Living in a college town has its pros and cons. I’ll start with some cons, since I’m a ‘bad news first’ kind of person. There’s the traffic. The occasional rager parties that make the national news. The fact that about 78% of the population is younger than I am. But as for the pros: Athletics. Interesting people. Innovation. And let’s not forget culture.
Take, for example, last weekend’s Aries Composer’s Festival. This festival, which is the new incarnation of the former Rocky Mountain Contemporary Music Festival, brought national composers and performers of new music to CSU’s UCA for three days of concerts, lectures, and classes. Six concerts, both ticketed and not, were open to the public.
What exactly is new music? Well, I’m sure this is an oversimplification, but I gather that it means relatively recent pieces from contemporary composers, most of whom are not yet de-composing. (Sorry, I had to throw in that old joke.) For the festival, I was able to attend concerts I, III, and V—no I have nothing against even numbers; that’s just how it worked out—so I missed the bigger evening performances. But what I heard was an amazing representation of the festival’s eclectic nature. I know ‘eclectic’ is often overused, but in this case, I can’t think of a better word to describe musical selections that included: an 18-minute mallet quartet for marimba; Frank Zappa’s drummer audition piece, The Black Page; music inspired by the blog of a woman with MS and the depiction on a refrigerator magnet of a desert thunderstorm; a modern chamber music selection for flute and strings; and electroacoustic compositions incorporating the recorded sounds of jet engines and street gang dialogue.
I know, right? Totally eclectic. And such a superb showcase of creativity and virtuosity. But, you ask, was all the music to my tastes? Mostly yes, but a little no. Did I appreciate the opportunity to discover this for myself? You betcha.
Though I’m sure this kind of festival requires the help of many, CSU assistant professor of composition and music theory James M. David is credited with organizing it. Find out more about his work at his website. For more information about the festival's world-class composers and performers, the festival program is available online.