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PRISMS Contemporary Music Festival highlights the human voice

ACME students

Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble.

November 01, 2019

The 10th annual PRISMS Contemporary Music Festival at Arizona State University puts the human voice center stage. PRISMS: Voices will highlight the different aspects and styles of voice Nov. 6-10.

“PRISMS offers a great opportunity to listen to repertoire that is rarely performed,” said Simone Mancuso, a faculty associate of percussion in the ASU School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts who organized the festival and serves as artistic director. “The festival presents seminars, talks and workshops providing a deeper knowledge of the contemporary music program.”

In addition to Mancuso, Gabriel Bolaños, assistant professor in composition in the School of Music, and Jacob Adler, faculty associate in composition in the School of Music, are co-collaborators for this year’s festival.

“Besides the classical works from the contemporary music repertoire such as Steve Reich‘s music for mallet instruments, voices and organ, Luciano Berio’s 'Folk Songs' for mezzo soprano and ensemble or Pierre Boulez’s 'Improvisation sur Mallarmé' for soprano and nine instruments, we will present works for voice and electronics,” Mancuso said. “There is a piece with a megaphone, 'Mouthfeel' by Alex Christie, and a piece for a speaking percussionist and flowerpots. We also included an a cappella piece from the 1300s by the medieval composer Guillaume DeMachaut. DeMachaut truly represents the avant garde music of his time, so his piece fit nicely with the avant garde philosophy of PRISMS.”

The program’s other works such as “Orbit” for eight saxophones by ASU professor Kotoka Suzuki and Luciano Berio’s sequenzas for flute and trombone will show how the voice influenced writing instrumental pieces.

Each annual festival is themed with a music style or with a focus on a composer. Since 2009, the festival has presented hundreds of works that include world and Arizona premieres, international guest artists and collaborations with the other ASU departments, colleges and institutes. The festival also provides an opportunity for students to showcase their talents. This year two students in the ASU composition studio were asked to compose two new pieces for the festival.

This year’s festival will showcase three world premieres — “en abril no IIueve” by Gabriel Bolaños, sung by Amanda DeMaris, professor of voice in the School of Music, and conducted by Mancuso with the Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble; “Elegant Misdirection” by Jeremiah Sweeney, undergraduate student in composition; and “Suite” by Mohamed-Aly “Mo” Farag, doctoral student in composition.

PRISMS featured guest artists include the Crossing 32nd Street Ensemble from Phoenix; soprano Stacey Mastrian from Seattle; the Arizona State University Saxophone Choir, directed by Christopher Creviston, professor in the ASU School of Music; and the Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble directed by Mancuso.

Festival events include three seminars, a preconcert talk and two days of concert performances. The preconcert talk is a 30-minute question-and-answer session with the composers and soloists.

Concert performances are held in Katzin Concert Hall, with the first half of the opening concert (Concert I) performed in Organ Hall. Concert I tickets are available online. Concert II, the preconcert talk and seminars are free admission.


Nov. 6, The Voice in Luigi Nono’s “La fabbrica illuminata”
Stacey Mastrian

3:05 p.m., ASU School of Music, room W130

This lecture maps Mastrian’s journey into the composer's oeuvre and his close collaborations with performers essential to the genesis of his compositions.  Mastrian will sing and discuss several examples, focusing on “La fabbrica illuminata” (1964) for soprano and tape, a momentous work in the landscape of electronic music and for its social justice implications. “La fabbrica illuminata” will be featured in its entirety on the first concert of the festival. Mastrian is a researcher and performer specializing in 20th century Italian vocal music, particularly the works of Luigi Nono (1924-1990).

Nov. 8, Language as Music
Gabriel Bolaños
1 p.m., ASU School of Music, room W130

A broad overview of how various 20th- and 21st-century composers have used language in their music in novel or unusual ways, including extended vocal techniques, orchestration and transcription of the voice, pairing of music with speech, and the use of linguistic theories to inform the compositional process.

Nov. 9, Voice Basics: Anatomy, Physiology and Registration
Amanda DeMaris
11 a.m., ASU School of Music, room W130

This session will cover the basics of the voice including: the physical makeup of the instrument, respiration, phonation, resonance, registration and standard ranges. Examples from contemporary music will serve as aural references.


Nov. 9, Concert I
7:30 p.m., Organ Hall and Katzin Concert Hall

Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble
Crossing 32nd Street Ensemble

Steve Reich
Music for mallet, instruments, voices and organ
Douglas Nottingham, vibraphone; Neil Hathaway, Joe Millea, Rob Esler, Travis Rowland, marimbas; Brett Reed, glockenspiel; Jacob Adler, organ; Amanda DeMaris, Ilona Kubiaczyk-Adler, Lisa Tolentino, voices.

Alex Christie
Douglas Nottingham, performer.

Luigi Nono
“La Fabbrica Illuminata” (Arizona premiere)
Stacey Mastrian, soprano.

Guillaume de Machaut
"Rose, Liz, Printemps, Verdure"

Gabriel Bolaños
“en abril no IIueve” (world premiere)
Amanda DeMaris, soprano; Simone Mancuso, conductor; Yian Shen, Miao Liu, and Anne-Marie Shaver, flute; Michael Robinson, clarinet; Mo Farag, violin; Kimberly Hankins, viola; Jacob Barker, cello; Sarah Core, electric organ; Deanna Rusnock, celeste; Adam Heyen, horn; John Pisaro, trombone.

Luciano Berio
Folk songs
Stacey Mastrian, soprano; Simone Mancuso, conductor; Yian Shen, flute; Michael Robinson, clarinet; Juliana Scholle, harp; Kimberly Hankins, viola; Jacob Barker, cello; Jingya Zhou and Travis Rowland, percussion.

Nov. 10, Concert II
2:30 p.m., Katzin Concert Hall
Free admission.

Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble

Luciano Berio
Sequenza V
John Pisaro, trombone.

Jeremiah Sweeney
“Elegant Misdirection” (world premiere)
Sarah Welden, soprano; Simone Mancuso, director; Sarah Core, trumpet; John Pisaro, trombone; Adam Heyen, horn; Kimberly Hankins, viola; Jacob Barker, cello; Gavin Laur, piano/celeste; Deanna Rusnock, accordion; Travis Rowland, percussion.

Luciano Berio
Sequenza I
Miao Liu, flute.

Kotoka Suzuki
"Orbit "
Jared Waters and Matthew Fox, soprano sax; Nathan Salazar and Tanner Bayles, alto sax; Patrick Feher and Chris Sacco, tenor sax; Kristen Zelenak and Bonson Lee, baritone.

Frederic Rzewski
"To The Earth"
For speaking percussionist and four flowerpots.   
Lindsay DeLeon, percussion solo.

Mo Farag
“Suite” (world premiere)
Adam Heyen, horn; Megan DeJarnett, trumpet; John Pisaro, trombone.

Pierre Boulez
"Improvisation sur Mallarmé" (Arizona premiere)
Sarah Welden, soprano; Simone Mancuso, director; Kylie Chung, harp; Gavin Laur, piano; Rosa Lo Giudice, celesta; Travis Rowland, vibraphone; Deanna Rusnock, tubular bells; Kemi Chen, Jingya Zhou, Jeremiah Sweeney and Anne Marie Shaver, percussion.

The Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble is dedicated to the performance and promotion of music from the 20th and 21st centuries. ACME was founded by Glenn Hackbarth in 1978 and is now under the artistic direction of Simone Mancuso. Since 2009, ACME is the official ensemble in residence of the PRISMS Contemporary Music Festival at Arizona State University.

Crossing 32nd Street, named Phoenix's "Best New Classical Music Ensemble" by the Arizona Republic, strives to increase the awareness and understanding of modern music through an aggressive commitment to performing relevant contemporary works at the highest level. Founded in 2000 by contemporary music specialists from Arizona State University, the University of New Mexico, and the University of California-San Diego, Crossing 32nd Street is ensemble-in-residence in the Maricopa Community Colleges.