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Stony Brook Composers explore humanity through themed pieces

The Music Department hosts many concerts in the Staller Center for the Arts. (BRANDON BENARBA)
The Music Department hosts many concerts in the Staller Center for the Arts. (BRANDON BENARBA)

In an attempt to showcase new modern and classical music, musicians and composers were given the chance to perform during the Stony Brook Composers concert at the Staller Center for the Arts.

        The performers, some of whom were not students, came out onto stage to play their songs, all of which were original pieces. The songs were performed on a variety of instruments, like violins, piano, flutes and even a shakuhachi.

        Many of the songs were also supported by electronic assistance coming from a soundboard or an on-stage laptop.

        “As performers at our level pursuing and trying to master an instrument takes a lot of time,” Chester Howard, a second-year music student pursuing a masters degree. “It is a great opportunity and practice to be able to perform in these concerts.”

        Each of the songs explored a certain theme which helped create a sense of atmosphere. While most of the songs expressed their message simply through the instrumentals, one song, “Formation of Memories,” also included vocals.

        According to Andrew Conklin, “Formation of Memories” composer, the song was meant to convey the paradoxical nature of memories and how they are vivid and also blurry. The song was also written with the performer, Susanna Mendlow, in mind.

        “It’s really important for me, as a composer, to instill something personal into each of my pieces,” Branic Howard, who is working toward Ph.D. in music composition, said.

        Howard, who also was one of the electronic performers, composed two of the songs performed during the concert. One of these songs, “Estuaries and Uncrumpled Blooms,” used dimmed lighting and oceanic sound effects to heighten the mood of the song.

        While most of the music was not performed by the composers, most of the audience was composed of members of the music department. One of the exceptions was Anna Sophie Andersen’s “Miniatures.”

        Much like the other songs performed in the concert, “Miniatures” displays a certain theme through the melody. Where it differentiates itself is instead of being one single piece, the song is broken down into seven different performances, each with a unique theme.

        “By adding certain thematic elements to your music you supply the audience with a stronger connection and understanding of what exactly you are trying to tell,” Branic Howard said.

        Most of the songs performed explored different themes relating to the human mind and behavior. The idea of exploring one’s nature allows for individual interpretation the composer might not have even intended.

        While most of the performers have performed in multiple concerts before, many still view this as a stepping-stone to an eventual career in music. The majority of performers wish to simply continue performing while a few wish to eventually compose or even teach music.

        “My generation of musicians are gaining more opportunities for future careers thanks to universities supplying us with performances,” Chester Howard said.

        The music department also put on Piano Project 2013, which was an all day music performance that contained a few of the performers from the composers concert.

        “I think that it’s great that artists are being given the options to express their talents to the world,” Robert Ellis, 56, one of the concert’s audience members said.

 

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