Yale’s music students are pushing the boundaries of contemporary musical composition.
On Thursday, the Yale Philharmonia in Woolsey Hall will present new music by eight graduate students in the School of Music’s composition program. The concert gives students’ music the chance to be performed in a professional atmosphere and to attract attention from professional orchestras, said Christopher Theofanidis MUS ’97, a faculty composer and the concert’s director.
Shinik Hahm, the School of Music professor who has conducted the orchestra for this annual concert for the past 10 years, said he considers this concert one of the most curious events of the year because it provides a look into the imaginations of these young composers.
“When we take eight different composers and put them all in a hall we find individual characters, the different natures of their personalities, the techniques and background,” Hahm said. “It’s very fascinating.”
Yale, Theofanidis said, is one of the few music schools in the country to dedicate a concert entirely to student orchestral work. By providing students a platform to have their work performed by a large orchestra in a professional setting, the concert increases public exposure to the students’ work, Theofanidis said. Many works are taken up by professional orchestras nationwide — in one instance, “Winter Bells” by Polina Nazaykinskaya MUS ’10 was selected for the Minnesota Orchestra Composers Institute. .
This year’s concert features a number of works that draw on alternative media, a trend Theofanidis said is being used more and more in musical composition today.
Literary works inspired a piece by Garth Neustadter MUS ’12, who received an Emmy award this year for his work “John Muir In The New World.” Neustadter composed the piece “By the Open Window” based on the poem by Constantine Cavafy.
Neustadter said that setting a piece in the context of a poem was surprisingly similar to the context of a film. The poem’s rhythmic feel and references to music make it well-suited to voice and orchestra, he said, allowing the written word to translate into a “musical realization of the text.”
While the Yale Philharmonia may be known for its classical music, Daniel Wohl MUS ’12 integrated his background in electronic music into his composition, “Found Object—Faded Music.” The combination of acoustic music and digital playback lends an “expanded palette” to a piece, he said. The orchestra will play along to the distorted and artificially decayed sound of prerecorded brass instruments.
“A lot of students come with some pop music background or DJ experience,” Theofanidis said. “We totally encourage a kind of mix-and-match … of different genres com[ing] together.”
The concert is part of the New Music New Haven concert series, which showcases the work of faculty and young composers at the School of Music.