Sounds from the Future

On May 18, discerning classical music buffs joined a supportive assortment of families for a concert in the University of Chicago’s intimate Fulton Recital Hall. The show featured works by doctoral candidates in composition, performed by famed artists-in-residence Pacifica Quartet and eighth blackbird.

The concert, entitled “Tomorrow’s Music Today,” showcased the works of five UofC PhD candidates: Yuan-Chen Li, Dylan Schneider, Andrés Carrizo, Gary Desorbo, and Andrew Jasinski. Hailing from such far-flung locales as California, Panama City, and Taiwan, they were all drawn to the University by professors and well established composers Shulamit Ran and Marta Ptaszynska. The teachers’ touch was evident throughout the evening as all of the compositions featured a juxtaposition of frenzied, chaotic playing with moments of sustained eeriness. However, at its core, each piece was fueled by the composer’s personal drive.

The evening opened with “Motion 2010” by Yuan-Chen Li, a piece inspired by a series of fireworks shows in Paris and Chicago. According to Li, “I was immediately drawn into the sequence of gestures…which disappear right away like musical sound.” In performance, the piece reflected this imagery with climaxes linked together by smaller pulsations of melody. Dylan Schneider’s piano quintet, on the other hand, followed a  distinct narrative–one scene, “Raging Bull,” incorporated Latin and Spanish dance rhythms to convey its story.

These pieces did not resemble the “classical” music of Mozart or Beethoven. Rather, dissonance and atonality abounded. At times daring, dramatic, and even strange, these pieces tested the listener’s ear. Andres Carrizo’s pieces for solo viola, “Resquebrajamientos” (“breakages”), were characterized by ferocious, repetitive chords, in one section reduced to the abrasive, scratchy noise of a bow literally scrubbing the strings. Similarly, Andrew Jasinski’s “Blue Sclerae” was dashed with snare rolls and cymbal scrapes, concluding with a single, ironic chord on the harmonica, provoking a surprised chuckle from the audience.

At the end of each piece, the composers were welcomed onstage to receive the generous applause of the audience. After the final composition, the crowd approached all the composers and congratulated them on their hard work. The aspiring artists were embraced and showered with praise, the din swelling into the evening’s final crescendo. (Chelsea Leu)