The celebration of 50 Years of Black Students at Duke University culminated on October 4, 2013 with the premier of Billy Childs' composition "Enlightened Souls," a piece commissioned by Duke Performances. The celebratory mood was heightened by the setting — Baldwin Auditorium — which had reopened just 3 weeks earlier after its magnificent $15-million makeover.
The hall was packed and buzzing with anticipation when Aaron Greenwald, Executive Director of Duke Performances, stepped out to make his introductory remarks. Greenwald acknowledged several African American alumni from the first integrated class who were present in the audience, thanking them and the many black students who followed them for all they have brought to the university, for making Duke a better, richer place.
In the first half of the program, Childs presented works from his repertoire. He took the stage initially with a sextet — a standard jazz configuration of saxophone or flute, piano, bass, drums, and guitar with the highly unusual addition of a concert harp. After one selection, the sextet was joined by a quartet — specifically, the Ying Quartet, an acclaimed ensemble with a long, independent history. For the rest of the evening, Childs' music emerged as a seamless interplay of the sextet and the quartet.
Stephen Jaffe is the Mary and James H. Semans Professor of Music Composition at Duke University. His status as an acclaimed American composer was affirmed last year when he was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Letters. His music has been featured at the Nottingham, Tanglewood, and Oregon Bach Festivals, and it has been performed by major ensembles both in America and abroad. Three discs from Bridge Records are dedicated to his work, including a 2004 recording of his Concerto for Violin and Orchestra that won the Koussevitsky International Recording Award. And that just scratches the surface of a very rich career, as his web page and his publisher's attest.
Though his works are performed by prestigious ensembles from around the world, Jaffe finds great pleasure in writing for children and for the local community, and recently composed a piece for the Durham Symphony and KidZNotes, a local organization that brings music education to underserved children in the community. More on that below.
The beginning of Stephen Jaffe's Still Life with Blue, played by the Durham Symphony. To hear more of Jaffe's work, see Volumes One, Two, or Three of the recordings issued by Bridge Records.
Jaffe is also a dedicated teacher and a generous mentor. Now beginning his 33rd year as a professor at Duke, he sees himself as "a link in the chain" of musical tradition. He is a link, most directly, to his own teachers, including George Rochberg, Richard Wernick, and one of the most original and indelible compositional voices in American music, George Crumb. But the chain stretches back many generations — much further, in fact, than any idea of "American Music."
The deep and essential attachment to centuries of history makes classical music a slow-moving thing, but the world is moving quickly around it, with profound effects on its place in the broader musical and cultural landscape. When I sat down recently to talk with Jaffe in his office, change was on my mind — in particular, how much of it there has been since I started music school in the 1980s, when a great deal of musical and professional energy was still spent negotiating fault lines from the early 20th century.
When I brought this up, Jaffe agreed there has been a sea change. But it is still, he said, "our privilege" to introduce students to the musical scores at the heart of the classical tradition, and those scores are as persuasive as ever. You can begin to understand his effectiveness and appeal as a teacher from his answer, from the way he presents himself as a guide and as a model and from his faith in the innate curiosity and musicality of those who come to him as students.
From that beginning, our conversation turned to more practical matters — the graduate composition program's evolving approach to performances of its students' music — and then to his recent project with the Durham Symphony. What follows is an edited transcript.
Everything has changed but students are still the same
Is it fair to say that today's composition students live in a much different musical and professional world than we did when we were in school?
As Virginia Woolf reported amusingly about the early 20th century, somewhere around 2008, it became the 21st century. I'll bet if you asked 10 contemporary composers and artists, they’d reply that something big did change. I don't think we quite know what it was. Obviously it has to do with technology, with the artist and her audience, and with the really global world.
My students now bring in their pieces on their phones, some of them, and they're pretty amazing.
You mean just the audio, or do they have the score on there, too?
Well, it might be that, too. "Oh, you want the score? Well, sure, we'll get the score."
We get to work with sensational students at Duke. It's really gratifying to see them develop and then go out and do music. But even the ones that finished around 2000, 2002 have witnessed immense sea changes. The sea changes come from the more tenuous links to the classical musical tradition (or for that matter to jazz traditions or other traditions that require depth of exposure.) Classical music, growing up in America today, is a genre, among hip-hop, Motown, and Indie rock.
Baldwin Auditorium, before and after (photos: Jon Gardiner, top; York Wilson, bottom)
Duke University's Baldwin Auditorium was built nearly a century ago. It originally served as a chapel and as the Women's College Auditorium. The past few generations of Duke students, though, have known it mostly as a music venue. It has been both rehearsal and concert hall for the Wind Ensemble, the Symphony Orchestra, and other large student groups. The Opera Workshop has mounted shows there and a long string of distinguished guest artists have appeared there with the Duke Jazz Ensemble. Composers in the graduate program have premiered new works there. Four times a year, the Duke University String School fills the stage with a much younger crowd, parents in tow. And it's been the scene of recitals and masterclasses by musicians from near and far.
There was just one problem. Baldwin Auditorium was a mediocre place to make music. The old room, with its boomy acoustic and well-worn gentility, was still, at heart, the ceremonial gathering-place for an ambitious small-town college, vintage 1930. It was perfect for a convocation but not so good for a concert. Students and ensemble directors learned to live with it and even pulled off some wonderful performances there, but they did so only in spite of the hall's shortcomings.
See more photos and press coverage.
After two years of construction and an investment of $15 million, the days of just getting by are over, and Baldwin Auditorium will soon reopen as a world-class concert venue. From the outside, the beautiful old Georgian structure looks much the same (though many improvements have been made on the ground). Inside, though, the performance space has been transformed and its amenities thoroughly modernized.
In order to address the fundamental acoustical flaws of the original space, which was too square and had too many large, flat expanses of hard plaster and glass, inner walls have been built along the auditorium sides, made from a patchwork of panels set back at varying depths. Curved surfaces in natural wood are a conspicuous new feature, along the front of the balcony, behind the stage, and, most dramatically, above it, in an acoustical canopy that flares out into the hall. The big changes are complemented by countless smaller ones that fine tune the diffusion of sound. To top it off, a system of movable drapes has been added so the hall can be adjusted for different ensembles.
The goal of the overhaul was not just to create an exceptional hall, it was to create an exceptional hall for acoustic music. We now have exactly that — a space that conveys to every seat in the house the richness of a string quartet pianissimo or a big band going full-bore.
The Duke University Department of Music, Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts and Sarah P. Duke Gardens are pleased to announce the Ciompi Quartet Presents 2013 Summer Chamber Music Series in Duke Gardens, curated and presented by members of the Ciompi Quartet.
Each concert will feature a member of the Ciompi Quartet joined by guest artists. Ciompi Quartet Presents is an opportunity for members of the Ciompi to create a musical dialogue with the audience where they express their creative drive through performance and in conversation. Both new and celebrated chamber masterworks are explored musically to establish a deeper relationship between the composers, guest artists, and the audience.
Ciompi Quartet Presents 2013 Summer Chamber Music Series will take place on three Tuesday evenings at 7:30 pm in Kirby Horton Hall at Sarah P. Duke Gardens. The dates are May 28, July 2, and August 13. Series subscription packages for all three concerts go are available for $50. Single tickets $20; Duke employees & Students $15. Duke students & Youth $10; Group Discounts are also available. Purchase tickets at: duke university box office, 919-684-4444 or www.tickets.duke.edu
On April 30 the series Encounters: with the music of our time presents the Wet Ink Ensemble and guests in concert. The event will feature film and music collaborations between Duke graduate student composers—Vladimir Smirnoff, David K. Garner, D. Edward Davis, Tim Hambourger, and Jamie Keesecker—and film/media artists Marika Borgeson, Lisa McCarty, Peter Lisignoli, Jolene Mock, and Annabelle Manning. There will also be new works by Duke graduate student composers Bryan Christian and Jamie Keesecker. The event is part of the 2011-13 Wet Ink residency sponsored by the Department of Music and a Visiting Artists grant from the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts.
Founded in 1998, Wet Ink has presented over 80 concerts featuring a wide range of artists, both established and emerging. Their repertoire ranges from scores of rigorous notational complexity to indeterminate and improvisational music, from the American experimental tradition to the contemporary European avant-garde, and from acoustic to amplified to electronic works and works for homemade instruments.
For more information contact Elizabeth Thompson in the Music Department.
Sponsored by Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts, Master of Fine Arts in Experimental & Documentary Arts (MFAEDA) and Art, Art History & Visual Studies.
Prof. Ward with Duke graduate student Amy Scurria, March 2012.
The Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts joins with the Duke Music Department and the arts community in expressing our sadness at the passing of Professor Emeritus, Robert Ward. A prolific composer, Robert Ward is perhaps best known for his operatic setting of The Crucible, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1962. Over a long and distinguished life, his support of Duke, and especially the arts, will not be forgotten.
Nobel Laureate Jean Marie Gustave Le Clézio and Mauritian cultural scholar and activist Dr. Issa Asgarally will discuss “Interculturality and the Arts” April 17-19 at a series of events at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University. Le Clézio and Asgarally jointly established the Foundation for Interculturality and Peace as a way to promote dialogue across cultural and geographical barriers through the arts and humanities, community engagement and educational curricula.
Both men will be at UNC’s Sonja Haynes Stone Center on April 17 for readings and book-signing (10-11:30 am), roundtable discussions (2-4:30 pm) and the keynote address (6:30-7:30 pm). On April 18 (2-4pm) they will be at Duke's Franklin Humanities Institute for roundtable discussions and readings. On April 19, Duke and UNC music faculty will co-host a 7pm concert in their honor at the Mary Duke Biddle Music Building on Duke's East Campus. Le Clézio and Asgarally will also visit faculty and students at East Chapel Hill High School.
Le Clézio is the author of more than 50 books of cultural history and fiction. His ancestors are of French and Mauritian origin, and he has lived in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the United States. He won his first literary prize, Le Prix Renaudot, when he was 23 years old for Le Procès Verbal (The Interrogation). During the 1960s and 1970s, he lived in Mexico while studying and translating ancient Aztec texts. He spent four years in Panama living with the Embera-Wounaan tribes of the Darièn forests. Upon his return to France, he devoted his research to the pre-Hispanic Mesoamerican world. In 1980, he was awarded the Paul Morand prize from L’Académie Française for his novel, Desert. A Nobel Prize in Literature followed in 2008.
Issa Asgarally is a native of Mauritius, an island with great ethnic and cultural diversity. He is a professor of linguistics at the Mauritius Institute of Education. He also edits the island’s literary magazine, Italiques, contributes regularly to the daily newspaper, L’Express, and hosts the monthly literary television program, Passerelles. He has published 11 books and essays on literature, culture, history and media.
Information Contacts for News Media: Martha van der Drift, Ph.D. Candidate at UNC Romance Languages, 919.599.3796. email@example.com, or Dee Reid, Director of Communications at UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences, 919.843.6339; firstname.lastname@example.org
Sponsored by Duke University and The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
In the Iranian Calendar, which has roots stretching back to ancient Babylon, the year begins not in the dark of winter but in the budding of spring. Nowruz—the Persian New Year—is thus a celebration of rebirth and renewal.
At Duke, Nowruz 1392 will be marked by an evening of Iranian music and dance, Sunday, March 24 in Page Auditorium starting at 7PM, featuring the jazz- and blues-tinged singing of Rana Farhan and the ecstatic Sufi dancing of Banafsheh Sayyad.
Nowruz 1392, featuring Rana Farhan and Banafsheh Sayyad
Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 7 pm
Page Auditorium, Duke University, Durham, NC
Tickets are $10 for the general public, $5 for students
tickets.duke.edu or (919) 684-4444
Here is a sample of the work of both artists.
Barbeque Man, Jr makes his grand entrance. Photo by Gray Swartzel
Doctoral student Paul Swartzel in Duke's music department came to classical music early in life, but not because his parents were musicians. Swartzel says, "My connection to classical music is not based on the measured voices on classical radio stations. Music, for me, was a wild, exaggerated home for escapism."
Read more in Duke Today.
We are excited to announce that Duke University Office of the Vice Provost and the Duke Music Department are collaborating with KidZNotes, the successful Durham-based music education program based on El Sistema, to host “Take A Stand” in the Nelson Music Room on Friday, February 15 and at the Holton Community Center on Saturday, February 16.
“Take A Stand” is the national El Sistema initiative of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Longy School of Music at Bard College that cultivates leadership and education in the El Sistema movement in the United States. The conference will bring together representatives from the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Longy School of Music to meet with Duke faculty and students, Triangle music educators and local entrepreneurs who have worked with KidZNotes over the three years of its existence.
As one of the most successful expressions of the ideals of El Sistema in the United States, KidZNotes is a perfect example of the effectiveness of social entrepreneurship through the arts. KidZNotes has established partnerships with the Durham Public Schools, Duke University, and the East Durham Children’s Initiative to provide free music lessons, instruments, and orchestral training to over 100 elementary school students, most of whom could not afford music lessons without KidZNotes.
If you are interested in social entrepreneurship through the arts, arts advocacy, and innovation through arts education, you should attend “Take A Stand.” Duke is committed to deepening its collaboration with KidZNotes, which means developing exciting ways to engage students in its programs.
Register now for Take A Stand at: http://www.kidznotes.org/take-a-stand/
Read more about Take A Stand on Duke Today.
Read more in The Chronicle Recess.