â€œThe program feeds the hunger of a diverse audience for music at MIT,â€� says Evan Ziporyn, faculty director of the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST) and curator of the series. â€œWe try to give students a sense of exploration, while also developing a larger-scale dialogue with local audiences.â€�
The eclectic journey continues with Boston premieres of music from New York, Czechia, and Nepal, as well as returning artists who have wowed local audiences and who continue to push new musical boundaries. Add a septet of turntable artists, a multimedia score by Tod Machover, and a virtual reality-enhanced, dataset-driven â€œspace operaâ€� by artist Matthew Ritchie, and you have an abundant season of MIT Sounding.
Glenn Branca: New Yorkâ€™s enfant terrible
The year started with a bang with â€œBranca Lives: The Glenn Branca Ensemble/Ambient Orchestra,” an all-too-rare performance of music by the proto-punk legend, who passed away in 2018.
â€œBrancaâ€™s symphonies for multiple guitars â€” sometimes up to 100 at a time â€” were Brutalism in musical form,â€� says Ziporyn. â€œHe embraced the energy of noise, distortion, and feedback, but in a carefully organized way, activating overtones and microtones to create amazing, almost hallucinogenic textures. He was thinking orchestrally, building out from the sound of the electric guitar rather than from classical instruments. Then he began to write for acoustic orchestra and found ways to get the same effects.â€�
â€œBranca Lives” presents the composerâ€™s eponymous guitar ensemble, led by his longtime concertmaster and collaborator, Reg Bloor. Their set will include Brancaâ€™s â€œThe Light (for David),â€� a tribute to David Bowie. Ziporyn and the Ambient Orchestra will open the concert with Boston premieres of two of Brancaâ€™s rarely performed orchestral works â€” â€œSymphony No. 14 (2,000,000,000 Light Years from Home)â€� and â€œFreeform.â€�
â€œItâ€™s brilliant and surprising music that deserves to be known,â€� adds Ziporyn.
Lochan Rijal shares music of Nepal
Despite an ever-shrinking global culture, many musical traditions remain overlooked, including the music of Nepal. â€œà¤•à¤¾à¤�à¤šà¥‹ à¤†à¤µà¤¾à¤œ (Raw Sounds),â€� a program that celebrates Nepalâ€™s unique musical heritage, seeks to address that oversight.
â€œà¤•à¤¾à¤�à¤šà¥‹ à¤†à¤µà¤¾à¤œ (Raw Sounds)â€� features Lochan Rijal, the award-winning Nepali multi-instrumentalist singer and songwriter, performing new and traditional compositions based on his own musical narrative of everyday life in Nepal. The head of Kathmandu Universityâ€™s Department of Music, Rijal will play the sarangi, a traditional short-necked fiddle, and the Gandharva lute arbaja, recently discovered in Rijalâ€™s research in Nepal.
During his residency, Rijal will discuss a temple restoration project and Nepalâ€™s musical traditions in a public lecture.
Iva BittovÃ¡ with MITSO
Legendary Czech vocalist/violinist Iva BittovÃ¡ is a familiar force of nature at MIT, having performed with the improvisational trio EVIYAN, and collaborated with the Festival Jazz Ensemble and Pilobolus Dance for MIT One World.
BittovÃ¡ returns this October as composer to launch the MIT Symphony Orchestraâ€™s (MITSO) 2019-20 season in â€œThe Heart is a Bell.â€� The concert pairs two pieces by 20th century Czech female composers: BittovÃ¡â€™s â€œZvonâ€� and VÃtÄ›zslava Kapralovaâ€™s â€œSuita Rustica.â€� Composed 75 years apart, both works draw on Czech and Slovak folk culture, seen through a modern lens.
At once personal and avant-garde, â€œZvonâ€� features Bittovaâ€™s voice, jazz combo, elements of world music and cabaret, and improvisation by members of the orchestra. â€œWeâ€™re widening the orchestral landscape,â€� says Ziporyn, who steps in as acting MITSO director this academic year.
Additional projects and performances
What happens when seven DJs gather, challenged to make music together rather than as solo acts? Audiences will find out this January, in â€œthe wave function collapses.â€� The unique program features â€œharbangerâ€� (pronounced â€œharbingerâ€�), a turntable septet with visiting artist DJ Rob Swift, who is known for his work with Public Enemy and The Source magazine. â€œThe wave function collapsesâ€� is the culmination of a two-week workshop facilitated by Eran Egozy, professor of the practice in music technology at MIT and co-founder and CTO of Harmonix Music Systems. The 2020 Independent Activities Period (IAP) offering includes two courses: a history of DJ culture by Hip Hop activist and self-described â€œMedia Assassinâ€� Harry Allen, and hands-on DJ instruction by DJ Swift.
Virtuoso violinist Johnny Gandelsman performed Johann Sebastian Bachâ€™s “Sonatas and Partitas” as part of MIT Soundingâ€™s 2015 season. The adventurous soloist returns this spring to perform â€œBachâ€™s Cello Suitesâ€� on the violin â€” which can be challenging, given the two instrumentsâ€™ very different voicings. But this isnâ€™t reinvention for its own sake, says Ziporyn. Itâ€™s simply â€œto get the most from the music, in an enthralling way.â€�
This March brings composer Tod Machoverâ€™s “City Symphonies” to Boston for the first time. Rich in visuals and sense of place, â€œMoving Images: MITSO and Filmâ€� is part of the MIT Symphony Orchestraâ€™s 2019-20 season. â€œItâ€™s time to present this music on Todâ€™s home turf,â€� notes Ziporyn, who will conduct the ensemble. Audiences can expect a unique evening of music and film, including work developed by Machover and his team in the Opera of the Future group at the MIT Media Lab.
The season closes with a new transmedia work, â€œThe Invisible College,â€� created by 2018â€“20 Dasha Zhukova Distinguished Visiting Artist Matthew Ritchie. The project refers to the multitude of interactions and collaborations that take place behind the scenes within the university, and brings together a multidisciplinary team of MIT artists, faculty, and students. Based on datasets representing scales of the universe â€” from nanoparticles to dark energy â€” â€œThe Invisible Collegeâ€� encompasses a site-specific installation, virtual reality experience, and a May â€œDark Energy: A Space Opera,â€� a collaboration between Ritchie, Ziporyn, and Christine Southworth.