Each summer, Present and Future Times of Music emanates from the University of Missouri.
As part of the school’s secure and evolving relationship with new music, the Mizzou International Composers Festival brings together emerging resident composers to work on their music with revered guest composers, then bring their pieces to the world in a concert of premieres.
The sounds – and the stories behind them – are invigorating and remind listeners that artful music is not the province of the past.
This year’s edition is approaching and will take place from July 25 to 30. Here are six things to know before attending this year’s festival:
1. Bright guest composers lead the way
Following previous guest composers Donnacha Dennehy, Nico Muhly, Augusta Read Thomas and Steven Stucky, this year’s pair combine knowledge and skill to deliver considerable musical wisdom.
The marvelous Monk Meredith holds honors such as the National Medal of Arts as well as Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships for his work over a nearly 60-year career spent in concert halls, theaters and museums. Monk’s work spans music, performance and installation art, film and more – and she is known for her thoughtful and innovative use of the natural human instrument, the voice.
“Monk mapped out a world that never really existed in the history of the arts,” wrote Alex Ross for The New Yorker.
Ross added a statement that ultimately describes how Monk is a perfect fit for this festival: “If Monk seeks a place in the classical firmament, classical music has a lot to learn from her. … It could gain even greater momentum as the new century is unfolding, and future generations will envy those who have seen it live.”
Puerto Rican born artist Angelique Negron has written for the greatest ensembles of our time (Bang on a Can All-Stars, Kronos Quartet and orchestras across the United States) while combining the conventional and the idiosyncratic; she “writes music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys, and electronics as well as for chamber ensembles, orchestras, choirs, and films,” notes her online biography.
In a 2020 interview with I Care If You Listen, Negron described the great inspiration she draws from everyday moments and little musical packets – “tiny, tiny sounds like music boxes, toy instruments.” She also described coming to composition without having composing in mind.
“I started composing in an unorthodox way. Even though I went to music school for most of my life and was a violinist and played in orchestras, I didn’t really didn’t explore sounds. I was just practicing my skills,” she said. writer Sun Yung Shin. “When I started exploring sounds…I had no idea composing was a possibility. I had never played anything by anyone alive.”
2. This year’s resident composers cover the world of music
The festival always features a remarkable group of resident composers. In keeping with its tradition of innovation, this year’s class covers both the physical world and the world of new music.
The composers are from or currently work in countries like Italy; Singapore; Thailand; Princeton, New Jersey; Portland, Oregon; New York; Colombia and Colombia – Niko Schroeder, graduate of MU, represents and reflects a local approach.
This year’s roster has collaborated with or had compositions programmed by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, R&B icon D’Angelo, National Youth Orchestra of Singapore, Ensemble Contemporain International, Sō Percussion and other notable ensembles in the United States and around the world.
To hear their work is to know the safe and superlative future of music – but also to hear how their creativity already extends to so many corners.
3. The House Alarm Will Sound Band Has Serious Chops
A soulful band is needed to bring all this new music to life, and the festival boasts one of the best in the world. Together in residence The alarm will sound ranks among the true leaders in performing, encouraging and reframing new music and chamber sounds.
With a stellar roster of musicians – including MU professor and festival artistic director Stefan Freund – the band have performed on major stages and collaborated with artists and composers ranging from Medeski, Martin & Wood to Steve Reich, John Adams to Tyshawn Sorey and more.
4. The festival has no shortage of guest artists
In collaboration with dismal nichea Columbia-based music and arts collective, the festival will feature an impressive line-up of guest performers in concert on July 29. Headliner Laraaji is a prolific Philadelphia-born musician whose innovative style has shaped the current state of ambient music.
Also featured are the Onishi-Beis duo — featuring MU postdoctoral fellow Yoshiaki Onishi and graduate student Santiago Beis — as well as Katina Bitsicas, a video and performance artist who is a professor at MU School of Visual Studies.
5. You can also hear Mizzou students
The festival’s opening concert on July 25 features MU students performing new works on percussion, electronics, flute, clarinet and more.
6. Every event is free
Features of this year’s festival five gigs as well as presentations by composers, and each event is free. They can be followed in person as well as streamed via Facebook and YouTube.
Learn more about this year’s festival at https://newmusic.missouri.edu/micf.
Aarik Danielsen is the Features and Culture Editor for Tribune. Contact him at [email protected] or by calling 573-815-1731. Find him on Twitter @aarikdanielsen.