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Musica Elettronica Viva in Residence at Bard College from October 2 to 4

Jennifer Wai-Lan Huang
ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The pioneering electronic music group Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV) will be in residence at Bard College from October 2 to 4. Founded in Rome, Italy, in the mid-sixties by a group of mostly Americans living there at that time, MEV has since performed several hundred concerts throughout Western Europe and North America. The current and founding members are Frederic Rzewski, Alvin Curran, and Bard professor of music Richard Teitelbaum, each of whom is noted for his own musical accomplishments. The Bard Music Department, Thendara Foundation, and Henry Cowell Experimental Music Fund at Bard are jointly sponsoring their residency.

On Tuesday October 2 at 1:30 pm, MEV will visit Teitelbaum’s class, John Cage and his World, in Blum N119. At this class, they will talk about Cage’s influence on live electronic music both in their own work and on that of others in the field. Also on Tuesday, October 2 at 6:40 pm, there will be a concert of piano music by Frederic Rzewski and Alvin Curran, performed by them with Blair McMillen and students. The concert will include a two-piano version of Rzewski's “Winnsboro Cotton Mill Blues” played by him and McMillen, and excerpts from Rzewski’s epic piece The Road played by the composer. On Wednesday, October 3 at 6:30 p.m., they will present a public talk on their own work as MEV moderated by Marina Rosenfeld. On Thursday, October 4 at 8 p.m., they will present a concert in Olin Hall.

All events are free and open to the public. For further information, you can contact Richard Teitelbaum at

About Frederic Rzewski
Rzewski began playing piano at age 5. He attended Phillips Academy, Harvard, and Princeton, where his teachers included Randall Thompson, Roger Sessions, Walter Piston, and Milton Babbitt. In 1960, he went to Italy, a trip that was formative in his future musical development. In addition to studying with Luigi Dallapiccola, he began a career as a performer of new piano music, often with an improvisatory element. A few years later, he was a cofounder of Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV) with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitelbaum. MEV conceived music as a collective, collaborative process, with improvisation and live electronic instruments prominently featured.
    Many of Rzewski’s works are inspired by secular and sociohistorical themes, show a deep political conscience and feature improvisational elements. Some of his better-known works include “The People United Will Never Be Defeated!” (36 variations on the Sergio Ortega song “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido”); a set of virtuosic piano variations written as a companion piece to Beethoven’s “Diabelli Variations”; “Coming Together,” a setting of letters from Sam Melville, an inmate at Attica State Prison, at the time of the famous riots there (1971); “North American Ballads”; “Night Crossing with Fisherman”; “Fougues”; “Fantasia and Sonata”; “The Price of Oil,” and “Le Silence des Espaces Infinis,” both of which use graphical notation; “Les Moutons de Panurge”; and the “Antigone-Legend,” which features a principled opposition to the policies of the state and was premiered on the night that the United States bombed Libya in April 1986. Among his most recent compositions, the most interesting are the two sets of “Nanosonatas” (2007) and the “Cadenza con o senza Beethoven” (2003), written for Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto.

About Alvin Curran
Curran studied composition with Ron Nelson (B.A., Brown University, 1960) and with Elliott Carter and Mel Powell (M.Mus., Yale School of Music, l963). He began his musical journey (in Rome, 1965) as cofounder of the radical music collective Musica Elettronica Viva, as a solo performer, and as a composer for Rome’s avant-garde theater scene. In the 1970s, he created a poetic series of solo works for synthesizer, voice, taped sounds, and found objects. Seeking to develop new musical spaces, and now considered one of the leading figures in making music outside of the concert halls, he developed a series of concerts for lakes, ports, parks, buildings, quarries, and caves—his natural laboratories. In the 1980s, he extended the ideas of musical geography by creating simultaneous radio concerts for three, then six, large ensembles performing together from many European capital cities. By connecting digital samplers to MIDI Grands (Diskklavier) and computers, he produces an enriched body of solo performance works—an ideal synthesis between the concert hall and all sounding phenomena in the world. He also creates visually striking series of sound installations, some of them in collaboration with visual artists including Paul Klerr, Melissa Gould, Kristin Jones, Pietro Fortuna, Umberto Bignardi, and Uli Sigg. In addition, he continues to write numerous pieces for radio and for acoustic instruments.
    He is the recipient of the Bearns Prize; BMI award (1963); two National Endowment for the Arts awards; DAAD (Berlin residencies 1963 and 1986); WDR Ars Acustica International (1988) (“For Julian”); Prix Italia (1985) (Gian Franco Zaffrani Prize, for “1985 - A Piece for Peace”); Hass Family Award (San Francisco); Leonardo Award for Excellence (1995); Phonurgia Nova (2005) (“I Dreamt John Cage Yodeling in the Zurich Hauptbahnhof”). He has also received awards from the city of Pisa Premio Novecento, Fromm Foundation (Harvard University), Guggenheim Foundation 2004, Ars Electronica 2004, and Meet the Composer. He has been a resident at the Experimental Music Studio (Freiburg residencies 2006, 2007), a fellow at Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Gutenberg Fellowship (Mainz 2010), lecturer at Harvard (Elson lectureship, 2012), and member of New Music USA Artists Council since 2011.

About Richard Teitelbaum
Composer/performer Richard Teitelbaum is well known for his pioneering work in live electronic music and his early explorations of intercultural improvisation and composition. He received his master’s degree in theory and composition from Yale in 1964. After continuing his composition studies with Luigi Nono on a Fulbright in Italy, he cofounded the pioneering live electronic music group Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV) with Frederic Rzewski and Alvin Curran in Rome in 1966, bringing the first Moog synthesizer to Europe the following year. He returned to the United States in 1970 to create the World Band, one of the first intercultural improvisation groups, which was made up of master musicians from India, Japan, Korea, the Middle East, and North America. His works since then have frequently combined live electronics with the music of other cultures. In 1977 he spent a year in Tokyo, studying shakuhachi (bamboo flute) with the great master Katsuya Yokoyama. His recent CD, Blends (New Albion), for shakuhachi, electronics, and percussion, featuring Yokoyama, was named one of the ten best contemporary classical CDs of 2002 by The Wire Magazine of London.
    Teitelbaum has received numerous awards, including a Guggenheim in 2002 to create his opera Z’vi, two Fulbrights, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, Asian Cultural Council, Venice Biennale, Meet the Composer/Readers Digest, and Mary Flagler Cary Trust, along with commissions from several German radio stations. In 2004 he received a commission from the Fromm Music Foundation to compose an interactive instrumental and computer work for the Da Capo Chamber Players (premiered in 2005). In addition to Blends (New Albion), his many recordings include: Golem: an Interactive Opera, (Tzadik); The Sea Between with Carlos Zingaro (Victo); Live at Merkin Hall with Anthony Braxton (Music and Arts); Concerto Grosso, for Human Concertino and Robotic Ripieno (Hat Art); and Spacecraft with Musica Elettronica Viva (Alga Marghen). Teitelbaum is professor of music at Bard College, where he teaches electronic and experimental music.

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This event was last updated on 09-24-2012