Professor of Music Ingrid Arauco always makes sure her composition students know what it’s like to write for professional musicians. This year, for example, some of her assignments for Music 266, including pieces written for a string duo based on a scale of the student’s own invention and string quartets inspired by the musical letters in the students’ names, came to life when the Amernet Quartet stopped by ahead of their on-campus concert to play them. And just last week, as the semester wound down, contemporary ensemble Network for New Music and percussionist Phil O’Banion joined the class to workshop pieces the students had written for a clarinet/viola/piano trio and percussion, respectively. (In fact, O’Banion met with the budding composers three times over the course of the semester: first to acquaint them with the possibilities of the percussion instruments, then to read through and critique their in-progress pieces, and finally to read and comment on the completed works.)
“Phil played through each piece and discussed it with us, pointing out what worked best and what might be conceived or notated more idiomatically for the instruments,” says Arauco. “So, [it was] a real ‘workshop’ session.”
The three singers and cellist that made up the composition class this term gained experience creating for and playing other instruments outside their primary one.
“One of the aims of a composition class is to have students become comfortable conceiving and writing music for a variety of different instruments and ensembles,” says Arauco. “Percussion is a case in point. There is so much to learn about a large array of instruments. So writing a piece for percussion is a special challenge, one which the students really took on with gusto. You can see from the photos how many instruments were used!”
Photos and videos by Patrick Montero