Professor Norbert Palej is the co-ordinator of the New Music Festival and will accompany clarinetist, Professor Peter Stoll in a performance of Palej's Rhapsody for piano and clarinet. (Photo by Johnny Guatto)

Beyond Sound

New Music Festival explores the intersection between music and other arts

Q. What do inflatable dolls, mallets and hydraulophones have in common?

A. They’ll all be featured in compositions performed during the University of Toronto’s New Music Festival, Jan. 22 to Feb. 5.

The theme for the Faculty of Music’s 15th annual festival, Beyond Sound, is about music’s relationship with other arts such as dance and theatre. It was inspired by Anders Hillborg, this year’s Roger D. Moore Distinguished Visitor in Composition at the Faculty of Music  and the breadth of the breadth of the world-renowned composer’s work..

“His music often includes extra musical elements,” said Norbert Palej, a professor of composition at the faculty. “It’s a collaboration between music and other arts, so I thought I would make this the theme for the festival.”

Hillborg is known mostly as an orchestral composer – his most recent project was with the Los Angeles Philharmonic – but he has also written for film and electronic media.

“He has a broad range and it’s usually very difficult, very virtuoso music,” said Palej, who has co-ordinated the festival for the past three years. “It’s very interesting music because it combines a modernist art music aesthetic with elements of pop.”

Throughout the festival, students, faculty and alumni will have an opportunity to receive coaching from Hillborg and talk to him about his work. On Jan. 28, the festival will showcase the composer’s work in a concert, Large-scale Works of Anders Hillborg.

“This concert will be an interesting performance,” said Palej. “It is a cross-section of Hillborg’s work with different types of ensembles: a chamber orchestra, a large orchestra, choir and a wind ensemble.”

And, of course the inflatable doll.  “A very theatrical piece,” Palej assured U of T News.

The mallets come into play during a concert by the TorQ Percussion Quartet, an ensemble of U of T alumni who will close the festival with a concert of world premieres including Professor Christos Hatzis’ Three Pieces for Eight Mallets.

Palej will also be performing during the festival. He will accompany clarinetist Peter Stoll, an instructor at the Faculty of Music, for a performance of Palej’s Rhapsody for Clarinet and Piano on Jan. 25.

New to the festival this year are two lunchtime panel discussions. The Jan. 24 panel, The Age of Multimedia: Interactions Between Arts in Modern Culture, will include faculty members from music, the U of T drama centre and U of T Scarborough in discussion with choreographers, filmmakers and musicians.


The second panel, Scientific and Technological Meditations in 21st Century Art Music, will feature artists, scientists and engineers, such as Dr. Takako Fujioka from the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, professors Steve Mann (electrical and computing engineering) and  Christos Hatzis (music) on Jan. 25. Each of the participants will discuss their work as it relates to music and science. For instance, Fujioka will present her research on how the brain benefits from music and Mann will talk about his hydraulophone, an acoustic musical instrument that uses water to generate sound.

There will also be an opportunity to see panellists from both panels perform during a special concert, Sound Art and Technology on Jan. 26.

Another festival highlight is the concert for the Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian Music, featuring a performance of the work of this year’s winner, Riho Maimets.  Maimets, a second-year master’s student at the Faculty of Music, has composed squall for 2 flutes, cello and piano. “One of our most talented young composers,” said Palej.

Palej says using other media in musical compositions is a current trend.

“It’s not just [Hillborg’s] music but even our student composers use extra musical elements in their work. A lot of them are interested in music for film, and incidental music for theatre; some even write music for video games.”

Even the closing lecture features a multimedia theme. The guest speaker is Paul Hoffert, Louis Applebaum Distinguished Visitor in Film Composition.

All festival events are open to the public and many are free. For venue and ticket information, please see the festival website.

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