Posts Tagged ‘Ossia’


Monday, December 4th, 2017

Richard Serra oil stick drawing at MoMA

We didn’t want to cut out of yoga early so we missed the first piece of Ossia’s “ShadeShifting” program this evening at Kilbourn Hall. It was called “Zugvogal” and it incorporated bird calls. The pieces we heard, all composed in the past twelve years, were spacey and beautiful, just what the doctor ordered after splitting wood for most of the day.

The final piece was stunning. The program notes described Toshio Hosokawa’s “Drawing” as “composed of highly intimate details. The smallest gestures and lines carry great weight. Subtle changes of color contain whole worlds of meaning. Airy canons at the beginning give way to splashes in the winds, until at the end the piece becomes meditative again, disappearing into a wisp of a cloud.”

It lived up to the billing.

Four Gardens

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Ossia performing live in Highland Park 2016, Rochester, New York. Photo by Peggi Fournier

We dressed warmly for Ossia’s outdoor, noon performance in Highland Park this Sunday. I wore gloves for the first time in months. It was the world premiere of Eastman faculty composer Robert Morris’ “Four Gardens” for mixed instrumental and vocal ensembles. Their website said the piece was “designed to be played outdoors, overlooking the reservoir in Rochester’s Highland Park.” We should have read that more carefully because we assumed the performance was to take place in the grotto that was pictured on their website. We went there first and then drove through the park for a half hour or so before we found the groups (four gardens) performing simultaneously around the overlook where the old Pavilion was overlooking the reservoir. I wish we had been there for the entire performance because what we heard was beautiful.

Celestial City

Saturday, April 11th, 2015

Ossia performing at Kilbourn Hall on the University of Rochester campus in April 2015

The music students here look a little stiff. They are sometimes awkward but most often confident and professional. They are so much fun watch as they scurry about, setting up for the next piece, then tuning and snapping into performance mode. Ossia, the Eastman student-run group dedicated to performing work by contemporary composers, put on their last show of the year, a program called “Colors of the Celestial City” (sounds like a Sun Ra title) and it was an especially good one.

Contemporary can mean almost anything but it is mostly defined by what it is not, European classical. Their previous show integrated programed music played through a sound system into the various performances. I could do without that. The students have access to every instrument imaginable. They are unbelievable performers and their theatre, Kilbourn Hall, guarantees the instruments will sound their best. Computer generated sounds coming through the PA just doesn’t sound as good in this setting.

After the first two pieces, a guy in the small group sitting near us said, “That first piece was avant garde but that second piece, I’ve never heard anything like that.” So the avant guard is now quantifiable, limited. This is contemporary music. Our favorite piece of the night, George Benjamin’s “Octet (1978)”, was something that reminded us of the dreamy soundtrack to Altmans “Three Women.”

I Am Tam Tam

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

Ossia performing Ligeti's "Ten Pieces for Wind Quartet" ay Kilbourn Hall in Rochester, New York

We feel as though we have adventurous musical tastes but we are probably just as stuck in our ways as the next guy. I know we are lucky to have the Eastman School of Music in our community and their student run program of modern music, called Ossia, is sensational. Tonight’s performance included five wildly different compositions all expertly performed. And just look at how young these students are. They are seen here performing Gyorgy Ligeti’s “Ten Pieces for Wind Quartet,” my favorite piece of the evening. Peggi’s favorite piece was sung by an operatic, solo soprano.

The most radical piece was Stockhausen’s “Mikrophonie I,” in which two people played a tam tam. Two people played microphones, one on each side of the tam tam, and two people, off stage, ran the filters for the microphones.

They struck and scratched the tam tam with an assortment of things you might find in your kitchen or storage closet and the ever moving, hand-held mics were panned hard left and right. The filtered sound was amplified and sent to the giant speakers that are above the two double door exits. The wide stereo experience was like something off of Led Zeppelin II.


Thursday, April 5th, 2012

We watched this red winged blackbird for quite a while. I even took a movie of it while it sat there in the sun drenched marsh surrounded by golden leftovers from last years invasive species. I tried to record it’s bird call but once I turned the camera on all I got was a few chirps. The bird seemed to sum up all of life somehow. A minor masterpiece.

The student run new music Eastman collective, Ossia, is performing Ruben Seroussi’s “Jazz… à propos de Matisse.” tonight at Kilbourn, 8pm. I have no idea what this piece will sound like but the title is intriguing.

Coming Together

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Ossia performing Frederic Rzewski's "Coming Together"

Artists talks are not for the faint of heart. We bravely attended one at the new I-Square gallery last night where four artists talked about their work and so much more. It was exhilarating. Richard Harvey talked mostly of process but his is multifaceted and interesting. Wendy Menzie started making art after primal therapy in the 70’s. She quoted Philip Larken, “Your mom and dad fuck you up. They don’t mean to but they do” and spoke of her journey back to the child inside. Ed Buscemi stressed the importance of improvisation and relayed a dream he had thirty years ago where people were moving by him on a conveyor belt and he jumped on and tried to shake the people but he couldn’t bring them out of their trance. It seems to be his modus operandi. He is fond of asking “Are you kidding me?” in an animated fashion and he admitted to being hooked on conspiracy therories. Todd Beers discussed his breakthrough painting which is on view until tomorrow and told a beautiful story of his encounter with a dove on the fire escape he was sleeping on. He dimmed the lights and wowed us with his poetry. Harvey, Menzie and Buscemi all studied with Robert Marx who has his own opening tonight at Rochester Contemporary. He is featured in their Makers Mentors show.

We scurried downtown for the Ossia show at Kilbourn Hall but missed the opening toy piano number. We caught “I Can’t Concentrate” by the Brooklyn band, Zs, a mathematically challenging, post jazz, brutal-chamber piece. And then were blown away (again) by Ossia’s performance of Frederic Rzewski’s “Coming Together.” From the liner notes – “The work consists of a bass line accompanied by a series of instructions which can be realized by any group of instruments. With each performer acting as composer, the work allows for a variety of performance outcomes and is essentially an experiment in compositional anarchy.” A vocalist read a letter from Sam Melville-in prison in 1970 for series of radical bombings in Manhattan where no one was hurt-to his brother on top of the music. The twenty minute piece was trance-like and hallucinatory like a deep dream.