March 24, 2014

Outside the Box music festival opens Friday

by Andrea Hahn

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- New music will dominate Southern Illinois University Carbondale with the return of the Outside the Box new music festival.           

The festival, which began in 2007 and is in its eighth season, opens Friday, March 28 and runs through April 8.  Admission to many of the 10 music performances is free.  All the performances feature contemporary composers, including three SIU faculty members. 

Festival coordinator and SIU composer Kathleen Ginther brought the event to campus in 2007 to help SIU become a venue for new music and contemporary composers and ensembles. The festival is also a way to introduce SIU musicians and music lovers to music that is so fresh it hasn’t always hit the mainstream of ensemble music. 

This year, Third Coast Percussion, a group as engaging to watch as to hear, will perform “Resounding Earth,” a piece written by festival guest composer Augusta Read Thomas.  Ginther said the piece uses more than 300 pieces of metal, from bells to gongs and many other shapes, to explore the meditative sound of metal. 

While Thomas is in mid-career, Ginther also invited Ben Hjertmann, an emerging composer only two years out of graduate school but with a growing body of work already to his credit.  The SIU Wind Ensemble will perform Hjertmann’s “Catclaw Mimosa,” and will offer his “Donkey Rhubarb” composition as a world premiere at SIU. 

Outside the Box has a casual tradition of multi-media performance that continues this year.  The festival will pair SIU filmmakers with SIU musicians. The SIU Improv unit, a percussion-based ensemble led by Ron Coulter, a percussion faculty member, will provide live accompaniment to several short experimental films. The event will also feature a special music appearance from Eric Mandat, professor of clarinet and Distinguished Scholar. 

Bittersweet moments will also be present as Professor Frank Stemper, SIU’s composer-in-residence, and Ginther herself, a senior lecturer in music composition, will say farewell as they retire at the end of the spring semester. 

For a full schedule and more information about the composers and musicians, visit the Outside the Box website.