Seventeen years ago, Pamela Madsen helped kick off a different kind of new music festival at Cal State Fullerton. The Women in New Music Festival, held in spring of 2001, helped celebrate International Women’s Day. The professor of music, also the festival’s artistic director, invited the top women composers in new music, including Joan Tower and Pauline Oliveros, and established the Women’s International Electroacoustic Listening Room Project. A call for works brought in thousands of submissions over the years.
In 2007, the festival evolved into a more inclusive focus, in part to showcase diversity in music. Indeed, this year’s theme, Music Across Borders, “celebrates the ability of music and the arts to connect across borders — geographically, politically and in terms of genres within music and across artistic disciplines — through inter-arts collaboration,” explains Madsen.
Guest artists at this year’s 17th annual New Music Festival at Cal State Fullerton include Jen Shyu, a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist from East Timor; jazz and new music flutist and composer Nicole Mitchell; and percussionist and composer Lukas Ligeti.
CSUF students also form an important of the development and execution of the Feb. 21-25 festival. “During the New Music Festival, students study and perform a wide range of repertoire from the contemporary period — from experimental, minimalism and post-minimalism to multimedia collaboration and improvisational forms — to explore both the repertoire and performance practice from current times,” explains Madsen.
“Students work directly with festival guest artists in rehearsal and practice strategies and concert performance, and develop critical evaluation of their own performances, especially through master classes, workshops and performances with guest performers and composers who are in residence.”
Among the student-centered performances this year are the CSUF New Music Ensemble joining forces with guest artists for an 8 p.m. performance Thursday, Feb. 22, at Meng Concert Hall, and the University Symphony Orchestra led by Kimo Furumoto, associate professor of music. “We also will celebrate the 90th birthday of woman composer Thea Musgrave, who will be in residence with the University Symphony Orchestra and New Music Ensemble,” says Madsen.
The New Music Festival also will see the premiere of “There Will Come Soft Rains,” Madsen’s multimedia, concert-length work, supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and New Music USA. The 90-minute oratorio will bring together the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet and Eclipse String Quartet, among others.
More information and tickets to the New Music Festival are available online.