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PRISMS festival features world-premiere compositions, international artists, composers

The Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble and three graduate student composers.

November 16, 2022

The PRISMS 2022 annual festival for experimental music features new compositions and music that is rarely performed, along with pre-concert talks, roundtables and film screenings.

Highlights of this year’s four-day contemporary music festival include 10 world premieres by guest artists, Arizona State University faculty and student composers, and distinguished international guest artists and composers.

“The PRISMS festival has always provided opportunities for students to perform, but this year we also sent out an internal call for proposals to our composition students to receive commissions,” said Gabriel Bolaños, assistant professor in ASU's School of Music, Dance and Theatre and co-coordinator of the festival.

The opening concert of the festival features two of the graduate student commission premieres alongside works by composers Laura Toxvaerd and Karlheinz Stockhausen, as well as Olivier Messiaen’s 20th-century classic “Oiseaux Exotiques,” which features piano soloist Gabriele Baldocci.

Three graduate student composers were selected to write new pieces for the festival: Myles Kellerman, Sofía Matus Cancino and José Eduardo Orea Dominguez.

“The commissions provided the students an opportunity to create new compositions and work with an ensemble and conductor to have the work performed at the festival,” said Simone Mancuso, faculty associate in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre and co-coordinator of the festival.

The students had only 30 days to compose their pieces. Due to the short timeline for composing and putting the piece together, Mancuso said, some of the works have a more open structure and are more improvisational.

“The goal is to have the students explore new things,” Mancuso said.

The student compositions range from a graphic notation work to a textural work that includes speech and a work for amplified saxophone quartet.

The second concert features a new commission by Haitian-born composer Hendel Almétus, assistant professor of practice at the University of the Pacific. Almétus’ piece, “Luminous,” is scored for a saxophone quartet and based on a collection of paintings by visual artist Alan Klinger. Considered somewhat of an underground artist, Klinger is someone whose paintings are not easily viewable to the public. Almétus and Klinger will give a pre-concert talk to discuss the new work inspired by Klinger’s art. Almétus’ sax quartet is paired with graduate student composer Orea Dominguez’s new saxophone quartet, which explores amplification and resonance of the saxophone quartet.

The concert also features works by ASU graduate composition student José Eduardo Orea Dominguez, composer Amy Dunker and ASU faculty composers Jody Rockmaker, associate professor, and Alex Temple, assistant professor; and a world premiere of a piece by Gabriel Bolaños. Guest performers include Robert Spring and Crossing 32nd Street Ensemble.

The third and fourth concerts feature five world premieres of electronic music composed for performances in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering’s Ambisonic Dome. Three commissioned works are by renowned composers Elainie Lillios, Tito Rivas and Sarah Belle Reid, and two works are by ASU faculty composers Garth Paine and Bolaños. The guest composer commissions are made possible by a Herberger Institute research and development grant Bolaños received, with additional support from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. Due to limited audience space in the dome, the concert program will be repeated on Dec. 2 and 3.

Bolaños said most of the guest artists and composers will attend the festival concerts in person.

PRISMS was founded in 2009 by Mancuso and Glenn Hackbarth.


2:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 20
Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME) and guests
Katzin Concert Hall
Free admission

The concert program features three world premieres by ASU graduate composition students Myles Kellerman and Sofía Matus Cancino, alongside works by Laura Toxvaerd and Karlheinz Stockhausen and Olivier Messiaen’s 20th century classic “Oiseaux Exotiques,” featuring piano soloist Gabriele Baldocci.

Sofia Matus Cancino: “Wake Windows” (10’) (world premiere). For ensemble, electronics.
Laura Toxvaerd: “Cacklecabin” (10’). For five instruments and live electronics.
Myles Kellerman: “It's a Zang, Zang, Zang, Tumb World” (10’) (world premiere). For ensemble.
Karlheinz Stockhausen: “Komet” (15’). For electronics.
Olivier Messiaen: “Oiseaux Exotiques” (16’) with piano soloist Gabriele Baldocci. For piano and small orchestra.
Arizona Contemporary Music Ensemble.

7:30 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21
ASU faculty and guest compositions
7 p.m. pre-concert talk with composer Hendel Almétus and visual artist Alan Klinger
Katzin Concert Hall
Free admission

The concert program features works by guest composer Hendel Almétus, graduate composer José Eduardo Orea Dominguez and Amy Dunker, alongside ASU faculty composers Jody Rockmaker and Alex Temple and a world premiere by Gabriel Bolaños. Featured performers are Robert Spring and Crossing 32nd Street Ensemble.

Jose Eduardo Orea Dominguez: student composition work #3  (10’) (world premiere). ASU saxophone quartet.
Rockmaker: “Odd Combinations” (10’). Two keyboards.
Alex Temple: “Blurry Line” (7’).
Hendel Almétus: “Luminous” (10’) (world premiere, commissioned for the PRISMS festival). ASU saxophone quartet, with Christopher Creviston.
Amy Dunker: “Storm Warning” (7’). Robert Spring, clarinet.
Gabriel Bolanos: “Strobe” (7’) (world premiere with support from the Arizona Commission on the Arts). For percussion quartet.
Crossing 32nd St. Ensemble.

6 and 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2
2 and 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3 
DOME concerts
Arts, Media and Engineering Ambisonic Dome, Stauffer Communication Arts B

The concert program features five new world-premiere works, including three commissions from renowned composers Elainie Lillios, Tito Rivas and Sarah Belle Reid and two new compositions by ASU faculty Garth Paine and Gabriel Bolaños. Seating is limited, so the same program will be presented both days.

Elainie Lillios: “Ice Fields.”
Sarah Belle Reid: “Sublimate.” 
Tito Rivas: “La oreja y el caracol” (The Ear and the Snail).
Garth Paine: "Float.”
Gabriel Bolaños: “Plink.”

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