This weekend, the University of Virginia’s Virginia Center for Computer Music will present two days of events exploring the intersection of music and politics, and will partner with the Music Resource Center and the Bridge for a special student hip-hop showcase on Saturday.
“TechnoSonics XIII: Music and Politics,” features guest composers Christopher Adler and Mara Helmuth, and guest performers Christopher Adler, Mark Menzies, Morris Palter and members of UVa’s Rivanna String Quartet. The events on Friday and Saturday will be both on and off Grounds. TechnoSonics XIII is supported by the Office of the Vice Provost for the Arts.
Judith Shatin, the William R Kenan, Jr., Professor in the McIntire Department of Music and founder of the VCCM, said the theme of politics and music is timely because of the presidential election and the general dynamics of the national political environment.
“Music has always played a very important role in politics, both in unifying people and dividing them, so we thought it would be a really good theme for this year,” she said. “My colleagues Matthew Burtner and Ted Coffey both create work that speaks to this topic as well.”
The events begin Friday at 2 p.m. with a master class at OpenGrounds presented by Helmuth, a composer who frequently uses computers, multimedia and software in her composition and improvisation.
At 7 p.m., Helmuth and Shatin, joined by associate music professor Bonnie Gordon and Music Resource Center outreach coordinator Damani Harrison, will participate in a pre-concert panel in Old Cabell Hall. The panel discussion will be followed at 8 p.m. by a concert that includes Adler’s “Epilogue for a Dark Day,” Burtner’s “(dis)Sensus,” Coffey’s “Lullabies and Protest Songs, Suite #3,” Helmuth's “Where is My Voice,” and Shatin's “Respecting the First,” for amplified string quartet and electronics made from readings of and about the First Amendment.
“My inspiration for that piece came from looking around at our political landscape and thinking of the importance of our Constitutional guarantees, particularly the freedom of speech,” Shatin said.
Shatin said her piece is dedicated to Gabrielle Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman shot in January 2011. It includes an excerpt of Giffords reading the First Amendment.
TechnoSonics continues Saturday at 2 p.m. with a hip-hop showcase at The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative, a Charlottesville arts organization. That performance will feature students and alumni of after-school programs at the Music Resource Center, a Charlottesville-based organization where area middle- and high-school students hone their musical skills. The performance is also part of a month-long festival at the Bridge called Audio September, organized by U.Va. composition graduate students Chris Peck, Kevin Davis, Erik DeLuca, Emily Gale and alum Victoria Long. DeLuca said the idea for the hip-hop showcase grew in part from an observation that hip-hop performance is rarely a part of presentations from academic music departments.
“There are so many awesome types of music in this small town of Charlottesville. But often, we’re only exposed to the music that’s in our immediate spheres,” DeLuca said. “We wanted to host a hip-hop event that showcases the work of students working at the Music Resource Center.”
As a genre, hip-hop is loaded with political and cultural implications that make it an appropriate addition to the theme of this year’s TechnoSonics, he said.
TechnoSonics continues Saturday with a 7 p.m. panel on music and politics at Open Grounds featuring composers Matthew Burtner, Chris Peck, ethnomusicologist Michelle Kisliuk and local businesswoman and folklorist Joan Fenton. It will be followed at 8 p.m. by a concert featuring Adler’s “Jolie Sphinx” Applebaum’s “Aphasia,” Peck’s “Transparency Happening,” Globokar’s “Corpel” and Tfirn’s “Dystopia.”
The full schedule is available here.