Students prepare their own pieces for Composers’ Forum Concert

Andrew Paisley, Campus Reporter

Students will show pieces they have been working on throughout the semester during the Composers’ Forum Concert, set for 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Dvorak Concert Hall in the Doudna Fine Arts Center.

The forum, which occurs every semester, is a showcase for Eastern student composers, said music professor Bradley Decker.

Students must write, arrange, create scores and parts, solicit student performers and coordinate rehearsals.

“The students have worked on original works all semester and work hard to have them performed at the concert,” Decker said. “It is always a fantastic event with an eclectic mix of styles.”

This semester’s forum will consist of nine original compositions, written by students from the freshman to graduate level. It features works by three senior composition majors: Ben Damann, Jessica French and Michael Winslow.

Winslow will be presenting an electroacoustic work that blends acoustic and electronic music together into a fixed, stereo composition, Decker said.

French is presenting a work for a mixed chamber ensemble.

“The piece I have worked on this semester is titled ‘Disparity,’ which is defined as a great difference between something, such as great differences in economic status, racial inequality and social injustice,” French said. “Each of these topics were brought to my attention in January during a mission trip to Chicago.”

French said that Chicago has been and is currently segregated, and it is a result of the practices of redlining, or selling properties in a designated area to one ethnic group, and gentrification, or renovating a lower income house or housing district to fit middle class standards, during and after the civil rights era.

“The issue with gentrification is that many people who already live in those poor communities cannot afford a middle-class home, thus they are pushed out of their neighborhood in search of a new home,” French said. “‘Disparity’ is meant to capture the essence of the oppressed, to bring to light how the war on crime and the war on drugs was really a guise to target African-Americans and minorities in urban communities as a threat to the white American population.”

Damann is presenting two pieces at the concert. “Acoustic Emission of Structural Steel” for bass clarinet and saxophone quartet, will be performed by Don Fisher, Willie Morris, Courtland Walters, Adam Owens and Levi Armstrong.

Damann will also be presenting an aria called “On the Screen” from his new video operetta titled “BOLD,” which will be performed by soprano singer Sheridan Kelly.

“The acoustic piece was driven by my need to explore new compositional techniques,” Damann said. “Because most of what I compose involves electronics and computer programming, I wanted to use that as the basis for my material. I built an algorithm that randomly generates harmonies based on the ranges of each member of the saxophone family, and then generates a random duration for that harmony. Afterwards, the soloistic bass clarinet material is then based on whatever pitches are left over from those harmonies.”

After sending a recording to his fiancée to gain her approval, Damann asked her how it sounded.

“She told me that it sounds like the metallic sounds when we drive over the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge in St. Louis, so we dug into what the name of that phenomenon is called,” Damann said.

“BOLD” is based on sexual harassment and abuse as well as the #MeToo Movement, Damann said.

During the operetta, a lone female is antagonized both digitally and very physically by a nameless man.

“My fiancée, an English major at Eastern, and I often collaborate on works,” Damann said. “After our success with our collaborative work ‘Sarin’ for narrator, flute and electronics received national recognition, we decided that sticking to socio-politically influenced issues would be a great idea for us. Our friend Jessica Fenlon created the video (and) works within the operetta.”


Andrew Paisley can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].