Movers & Makers Features CSB

Our upcoming concert at the Mercantile Library was featured in this week’s What to Do/Hear/See:

“Amazingly now in its fourth season, Soundbox specializes in new music, created and performed by (to a large degree) local composers and musicians. A glance at e513’s instrumentation here will tell you that this is not your grandpa’s chamber music. Nor need it be. All the music here was written between 2015 and the present. Let’s hope the dusty annals of The Merc are prepared. Open your ears and take in something new. We dare you. 😉”

Full article here.


Cincinnati Business Courier Features Salon21 and CSB Collaboration

The Cincinnati Business Courrier featured our upcoming Parallels collaboration with Salon21 in their recent interview with Salon21 Artistic Director Jill Jantzen:

“In February, Jantzen, a graduate of the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, will perform five brand-new quintets for piano and strings with Cincinnati’s 4-Way String Quartet, partnering with composers from Cincinnati Soundbox.

Jantzen has no idea how it will sound, since the music is being written as we speak.

It’s that element of the unpredictable that audiences find exciting, she says.”

Read more here.

Interview with Composer Rodrigo Navarro

Rodrigo Navarro color

Born in Salta, Argentina in 1988, Rodrigo Navarro studied composition at the Universidad Católica de Salta, finishing the degree in 2013. There, he studied with Claudio Bazan, Marcos Franciosi, and Diego Vázquez. He also participated in an exchange program in the University of Georgia (USA). He attended several festivals and workshops where he took lessons with composers including Isabel Mundry, Toshio Hosokawa, Luca Belcastro, and Marcelo Toledo. Since October 2016, he has been a researcher and a Master’s degree student at the Tokyo University of the Arts in Japan, under the guidance of Ichiro Nodaira, where he is researching about the lyricism in the music of Toru Takemitsu.

CSB: Could you tell us a little about your work as a composer?

RN: As a contemporary music composer, I have always been mostly interested in the kind of music which, while being contemporary could at the same time be identified as “lyrical” (lyrical being understood as being capable of evoking emotions) and thus I’d say the style of my music is always in search of a kind of expression living within those two worlds.

CSB: What is the background to your piece for this concert, Hollow Moon?

RN: The idea that led me to use this title for this piece is the “hollow moon” theory that has been around for quite a few years. Depending on the writer and the time, this theory has taken different names and shapes, and I found the idea of it quite fascinating.

The fact that we are starting to live in the space age, and even when most mysteries have been resolved we can still look at our old neighbor and wonder and fantasize about it, just like humanity has since its beginning, makes me think that despite how far we go as human beings, we are still going to be able to be amazed by the beauty of the world.

The four first movements of the piece describe different moments or views of the Moon and its surroundings. And the fifth movement “From Afar” refers to different perspectives of the Moon, both from Earth (humans), represented through some musical quotations, as well as a fantasized perspective from a different world.

CSB: Have the different areas of the world you’ve lived in affected your music? If so, how?

RN: I definitely think that each place where I have lived or spent time has affected my music, although I would say that maybe not in a direct musical way, since in our present age, with the use of the internet we can access any kind of music from anywhere in the world. Rather location has influenced my music in an intangible way on the hows and whys of the musical creation or just the reason for music being what it is.

In this way I would say that mainly Japan has been a big influence on my music and on the way I think of music and perceive it, especially on the way in which time flows and on the possibility of appreciating a single sound as a whole.

CSB: What are some of the upcoming projects and performances on your radar?

RN: At the moment I am composing a piece for solo tenor saxophone to be performed on a saxophone workshop on November at The Tokyo University of the Arts. Also towards the end of this year a small piece for string quartet will be performed in Argentina. Other than that I am focusing on composing a chamber piece for Pierrot quintet, as well as an orchestral piece for the requirements to complete the master’s degree.



Interview with Composer Steven Weimer


Steven Weimer
’s music has been performed by the JACK Quartet, Molly Barth, Fear No Music Quartet, Murray State University Wind Ensemble, Café Momus, and many others. Performances of his work span from Alaska to Bulgaria, with performances at June in Buffalo, Forum-Festival computer Music Space, North American Saxophone Alliance,Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival, and various new music festivals. Recent awards includethe Music Now competition of Indiana State University, Eta Omicron chapter’s Phi Mu Alpha Composition Contest, and the CCM Concerto/Composition Competition. Dr. Weimer is currently Assistant Professor of Music at Murray State University in Kentucky.

Join us for the premiere of his piece Frame Data as performed by e513 at the Mercantile Library on October 12.

CSB: Could you tell us a little about your work as a composer? What are you interested in exploring in your music? 

SW: As a composer I am interested in harmony and color in my music. Most of my pieces explore ways to divide the 12-note aggregate into smaller groups and utilize different combinations of these groups. I use these divisions to create structure in the harmony and form, while many other elements are left up to intuition. I tend to gravitate towards harmonic collections that have elements of symmetry, but I am also attracted to triadic chords. My aim is to reconcile the structured and mathematical part of my musical mind with the section that loves the tonal language of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms.

CSB: What is the background to your piece for this concert, Frame Data?

SW: The background of Frame Data is actually a bit of a departure from my usual approach. For one, the ensemble was a new venture, and I felt that the balance and timbral challenges presented by the quartet needed a different approach. Secondly, I have always wanted to write a piece about my interest in video games and heavy metal. It took until I was in my mid-30s to finally acknowledge these influences, which have been a part of my musical upbringing since the beginning. Writing such a piece demanded a different approach than what I had used in the past.

In writing Frame Data, I wanted to pay respect to the “Street Fighter” series, which are video games where players fight in a two-dimensional side-by-side setting. In these games, every move a player may input to the game has specific frame data that dictates the speed and shape of the move. This frame data is a large chart that lists the ‘frames’ for each move, which is like frames in animation, with the game operating at 60 frames per second. A good player will know and study this frame data for their character to determine which moves are quicker, which moves are safer, which moves are more risky, etc. This element, in combination with the game’s combo mechanics means that a good player must study and practice in order to be skilled at the game. Furthermore, facing a human opponent as your in-game foe requires reaction and improvisation abilities.

All said, the experience of playing the game is quite similar to developing a musical skill. It requires practice and discipline, as well as an understanding of structure (the data) and intuition (reacting to your opponent during the match itself). My work, Frame Data, was initially inspired by precise rhythmic timing, which is the main element in utilizing frame data in a fighting game. This spawned the first section of the piece, which also develops a repeated chord progression. After this idea develops, the piece changes suddenly to incorporate the intuitive side, which features a guitar solo and is reminiscent of the music in Street Fighter games. The final section returns to the original progression, now with blast beats and distortion. The overall structure is loosely ternary.

CSB: How have you seen the environment for new music in Cincinnati change? What are some similarities or differences in your current location?

SW: Cincinnati has always been a great location for new music. What has changed over the years, in my experience, is who is organizing and cultivating new music. Although I have been away from Cincinnati since 2014, the scene seems to be vibrant and youthful, which is wonderful. It is encouraging to see so many events and organizations that are independent and thriving.

I currently live in western Kentucky, where the scene is more scarce due to fewer resources. However, we are still able to have performances throughout the state that feature music by composers who live in Kentucky. Additionally, some recent CCM graduates now reside in nearby Nashville and Memphis, so I am very optimistic of future collaborations. I hope to start a new music ensemble of my own in Nashville some day.

CSB: What are some of the upcoming projects and performances on your radar?

SW: My future projects include a new tuba piece, a four-movement choir piece, and a setting of the Latin Credo for vocal soloists and large chamber ensemble. The tuba work has been submitted for performance at a national tuba conference, and the choir works are being composed for the students of Murray State University, which is where I teach. The Credo is a passion project that I have wanted to finish for a few years and will hopefully be completed down the road.

Interview with Conductor Mercedes Diaz

Maria Mercedes Diaz Garcia is a multi-faceted conductor whose vision of integrating the classics with new creative work highlights the inclusivity with which all eras and genres have always spoken to us. She is the founder and conductor for VIVE! new music ensemble. Join us on May 30 at Urban Artifact for a concert performed by VIVE! featuring works by Michael Lanci, Paul Poston, Julia Seeholzer, Rachel C. Walker, and others.

CSB: What is the background of VIVE!?

MMDG: I had had, a while ago, actually while living in Cincinnati,  the idea of creating a group to perform music from composers from all over the world, and create programs that would be inclusive of different traditions, aesthetics, etc. Also, although I am a conductor, I did not necessarily want to have only conducted pieces in the repertoire, but wanted to combine in some programs music without conductor and music with conductor. In this concert, for instance, we will have a few chamber pieces that do not need a conductor, combined with others that do need me. Another idea came from my feeling that there is a lot of misinformation about what contemporary music is, and I would like to be helpful in bringing the vast diversity of languages that are happening nowadays to the public.

This project as such materialized in 2015, while living in Bowling Green, and has been growing ever since. Recently we did an opera by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, a monodrama for soprano and live electronics composed in 2010, and last year we participated in the New Music Gathering with a piece by Amit Gilutz, an Israeli composer.

CSB: What initially drew you to performing new music, and when did this interest start?

MMDG: Every music has been new at some point. By closing off to new works we are shutting down the voices of our artists and society. Actually, against what many think, new works can touch people in ways that older works might not. The composers, artists, performers creating art now are living in this society and can talk about issues that are current and affect us all. Of course art can be universal too, and touch universal, timeless issues, and that is why we also want to keep the history, in the form of art, alive, but there should be a better balance, where history does not overshadow the present.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when my interest started. As a kid and teenager I used to attend new music festivals. I remember in particular one that was inspired by the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, organized by Spanish composer Manuel Seco de Arpe, but there were several others in cities around, and I traveled to see a few during those years. As an oboist I performed many contemporary works. I was lucky growing up to have some teachers who had a broad interest in all kinds of music and who organized many concerts of all sort of aesthetics.

CSB: How do you approach working with the ensemble on a newly composed piece?

MMDG: I would say the work with the ensemble depends very much on the characteristics of the new piece. I approach the study of the pieces the same way I would do with a Beethoven Symphony, except that the musical elements used are going probably be used differently. The way composers think of the flow of time can be fundamentally different from Beethoven, for instance as in some minimalist works, but in other compositions the concept of time might actually not be different at all from that in traditional works. Depending on what the study of the piece informs me about the aesthetic—the ideas about time, about texture, color, etc—and the specific technical challenges for group playing, we then have a place to start working on the pieces. Sometimes in rehearsal something new happens, one of the performers comes up with a different idea and plays something in a way completely different I had thought of, but it works, it is fine and a real contribution to our process, then we explore from there.

CSB: Could you tell us about your experience working with the composers on this program?

MMDG: The composers on this program all have their very personal language and wrote freely for us. They had a few limitations about the instrumentation to write for, for practical reasons—this concert in Cincinnati is part of a tour that will take us to Nashville and to Dallas, so we needed to keep it light and for instance they all had to write for small percussion instruments and no alto flute.

The piece by Rachel Walker for instance, was originally for a different instrumentation and we asked her to write for the instruments we have now. It is a very interesting piece with very soft sonorities, quite poetic. She has a background as well in Chinese instruments and you can sense that in her music.

The piece by Michael Lanci has a completely different background, taking inspiration from rock and roll, and is quite rhythmical and vibrant.

The work by Paul Poston is inspired by his trip to Spain and reflects on paintings by Picasso that he saw in Reina Sofia Museum, in Madrid.

We are very excited to bring out this program. All the pieces bring a very unique language and it creates a quite micro-cosmic landscape of the contemporary world. We even have a “classic” — one of the John Cage Number Pieces from the 1980’s.

CSB: What concerts and projects are on the horizon for you and the ensemble?

MMDG: We are still thinking about possibilities. We have performed not only contemporary works, but also some very good arrangements from old classics from the late 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, such as Das Lied von der Erde, the Rite of Spring, and I like the idea of combining works from different periods which draw inspiration from each other.

One idea I have is performing a piece by Messiaen along with a few of the composers that drew inspiration from his work, and try to discover what aspects they found inspiration in.

But I have been thinking for a while I would like to include works with a small choir…maybe by Scelsi…It is still up in the air…

Also, HIllary LaBonte, the soprano who sang the part of Emilie in the Saariaho opera, and I are interested in bringing the performance of the monodrama Emilie to other venues, and we are hoping that will happen during this coming season.

Interview with Composer Mark Saya

Dr. Mark Saya serves as Chair of the Department of Music and coordinates its music theory and composition programs. An active composer, his works have been performed in Canada, Germany, Japan, Poland, and throughout the United States. He studied composition at Indiana University South Bend and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Hear his piece Fiona’s Dance Card performed by Colleen Phelps at tonight’s Cincinnati Diaspora I concert at Urban Artifact.

CSB: What are you interested to explore in your music? 

MS: It is difficult to answer this succinctly. Given my love for words I am always interested in setting text, in both sung and spoken formats. Despite the vastness and variety of its literature I am determined to find fresh, meaningful ways to write for the piano. And, among many other things, I am very interested in making arrangements, transcriptions, and what I call hybrids, such as my recent operatic transcriptions that intertwine barcarolles by Offenbach and Chopin, and habaneras by Bizet and Debussy.

CSB: Could you share a little bit about your piece on this concert, Fiona’s Dance Card?

MS: Fiona’s Dance Card was commissioned by percussionist Colleen Phelps, a fellow CCM alum. Noting the great public interest in Fiona the baby hippo’s story, I imagined that the other animals in the Cincinnati Zoo must be just as fascinated, and because dancing hippos are a popular image, the idea of a dance card came to me quickly. The alliterative titles were the first step toward matching an animal with a particular type of dance. While I have written a few Waltzes, I had never composed a Tango or a Polka before, so it was about time, right? I had a lot of fun with these pieces.

CSB: How did you first start collaborating with Allen Otte and Percussion Group Cincinnati? Could you tell us about the projects you have worked on over the years? 

MS: My first connection with the Percussion Group Cincinnati came in 1979, when Allen Otte bravely took on The Murphy Sonata for solo vibraphone. A few years later, but while still a graduate student, I wrote From the Book of Imaginary Beings for all three players (Al, Jim Culley, and Jack Brennan at the time). Since leaving CCM I have written several more pieces for the trio, including Preludes Revisited, Bachanons, and more Imaginary Beings. I am extremely grateful to the Group for their patience and generosity in collaborating with me.

CSB: What upcoming projects are on your radar? 

MS: For many years I have toyed with the idea of writing a collection of piano pieces about boxing. It had languished as a “back-burner” project until recently when I met Andrew Yang, who, amazingly enough, is both an excellent concert pianist and serious amateur boxer! I have occasionally employed a stressful physicality in my work for percussion (the imaginary being Bahamut for example), and with Mr. Yang in mind, would like to explore this further in an athletic suite for piano.