Music that breaks out of the CUBE | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Music that breaks out of the CUBE

Chicago has a well-known jazz and blues tradition, but in recent years it has gained a reputation as a home for “new music.” It’s a younger generation of classically trained composers and performers that is turning the traditional world upside down. They bring improvisation, technology and the melding of electroacoustic and traditional instruments.

MILLER: We play many different styles of music influenced by rock, jazz, and the classical tradition, it is music written today.

Christie Miller is the Director of the Cube Contemporary Chamber Ensemble. It was founded 25 years ago and is one of over twenty member ensembles in the New Music Chicago group.

Part of Cube´s mission is to celebrate the work of international and minority composers of new music. For Mexico 2010, they produced a special concert that emphasized an important part of Latin Music, according to Gustavo Leone, one of the festival´s co-founders.

LEONE: The avant garde, the music that doesn’t fit in classical style or popular style and let me tell you that is an area that is thriving in Mexico! It incorporates not only computer instruments and acoustic instruments but also video.

Leone says that like other new music composers around the world, Mexican avant-garde has embraced the 21st Century musical instrument par excellence

LEONE: The only musical instrument that has been invented in the last forty years is the computer. And with the advancement and refinement of the computer, it has become a musical instrument. At the beginning it was not fully accepted by academics but now it is fully embraced by academia and slowly accepted by the audience as a whole.

The concert will incorporate a series of prerecorded sounds that were generated by a computer, played alongside music created by traditional instruments. Here, Leone gives us a sneak peek of the guitar-based piece he will be playing.

LEONE: Now the concept of the piece is one where the guitarist has to react to the music and in sort of a limited improvisation and create the music in real time as a response to the tape. The tape is a recording of sounds of guitar sounds as well as some other sampled sounds processed transformed, distorted in such a way they become something new. The audience hears the tape, But in addition to that there is another track that the audience doesn’t hear that comes to my ear and instructs me on what to do.

Are the instructions interpretive? Like a conductor, when conducts the orchestra like tells them to play? What do the instructions add?

LEONE: The instructions tell you when to do something, so you will hear like counting beats: “five, four, three, two, now play harmonics and gradually following the tape go to the highest part of your instrument”

Wow is that hard to do?

LEONE No it isn’t in the sense that it is enjoyable in the sense that you actually have a score, but you don’t need to play notes exactly the way they are written. It is an improvisation, like a jazz improvisation but in an avant-garde style. There is a section in the piece where the guitarist, in addition to playing with your hands is supposed to do sounds like: Pops and clicks mouth

That´s body music!

LEONE: Right, exactly!

In addition, some of the pieces include a multimedia experience. Leone says clarinets and electroacoustic sounds stirred the composer.

MUSIC LEONE: This piece is based or inspired in an event that takes place in Morelia. In the copper mines the workers get together and hammer a large piece of copper. They hammer this piece of copper together to turn it into a workable layer of copper and he used that sound as a basis for his piece as well as he used images to create the video that accompany this piece for two clarinets and video

Added elements aside, Director Christie Miller says Mexico shines through.

MILLER: Perhaps with Rimbarimba, for solo marimba, you’ll hear some of the traditional Mexican rhythms. It definitely has the traditions sounds, but taken a lot farther, it is there maybe not in every piece but some of them, they show the influence of their roots, but they have taken it so much farther, paired them together and create something totally new.


The CUBE Ensemble will perform this Sunday as part of the Latino Music Festival and the 2010 Mexico Celebrations.
The event will take place at the Art Institute’s Fullerton Hall on Michigan Avenue.

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