June in Buffalo 25th Anniversary Exhibit
The strong tradition of contemporary music performance in Buffalo dates back to 1964 when the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts was created through a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. Lukas Foss, who had been appointed in 1963 to succeed Josef Krips as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, was a consultant for the arts to the Rockefeller Foundation. When he was asked by the Foundation for his ideas about possible means of creating a supportive environment for composers and performers of contemporary music, Foss outlined a plan through which a center for the arts would award fellowships to talented musicians, thus allowing them the freedom to devote themselves to the perfection of their crafts.
Foss became a co-director of the Center, along with the Chair of the Music Department, Allen Sapp, who had been instrumental in the Buffalo Philharmonic's selection of Foss. The Center operated from 1964 to 1980, during which time it awarded fellowships to 119 musicians, known as Creative Associates, including some of the most prominent performers and composers of contemporary music.
This online exhibit is principally based upon an exhibit held at the State University of New York at Buffalo Music Library in June 2000 for the 25th anniversary of the founding of the June in Buffalo festival. The floral logo used in the Table of Contents for this online exhibit is from the design by Bud Jacobs used for the first June in Buffalo festival in 1975.
A catalogue of the performances recorded at June in Buffalo for the years 1975-1978 and 1980 is available in the Music Library.
Morton Feldman joined the University at Buffalo Music Faculty in 1972. He was the Slee Professor, 1972-1973, Edgar Varèse Professor, 1975-1987, and the Director of the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts, 1976-1980. Feldman established the June in Buffalo festival in 1975 as a counterpart to the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts' successful Evenings for New Music concerts. The new festival was presented 1975-1978, and again in 1980, with a year off in 1979 when Feldman was on sabbatical.
In addition to presenting concerts, Feldman's festival created a seminar environment in which student composers attended workshops where distinguished composers-in-residence rehearsed their works and gave lectures. Feldman also wanted to create a more intense listening experience by presenting programs that contained multiple works by a single composer. To that end, twelve works by John Cage were presented on the three concerts that opened the first festival in June 1975. Other single-composer programs were devoted to the works of Christian Wolff, Ralph Shapey, George Crumb, Lejaren Hiller, Nils Vigeland, Steve Reich, Charles Wuorinen, Henry Brant, Elliott Carter, Stefan Wolpe, Milton Babbitt, Lou Harrison, Earle Brown, and Aaron Copland. Works by earlier twentieth-century composers, including Ives, Schoenberg, Satie, Cowell, Webern, Berg, and Bártók were also presented on June in Buffalo programs.
David Felder became a member of the University at Buffalo Music Faculty in 1985. He worked quickly during his first year in Buffalo and successfully revived the June in Buffalo festival in 1986. He has been its Artistic Director since that time.
Like Feldman's earlier incarnation, the newer version of the festival is also part conference, including lectures and panel discussions by the composition faculty. However, more emphasis is placed on providing opportunities for young, emerging composers in Felder's current version of the festival. Participating composers not only work with established composers, but also get to hear their own compositions presented in a professional setting. Their works are now presented on the same programs as the composition faculty.
Nils Vigeland, Lukas Foss, and David Felder, 1986. Photo by Irene Haupt.
The list of composers who have served as faculty, or whose works have been the focus of concerts at the June in Buffalo festival is impressive. It includes Milton Babbitt, Henry Brant, Earle Brown, Aaron Copland, George Crumb, Jacob Druckman, Donald Erb, David Felder, Morton Feldman, Brian Ferneyhough, Lukas Foss, Philip Glass, Lou Harrison, Lejaren Hiller, Aaron Jay Kernis, Paul Lansky, Cort Lippe, Philippe Manoury, Stephen Mosko, Bernard Rands, Steve Reich, Roger Reynolds, Poul Ruders, Ralph Shapey, Harvey Sollberger, Gerhard Stabler, Jeffrey Stadelman, Augusta Read Thomas, Virgil Thomson, Nils Vigeland, Diderik Wagenaar, Christian Wolff, Charles Wuorinen, and Iannis Xenakis.
The First June in Buffalo, 1975
The first June in Buffalo concert took place on June 2, 1975 in the old Baird Recital Hall on the south campus of the University at Buffalo. Morton Feldman immediately implemented his plan to present concerts that focused on the works of single composers. For his first festival, it was natural for Feldman to invite three composers with whom he had been friends since 1950: John Cage, Earle Brown, and Christian Wolff. Together, the four composers, along with pianist David Tudor, have often been referred to as the New York School.
According to Art Lange, in the essay Notes Toward a New York School written to accompany the Hat Hut Records CD recording, The New York School:
Christian Wolff, Earle Brown, John Cage, and Morton Feldman, Capitol Records Studio, New York City, ca. 1962
Cage, Brown, Feldman, and Wolff each sought individual ways of "opening the field," freeing sounds from their traditional roles, engaging performers in more meaningful aspects of the creative act, questioning the aesthetic of composition itself. Each developed diverse techniques and notational devices in order to provoke the performer to make music.
Feldman had, in effect, turned his first June in Buffalo into a reunion. The first three concerts were devoted to the compositions of John Cage, the fifth concert was a program of music by Earle Brown, and the eighth and ninth concerts were devoted to the music of Christian Wolff. Only two compositions by Feldman were programmed, as were two works by fellow University at Buffalo faculty member Lejaren Hiller, and the two piano sonatas of Charles Ives.
Morton Feldman first met John Cage during the intermission of a New York Philharmonic concert in 1950. The program included Webern's Symphonie, op. 21. Feldman had the following comments on the meeting:
No piece before or since had the impact of that Webern on me. ... At intermission I went out to the inner lobby by the staircase, and there was John Cage. ... Cage asked what I thought of the Webern. I said I'd never heard anything so thrilling. He practically jumped up and down in agreement and asked my name. When he found out I was a composer he brought me in, introduced me to his friends, invited me to a gathering later in the week.
Feldman spoke with Samuel Beckett about what he had gained from his association with Cage.
You know, it was extraordinary meeting him. Let us say this was my last interview, that I'll be leaving this world soon and someone would say to me, "Well, what debt do you owe John Cage?" I think I would say that I owe him everything and I owe him nothing, that was to what degree he liberated me in terms of self permission to go on where I had decided I was going to go.
After playing one of the piano parts in the première performance of Feldman's Piano and Voices in Berlin, Cage angrily accused Feldman of being a "poetic extremist." Feldman later said he did not understand what Cage meant, but he treasured the remark, coming as it did, from John Cage.
A total of thirteen compositions by John Cage were performed at the first June in Buffalo festival in 1975. Of those works, five were performed simultaneously. One of those works was 27' 10.554" for a percussionist.
Page ten from the score marked by percussionist Jan Williams for the performance can be seen by clicking on the image of the title page.
Two works by Morton Feldman were performed at the first June in Buffalo: Piece for Four Pianos (1957) and Three Pieces for String Quartet (1954-55). Click on the image of the score to see an excerpt from Piece for Four Pianos (1957). One of the interesting aspects of the work is that the four pianists are free to choose their own tempi. This results in an elaborate canonic effect with the four performers playing the same music out of phase with one another.
John Cage and Earle Brown first met in Denver in 1950. Cage was persuasive enough that Brown and his wife, dancer Carolyn Brown, moved to New York City in 1952. Carolyn Brown became a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and Earle Brown joined Cage and David Tudor to work on the Project for Music for Magnetic Tape. It was through his contact with Cage that Earle Brown became friends with Morton Feldman and Christian Wolff.
Morton Feldman wrote a brief essay about Earle Brown for the June 1966 issue of BMI's The Many Worlds of Music. Among his comments about Earle Brown is the following, succinct comparison between the compositional processes of John Cage and Earle Brown.
Both Cage and Brown dramatize the structural aspect of process. Brown differs from Cage in that while his initial material is pre-established, he achieves maximum possibilities through allowing the form of the music to be improvisatory. With Cage it is the other way around. Here the structure is fixed, while the material is only suggested.
In the prefatory notes that Brown wrote for the publication of his Folio and Four Systems in 1961 he stated some of the rationale for his musical experimentation.
Time is the actual dimension in which music exists when performed and is by nature an infinitely divisible continuum. No metric system or notation based on metrics is able to indicate all of the possible points in the continuum, yet sound may begin or end anywhere along this dimension.
Similarly, all of the other characteristics of a sound - frequency, intensity, timbre, modes of attack-continuation-decay - are infinitely divisible continua and unmeasurable. ... An ambiguous but implicitly inclusive graphic "notation", and alert, sympathetic performers, are conceivable catalysts for activating this "process" within continua.
Eight compositions by Earle Brown were performed at the 1975 June in Buffalo concerts. December 1952 was among the works played. Along with November 1952, it was the first of Brown's compositions in which he used graphic notation. The work is for one or more instruments and/or sound- producing media. The following quotation is from his prefatory note to the score:
...to have elements exist in space ... space as an infinitude of directions from an infinitude of points in space ... to work (in compositionally and in performance) to right, left, back, forward, up, down, and all points between ... the score [being] a picture of this space at any one instant, which must always be considered as unreal and/or transitory ... a performer must set this all in motion (time), which is to say, realize that it is in motion and step into it ... either sit and let it move or move through it at all speeds.
Art Lange emphasizes the role of the performer in performing indeterminate music in his comments about December 1952 in the program notes he wrote to accompany the Hat Hut Records CD recording, The New York School.
Indeterminate scores likewise became an invitation to an event. Brown called his December 1952 an "activity" rather than a piece of music because the content was supplied by the performer. Such scores carried musical implications, but did not pretend to represent musical expression in and of themselves. Success, then, was not to be based upon a precise re-creation of the composer's intent, but on the level of involvement of the performer and the listener.
Christian Wolff was only sixteen years old when he began studying composition with John Cage in 1950. He quickly progressed from student to become the youngest member of what would later become known as the New York School.
Wolff discussed some of his early musical interests in an interview with Geoff Smith and Nicola Walker Smith.
The earlier work is more concerned with indeterminacy. What I was particularly interested in, more than either Cage or Feldman were, was the question of how performers relate to each other, not necessarily in the psychological or social sense, but more in the sound that resulted when people had to co-ordinate with each other in certain unpredictable ways.
Wolff has stated four principles that provide for freedom in his music.
A composition must make possible the freedom and dignity of the performer.
It should allow both concentration and release.
No sound or noise is preferable to any other sound or noise.
Listeners should be as free as the players.
Three compositions by Christian Wolff were performed at the 1975 June in Buffalo festival: Snowdrop (1970), Changing the System (1972-73), and Exercises and Songs (1973-74). The score of Changing the System consists of fourteen loose pages. The performance instructions by Wolff are three pages long. The piece is for eight or more players, any instruments, of which some are melody and some have a low range. The text is by Tom Hayden. Excerpts from the score can be seen by clicking on the image.
The role of the performer in the generative process of contemporary music is significant. Many composers, using different means, have written music that requires creative, rather than merely re-creative, participation by performers. In writing about the music of John Cage, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown, and Christian Wolff in his program notes for the Hat Hut Records CD The New York School, Art Lange noted the importance of both performer and listener.
Indeterminate music seeks this same state -- to combine composer and performer(s) into a single functioning entity, though they be separate people, and once again the listener is essential to complete the experience. Empathetic, considerate performers and listeners are a necessity, to sustain the fragile, albeit ambiguous, thread of communication passed from one to another.
The contemporary music scene at the University at Buffalo has always been structured to foster strong, collaborative working relationships between composers and performers. This atmosphere dates back to Lukas Foss' original conception for the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts in 1964. Performers who came to Buffalo as Creative Associates at the Center really had only one thing required of them: to strive for mastery of their craft. Creative Associates who were composers had the luxury of working with a group of performers who were dedicated to performing contemporary music at the highest possible standard.
The list of performers who have participated in programs of contemporary music in Buffalo is as full of notable names as that of the list of composers whose works have been performed. It includes Eberhard Blum, Robert Dick, Gilbert Kalish, Ursula Oppens, Aki Takahashi, Frances-Marie Uitti, Nils Vigeland, Paul Zukofsky, the Kronos Quartet, Concord String Quartet, Cassatt Quartet, Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the New York New Music Ensemble, Arditti String Quartet, American Brass Quintet, and the Amherst Sax Quartet. Three performers who belong on this list, and who were long-time members of the University at Buffalo Music Faculty, are Sylvia Dimiziani, Yvar Mikhashoff, and Jan Williams.
Pianist and composer Yvar Mikhashoff was a member of the University at Buffalo Music Faculty from 1973 until his death in 1993. He was internationally known as a skilled interpreter and proponent of twentieth century music. He either commissioned or had works composed for him by many composers, including John Cage, Lukas Foss, Christian Wolff, Henry Brant, Sylvano Bussotti, Per Norgaard, Luis de Pablo, and Conlon Nancarrow. He was also responsible for initiating the International Tango Project which eventually collected and/or commissioned more than one hundred tangos from composers.
Mikhashoff also left a legacy of support for contemporary music by creating the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music from his estate. The Trust provides grants, awards, and fellowships to support performers, composers, and presenters of contemporary music.
In 1979, Morton Feldman took a sabbatical from his duties at the University at Buffalo. As a result, the June in Buffalo festival did not take place that year. Yvar Mikhashoff filled the gap by presenting three programs of twenty-nine works from the twentieth-century piano repertory. It was a veritable one-man June in Buffalo festival. Included on the June 7th program was Morton Feldman's Piano (1977).
Yvar Mikhashoff worked with Morton Feldman to prepare his composition, Piano (1977) for performance. Mikhashoff's copy of the score is full of detailed markings. Some of the markings directly reflect comments made by Feldman during their sessions together. The following quote is from a tribute to Morton Feldman that Yvar Mikhashoff wrote following Feldman's death on Sept. 4, 1987. The full tribute appeared in the Oct. 4, 1987 edition of the Buffalo Evening News.
Equally wonderful was his sense of analogy and metaphor. Once he was teaching me how to play his work entitled PIANO (1977), approaching the task like a film or drama director teaching an actor. There was a passage that consisted of five quiet notes in succession, very slow, ranging upward from the bottom to the top of the piano, followed by a longish pause. When I told him that I was puzzled by his musical gesture, he said, "In those five notes is the entire 19th-century piano repertoire, then you wait for the 20th."
The passage to which Mikhashoff referred is marked on page four of the score as "All of piano music."
Jan Williams came to Buffalo as a Creative Associate at the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts in 1964. He became a member of the University at Buffalo Music Faculty in 1967 and Co-Director of the Center in 1974. He has been a mainstay of the contemporary music scene, not only in Buffalo, but also internationally, as percussionist, conductor, administrator, and educator.
In May, 2000 Jan Williams wrote the following description of his work with Elliott Carter on the movements Adagio and Canto from Carter's Eight Pieces for Four Timpani (one player).
"As a Creative Associate at the newly founded (1964) Center of the Creative and Performing Arts at the State University of New York at Buffalo, I proposed scheduling a performance of Elliott Carter's Six Pieces for Four Kettledrums on one of the Evenings for New Music concerts the Creative Associates regularly presented at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo and Carnegie Recital Hall in New York City. On May 9, 1965, I performed Recitative, Moto Perpetuo, and Improvisation at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. On November 7, 1965, I performed Saëta, March and Canary on the same series, repeating the performance at Carnegie Recital Hall on December 21, 1965.
The composer was present at the New York performance, and afterward he thanked me for doing the pieces. He also expressed an interest in revising them and, since the published edition of Recitative and Improvisation was running out, having all six pieces published in the revised version. It seems that he was interested in seeking ways to bring more timbral variety to these pieces and to make them more effective performance vehicles for solo timpani. Since he was scheduled to be in residence with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in the spring of 1966, he asked if I would be willing to spend some time with him and the timpani to explore some ideas he had about possible revisions and to ask me some questions about the instruments, beaters (sticks), articulation, tuning, etc. Of course, I agreed enthusiastically.
During one of our sessions, the composer expressed his interest in composing two new pieces, for a total of eight, both of which would involve many pitch changes. Some months after leaving Buffalo, he sent me the manuscripts for Adagio and Canto.
My career as a percussionist began in New York City in the early 1960's. I had the good fortune to be able to study with the late Paul Price, a musician and percussionist whose devotion to contemporary music, percussion music in particular, bordered on fanaticism. He instilled in all his students enormous respect for the music of our time and the composers who create it. I consider myself to be very lucky to have had the opportunity to devote my entire career to the study, performance, production and promotion of new music. Probably the single facet of my career that has been the most exhilarating has been performer/composer interactions like the one described here with Elliott Carter. The most exciting performance situation for me is still one where the composer is in the audience."
Eight Pieces for Four Timpani
Carter's appreciation for Jan Williams' help can be seen in his inscription on the published score of Eight Pieces for Four Timpani. Comparing Jan Williams' copy of the score of Adagio to the published edition, it is possible to see the changes that Carter marked in the score which he then incorporated into the final version of the work.
Jan Williams' copy, with markings by Elliott Carter
Published version of the work
Composition Faculty, 2000
All of the composition faculty for June in Buffalo 2000 have participated in the festival in the past. The following list details when each composer first had music performed at one of the University at Buffalo's contemporary music festivals, including June in Buffalo.
George Crumb's association with the University at Buffalo dates to 1964 when he was one of the first Creative Associates. His Night Music I was performed on the first Evenings for New Music program on November 29, 1964. The first performance of Crumb's music at June in Buffalo was June 3, 1976, the second year of the festival, when Black Angels was played.
Donald Erb's first appearance on a June in Buffalo program was June 15, 1986 when his Concerto for Trombone was performed.
David Felder, Artistic Director of June in Buffalo, revived the festival in 1986 after joining the University at Buffalo Music Faculty in 1985. Performances of his music at University at Buffalo festivals date to April 10, 1986 when his Coleccion Nocturna was played at a North American New Music Festival concert. The same work was played at the June 15, 1986 June in Buffalo concert, the first June in Buffalo under his direction.
Lukas Foss can be credited, along with Allen Sapp, with beginning the tradition of contemporary music at the University at Buffalo. It was his grant proposal for the Rockefeller Foundation that created the Center of the Creative and Performing Arts in 1964. He was co-director of the Center from 1964-1974.
The first performance of music by Lukas Foss at one of the University at Buffalo's festivals took place on March 5, 1965, when Echoi was performed on an Evenings for New Music program. The first performance of his music at June in Buffalo occurred June 14, 1977 when Paradigm was played.
The first performance of music by Philip Glass at a University at Buffalo festival took place at the April 13, 1985 North American New Music Festival concert. His Strung Out was performed on that program and his Modern Love Waltz was performed April 16th at the same festival. Glass' first representation on a June in Buffalo concert occurred June 4, 1989 when an arrangement for solo piano of the final scene from Satyagraha was performed.
Performance of music by Bernard Rands at the University at Buffalo festivals dates back to February 2, 1969, when his Espressione IV was played on an Evenings for New Music concert. Prior performances at June in Buffalo include a June 21, 1986 performance of Canti del sole and a performance of ...in the receding mist... June 10, 1989.
The music of Steve Reich was first performed at June in Buffalo June 11, 1976. Five works were programmed: Clapping Music, Piano Phase, Drumming, Music for Pieces of Wood, and Music for 18 Musicians.
Performances of music by Roger Reynolds at University at Buffalo festivals dates back to the December 15, 1968 Evenings for New Music performance of Traces. In 1987 Reynolds' music was performed on both the April 22nd North American New Music Festival concert (Transfigured Wind) and the June 21st June in Buffalo program (Transfigured Wind III).
The first performance at June in Buffalo of music by Harvey Sollberger took place June 21, 1986 when Three or Four Things I Know About the Oboe was played.
The first performance of music by Augusta Read Thomas' music at June in Buffalo was June 10, 1989 when Red Moon was performed.
The May 5, 1974 Evenings for New Music performance of Nils Vigeland's The Song was the first of his music at a University at Buffalo festival. As pianist, he performed Charles Ives' Piano Sonata No. 1 at the first June in Buffalo festival on June 11, 1975. The first performance of his music at June in Buffalo was June 8, 1980, when his Octet (1978) was played.
Performances of music by Charles Wuorinen at University at Buffalo festivals date back to the November 6, 1966 Evenings for New Music performance of his Chamber Concerto for Violoncello and Ten Players. The first June in Buffalo performance of his music took place June 7, 1978 with a performance of his Piano Sonata No. 2.
The first performance of a composition by Joji Yuasa at a University at Buffalo festival concert took place on the February 14, 1971 Evenings for New Music concert when his Projection, for Violoncello and Piano was played. His first representation on a June in Buffalo concert was the June 5, 1980 performance of his On the Keyboard.