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Explore time at the Prisms Contemporary Music Festival in ASU’s School of Music

Prisms cymbal
October 04, 2017

The exploration of temporality in Eastern and Western music is the focus of “Out of Time,” this year’s Prisms Contemporary Music Festival at the Arizona State University School of Music, Nov. 8–12.

In the world of music, “time, timing, time keeping and being in time together” are often considered crucial aspects of performance. But some musicians have been skeptical. Legendary jazz composer Sun Ra declared “time has officially ended,” and physicist and amateur violinist Albert Einstein once said “time is an illusion.” The eighth edition of the Prisms Contemporary Music Festival at the ASU School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts foregrounds unusual musical treatments of time and presents compelling works from artists in Asia, Australia, Europe and the United States.

“The Prisms Contemporary Music Festival theme allows us to present live performances of such iconic, yet rarely heard works as Iannis Xenakis’s ‘Epicycles’ for cello solo and chamber ensemble and Toshi Ichiyanagi’s ‘Still Time’ for flute solo,” said Sabine Feisst, professor of musicology. “The festival programs span works composed in the last 50 years, with the majority of the repertoire created after 1980.”

Offering the highest-quality performances of experimental music in the Phoenix metropolitan area, the annual Prisms Contemporary Music Festival is comprised of themed concerts including world and U.S. premieres. The festival showcases great music that is rarely performed, along with pre-concert talks, round tables, film screenings, installations and workshops. The goal of the festival, which was founded by Simone Mancuso and Glenn Hackbarth in 2009, is to promote the view that music is a living tradition — an exciting and vibrant part of modern life — and to pass on that belief by combining performances with informative lectures and discussions for ASU students, faculty and the local community.

“Out of Time” takes place on ASU’s Tempe campus and complements the events of the Society for Literature, Science and the Arts Conference at ASU, which coincides with the festival. The festival is organized by Simone Mancuso, faculty associate of percussion; Sabine Feisst, professor of musicology; and Garth Paine, associate professor of music composition and digital sound.

“Each year we offer a wide range of events and pioneering works from inventors of a trend to representatives of the latest and most innovative tendency,” Mancuso said. “This year’s theme embraces, among other pieces, ‘Uversa,’ for basset horn and electronics from Karlheinz Stockhausen’s last unfinished work, ‘Klang,’ which was inspired by the 24-hour cycle of the day. A special treat is the performance of Italian clarinetist and longtime Stockhausen collaborator Michele Marelli, who performed the world premiere of ‘Uversa.’ Marelli will present the work’s first performance in the United States during the Prisms Festival.”

The first concert of the festival features Marelli, bassett horn, and Thomas Landschoot, cello, presenting Arizona and U.S. premieres of Xenakis’s “Epicycles” and Stockhausen’s “Uversa,” respectively. The concert also includes the world premiere of Garth Paine’s “Surface, Texture,” which explores Western and Eastern concepts of musical time. 

The second concert showcases internationally renowned composer and sound designer Carla Scaletti’s own music using the Kyma system. “We are thrilled that she is performing a concert of live electronic and electroacoustic works,” Paine said, “including pieces created during her artist residency at the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (CERN) in Switzerland.”

“This year’s festival also features a workshop directed by Scaletti, computer music wizard and inventor of the Kyma system,” Paine said. This free two-day workshop, “Kyma, Live Interaction, Sound Design,” takes place Nov. 8–9 and allows students to learn how to use the Kyma environment as a creative tool for electronic music making.

Scaletti also provides a guest lecture,“Mu-Psi: Making the Invisible Audible” on Nov. 9 as part of the School of Arts, Media and Engineering’s Digital Culture Speaker series. This talk is free and open to the public.

This year, the Phoenix-based interdisciplinary ensemble Crossing32nd Street rounds off the festival with the world premiere of a new large-scale work, “Opus Claviblasticum,” by ASU alumni composer-performer and faculty associate Jacob Adler. In the course of one hour, this work explores different modes of time perception.

Numerous students in the School of Music and the School of Arts, Media and Engineering are participating in the festival, including members of the Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble, the Laptop Orchestra of Arizona State University (LORKAS) and graduate students in composition and musicology.

“I hope that the participants in this festival are inspired by the spectrum of music and discussions offered,” Feisst said. “And hopefully they can explore these musical directions further, as performers, composers or as listeners.”

Festival highlights

“Kyma” Workshop
9:30 a.m.–5 p.m. Nov. 8–9
ASU School of Arts, Media and Engineering
Carla Scaletti and Kurt Hebel, directors
Admission: Free
This workshop focuses on Kyma, an environment for creating, manipulating, combining and interacting with high-quality audio signals and emphasizes live interaction and sound design. This workshop is co-sponsored by LORKAS, the Laptop Orchestra of Arizona State. Several Kyma systems are available for use.

Guest Lecture: “Mu-Psi: Making the Invisible Audible”
3–4 p.m. Nov. 9
B125, Stauffer B-wing, first floor, ASU School of Arts, Media and Engineering
Carla Scaletti, guest speaker
Admission: Free

Concert 1: “Musical Time: East vs West”
7:30 p.m. Nov. 8
Katzin Concert Hall, ASU School of Music
Simone Mancuso, director
Tickets: $5–9
Purchase tickets at: ASU Events
Featuring internationally renowned clarinetist Michele Marelli; ASU School of Music faculty Thomas Landschoot, cello; and ASU alumni Joseph Millea, percussion, this concert includes works by Toshi Ichiyanagi and Minoru Miki. The concert showcases the Arizona premiere of Iannis Xenakis’s “Epicycles” for solo cello and ensemble, the U.S. premieres of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Uversa” for bassett horn and electronics and Kotoka Suzuki’s “Orison” (2017) as well as the world premiere of Garth Paine’s “Surface, Texture” for ensemble and electronics (2017).

Concert 2: “Mu-Psi: Making the Invisible Audible”
7:30 p.m. Nov. 9
Katzin Concert Hall, School of Music
Tickets: $5–9
Purchase tickets at: ASU Events
Enjoy an evening of live experimental music inspired by science and performed by internationally acclaimed and award-winning composer and sound designer Carla Scaletti, who designed the Kyma system and co-founded Symbolic Sound Corporation.

Concert 3: “Time in Tree – Clock Time – Time in Sports”
7:30 p.m. Nov. 11
Simone Mancuso, Director
Katzin Concert Hall, ASU School of Music
Admission: Free
The Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble presents pieces composed by Annie Gosfield, Toshi Ichiyanagi and ASU student composers Cameron Robello and JP Lemke.

Concert 4: “In Time vs Out of Time”
7:30 p.m. Nov. 12
Organ Hall, ASU School of Music
Admission: Free
Crossing 32nd Street presents the world premiere of one large-scale work for three pianos, percussion quartet, organ and open ensemble: “Opus Claviblasticum, composed by Phoenix-based ASU alumni, composer-performer and faculty associate Jacob Adler. The work juxtaposes sections “in time” featuring periodic rhythms and sections “out of time” marked by drone-like sustained sounds.

Pre-concert lectures and roundtable
Presented by Madison Heying, musicologist from the University of California, Santa Cruz; Sabine Feisst, professor of musicology; Kristina Knowles and Christopher Stover, both assistant professors of music theory; and by ASU graduate students in musicology.

For more information on the Contemporary Music Festival, go to:

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