By Christen Williams.
Have you ever listened to the music of Penderecki, Maslanka, Reich, or Stockhausen? For many music fans, these names may not ring a bell. But for a group of Wayne State musicians, these names (and their works) are very familiar.
On March 19, the New Music Collective held its semester performance at Schaver Recital Hall on WSU’s campus. The works performed were those of professional and student composers (Daniel Meinecke, Keith Buckner, Christian Ryan, and Topher Horn) along with some of the composers mentioned above.
I spoke with the organizers of the performance and two of the composers to get a sense of their interest in the music and its impact on Detroit’s Art scene.
For some background: The New Music Collective originated with a WSU Alum, Erin Fung, who received help from an adjunct professor, Kelly Foreman. Later, Erin, Pete Fernandez, Matt Shirey and Sheldon Santamaria continued to organize the semester performances under the aegis of Dr. Foreman. This concert provides composers of all ages the opportunity to have their pieces performed along with giving student musicians the opportunity to play new works. What is particularly interesting is that everything is organized by the students: what pieces they will play, where they will perform, etc. It’s an extraordinary enterprise, so I took the time to speak with Sheldon, Topher, and Christian to get their feelings on this genre of music as well as the role Detroit plays in their lives as emerging artists.
So…why ‘New Music’?
Sheldon (Performer/Organizer) – “Because old music is old. In all seriousness though, we don’t get enough exposure to it at school and it provides a real challenge to us as musicians.”
Topher (Student Composer) –“ I would agree with that. There’s a group called ‘New Music Detroit’ which is doing a lot in town and we want to add to what’s already going on. From an academic perspective at Wayne, there’s so much going on with Jazz. We’re trying to add to that…but with New Music.”
What is your goal with your compositions?
Christian (Student Composer) – “I want to write honest music.”
Topher –“ I want to create things that sound like myself. It’s easy to rewrite other stuff.”
Who are your favorite composers?
Topher – “John Adams, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, David Lang, Kelly Foreman (as she laughs in the background), Bach, Jeff Mills, and Carl Craig.”
Christian– “Steve Reich, Pierre Boulez, Bach, Nico Muhly, John Adams, David Lang, and William Byrd.”
Sheldon– “Philip Glass, David Maslanka, Marc Mellitts, Topher Horn (more background laughing), and Morton Subotnick.”
So, what are your plans after college?
Topher – “To create multi-media music for theater, dance, television…everything.”
Sheldon – “I’m probably going to get a master’s degree in Ethnomusicology, Saxophone performance, or music theory. I just want to study more.”
(Christian is a freshman, so we’ll revisit the question in a couple of years)
Finally, what would you like to see more of on the Detroit scene?
Christian – “Better communication between artists. More thought into funding for the arts or a better realization of the arts in the Detroit community.”
Topher – “More interrelated arts.”
Sheldon – “There is only a small group of people that are really into this music. There isn’t the support that is needed. Often, people go and travel to see this…like to Ann Arbor or Chicago. They don’t come to us. That needs to change.”
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This performance is yet another example of what is happening in Detroit: Talented young people interested in continuing the art of music composition and performance along with helping to innovate and reinvent what they have already learned. Fortunately, this happens with a small audience and minimal support from university funding. However, it wouldn’t hurt to see some new faces in the seats at Schaver Recital Hall just like it wouldn’t hurt to hear music outside of The Three B’s (Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms). If you have a chance, see a fresh, young perspective on ‘classical music’ in Detroit. It fails to disappoint.