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Composers’ Symposium reinvents music

Christoph Maria Wagner of Cologne, Germany, is among composers invited to the Robb Symposium.

Christoph Maria Wagner of Cologne, Germany, is among composers invited to the Robb Symposium.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Every year the John Donald Robb Composers’ Symposium trumpets its goal of offering new music. And lots of it.

This year’s symposium, which runs March 22-26, will try to accomplish that through the art of reinvention. It carries the storylike theme of “Musical Retelling.”

“The idea is the way in which people take source material and repurpose it,” said Peter Gilbert, co-director of the symposium and assistant professor of music at the University of New Mexico.

By that, Gilbert said he means “giving it a new context, a new life. It’s not the same thing as arranging music.”

Take for instance Chen Yi, one of the symposium’s visiting composers. She is known for her work with the folk music of her Chinese heritage, Gilbert said. She teaches at the Conservatory of Music at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Another composer invited to the symposium is Christoph Maria Wagner of Cologne, Germany.

“His are classical music remixes at the piano, as he describes it,” Gilbert said.

Wagner reworks Western classical music, such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Claude Debussy almost “as if they were folk music sources as Chen Yi does with traditional Chinese folk music,” Gilbert said.

A third invitee is Carter Williams, a violinist who works with what Gilbert said is “live electronic transformation of the instrument.” Williams is a composer-performer-computer musician.

And Luke Dahn, the winner of the 2014 Robb Musical Trust Competition Prize for his composition “Buffalo Dance.” Dahn, a professor at Northwestern College in Iowa, was inspired by his research at the UNM Robb Musical Archives. His award-winning work for alto sax and piano, titled “Buffalo Dance,” is based on a Native American chant he found in the archives.

Dahn’s work and compositions by Wagner and Williams will be performed at the symposium’s evening concerts. “Chen Yi is pretty much on every program,” Gilbert said.

Daytime symposium events at UNM include open rehearsals, meet-the-composer sessions, master-classes and lecture-concerts where composers will discuss and field questions about their work.

There are several UNM faculty whose compositions will be performed. They include Falko Steinbach, David Bashwiner and department chair Steve Block.

“The symposium is, at its heart, about discovering something new in the world of classical music – an important composer, a new way of making or even thinking about sound, or perhaps a beautiful, mysterious or surprising experience,” Gilbert wrote in an email.

Robb, who died in 1989, was a collector and preservationist of folk songs. He also was a composer, lawyer, the head of the UNM Music Department and the dean of the UNM College of Fine Arts.

The symposium’s opening event is the Chatter Sunday concert (music of Chen Yi, Wagner and Zhou Long) at 10:30 a.m. March 22 at The Kosmos, 1715 Fifth NW. Only $15 tickets are available.

The symposium’s closing concert has Vijay Iyer’s jazz trio at 7:30 p.m. March 26 at the Outpost Performance Space, 210 Yale SE. $25 general public, $20 students and Outpost members by calling 268-0044, at the Outpost or at the door. Iyer also will talk at the symposium.

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