UC San Diego's Department of Music

June 20, 2016

  Cellist and Professor of Contemporary Music Performance Charles Curtis has just returned from Marfa, Texas where he gave three performances in as many days in the art installations of the Chinati Foundation, founded by Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd. Marfa Sounding was the rubric for this weekend-long collaboration with composer Alvin Lucier, in which Curtis performed a series of works written expressly for him, as well as the premiere of a new work for cello and wind, performed on a plateau in the middle of the Big Bend region.

Curtis' performances this academic year included the premiere of another Lucier work at the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York, Orpheus Variations (after Stravinsky) for solo cello and seven winds; a new work for unaccompanied cello by alumna Carolyn Chen based on a Jacobean dance tune, Rara Avis, at the early modernist architectural landmark Schindler House (1921-22) in Los Angeles; the concert-length solo version of early Minimalist Terry Jennings' Piece for Cello and Saxophone in both Paris and at the Courtisane Film Festival in Ghent; the concert-length Naldjorlak for solo cello composed for Curtis by French composer Eliane Radigue at The Kitchen in New York; performances at last summer's Ostrava New Music Days in the Czech Republic; and a solo recital in Athens, Greece. With current grad students T. J. Borden and Judith Hamann, former grad student Christopher Otto and new faculty Erik Carlson, Curtis led four performances to celebrate the 80th birthday of La Monte Young at the Dia Art Foundation's Dia:Chelsea space in New York last summer. Borden and Hamann will accompany Curtis to Austria and Switzerland in the Fall to premiere music of Alvin Lucier at the Musikprotokoll Graz and the Zuercher Hochschule der Kuenste. Curtis will repeat the monumental Jennings performances at the Regenbogenstadl in Polling, Bavaria, and as part of the new critical performance series Blank Forms in New York, at the Swiss Institute Contemporary Art. In March Curtis' original sound collaboration with painter and filmmaker Raha Raissnia was featured in a film presentation at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Professor Jann Pasler was recently awarded a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies (2016-17) in support of her book "Sounding the French Empire: Colonial Ethnographies of Music and New Media, 1860-1960." The $70,000 prize funds full-time writing. Pasler's project deconstructs the aims, processes, and colonial agendas of music ethnographers in the French empire by analyzing long forgotten contributions to comparative musicology in North Africa, equatorial Africa, and Indochina. It exposes how settlers, indigenous musicians, and local administrators co-created colonial knowledge, promoting certain indigenous traditions over others in the service of political purposes through scores, recordings, and radio. Building on the work and methodologies of historians, anthropologists, linguists, race theorists, and ethnomusicologists, the project lays the foundations for a new field of inquiry by teasing out Europeans' complex relationship to colonial culture and music's role in the negotiation of dynamic national identities, which are still relevant today.

In March, Pasler's book "La Republique, la musique, et le citoyen" won a Prix des Muses--the Prix de l'Essai--from the Fondation Singer-Polignac in Paris for best books on music in French in 2015. Earlier this year, Pasler's book, together with the participation of the Garde Republicaine, served as the inspiration for "Orsay en fete," a two-day, 20-concert music festival at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, its first ever. Besides contributing to the festival's focus and organization, Pasler delivered two talks, on amateur musical practices and a sonorous geography of military band music. In late July, Pasler will contribute to an international conference in Dakar, Senegal to discuss the conceptual and strategic aims of its new Museum of Black Civilizations. In fall, with a grant from the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, she will return to Morocco and Senegal to continue her research on colonial radio.

Composer Lei Liang will be featured in a Portrait concert on Nov. 17 at Columbia University's Miller Theater. Portrait concerts are among the most highly regarded events each year on the international new music scene. Liang will be preceded by John Zorn (Oct. 20) and followed by Zosha Di Castri (Dec. 1). Composers honored with Portrait concerts in the past include Pierre Boulez and Gyorgy Kurtag along with UC San Diego's Rand Steiger and Roger Reynolds. Meanwhile, Liang and UC San Diego music faculty pianist Aleck Karis visited China last month. Liang attended a conference devoted to his music in Shanghai with papers presented by scholars from across China. Karis performed Liang's solo piano music in concerts at East China University and the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. The scholarly papers will be published later this year in a volume dedicated to Liang's music. Liang also attended the Beijing Modern Music Festival, which will open with "Xiaoxiang," his concerto for saxophone and orchestra. Saxophonist Chien-Kwan Lin, a professor at Eastman School of Music and Liang's longtime friend, was the featured soloist with the Beijing Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jose Serebrier. Also at the Beijing Modern Music Festival: Composer and music graduate student Qingqing Wang was among six composers selected for EarShot, the festival's competition for emerging composers.

Contrabassist Mark Dresser and trumpeter Stephanie Richards, both of the music faculty, plus music alumna Ellen Weller (reeds) and percussionist and music graduate student Kjell Nordeson, joined trombonist Michael Dessen and pianist Joshua White for a recent performance at Dizzy's in Pacific Beach. The sextet's improvised set earned upbeat coverage from music critic Robert Bush. The new DVD of Dresser's "Virtual Tour: A Reduced Carbon Footprint Concert Series" was reviewed by the Italian edition of Looking ahead, Dresser's summer plans include a July 8 performance at Dizzy's in San Diego with pianist Diane Moser, saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh and drummer Vijay Anderson as well as solo performances on July 17 at the Kansas City Bass Workshop and Aug. 21 at Arte Digeribile ("Digestible Art") in Sicily.

Professor of Music Nancy Guy, author of the recent book "The Magic of Beverly Sills," was a featured speaker at the UC San Diego & You alumni event on May 18 at The Japan Society in New York City. Guy summed up her remarks: "Sometimes we imagine that opera is a distant, elitist art; however, my Sills work shows resoundingly that this opera singer touched the lives of many people, people of varying socio-economic backgrounds. Whether they encountered her in the opera house or singing on the Tonight show, Sills positively impacted their lives. Sills and her art mattered."

Kamau Kenyatta, adjunct music faculty and director of the department's jazz ensembles, served as producer and arranger on jazz vocalist Gregory Porter's new Blue Note album "Take Me to the Alley" which was reviewed on NPR. Kenyatta also worked on Porter's Grammy-winning 2014 album "Liquid Spirit".

Composer and music graduate student Suzanne Thorpe won a $10,000 grant from the MAP Fund for an Artist's Residency next year at Manitoga/The Russel Wright Design Center. Thorpe is composing a work for five recorders (in motion on the surface of Manitoga's Quarry Pool in canoes), sonic reflections, and electronic elements. The electronic elements, in concert with the recorders, will be discreetly placed throughout the quarry, creating little ecologies of sound in their own right, that are in turn in dialogue with the ongoing work. Thorpe's engagement of the materiality of the site, utilizing the rock walls and the water's surface, directly reflects the site's history. Manitoga, once an abandoned granite quarry, was later transformed by visionary industrial designer Russel Wright into a modernist home and woodland garden. Wright never stopped experimenting with his principals of mixing the natural and manufactured into a statement on how people live in nature. Though conceived as a site-specific performance, Thorpe sees Manitoga as a place to learn new principles of sound in a uniquely enclosed natural environment. She hopes to take what she learns in the intimate space of the Quarry Pool to other similar environments such as Western river canyons, greatly increasing the scale of what she can achieve as a composer.

Music alumnus Jeffrey Kaiser (Ph.D. 2013, Integrative Studies), a trumpeter, computer musician and ethnomusicologist who has been teaching courses at the University of San Diego and Mira Costa College since graduating, has landed a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Music Technology position at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg (pop. 20,000) 60 miles from Kansas City. In addition to teaching courses in music recording and production, electroacoustic composition, and topics related to ethnomusicology, Kaiser will create a Masters of Music program in Music Technology with Dr. Eric Honour, professor of music and director of the university's center for music technology. Honour already has 70 music tech undergrads. Kaiser's current projects include Made Audible with Department of Music Manager of Audio Computing Trevor Henthorn. The project, Kaiser said, "harnesses large data sets to make data- and probability-driven electronica in Ableton Live [music software]...great fun! We recently had a two-week stay in Amsterdam working on our plugins at STEIM. While in Amsterdam, I also curated a concert at the Oorsprong Series." Additionally, Kaiser was recently interviewed by, a music technology webpage. KaiBorg (, the duo of Kaiser with David Borgo of our music faculty, has recorded a new album due for release in the near future, and his solo trumpet project is making steady progress. Kaiborg contributed two excerpts to Paalabres, a digital space created by Jean˜harles Francois, percussionist and past member of Department of Music faculty. The online environment is dedicated to presenting and discussing "experimental/ecological/improvised music and related forms." While at UC San Diego, Francois was part of the department's resident experimental music ensemble SONOR.

Contrabassist and music alumnus Jeff Denson has formed the San Francisco String Trio with jazz guitarist Mimi Fox and violinist Mads Tolling. The trio has developed The Sgt. Pepper Project to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the album's release. Denson has relocated from the East Coast, where projects included concerts and recordings with jazz great Lee Konitz, as well as with his own group. He is a full professor at the California Jazz Conservatory, also serving as its outreach director, mentoring young musicians and promoting partnerships among various artists on the Bay Area scene.

Graduate student, composer and pianist Francisco Xavier Beteta has been awarded a UC President's Dissertation Year/Fletcher Jones Fellowship. The $22,000 stipend supports Beteta's final year of work on his dissertation, titled "Aesthetics and Re-Enchantment and Musical Functions in Beteta's Three Orchestra Pieces". He plans to complete his dissertation in the months ahead and graduate in June 2017. UC San Diego's Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Roger Reynolds is Beteta's dissertation advisor.

Undergraduate composition student Hesam Abedini received a UC San Diego Chancellor's Scholarship ($5,000) for his summer opera project as well as a Stout Award ($5,000) for the highest GPA in the music department. Abedini, a graduate of the Tehran School of Music who also studied at the Yerevan Conservatory in Armenia for three years, is a performer, composer and pianist with a special interest in classical Persian music.

LMN Architects, designers of Conrad Prebys Music Center, won the 2016 Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects, becoming the 53rd recipient of the AIA's highest honor. Architect Mark Reddington of LMN worked closely with acoustician Cyril Harris on the concert hall's design. CPMC opened in 2009 and earned an Orchid in 2010 in San Diego's Orchids & Onion's design awards. Among other arts facilities, LMN has designed Benaroya Hall in Seattle (also with Cyril Harris), University of Iowa's Voxman Music Building, San Antonio's Tobin Center for the Performing Arts, City College of San Francisco Performing Arts Center, and Skagit Valley College's cool McIntyre Hall in Mt. Vernon, WA.

When music lover Joyce McHugh contacted the Department of Music seeking four woodwinds to record a short fugue composed by her friend Claudio Angeletti as a birthday gift, clarinetist Robert Zelickman, who retired from our faculty a year ago, rose to the task. He enlisted Mark Margolies (clarinet), Jim George (clarinet) and Thomas Schubert (bassoon). McHugh was referred to us by longtime department supporter Dr. Harry Powell, professor of pathology at the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

In the late 1960s, experimental composer and instrument builder Harry Partch (1901-1974) was a Regents' Professor in the Department of Music. Partch, whose concept included dividing an octave into 43 or more tones, makes a rare appearance in popular music with the release of singer Paul Simon's new album Stranger to Stranger. To re-invent his sound, Simon drew from sources including Partch. For the song "Insomniac's Lullaby," Simon recorded such Partch instruments as Cloud˜hamber Bowls and Chromelodeon. Simon is connected to UC San Diego in a roundabout way. Guitarist Mark Stewart, Simon's band director, performed here in 2012 at a concert honoring composer Steve Reich.

UC San Diego Extension's annual Jazz Camp runs June June 19-25 at Conrad Prebys Music Center with a faculty that includes saxophonist Charles McPherson (at left), trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, guitarist Larry Koonse, drummer Matt Wilson, and UC San Diego's Mark Dresser (contrabass) and Anthony Davis (piano).

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