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Lee Weisert, faculty member and composer, served as curator for UNC Chapel Hill Department of Music’s recent electroacoustic music concert. The program of electronic music was bookended by works composed by two pioneers: Iannis Xenakis and Morton Subotnick. Dr. Weisert played the four recorded pieces with brief pauses. Seated cinema-style, with the lights out, my experience was similar to listening to a soundtrack – without the film.
Iannis Xenakis (1922-2001) was a Renaissance man whose musical inspiration, like many, was Beethoven. But his compositions were informed by his training in engineering and architecture. Besides his technical contributions (he established the School of Mathematical and Automatic Music), Xenakis will be remembered for the beautiful textures he created. "Hibiki-Hana-Ma” (1969-70) was commissioned for a recording for the Federation of Iron and Steel Companies' pavilion at the Osaka World's Fair in 1970. From the opening metallic waves to the clatter of wind chimes, Xenakis' sound world is still fascinating to hear.
Considered a leading innovator, Morton Subotnick (b. 1933) is still a very active member of the composition community. His Pitch Painter for iPad, for example, allows very young children to engage in the process of making music. "Until Spring" (1975) made me feel as if I were inside his sound world the same way Disney films draws me into colorful imaginary dramas. Episodes of whirring, bouncing, dreamy, funny, and menacing sounds are strung together with moments of silence that create a sense of anticipation for what comes next. I was completely unaware of time and on the edge of my seat.
"Wild Arc" (2013) by Lee Weisert is part of an album by the same name that was released in 2014. In his program notes, Weisert quotes Ralph H. Fox and Emil Artin's Some Wild Cells and Spheres in Three-Dimensional Space. (See a drawing of the wild arc here.) Suffice it to say, one can easily enjoy the music without understanding the mathematics of a curved polyhedron. The sound in Weisert's composition is resonant and otherworldly. And though one might enjoy listening with headphones, nothing quite reproduces the sound emanating from wonderful speakers.
Weisert also played Chris Mercer's enchanting "Trapdoor Piano" (2012).
The final pause and return of the lights led to a hearty applause.