Curation of Contemporary Music Concerts

Refracting the Fourth Wall: A Study in Changing Perspectives

Christopher James Lees, conductor/curator

Contemporary Directions Ensemble

University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor



Crown Fanfare (2004) for four trumpets by Sydney Hodkinson

Gradus (1999) for mixed ensemble by Stephen Hartke

The Trojan Women (1999, rev.2001) for string quartet by Lisa Bielawa

Sequenza IXa (1980) for clarinet and IXb (1981) for alto saxophone (performed simulatenously) by Luciano Berio

Night Music (2006) for mixed ensemble by Thomas Albert


"While many collaborations between the visual and performing arts draw specific connections between the content of these similar art forms, this program begins first with the question: "what constitutes the experience of engaging with Mark Di Suvero sculpture?" This concert deconstructs the elements from which an observer might derive meaning - proximity, color, shadow, hue, line, scale, style, shape, etc. - and transfers them to a temporal musical experience. Rather than having the liberty to move freely around the static work of visual art, this performance morphs the audience into the fixed object, allowing the musical art to swirl, float, drive, envelop, and surround them.

Since this concert is as much a seamless, immersive experience as a staged performance, listeners are welcome to move to different seats, and engage with the music from a variety of perspectives. Ultimately, our aim is to be continually conscientious about both how the music is affecting the listener, and how the listener's physical relationship to the sound enables or adjusts their experience."


Experiencing Timelessness

Christopher James Lees, conductor/curator

Contemporary Directions Ensemble

University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor


Esprit Rude/Esprit Doux II (1994) by Elliot Carter

King of the Sun - IV. The Flames of the Sun Make the Desert Flower Hysterical: Fiery (1988) by Stephen Hartke

Sequenza XIVb for double bass (2004) by Luciano Berio

Divertimento, K.137 - II. Allegro di molto (1772) by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Qi (1997) by Chen Yi

Time after Time (2003) by Nico Muhly

Dream Rags: Sleepwalker’s shuffle (1967-70) by William Albright (with electronics manipulation)

Partita No. 3 in E Major BWV 1006 I. Prelude (1720) by Johann Sebastian Bach

Carolina Reveille (2001) by Paul Schoenfield


African Art and the Shape of Time explores how African art gives material form to diverse concepts of temporality, history, and memory. African art is often interpreted in Western analytical frameworks as expressions of timeless myths and rituals, interrupted only by the colonial encounter. African Art and the Shape of Time complicates such conventional views by considering diverse modes for reckoning time and its philosophical, social, and religious significance.”

"Regardless of how culture, history, or memory is represented globally, one universality of the human experience is the temporal one: We all exist in a linear universe.

Experiencing Timelessness, aims to provide access to the "now," separated from expectations about the future and focusing on the experience of the present moment. Where other programs might utilize music of those who have philosophized on and composed through this lens – John Cage, Philip Glass, La Monte Young, among many others – this performance seeks to argue that adjusting the presentation ritual of diverse musical voices can facilitate a mindful listening experience.

In timelessness, one becomes aware of ancient and recently composed music alike. One’s ears are filled with sounds of popular culture, folk tunes, philosophical musings, and implacably groovy rhythm. One swirls about, observing meticulous craft with cyclonic motion; imperceptible beauty with art. Perhaps dreams and reality start to collide, confusing our otherwise clear perception of an elusive memory. Ultimately, this program hopes to leave you longing for, reacting against, or enjoying the vacation from our incontrovertibly forward-moving linear universe."


The Idea is the Machine Which Makes the Art

Christopher James Lees, conductor/curator

Contemporary Directions Ensemble

University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor


The Horse With the Lavender Eye for piano trio (1997) by Stephen Hartke

Mirabai Songs for mixed ensemble and soprano (1982) by John Harbison

Cruel Sister for string orchestra (2007) by Julia Wolfe


“The Idea is the Machine Which Makes the Art” – Sol Lewitt

"The words of Swiss feminist artist Mai-Thu Perret’s most notable artistic influences, Sol Lewitt, provide the impetus for juxtaposing three powerful musical expressions birthed by significant extra-musical beginnings. Historically throughout Western art music, composers have taken inspiration outside sources to guide their musical content: from sacred texts to works of visual art through full Wagnerian music-drama hybrids constructed from a new or ancient myth.

In an attempt to link, though not equate, aspects of feminist thought with extramusical tissue, this program compliments very well themes expressed through Ms. Perret's process. Whether the inspiration for art is a synthesized fictional narrative, as with Ms. Perret, or ancient poetical texts from an Indian mystic, or international myths set to song from the 1960s and 1970s, themes of love, identity, and evolving beyond oneself permeate throughout.

Today, now that the process in creating these works has finished, we concern ourselves with the visceral listening experience of the audience, with hope that exposure to these affecting pieces will individually illuminate transcendent beauty within."

Other programs available upon request, including:

Classic Minimalists (Adams, Reich, Glass, & Rzewski)

The American Experience (Theofanidis, Lang, Bresnick, Jalbert, Thomas, & Chambers)

Crossing Darkness (Ruders, Bates, Kirsten, Berio, & Turnage)

Fathers and Sons (Little, Kuster, Adams, & Cage)

Highest Honors (Higdon, Bassett, Ran, & Bolcom)

Contemporary Spectrums (Hyla, Boulez, Askim, Muhly, Lang, & Adams)

Angles of Abstraction (Mackey, Luther Adams, & Berio)

Songs in the Night (Gubaidulina, Bermel, Rush, & Ades)

Distant Dreams (Deak, Vali, Schwantner, Kuster)


Posted: Jun-12-2015
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