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Just Because It’s June in Buffalo

For the past couple of hundred years, David Felder has been running June in Buffalo, the venerable annual music festival that traces its history back to Morton Feldman. Having recently suffered through ‘Savages,’ a small but brutally great film about old people with Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman set in Buffalo, I have to think that the festival is only justifiable reason to ever set foot there.

This year’s festival is set for June 2-7 and this is one of those year’s when the festival departs from its usual format and explores an overarching theme. This is “Music and Computers” year, drawing in some of the world’s most illustrious and innovative composers, researchers, and teachers of algorithmic, interactive, multimedia, acousmatic, and electroacoustic computer music. Headlining the conference are senior faculty Charles Dodge, Cort Lippe, Roberto Morales, Miller Puckette, Morton Subotnick, Ben Thigpen, and Hans Tutschku, a diverse and international group of composers and pedagogues.

David Felder, currently Birge-Cary Professor of Composition at University of Buffalo, and Director of the Center for 21st Century Music, as well as Founder and Artistic Director of the Slee Sinfonietta, has actually presided as artistic director of June in Buffalo since 1985 (you didn’t really think it was a couple of hundred years, did you), when he resurrected the festival after a five-year hiatus. He has since reshaped the festival, emphasizing the importance of meaningful interaction between the senior composers and students.

This summer’s resident ensembles and soloists include some of the world’s leading performers of contemporary and computer music: the Ensemble for Intuitive Music, a German ensemble founded in 1980 in what was then East Germany for the performance of music considered taboo by the Communist government; members of Germany’s acclaimed experimental chamber music group Ensemble SurPlus; members of the widely-renowned New York New Music Ensemble; and UB’s own professional chamber orchestra-in-residence, the Slee Sinfonietta. Other distinguished performers will include bass-baritone Nicholas Isherwood, the Paris-based early music and new music specialist, and the Swedish classical guitarist and new music pioneer Magnus Andersson.

Joining the faculty and performers will be composition students from around the world, who must first pass through JiB’s fiercely competitive application process (last year there were 100 applicants for 20 spots.) June in Buffalo offers these students the rare opportunity to work and mix with top musicians and world-class faculty in an intimate and casual environment. Under the direction of Felder, more emphasis is now placed on providing opportunities for these emerging composers. For example, each gets to rehearse one of his or her pieces with world-class musicians in a professional setting, resulting in a public performance.

The round-the-clock festival schedule consists of daily seminars, lectures, master classes, panel discussions, and open rehearsals-capped by first-rate afternoon and evening concerts that are open to the public. Every seminar and concert since the Feldman days of ’75 has been recorded, and remains in the UB library’s extensive archives.

If you’re in the neighborhood, pounce. Send me a postcard if you go.


Comment from Christian Carey
Time: May 26, 2008, 10:54 pm

Two of the best music festival experiences I’ve ever had were at JiB, in ’98 and ’99. The faculty, staff, musicians, and fellow students couldn’t have been nicer and the performances were top notch.

Two suggestions to attendees:

1) Bring along some “comfort music” — 16 hours a day of contemporary fare may require a brief respite when you return to your room!

2) Bring granola bars or other non-perishable food along. The breakneck pace of classes, presentations, rehearsals, and performances occasionally leaves little time to eat.



Comment from Jean-François Charles
Time: May 27, 2008, 2:55 pm

Sounds like an interesting program. I started Max with Ben Thigpen and FFT with Hans Tutschku: difficult to find a better team for that. Performers include Hans Tutschku’s Ensemble für Intuitive Musik, as well as Nicholas Isherwood, an amazing vocalist. The web site doesn’t list the pieces played, though.

Comment from Rob
Time: May 27, 2008, 5:37 pm

Buffalo’s just an hour from here and I was planning on checking as much as I could out – I’ll do my best to postcard from the West Coast (of NY).