wolfgang Laufer at the University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee. He curates a concert series entitled "Decomposition; Explorations in Improvisation" that is dedicated to free improvisation.

WAC Newsletter, June 1998
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Last updated 8 June 1998. Contact information.