March 31, 2011

Outside the Box Music Festival returns to SIUC

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- The Outside the Box Music Festival returns to Southern Illinois University Carbondale beginning Friday, April 1.

The fifth annual festival runs through April 9 with concerts, master classes and multi-media events highlighting contemporary composers. This year’s two feature composers are Morton Feldman (1926-1987) and Morgan Powell with special guests the Tone Road Ramblers.

Kathleen Ginther, coordinator and creator of the music festival, said the composers this year have in common an almost defiant attitude toward musical conventions.

“Feldman and others were questioning everything about music,” she said. “They were challenging inherited conventions.”

Feldman was part of the experimental New York School of composers and artists and was a major player in the creation of what has become known as indeterminate music. Feldman even questioned the standard written language of musical composition, creating scores that look like abstract art and can be read a variety of ways. This is no accident, Ginther said, noting that Feldman was part of the visual art scene of the 1950s.

Powell, a member of the Tone Road Ramblers along with SIUC professor and Distinguished Scholar Eric Mandat, is also difficult to classify, though contemporary classical or jazz are terms that would not be inappropriate to apply to his music. Powell is a musical improvisationist. His compositions range from engaging a full orchestra to highlighting a single instrument to including dancers in the score.

This year’s festival also features an eclectic program presented by Jay Needham, associate professor in the Department of Radio and Television at SIUC. Needham, a sound artist, incorporates visual components into his performances. For the evening, he introduces Chicago-based musician and instrument builder Eric Leonardson in a live performance sure to be incapable of duplication.

Film screenings, one with a live score by its creator, Paul Festa, round out the festival events. Festa, filmmaker, writer and violinist, received his formal education at Yale University and the Juilliard School of Music. He supplies his own live soundtrack to a silent film featured during the festival performances.

Full musician and composer biographies and a full schedule are available at the Outside the Box interactive website at www.otbsiu.ecom. Performances are free. Here is a simplified schedule:


• Composer Portrait Concert: Music of Morton Feldman by the Altgeld Chamber Players, 7:30 p.m., Altgeld Hall, Room 112. This performance has the added bonus of a discussion with musicians and artists who interpret the experience. Art historian Peter Chametzky, director of the School of Art and Design, and Cheonae Kim, SIUC artist in residence (and past contributor to Outside the Box poster art) join Eric Mandat and Ron Coulter from the School of Music for the discussion. This is an opportunity to hear some truly different music and to get some help, if needed, in knowing how to interpret it.


• An Evening of Radio Art and Surround Sound Works, 7:30 p.m., Christian H. Moe Theater, SIUC Communications Building, curated by Jay Needham and featuring special guest Eric Leonardson.

Welcome to an international evening in one place! This evening of radio art and surround sound features work by SIUC’s Ron Coulter, curator Jay Needham, special guest Eric Leonardson and internationally known sound artists Dinah Bird, Anna Friz, Jean-Philippe Renoult, and Barry Traux.


Eric Leonardson presentation, 3:30 p.m., Communications Building

Leonardson will discuss aspects of his multi-faceted career as a composer, radio artist, sound designer, instrument inventor, visual artist and teacher. As might be expected with such a variety of activities, Leonardson does not take a conventional, expected approach to music or art. His insights are sure to inspire new approaches to thinking about and creating art of any kind.


Altgeld Chamber Players concert, 7:30 p.m., Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall.

This concert highlights several SIUC composers, including Kathleen Ginther, Frank Stemper and Eric Mandat, and other contemporary composers, including Lee Hyla and Mario Davidovsky.


• Master classes with the Tone Road Ramblers, 10 a.m., Altgeld Hall, rooms to be announced.

Classes are with Stephen Butters, percussion; Jon Fonville, flute; Ray Sasaki, trumpet; and Morgan Powell and Jim Staley, trombone.

• Improv workshop with Jim Staley, 1 p.m., Altgeld Hall, Room 112

• Composer Portrait Concert: Music of Morgan Powell with the Tone Road Ramblers and the Altgeld Chamber Players, 7:30 p.m., Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall

This concert features guest Dorothy Martirano, violinist. Martirano performs with the Tone Road Ramblers regularly, but she also performs all over the world on her own and with other groups. At present, the Champaign-Urbana Symphony Orchestra is her home.


• Emerging Composers Concert, 7:30 p.m., Old Baptist Foundation Recital Hall

It doesn’t get newer than this. SIUC is producing composers as well as musicians. The evening includes music by student composers Matt Clark, Jim Davis, Cody Foltz, Audra Fuhr and Brent Grapperhaus.


New Arts Jazztet with the SIUC Studio Jazz Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. Shryock Auditorium.

The New Arts Jazztet, a faculty ensemble, shares the stage with the SIUC Studio Jazz Orchestra, under the direction of Tim Pitchford. The concert also features special guests from the Tone Road Ramblers, Morgan Powell on trombone and Ray Sasaki on trumpet.


• Composers Forum with Morgan Powell, 10 a.m., Altgeld Hall, Room 110

Tone Road Ramblers concert, 7:30 p.m., Shryock Auditorium


• Film screening with live score by Paul Festa

Enjoy presentations of the award-winning film “Apparition of the Eternal Church,” a film about listening to music, and “The Glitter Emergency,” a silent film with live violin by Paul Festa.