As promised in my last post, I’m going to describe the layout of the MUSIC NOW residency day by day. The residency began on Wednesday (Feb 21) with guest composer (me) arriving at the airport in Detroit. I couldn’t help noticing that the organizers had thoughtfully provided a mid-February thaw – temperatures were hovering in the upper 30s, as opposed to the single digits dominating the weather reports for several weeks. Anthony Iannacone, the festival organizer, met me and took me to my hotel. Along the way, we had a chance to get to know one another a bit, enjoying the first of many conversations that covered a wide range of topics. Tony’s about fifteen years older than I am, but we discovered many mutual acquaintances. Both of us had seen some of the worst side of the late, lamented David Diamond. Tony had studied with Vittorio Giannini, one of the founders of the school where I teach. And he remembered one of my favorite teachers, James Sellars, from his student days.

The only scheduled activity was an evening concert of new music performed by Eastern Michigan faculty. None of the pieces were mine, which was an excellent way to start: I was able to listen and learn, get the lay of the land, before making any contributions to the proceedings.

Here’s what I heard: music by Iannacone and two of his students, Joshua Bornfield and Whitney Prince. These impressive pieces gave me a sense of the character of the EMU composition department: traditional musical values, fine craftsmanship, artistic sensitivity.

The other three works on the program made it clear that the department was not dogmatic in its preferences: we heard six lively piano preludes by Ginastera, Reich’s phasing Nagoya Marimbas and Resanovic’s wild foray into cultural morphing, alt.music.ballistix, for clarinet and prerecorded sound.

So this first day was a chance for me to gauge how to maximize my contributions to the festival. When the concert concluded, Tony drove me back to my hotel, where I gave some thought to my Day Two responsibilities, before drifting off to some much-needed sleep.

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